Feet to the Fire

From Coach Mary Cates:

“I set this big goal, but now I’m struggling to make it happen.”  It’s a common feeling for many athletes, even coaches but the key is embracing
the struggles AND having the right support system to hold your feet to the fire.  That’s right. FEET TO THE FIRE. 


As athletes, we work really hard to create the perfect training program, pick the right gear and get the best supplements to get us where we want to go…and then…life happens.  That’s right!  It derails all those best laid plans and it doesn’t care what you wanted.  Instead it gives the “what is,” and you have a choice – fold…or buck up and get it done.  But, that’s where your support system comes into play.


As a coach, one of my most important jobs is to keep YOU from giving up on YOU and how that looks might surprise you.  It’s easy to let circumstances stack up over time.  We get sick.  Work sucks.  We fought with a spouse and our car broke down on the way to gym.  And then it happens -“I think I’m taking a day because I just can’t get it all done.”  These words start a trend that eventually derails any goal. 


But that’s where I come in.


As a coach, our jobs are to remind why you started.  Why you invested so much time on the front end and why it’s not time to throw in the towel just because life is giving you hell.  We’re going to hold you accountable and give you all the reasons you gave us on day one.  We’re your partners. Your support system.  So don’t be surprised when we’re asking all the tough questions and working our mental magic to remind you just how worth it you really are!  You really are worth it, ya know? And we’re holding your feet to the fire all the way to the finish.




Mary Cates has been a runner most of her life.  She’s raced every distance from the 400m to the 100mile and beyond.  Cates spent over a decade as a television producer and then made the leap into the land of coaching.  While she loves to run and race, she also loves to help others fall in love with the sport as well.


“Running can be such a powerful tool for both physical and mental health.  It’s one of the most basic forms of movement but it’s a skill that’s largely overlooked and honestly it all starts inside the mind.  My motto is simple but it takes a long time to embrace: brain before legs.  Training the body is great but to get to the next level, you’ve got to dig inside.”


Coach Mary coaches every distance from the 5k to the ultramarathon, as well as multi-sport endurance athletes including Sprint, Olympic and Ironman Tri’s.  You can find her at Tennessee Endurance and also as the Crossfit Endurance coach at Crossfit Knoxville.  She is also a running ambassador for lululemon athletica and Orange Mud Sports.