I cannot stress enough how important it is to be compassionate when you help others on their path to wellness, health and fitness. People come to you, oftentimes as a “last resort”, after years of struggling with either some medical problems or weight issues or nutritional habits. It is extremely hard for them to book that first date with the fitness professional, come to the meeting, sit down, open up right away and pour out all the worries, problems and stress, as they see the person for the first time in their life.
I must admit that I get lots of comments about how “compassionate” I am, how helpful this quality is to my new clients, and how much easier it makes it for them to open up. I always truly appreciate these comments, because they mean I am right on the target. It is how I want to sound and appear to my new clients; compassionate and understanding.
On multiple occasions, what helps out is the moment when I can relate to their weight loss struggles, when I pull out one of the two “pictures-on –duty” I have in the drawer of my desk at the Studio. The pictures show yours truly at the age of 18 years old and at the weight of 181 pounds, solid. Before I lost all that (what took me a while, as well). This is the moment when my new clients instantly reconnect and know that I was there, too, and I know how it feels and I am very compassionate about the whole situation. Relating is so important, not only in the fitness business.
What most of my new clients do not realize is that feeling compassionate makes me feel way better, too. Feeling stressed? Ah, just help another soul! Tell them how nice their sweater is, how lovely a smile they sport, or help that elderly gentlemen with the walker to get over the curb. Instant gratification of feeling better! The person who was “helped out” also feels better and, most likely, contagiously continues with the ‘feel-good” attitude through their day. Also, when you meet someone at the grocery shop, simply wish them to have a lovely day – you do not even have to spell that loud, just wish them the best silently, in your head. Believe me, little things like that make such a huge difference in the daily lives of all of us!
Last weekend, I was privileged to participate in the ultramarathon, organized in the Monument Valley.
I would like to share with you a few thoughts and observations, which came to my mind as I was running this wonderful event.
First of all, I had been feeling really blessed to be able to train to my full potential before that race. I realize that health, well-being and a relative lack of injuries is never granted. Yes, I had been stretching and cross-training and applying my due vigilance to the training methods over those months. Still, things always can go wrong, and, thanks God, they had not.
So, I felt very happy to be able to be where I was to do what I was about to do, run my 31 miles. Through the most remote parts of the Monument valley, normally out-of-reach for the tourists. Ankle-deep in sand. So what? Hard? Yes. Well, what does not kill us, makes us stronger, right? J Very true.
Second, I was thrilled to observe all ranges of age at the starting (and the finish) line: from teenagers to people in their late 60s. All smiling, eager to go, easy-going, flower child-like, relaxed and awaiting the great race day with thrill and anticipation. Positive and smiling people for whom some sand in the shoes is not a problem, who would remove their respective shoes at the finish line and who would with certain proudness compare the toe nail losses. Who would run into one of our Navajo guides on the horse thanking him for allowing us to run this sacred land, and then mumble to themselves: “Run or whatever we call THIS”! Who would be joyously spitting the inhaled sand until one week after the race…
Third: It all would have simply not be possible without the wonderful volunteers. This is why I always make a point to stop and thank every one of them during my races. We were blessed with the wonderful Three Sisters aid station. After every ten miles or so, we would all invariably land in that fabulous place, full of happy volunteers, greeting you like you just came from the moon or at least Pluto. Then, one of them would jump in front of you and ask what you need and help out with everything, from filling the water bladder to handing you SIMPLY THE BEST, steamy-hot Navajo taco! Not to say, there were many other goodies to pick up, but once I set my eyes on the Navajo taco, that was it. Plus some mouton stew, for a good measure. The Three Sisters (and other) volunteers had a long shift to work: we started our run at 7AM. I was, personally, done 8hrs and 10 minutes later, but there were folks running well into their thirteen tour…
Why? Ah, because we were blessed to be allowed to “run”/scramble on top of the Mitchell Mesa at the very end of the race. You know, at about Mile 23, you have to go all the way up onto that mesa (when you arrive into the Monument Valley, it is the huge one to your right, to the right from the View Hotel, as well). Then, we run one mile on top of it to a check point, staffed by yet another kind Navajo man-on-duty, then we run back and down (mostly on our tush…). Then, another 8 miles and we were home! So, it took forever…
So, the aid station volunteers, and the ones who “swiped” the course after the last runner, had a very long day at work.
Fourth: What about the effort of the race organizers? In our case, it was the Grand Circle Trail Series. They are a relatively young group, but very well organized. They descended on the Valley the day before the event and meticulously set it all in place: from the start line and the confidence ribbons to the medical tent and they even commissioned an artist to paint local Monument Valley landscape on their white truck for the duration of the event. The organizer met with all of us in person and was available both before and after the race, handing us our trophies – in this case, lovely Monument Valley mugs. Hand-painted and hand-made by the Navajo.
It was one of those weekends I will never forget. And it would not have been possible without my meticulous training, commitment to running even on the “ugly weather” or “I don’t feel like it” days, without the volunteers and the organizers, and without the smiles and encouraging words of the other participants. Last but not least, it’d not have been possible and not the same without our daughter Amaya, who woke up with us at 5AM to cheer on us at the starting line and was right there at the finish line eight hours later, snapping pictures of yours truly and asking me if I want to lean on her on my way from the Finish line to the hotel…
A big thanks to all of you!
OK, so, you are growing inpatient because, despite the New Year’s resolution, your weight seems not to bulge down much. Worry not, the weight gain did not happen overnight. It took you months and years, plus this past November and December (jointly and joyously referred to as “the Holiday Season”), to arrive at the starting line of this year’s resolutions. Average American gains several pounds over the Holidays. Apart from overindulgence at various end-of-the-year parties, with family, friends and coworkers, many of us also run out of time to exercise. So, sensing the general lack of vigilance, the end-of-the-year pounds jumped on the occasion to land in our so-called “muffin tops”.
Therefore, here we are, with our muffins of various sizes, worrying about the current state of affairs. Let’s be patient, by the same giving ourselves a chance to succeed at our weight loss plot. Approach the challenge step by step and from different angles: be it the “clean” nutrition and eating, drinking lots of water, feeling satiated in a healthy way at all times, exercising and remembering to stretch and walk around a little every 45 minutes while at the computer. Most likely, it will take us months or even up to a year to get where we really want to be. Especially if we aim at losing the weight in a healthy way, which will result in a change of habits and no yo-yo effect. Changing habits takes time, lots of time. So, trust me, you will get there, but slowly. You know, I like very much the following quote: “If you think you cannot, you cannot, if you think you can, you can”! I believe in you.
Have you noticed how much time at the gym is lost on unnecessary small talk? Whenever I pass by any of the “big” gyms in the area, I observe, with horror, how some gym members come mostly to exercise their maxillofacial muscles while chatting with the other gym-goers. To me, exercising your facial muscles is not the primary goal of visiting a gym. Even today at one of the big gyms I kept glancing at quite a substantial group of people, formed by the regular members of that gym, as they congregated in the narrowest passage area of the room. One sat down, the other leaned against the wall and some others simply stood around, mindlessly shifting their weight from one leg onto the other. Some had coffee cups in their hands. One also had a snack (ah, you know, surely one of these fat-free, sugar-free and gluten-free chunks which do not end in our muffin top). And they chatted and chatted… for probably at least 40 minutes. I successfully run most of my abdominal workout, while they kept talking about some truly insignificant stuff. Then, only one remained in the workout room to train, while the rest of them left either to get more coffee or to the locker room – session accomplished! Yep. After all, they came to the gym. They changed into the workout clothes. They got into the training room. They spent “their time” in the workout room. They even met the fellow fitness aficionados and exchanged some words with them. Mission fulfilled?
Along the same note, I oftentimes observe how people have full-blown snack breaks between the fitness classes. I understand the exciting social aspect of these congregations, but I don’t think they should be routinely done at any gym. There are better places to do it. I do not think, either, that eating at any gym should be a standard. We run the danger of eating more than we burn – the facial muscles are not the biggest, therefore, they do not burn much calories while being trained.
And, once I am at it, fiddling with the TV remote control(s) and your cell phones exercises only the small finger muscles. Not worth it. Do yourself and your body a favor and forget about all the media and social media for that hour or so. Train with intensity and with focus, not with the goal of “surviving this or that amount of minutes at the dreaded gym” by reading the FB posts.
What about going to your respective gym with the clearly-defined purpose of exercising your body? With a plan, what body part you are going to exercise and for how long? What about completing your training without losing time on anything else but… your workout? You even do not get the same effect on your muscles if you train them without thinking of the particular muscle at work and without the proper inhalation/exhalation as you work out. Do not lose your time on distracting yourself from the task at hand, i.e. your workout. By not engaging in the small talk or repeating the same old jokes, you also make a favor and make life easier for those of us who want to go to the gym to, actually… work out.
As to me, I truly appreciate no small talk while I am at it. To the point of, sometimes, contemplating creation of a T-shirt which I could wear and which would say: “Talk to you later!” or something similar.
See you (training your big muscles) at the gyms nearby!