Natalie Lehto is a certified kinesiologist and an endurance athlete. She owns and operates Within You, a fitness and lifestyle studio in her hometown of Thunder Bay, Ontario, where she lives with her husband Andrew and their three children, Sophie, Cloé, and Lucas. You can find Natalie at www.withinyou.ca
Shauna Kosoris: What can you tell me about your new memoir, Like the Glide of a Dragonfly?
Natalie Lehto: Like the Glide of a Dragonfly is a memoir about my journey since running the Boston Marathon in 2013 when terrorists bombed and attacked the finish line. It is a glimpse into my heart and the story of my life as it has unfolded since the events. Dealing with PTSD, health issues, family tragedy, loss, and other challenges while finding ways to keep moving forward and finishing strong.
What inspired you to share your story?
As long as I can remember, writing and reading have always been a comfortable medium in which I could escape or help get my feelings out. Writing notes to loved ones, journaling when needed, and reading when my head craves an escape. I found myself deeply struggling for years after the Boston bombings. Keeping most of what I was dealing with quiet in my own mind and thoughts, I knew that I was on a negative path if I did not find a way to at least begin dealing with my emotions. At that, I decided to sit down and start journalling my story, with the initial goal of simply forcing myself to face what had happened.
What was the most difficult part of writing Like the Glide of a Dragonfly?
Reliving my story, reliving my loss, reliving moments that I had tucked away and did not want to remember, was the hardest part of writing my memoir. It was extremely difficult to sit down and write moments that I tried to erase. It made me feel everything so intensely. Furthermore, sharing my story felt easier, but having to face readers (their comments, questions, and thoughts) after the story was read was the hardest part of all.
What is the significance of the title of your memoir?
The significance of the title cannot be shared, or that will spoil my story! [Laughs]
In all honesty, I came across the symbolism for the dragonfly months after the Boston race. I really identified with part of the symbolism of needing to be ok with change when things don’t go the way you planned, it really resonated with me. From that moment on, dragonflies seemed to keep popping into my life during many times of need.
You also own and operate a local fitness studio called Within You. What inspired you to start it?
As I was finishing my university education in Kinesiology, I started training people one on one and began teaching pilates on the side of my studies. I discovered that I loved working with people, helping people of all ages, sizes, abilities and more work towards and achieving whatever sort of goals they had set for themselves. With time my client base grew, as did my appetite to help more. I worked all over town in various gyms and spaces, until I had this desire to find a home and call it my own. When I created Within You, a family of wonderful clients was born. I offer private and semi-private sessions, various group classes, I work with athletes, do drylands for different sports teams and more. I am blessed to be surrounded by the determination and motivation of so many around me, it inspires me to keep working every day!
Was it difficult to find the time to write while operating your studio?
I did not find it hard to find the time to write, even though I was running a business (and being a mom and wife) because I had put aside the time. I had planned that every Saturday night I would take an hour or two and write. My family knew this, respected it, and supported me in doing so. The other reason I did not find it hard was because I never had a deadline. No one, outside of my husband and three kids, knew that I was writing my story. I did not want the pressure, or the deadline to overtake from my goal of writing to heal. As a result, the time was easy to carve out and the process never felt daunting.
What a fantastic routine! I’m glad your family was onboard for you as well. So what are you working on now?
Once the book was published, I decided to take a small break from writing. I have since put my focus on promoting my story, as well as working on a podcast (You can’t run from this, J.E.N) with some friends, and building my client base back up since its Covid disruption. But I must admit that I greatly miss my Saturday night writing. A girlfriend of mine recently said to me, “I love your writing style Nat, I didn’t want your book to end. I would read more if you wrote more.” It gave me the secret desire to keep writing and maybe start a new writing project.
Let’s end with a few questions about reading. What book or author inspired you to write?
I cannot pinpoint one author or book that inspired me. I just love reading! I love the ability to sit and let your mind create what the words on the page are trying to express. I love how we can sit in a room with others, all reading different books, knowing that everyone’s mind has been transported somewhere unique. It’s amazing. But I must give credit to my stepmom, who always encouraged me to have a book of any kind on hand. She also had journals around the house and taught me the value of journaling (especially when we took road trips). I would say that my writing was inspired by her! I love now that I have passed those characteristics onto my own children.
Is there a book or author that you think everyone should read?
There are millions of brilliant writers. I could never say that there is one for sure that everyone should read. Reading books is like eating meals, our taste palates can be so different. Doesn’t make one better than the other. With that said, I really have enjoyed Kristin Hannah novels over the years.
And what are you currently reading?At this moment, I have two books going on my bedside table. The first is a French novel called Tous les rêves de ma vie by Philippe Amar and the second is our book club monthly pick The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer.