The year before my Dad died, I had a conversation with him over the phone about the ongoing projects you find yourself in charge of as a homeowner. I had some flashing on an exterior wall that was pouring water right over a window and soaking the bricks and seeping into the drywall. A small section of the wall developed mildew (which I knew the difference but called it my moldy wall) and I described the clean-up process to my Dad who replied, “You always need a moldy wall to keep you busy.”
If had known that was the last full conversation I would have with my Dad where he was fully coherent I might have picked something a little deeper to talk about. In the absence of being able to discuss the meaning of life one more time, this conversation about a moldy wall has taken on significance in retrospect.
Other personal events (new job, divorce) all converged in the years that followed and I realized that I needed to become my moldy wall – I needed remediation. As a person who has spent an inordinate amount of time working hard to fix other people’s problems (workaholic, enabler) I felt guilty really working on myself.
I was not adverse to hard work though and had always been able to follow a plan for at least a few months. In college I was able to exercise and eat low fat (remember that craze…) and drop 50 pounds quickly – but I also lost my gallbladder in the process. I was also beginning to develop symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and wouldn’t get proper treatment for another ten years at least. It was so easy to subscribe to the belief that I should feel guilty all of the time and that with enough minutes on the cross-country ski machine or carefully calculating my fat and fiber grams eaten that I could whip myself back into shape. Meanwhile I never addressed any of the deeply submerged emotional issues I had with food.
Like most people, I would love a quick fix to my various problems but the older I get, the more I know the quick fix just leads to more clean-up down the road. I also knew that there were some themes that ran through my more successful ventures such as a) variety, b) working with professionals, and c) adaptability to special health concerns (PCOS, fibromyalgia).
I had worked with a trainer at a local gym which was a positive experience until I started to reach the limit of variety – and I also sustained a neck/shoulder injury. I sidelined myself for almost a year, feeling old and broken and then later frustrated that I lived in one of the biggest metro areas (Atlanta) and couldn’t seem to find anyone that would be a good match for my style.
The closest I found in terms of attitude was an inspirational fellow named JC Deen. He had sent one of his regular email newsletters about the importance of finding a trainer. I emailed him and asked if he could make a recommendation for this area. He generously posted to his Facebook page and like one of those great stories you tell at parties, there was really only one serious response. Jen Sturm responded as Get With It For Life and we messaged back and forth for a bit and set up an initial call.
From the moment she had responded to my request about learning compound lifts and the energy that came through her questions and answers, I started to get excited that I had found someone who I could really work with. And then she threw me a loop.
I was ready to go out and get tons of equipment and start lifting and following a strict eating plan – something I had tried with previous trainer. Jen told me I needed to get my injured shoulder looked at or I wouldn’t be able to fully train the way I would like. She also listened to me talk about food and we started to converse about the emotional bits I had so carefully avoided in the past.
Everybody is different. What works for one person may not work for you. Headlines and top five lists of what you are doing wrong feed into that deep-seated guilt that we will love to nurture. When we try the latest diet or celebrity work out we hope that we can achieve some measure of success of what our idols have worked for as well.
For me, what worked for me was slowly clearing away the deluge of guilt, the mold growing all over me because I neglected everything about myself at the same time distracting myself that I was accomplishing something because I was working out hard and eating six clean meals a day. It wasn’t right for me and I couldn’t keep it up.
Jen listened when I told her I loved to try new things. She heard me when I said I didn’t like to jump around. She paid attention when I said I wasn’t keen on tracking my food. She kept me pre-occupied with different types of workouts and always gave me the science behind the why. She encouraged me every week by phone (and more by email) and monthly field trips to look at equipment and food. She distracted me from calorie math by proving to me that I could flip great big tires!
A trainer or coach isn’t there to do everything for you – they are there to train and coach you…seems obvious but I think there is a big misconception about what you get out of the process and a large part of it does depend on the relationship between coach and client. I am a notorious do-it-yourselfer until I come to the conclusion that it is more cost effective to have it done another way. People think that working with a trainer is expensive but how much money have we already wasted on crazy diets or unused exercise equipment that promised quick results? You will get as much out of working with a trainer as you are willing to put in which means you have to treat yourself as a long-term investment.
So is working with a trainer a quick fix? No but my progress is steady and sustainable. My moldy wall is over a foot smaller (13.5 inches gone from various places) and my blood work continues to improve in all the good ways (lower glucose, cholesterol). I don’t binge or secret eat any more because I have tools to work through the emotional parts now. I had to buy new clothes because the old ones kept falling off. I enjoy keeping track of what I eat because I didn’t turn it into an obsession and it’s not a guilt log.
I train with one of the smartest, hardest-working health coach professionals I have ever met. She inspires me with her own story and the stories of who inspires her. If you have struggled with starting any sort of health/training plan or have reached a wall of any sort, you can continue along the same guilty path of least resistance, or you can Get With It for Life and find out what works for you.