I have recently done some reflecting on what makes a coach a good coach. This train of thought started a couple weeks ago when I went for my weekly training session at a local branch of a big box gym. I have been meeting with a trainer for almost a year and a half now. I started out with twice per week, later moved up to three times per week, and I’m currently with a trainer once per week. I started working with a trainer (aka coach) because I was telling myself that it was the only way I was going to do any kind of strength training. I could go to the gym on my own and get on the treadmill or the elliptical machine, but the various weight machines, free weights, kettle bells, stability balls, etc., were intimidating to say the least. I already felt self-conscious just walking into the gym and I figured if people were looking at me or laughing at me when I was doing something I was familiar with, they would do so much more if I attempted on my own to do something I was completely unfamiliar with.
Let me back up a little bit and explain a little more about this self-consciousness I experienced back then, which I have since learned is a form of pride. I didn’t want to join this gym at first because one whole wall is windows and I was worried about people watching me make a fool of myself when I was working out in any way. My sister-in-law pointed out to me that this gym is right next door to a McDonald’s and that the people walking or driving by are not paying any attention to me in the gym. She said they were likely hoping I, or anyone else in the gym, wasn’t watching them walk into McDonald’s next door or pull into the drive-thru.
So, I joined the gym and quickly realized my sister-in-law was right. Not only did people outside of the gym not pay attention to people in the gym, people INSIDE the gym didn’t pay attention to people inside the gym. Once I was inside the gym, I no longer thought about what was going on just outside the gym. I did wonder often what other people were thinking inside the gym, but this gym has a television connected to each piece of cardio equipment so I would just plug in my earbuds, find something interesting to watch, and start walking.
After a month or so, I became interested in exploring some strength training and I knew I needed to work with a trainer to stay consistent and to learn proper form. I didn’t trust myself to go on my own, and I certainly didn’t think of myself as someone worth working hard for. The first six months of working with a trainer were pretty good. I didn’t release much weight and my measurements didn’t change much, but I gained strength. I went from barely being able to do a couple of push ups on my knees to doing 10-12 on my feet. This was quite an accomplishment for someone who always claimed to have the weakest arms in the world.
Periodically, the trainer/coach would ask me to step on the scale to check my weight, check my BMI, and take measurements. In the second six month period she also added in taking pictures, which is something I am very uncomfortable with. The second time the trainer took my picture she recognized that I was uncomfortable with this and it was the first time I perceived a different attitude in her. She has not asked to take pictures since then, nor has she weighed me, taken measurements, or even mentioned doing any type of assessment. Under different circumstances, I may have felt only relief about this. Instead, I feel a mix of relief and also disappointment. I feel relief because I really don’t find it helpful to have my picture taken in front of other people because it is evidence to me of where I have not measured up to where I think I should be by this point. I felt disappointment because I think the trainer has given up on me and is just going through the motions of each training session because I have already paid for them. We make small talk a little bit and she answers questions when I ask them, but I no longer feel like she is invested in me succeeding.
Sometime last summer I had the opportunity to visit Impact Fitness in Baraboo, WI. I noticed right away that there is something different and special about this gym. Every person I have met there has welcomed me and accepted me, just as I am. The focus is primarily on who you are on the inside instead of on how you look on the outside. Yes, this is a gym with a focus on fitness, but the clear message here is that lasting changes on the outside start with lasting changes on the inside. There is no judgment and no one there is going to find your answers for you. They believe in you and know you already have your own answers, even when you can’t see that for yourself – yet. Stay connected to the people at Impact Fitness, and you will begin a journey to finding out who you really are and loving the person you find inside.
So, what makes a good coach? To me, it is someone who remembers my name, is invested in me meeting my goals and finding my own answers. It is someone who helps me learn that I have value and worth, regardless of my size. It is someone who will ask me questions to challenge me and help me dig deep when I need to, and someone who will point out and celebrate my successes right along with me. The best example of this I have found so far are the people at Impact Fitness.
I started following a nutrition plan and released several pounds, and then chose to give in to cravings for instant gratification and short-term satisfaction. I not only gained back several of the pounds I had released, I also went back to feeling bloated, fatigued, sluggish, and full of self-loathing. I was working out with a trainer twice a week and jumping on the treadmill or elliptical afterwards for some cardio. I was noticing changes in the way my body felt, the way my clothes fit, along with reduced stress and increased confidence, and then I chose to leave the gym right after meeting with a trainer instead of staying for any extra cardio, and not do any additional exercise during the week. Instead of feeling increased confidence, I am feeling increased self-consciousness and worry about what other people think. I started writing regularly and felt happy about the feedback from other people, and a sense of accomplishment about moving forward and taking action on writing goals I had set and then I chose to do anything other than write when the “writing time” reminder popped up on my phone.
I have been spending some time thinking about why I stop doing these things that move me closer to my goals and bring me happiness, improved confidence, stress relief, and a sense of accomplishment and forward movement. Part of the reason stems back to the idea I wrote about in my last blog post about enough. I stop making good nutrition choices, exercising, and writing when I start comparing what I am doing to what other people are doing and deciding that I don’t measure up. Comparing myself with other people steals my joy, causes self-doubt, and paralyzes me.
When I choose to compare myself with other people, I am really choosing to hide my true self from others.
I stop all forward movement and run back to what feels safe and familiar – even when what feels safe and familiar is really oppressive and self-defeating.
Yesterday I realized a bigger reason for running back to what I know. Fear. My eyes filled with tears as soon as I acknowledged this feeling, this word, and let it roll off my tongue. The tears surprised me and led to more questions. What am I fearful of? What if I ignore the fear? What if I can’t get past the fear? Is fear a sign of weakness? Where else have I felt fear in my life and what did I do about it?
After quite a bit of thought, I realize that what I am really afraid of is succeeding – much more so than failing. Failing is familiar. Not meeting the expectations I think others have placed on me is familiar. Succeeding at something that adds to my self-worth or improves my physical or mental health is unfamiliar. I want to get to the point where doing things that I feel good about is a familiar action. The fear of succeeding is not about small or short-lived successes. The fear is more about not knowing how to, or not believing I can, maintain the success once I achieve it. It feels safer to run back to the familiar rather than take a chance at the joy of succeeding because I don’t have to risk losing that success. Reaching a goal and then going backwards has been more of a risk than playing it safe and selling myself short. How sad!
What if I ignore the fear? I don’t think the fear will go away if I ignore it. I believe the only way to get past the fear is to go through the fear, and then means acting in spite of the fear. I have taken some recent steps to do just that. I am writing this blog post after putting off writing. I worked out 5 of the past 7 days and I’m on my sixth day of tracking my nutrition intake so I can be more mindful of the choices I am making about what I am putting in my mouth. Each individual step may be small, but each is a step forward and the fear feels a little smaller or more manageable with each step I take.
What if I can’t get past the fear? A wise woman I know taught me the words can and will. I can get past the fear, and I will get past the fear – as long as I keep taking action and moving forward. Going back to the way things have been may seem like the worst that would happen, but really the worst that would happen is to never take the risk to leave where I have been.
Is fear a sign of weakness? I don’t believe so. I see fear as a sign of being human. Hiding, running, not taking any risks – those are signs of weakness for me personally, but not feeling fearful.
Where else in my life have I felt fear and what did I do about it? I have felt fear during the times in my life that have involved big change, where I didn’t know what was coming next. I have also felt fear after a big loss, again, because of not knowing what was coming next. In each of these instances I have spent time running and hiding, either physically or by using other means such as drugs, alcohol, and food. Eventually, most often with support from others, I put one foot in front of the other and started moving forward.
I look back now at the life I led when drugs and alcohol were front and center in my life and I barely recognize that girl. I can learn from her though. She took a lot of unhealthy risks for what she made up her mind she wanted, which at the time was drugs and alcohol. She ran and hid from the people she loved and who loved her because she didn’t believe she could ever be who they needed her to be. As a result, she was lonely and filled with regret, shame, and self-loathing. That is not who I choose to be today. I am taking little steps to move forward and I’m finding that it feels a lot like dancing the two step at my sister’s wedding years ago. I take a couple steps forward, or sometimes sideways, and then a step in the opposite direction. Sometimes I feel like im goibg in circles, and what I notice is that I am always moving and taking action. More importantly, I am laughing and smiling and enjoying the dance.
Where in your life have you recognized fear and how have you pushed through it?