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’m sitting here in my favorite new writing spot – a newly remodeled Starbucks. I love the atmosphere here and the feeling of warmth as my latte hits my belly. I spent the afternoon with a pit in my stomach that has been occuring more often lately than I would like. I haven’t figured out yet where this feeling is coming from and decided some time spent writing about it may help me sort it out. I was talking to my coach a couple days ago and mentioned this uncomfortable feeling. She asked if it is more of a dread feeling or more of a feeling like I’m going to puke because I know something I am about to be involved in will be really big and impactful, and also scary at the same time. At the time I said that it is more of a feeling of dread, although I didn’t know exactly why I was dreading what was coming up. On this particular day, it was a meeting with my supervisor. I told myself I was going to practice being grounded and focus on that during my meeting so I could feel more confident. The meeting didn’t turn out so well.
My boss started out asking me a couple of questions to which I did not know the answers. Her reaction was judgmental and demeaning and that set the tone for the rest of our meeting. Practicing ground and center went right out the window and all I seemed able to focus on was how I once again didn’t know enough. I wish I could stay that I was able to use positive self-talk and quickly get myself back in a good space. Instead, I cried. I am not a fan of crying in front of other people, and especially when the other person is my boss. She asked me what the tears were about and I told her I don’t feel like I will ever be able to meet her expectations because I have no idea what they are. I also told her I have no idea when she is happy with my work, angry with me, disapointed in me, or pleased with me because I only see her a total of twice per month. One hour per month I meet with her alone and her comments are often ripe with criticism and void of praise, and then I see her one other time in a leadership meeting with about 15 other people. I have reported to her for 10 months now and don’t know her any better today than I did 10 months ago. The words she spoke said she was sorry for making me cry. The tone of her voice and the look on her face said she was in her glory and loving every minute of it.
I would love to tell you that I left work and that whole situation at work and went home and enjoyed the rest of my evening. That would be a lie. I went home and told my husband all about the meeting, cried some more, and basically let it ruin a perfectly good evening. The next morning I replayed the dialogue from the meeting repeatedly in my head and cried a little more. I went to work and felt sorry for myself and hopeless about my ability to make this situation any different.
I have also handled several situations at work lately with upset customers, two who ended up complaining to administration, which is then relayed back to my boss. Today was another of those situations. I talked to an angry customer right before I left work for the day and although I believe no wrong-doing was done on my part or by any of my employees, the call ended with the customer stating she is going to call the Better Business Bureau. I hung up the phone and immediately noticed the pit in my gut. It’s like that feeling that something is about to happen.
I spent a little quiet time thinking about all of this after work today and trying to sort out what it is I am dreading so often lately and what is going on when I start feeling that pit in my stomach. I realized that each of these situations are challenging me to prove that I have grown and learned that I am enough, just as I am. So what if I can’t live up to the unknown expectations of my boss? Do her expectations even matter in the grand scheme of life? What is more important to me is living up to my own expectations. I have to live with myself everyday, not my boss. The same is true of the situations lately with challenging customers. The resolution I have offered has not been enough to meet their expectations and I have let that mean that I am not enough.
How quickly I reverted to being a victim in challenging circumstances! How easily I went right back to that miserable place of feeling unworthy of simply being me. Yet, how quickly I have been able to get to the root of this feeling of dread too! And that means I can get right back to being responsible for my own choices. I chose to interview for the job I have and to accept it when it was offered to me – even though I had heard plenty of horror stories about my boss and the way she treats others. I chose to accept the responsibility of dealing with challenging customers as part of my job duties, with no guarantee that every situation would end on a positive note. I chose to let these situations temporarily define me as not enough.
Today I choose to toss out that definition – AGAIN – and do what I know is the next right thing instead of trying to please everyone around me. I choose to measure my worth by how well I am meeting my own expectations and by remembering who I am in God’s eyes. Today I choose to be true to myself and know that doing so in my job will involve some struggles with my boss because I choose not to be like her. From my experience with her, I choose to learn how I never want to treat other people. I also choose to look at her with compassion and curiosity. I wonder what she has experienced in her life that has caused her to find power in belittling other people? I can imagine that being in her skin and portraying that image to others may leave her feeling rather lonely and I can empathize with that because I have often felt uncomfortable in my own skin and kept a wall between me and other people and the result was a deep feeling of loneliness. One big lesson I have learned from this woman already is how I never want to treat other people.
I have a choice in every challenging situation. I can choose to let it drag me down or I can choose to explore each situation for any truths I can apply and move on. I still tend to choose the first option out of lifelong habit, but I also choose to not stay there for long and that is improvement. My bounce back time is shorter and that amazes me. I sometimes think about getting to a place where I am unaffected by the negativity of others and don’t need to bounce back from the effects of negative situations. I’m not sure if that is realistic, or if that would mean I am disconnected from my emotions. I certainly don’t want that. I spent too much of my life running and hiding from my emotions and not knowing how to even identify them and I certainly don’t want to go back to living that way.
Now that I know I was moving in the wrong direction and reacting in old, familiar ways, I can do an about-face and get on with my journey in a new direction – sometimes hesitantly, sometimes with a spring in my step, and always with the knowledge that the choice is mine.