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Get Strong Above All Else

Ushering in a new year means it is time to look back and reflect. Reflection is the first step toward learning from past mistakes and successes. I spent a good portion of time reflecting on my training journal the other day and it is interesting to compare moments as I remember them, with the notes I took during the actual days and weeks. In my head it felt like a challenging year, but the reality is, the challenges started about midway through the year; up until May, I was working hard, getting stronger, faster and more powerful. I was lifting 3 days a week, running intervals 3x week, plus a longer, easier run. My trainer seemed happy with my progress, and I felt great.

So what happened?

There was a pivotal moment when I decided to run a 10 mile trail race 3 weeks before my 25K goal race in May. Everyone told me it might not be a good idea, but nobody told me not to do it. The morning of the race was wet, cold and rainy, and I decided to run it anyways. I ended up rolling my ankle near the end of the race. Looking back at my trainer’s reaction I can now imagine how disappointed he was; we had worked for 12 weeks to build my stamina, strength and conditioning for a goal and with one crazy decision, I pretty much ruined it.

LESSON #1 GET STRONG ABOVE ALL ELSE

If I hadn’t been in great shape, I wouldn’t have been able to continue training through the injury and run my 25k race 3 weeks later.

Having an ankle that was less than 100% beginning in June meant not being able to strength train with the loads I had worked up to. I also needed to back off on my running, which meant I was not in the condition I wanted or needed to be in to achieve my 10K goal in August. During the summer my husband was also diagnosed with a serious medical condition which would require surgery after my daughter’s wedding the end of August. So for the first extended period of time in 5 years, my life interfered with my training. When I can’t run or workout and keep my regular schedule I can get pretty anxious and angry. I ended up taking it out on my husband and trainer- the two people I spent the most time with. My husband is my husband because he is the only person who understands where it is coming from, who can help me through it, and who will put up with it. I blew up at my trainer in August after a bad race and anniversary weekend and he never got over it. We never brought it up again, he said he was ok with it, but our coaching/client relationship was damaged beyond repair. I spent the next 5 months wondering why he was cool and dismissive and not really invested in my progress, until he finally admitted last week he was holding it against me.

LESSON #2 WALKING THE WALK

There is a huge difference between personalized training and personal training. If you want a coach to work with you and truly invest in your progress and really care about you as a person, you better make sure they are prepared to do that through thick and thin. It may be difficult to find a coach who will actually practice what they preach.  I have experienced both personal and personalized and when the going gets tough, in both cases, the coaches proved they did not have the capacity and skill to work through it.

2016 was also the first full year of training change for me in many years:change in running form, change in training philosophy; new lifts, new moves, new routines. Even though I had only been at the gym for 7 months, maybe because it was still relatively new, the gym kept trying to reinvent itself. In less than a year there was a new website, a new blog, new scheduling software, space expansion, new pricing, and along with that new unspoken expectations. Many of the things that drew me into the gym in the first place were no longer a priority. The focus seemed to be on promotion, promotion, promotion instead of on coaching and training. Instead of sharing books, articles, videos and podcasts, along came Beer Night and Community Workouts. The folks that attended Saturday morning Strength Camp seemed to belong to some unspoken exclusive “Members Only” club, which is weird, because it was always an optional thing and for me, adding an extra workout when I was already working out 6 days a week was just impossible. As the year progressed, I found myself hanging out on the fringes, disappearing into the background, as the gym looked  less and less like the place I joined in 2015. Every time I made an effort to accept something new at the gym with positivity-it disappeared and some other new thing appeared.

LESSON #3 DON’T SETTLE

If you are like me and have a hard time with change-maybe wait a few years before joining or signing up for the next new gym, or program. New places and programs are bound to go through this process of trying to figure out who they really are and who they want to cater to. And in this case, my trainer told me bluntly he did not want to cater to me anymore. **As I check their website again, their pricing model and what they offer has changed yet again.

So now that 2016 ended and I no longer belong to any gym, I am not that disappointed. Thinking back to a year and a half ago when I made the switch from personal training to personalized small group training I did have some skepticism. Although I learned a ton, there were many sessions in which  I was given no coaching cues or feedback which may have contributed somewhat to my seemingly weekly issues with shoulders, back, hips, etc. My concerns were met with inconsistency, just like my training sessions. If there were few people in the gym and my coach felt like having a conversation with me, he would listen and offer helpful, positive interventions. On the other hand, if there were many people in the gym, or he was working 1:1 with someone (a perk he added sometime in the Fall of 2016 for “premiere” clients) or he perceived I didn’t want to be bothered with him, he either did not even take the time to ask me how I was feeling, or if he did and I responded he might be dismissive.

LESSON #4 CONSISTENCY

I thrive in a consistently supportive atmosphere. I need to be clear and up front about my expectations. Be wary of websites or trainers who promise too much; if you don’t like the “vibe” then it probably is not going to change that much. First impressions are often lasting impressions.

In the end, I learned I missed running and I missed being in shape to run with running being my primary focus. I missed having a coach who cared about me as a whole person-including my running. 2016 was about me asserting my beliefs and about the pushback and negativity that brought. I think it was also about the double standard for women. A woman with experience who asks questions and shows strength and who goes against the status quo is still perceived as a threat in some places. It will take a strong person to work with me to challenge my beliefs and assumptions; it will take a strong person to not feel threatened by my honesty and transparency.

LESSON #5 VALIDATION

Transparency goes a very long way, and it requires honest, on-going communication. It is better to be overly communicative than it is to be evasive. In spite of the fact that I am a quiet, reserved not very outgoing person, I do want to feel as if I belong. Everyone wants to feel as if they belong. Joining a gym is a huge risk for anyone, and showing up every session giving 110% on any given day looks and sounds very different on any given day for any person. I discovered I need that validation from someone in a coaching role.

As we start a new year, I am grateful for all the lessons I have learned-even the difficult ones. I am going to choose to remember the positive, supportive comments and take aways, the good, skilled professionals that helped get my husband healthy again, and my friends and family for helping me to process all of this without going mad.

This blog is not intended to be critical and judgmental, but rather, it is a place for me to share my experiences, my thoughts, and the lessons I learn.

 

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