Unlike a lot of fitness professionals, I don’t have a personal history of participation in sports and other athletic achievements. I never played any sports. I remember in school gym classes we were given these seemingly impossible assignments: climb to the top of a rope suspended from the gym ceiling, run a mile in 8 minutes, do 2 pull-ups & 45 sit-ups, earn the Presidential Physical Fitness Award. I never achieved any of those things. Every gym teacher I met tried motivate people by yelling “You’re Scum!” I already felt like scum, thanks for the encouragement. I entered my adult life without ever having run a mile.
Being inactive, I gained my way all the way up to 285lbs. One day, when I was 38 years old, I lost my mind and signed up for a run-a-marathon-for-charity event. I signed up for Team in Training because my father was dying from a rare form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and there wasn’t anything else to do for him. I knew I wasn’t going to run a marathon, but the coach was absolutely certain that I could walk a half marathon. She said, “I haven’t met a person yet who we can’t coach to walk a half.” My coach never told me that I couldn’t do it, and I tried to believe her.
Every weekend I’d show up for our workout, the runners would take off, and I’d keep their backsides in my sights for about half a mile until they disappeared. I would finish those long workouts hours after the last runner had gone home. Most of the time I felt like I had no business being out there training for a half marathon. Whenever I felt like giving up, I would think about all the people in chemotherapy, dying of cancer, and how badly they must wish they could be outside taking a walk. Thinking of them kept me going. My father passed away during my training. I wore my running shoes to his funeral. In my mind I still had the dirt from his grave on my shoes the day that I walked my first half marathon. After the half marathon I stayed on volunteering for TNT, and eventually I had hung around so long that they sent me to certify as a coach.
I think something happens to people’s minds during endurance training—Finishing an event that you previously thought was impossible encourages you to think that anything is possible in other aspects of your life.
As a coach I watched other people train for events and get incredible results—it seemed like other people could get up off the couch, train, run a marathon, lose weight, and transform their lives. After coaching for a few years I’d lost 20lbs, but I got frustrated that I didn’t seem to be getting the same results that other participants could achieve. I needed my own personal trainer. When I was looking for a trainer, I started to understand that most of the trainers I met couldn’t relate to my experience, and some would encourage me to do exercises that led me to injury. I finally met the right trainer for me on a massage table after a local 5K race. His experience with Corrective Exercise taught me that I needed to address a slew of biomechanical issues and muscle imbalances that resulted from my lifetime of inactivity. My trainer uncovered the athlete that had been hidden inside me all along. Once I got my body moving correctly, results started to happen. I ran a mile for the first time in my life at age 42—and a friend gave me my first sports trophy.
I’ve experienced successes myself– I’ve lost over 50 lbs, my recent medical tests are outstanding, and these days I have been running 5Ks. The standing joke is that I am an Adult-Onset Athlete. I try a bunch of different things to discover what I *can* do, instead of immediately rejecting an experience because I think I can’t do it. When the body functions correctly, the results will follow.
There is a need for non-traditional trainers who can help people who had given up like I had. I know I’m coming from “outside the box,” and it means that some hard-core fitness enthusiasts won’t take me seriously. I don’t think that obese people are motivated to make long-term lifestyle changes by a coach who screams at them. I’ve been in the gym, I’ve watched the TV shows, and I know that I don’t look like a personal trainer. But if you look at the world outside the gym, a lot more people look like me than look like the celebrity trainers on TV. I’ve brought myself back from the brink—you can be certain that I understand the challenge. I hope to fill the gap, and be the trainer that I needed when I was getting up off the couch.