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Published May 17, 2014, 09:26 AM

Getting back on their feet: Speaker helps empower homeless through running

WASHINGTON – Anne Mahlum believes running can empower people to better their lives. The 33-year-old woman is so dedicated to the cause she started her own nonprofit, Back on My Feet, to help those struggling with homelessness gain the confidence they need to take the steps necessary to get off the streets.

By: Meredith Holt, INFORUM

WASHINGTON – Anne Mahlum believes running can empower people to better their lives.

The 33-year-old woman is so dedicated to the cause she started her own nonprofit, Back on My Feet, to help those struggling with homelessness gain the confidence they need to take the steps necessary to get off the streets.

“Back on My Feet is about emotional transformation through sport,” she says.

In her work, Mahlum talks to program participants about how they see themselves and helps them regain self-worth and self-love.

“If you don’t have those things, it’s very difficult to achieve your potential,” she says.

The North Dakota native now based in Washington, D.C., is one of the two keynote speakers at Monday’s Women’s Health Conference at the Ramada Plaza & Suites in Fargo.

There, during the 3 p.m. session, she’ll share her story and talk about making real, lasting change in your life.

“When I speak, I make it very conversational and very personable, so I’m looking forward to meeting a lot of amazing women,” she says.

What are some of the biggest obstacles to change?

I think it’s knowing that you’re capable of change, is the first one. Two, change is scary.

A lot of us don’t do things because of the unknown. We forget that we have this unlimited number of decisions that we can make. A lot of people don’t quit their job or don’t take that trip or don’t do something because of the what-if scenarios.

We convince ourselves not to do something because it can be scary and unfamiliar, and we have to deal with these uncomfortable emotions of unfamiliarity.

We’re getting people to accept change, and accept that the unknown is a part of living. I’ve always had this motto that if something isn’t a little bit scary, it’s probably not worth doing.

So how do you overcome those fears?

I think first it’s understanding why it’s scary.

A lot of my friends want to start their own businesses and they don’t because of that reason: “What if it doesn’t work out?” People are so afraid of failure or something not working out the way they’d perfectly planned it in their head.

I think making change allows for some really serious conversations with yourself, understanding who you are, why you are the way you are, what makes you happy.

Tell me more about your non-profit.

We strongly feel that change happens, again, through self-worth and self-value, and expecting somebody to go from homeless to not being homeless without focusing on who they are is a little bit ridiculous.

A lot of times people think jobs and homes are the answers to homelessness, and that obviously is a component, but if people don’t think they’re deserving of those things, or that they’re capable of having those things, we’re fighting an uphill battle –we’re going about it the wrong way.

How has running helped you in your own life?

Running helped me a lot when I was a teenager.

The number of metaphors that place around that sport are exactly what life is about.

Taking things one step at a time – you can’t go out and run five miles without running every step of those five miles. You can’t get there with shortcuts. When you’re running, you’ve got hills, you’ve got potholes, you’ve got obstacles. You’ve gotta figure out how to get around them.

You have to learn to approach things in that way, almost methodical – push through, persevere, things get hard, what are you going to do about it?

I think if you can take that same mentality into your life in a real, meaningful way, it allows you to be a really strong person, and an honest person. You can’t take shortcuts. You push yourself further than the day before; that’s how you get stronger.

Is there anyone you’ve helped that stands out to you?

There are literally hundreds of people who’ve gone on to be these major success stories. (She’ll tell the audience about one on Monday.)

A lot of members come to us, and their spirits are broken. They don’t trust people, they don’t think that their life is going to be anything better than what it is.

It’s really very cool and very rewarding to watch people fall in love with themselves and their lives.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Women’s Health Conference

WHEN: 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday

WHERE: Ramada Plaza & Suites, 1635 42nd St. S., Fargo

TICKETS: Tickets cost $40 and are available at www.womens-health-conference.com through today. Walk-ins are welcome Monday morning.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5590

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