Dear Coach: Losing Weight

Clients: You’re lucky you’re so skinny/toned/small/etc/etc/etc……..
Me: It’s not luck!!!


As a personal trainer, I think it’s really important to be able to relate to my clients when it comes to fitness goals. Most of my clients assume I’m just one of those special, lucky people who are naturally thin and fit without even trying – one of those extremely blessed people who can eat literally anything they want, as much of it as they want, and not gain a pound. But that isn’t me. While my weight loss total wasn’t over the top or as significant as most, it still counts and it certainly gave me insight on how difficult it is to lose weight!

When I was a senior in high school, I gained about ten pounds. Part of this was travelling abroad and experiencing Spain’s diverse foods to the fullest and part of it was not continuing to exercise when my team sports seasons ended. A big part of this was being social all summer with my friends, going out for ice cream every chance we got before jetting off to college.

My freshman year of college at UMass Amherst, I gained even more weight. The “Freshman Fifteen” is real people – especially at a school like UMass where the dining is delicious and all you can eat. Not to mention that if you want it to be, the drinking scene can be heavy.

By the time I was heading into sophomore year of college (I transferred to Gordon at this time), I was over 135 pounds. I had never weighed more than 120 in my life. I’m not extremely tall, about 5’6″, so 135 is on the upper end of an average weight. But I was clearly not muscular, not toned, and definitely not fitting into my old jeans.

That spring, I really took to the gym and started eating healthier. I lost about 5 pounds over break and came back feeling awesome about it. So that summer, I decided to forego all ice cream excursions and dedicate myself to getting my cardio in every week. It wasn’t just one thing I changed, but my whole lifestyle. I slowly cut out junk food to the point where I didn’t even crave it anymore. The gym became a haven where I could de-stress and love the work my body could do. The roads of my town became my treadmill and I revelled in making it farther and farther on each run.

By the time I went back for my junior year, I lost all the weight I had put on and then some. I fluctuated between 115-120, but continued my healthy eating habits and exercise routines. Maybe losing 15-20 pounds doesn’t sound like much. But it was a lot to me! I could see the difference and feel the difference physically, emotionally, and mentally. I had more energy, was happier and more focused, and I felt more confident and motivated in other aspects of my life.

Photo Jun 20, 6 52 52 AM Photo Jun 20, 6 53 52 AM

[After freshman year of college (2011) I was at my heaviest (left photos). Most notable is the weight in my face (chubby cheeks!) and arms. Right photos are 2014 and 2012 respectively.]

Photo Jun 20, 6 55 34 AM Photo Jun 20, 6 57 34 AM

[Again, left photos are all 2010-2011. Right photos are 2012 and 2014. Again, the weight in my cheeks and arms is most notable, but I also lost quite a few inches around my waist and stomach.]

No matter what your fitness goal is, it’s important to do it for YOU and only you. Be determined and love yourself. Give yourself the credit you deserve when you get closer to your goal. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t happen over night. Surround yourself with people who understand what it’s like – what it’s like to strive toward your goal, what it’s like to slip up and fall off track, what it’s like to lose motivation and get down on yourself, what it’s like to crave dessert, what it’s like to feel your body burn during your workout, what it’s like to achieve that goal.

I always tell my clients that I certainly did NOT always look the way I do now. And I still have fitness goals I want to achieve. There is a reason I always refer to your fitness journey as a journey, and it’s because you’ll never be “done”. Even when you achieve your goal, there’s always another one to strive for, or at least maintain.

I was really discouraged when I finally realized I had put on 20 pounds and could barely do a push up or run a decent mile. But I’m glad I went through that journey because it’s allowed me to relate to all my clients who have weight loss goals and struggles. I can get personal and honestly say, “I’ve been there, I GET IT.” It’s hard, and it takes time and dedication, but it’s a day to day process. We’ll get there.

  

 [Present. 2015]

-Coach A

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Dear Coach Special Edition: My Journey

Hi! Now that you’ve read a few of my articles and hopefully continue to check back in here, I wanted to give you a more meaningful and personal introduction of who I am and where my fitness journey really began, as well as where it is now.

The Beginning

I played sports in high school, but was just average. It wasn’t until college that I really found a passion for exercise and health. After that freshman 15 (ouch), I turned myself around. I declared my major as Kinesiology and got to learn all about sports, nutrition, anatomy and physiology, muscles, the effects of exercise and disease on the body, and so much more.

The Turn Around

All of this new knowledge is what led me to begin viewing my body as an agile, efficient, smooth-running machine. Whenever I went for a run, I would revel in how capable my muscles were. Striding out, contracting, pushing me faster. I started incorporating more strength into my exercise routine and finally got stronger. No more wimpy girl push ups!

I learned to eat the best foods and actually enjoy them. Chickpea and bean salad with beets. Yum. Granola and yogurt. Double yum. The more I ate good, healthy foods, the less appealing potato chips and ice cream became. All cravings for unhealthy foods stopped. iphone2014-2015 008

I started playing college sports. Even though I wasn’t the most skillful lacrosse player, my speed allowed me to keep up and help my teammates improve as well. Being on a team was an amazing experience! It was worth all the hard work and pre-season training I tortured myself with.

The Setback

Then, all the good feels came to an end. Senior year of college, I got injured. A stress fracture in my tibia put a halt to all things exercise, running, and sports. I was devastated. Running was my thing. It was my stress reliever, made me happy, helped me think about the issues in my life, kept me sane. Running was my therapy and my training! To be honest, I relied on running a little too much… it would definitely be fair to say I idolized it.

So, The Good Lord opened my eyes to this idol in my life and forced me to turn my eyes back toward Him. I had to spend 8 weeks on crutches resting, watching my teammates practice and play. What a humbling experience. When I was finally cleared to run again, I discovered that the fracture still wasn’t fully healed like the doctors thought. So, I had to start the healing process all over.

This cycle continued three times. Each time I would start back at it, the bone just wasn’t healed fully. Each time I would start back, I got too excited and started my running frequency or intensity at too high a level. I would immediately get selfish with my running, and have to run faster than anyone near me at the gym. How ugly, how proud! When would I learn? I would give other people advice on only focusing on bettering yourself, on being patient with injuries, on the important of rest. Yet I couldn’t swallow my own advice. 

The Present

Now, its been a full 6 months of NO running at all, and I get to (God willing) start running again – slowly this time. I designed a 12-week cardio program to help me not only strengthen the muscles in my legs to help avoid re-fracture, but also to hold me accountable to minimal frequency, mileage and intensity. The program begins with mostly walking, and slowly and gradually builds up to my desired mileage and intensity over a three month period.

IMG_4495In addition to the cardio, I re-evaluated my nutrition. Was I getting enough protein? Was my diet lacking in essential vitamins and minerals? Was I unknowingly negatively affecting the health of my bones?

So I researched vitamins, cut out foods that were actually leaching the calcium stores from my bones (Coffee is one culprit! How awful!), and started incorporating more leafy greens filled with calcium and other nutrients into my diet (Kale, broccoli…), as well as really made sure I was getting adequate amounts of protein in each meal.

Since I began personal training during this process, I was able to incorporate more meaningful and effective strength training exercises into my regimen, which has made a huge difference in how my legs feel! I’m confident this will translate into helping me with my running comeback by taking some of the impact and load off my bones.

Results

This journey back will likely feel slow and laborious. Torturous even! The first two weeks I literally can only run for a grand total of 6 minutes (3 minutes one day, rest two days, 3 minutes the next day…Humble pie, anyone?) Plus, it’s always a conscious journey to keep my nutrition in check. (Limiting my coffee intake is probably the biggest struggle!) But if I have learned anything from this chronic, long term injury, it’s that rehab and rest are critical to one’s health. It’s smarter to take the time your body needs to heal rather than rush it. You’ll just be hurting yourself and prolonging your journey back to health. Take it from me, I was diagnosed with this fracture a year ago!

Additionally, my eyes have been opened to the dangers of over training. I idolized running to the point of idiocy. Going for two to three runs a day. Running sub-7 minute mile repeats for 5 miles straight, then going back to the gym later in the day to do it again. No wonder I fractured my tibia. Thank God for forcing me to find new ways to do cardio that I actually enjoyed so I’m able to change it up. Aqua jogging, long bike rides outside, swimming…I never would have opted for these methods of training if I hadn’t been desperate for exercise, but they’re really awesome!

As a result of this injury, I’ve also learned so much more about strength training and cross training, as well as how nutrition influences our biology. Really ensuring you maintain a proper diet, eat the right nutrients and calories, and make up for any vitamin deficits is truly just as important as when and how you exercise. IMG_4500

If any of you readers can relate, feel free to comment any questions about stress fractures, strength training and cross training, or nutrition below. I would love to chat!

I’m excited to be back, running around in the gorgeous New England spring and summer weather. I will definitely be writing future posts on my comeback journey! So stay tuned 🙂

-Coach A