Last Updated on July 19, 2018 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
At the gym, I often have new clients approach me with trepidation. I partially blame Jillian Michaels: as much as I love her…enthusiasm? Can we call it that? Let’s call it that. As much as I love her enthusiasm, she has given personal trainers the reputation for an in your face approach, guilting clients into exercise, often times making them cry, and yelling. So much yelling. Therefore, many people looking to work with a trainer for the first time assume that I’m going to yell at them for their current state (or lack thereof) of fitness, force them to eat nothing but grilled chicken and asparagus, and yell some more just for the sake of yelling. They literally think I’m going to scare them into being healthier.
Which couldn’t be further from the truth.
My approach to fitness, both in the gym and with my running clients, is figuring out how we can incorporate exercise into their already existing lifestyle, while teaching them how important moderation and balance is. In short, I want them to learn how important fitness and healthy lifestyle habits are, but I also want them to not feel guilty if “life” happens and they have to miss a workout or two. My experience has been that this approach makes people more likely to view exercise as something they enjoy doing, and not a punishment or chore that they dread doing.
Of course, it always helps to give examples, so I often use myself. Plus, it’s an easy example since I seem to know myself pretty well.
I’m not an elite athlete, far from it. But I am fit, and I have some pretty big goals in the world of exercise that require a good bit of training. However, like almost everyone else in the world, I also have a family, jobs (multiple), and random other “life” things that pop up from time to time and take precedence over my planned workouts.
Like last week.
I’ve known for well over a month now that my dad has (hopefully, had) cancer. Initially it was a “no big deal” type of diagnosis, but after surgery to remove part of his lung and a few lymph nodes, the diagnosis was upgraded from “no big deal” to stage 3. When I got the news that it was worse than we originally thought (at least from a technical stand point…in reality you’d hardly know this guy was sick) the first thing I did was book a plane ticket home to see him before chemotherapy starts. And by pure coincidence, I landed back in New England exactly three years to the day from the last time I left this place.
(Side note: don’t let a cancer diagnosis be the thing that finally gets you to go home to see your family. Go now, and go often.)
I was immediately overwhelmed with how much I have changed over the last three years…for the better of course…but I was also overcome with the realization of how far I have strayed from my roots. My home. I could wax poetically about how homesick I am for New England for hours, but I’ll spare you. Most of you know this already. I am trying like hell to enjoy the journey that I am now, to live in the moment and appreciate all that South Carolina has to offer me, even if the vapid commercialism and incessant pavement of Myrtle Beach slowly chips away at my soul. The reasons we are here are very valid and absolutely worth it. But when I finally made it back home, I realized how much I had missed my family, and how much I had missed this very important piece of my life. So needless to say, training last week was no longer priority.
Though as I told my dad, running is my daily mental health drug, so I was certainly anything but sedentary.
So let’s get to the training week:
Monday. I don’t remember Monday, but according to my Garmin I didn’t do anything. Which is good, Monday was supposed to be a rest day.
Tuesday I taught my normal plyometrics & strength training class in the morning. That night Geoff and I ran a casual 7 miles on the trail. I love that “date nights” with my husband often consist of running. He truly is my favorite running partner
Wednesday was spin class, followed by lower body strength training, and track day. 200 meter sprints followed by 100 stairs, 6 or 7 times. I lost count. It was well into the 90+ degree range and each summit of the stadium stairs left me dry heaving. Summer training in South Carolina is no joke, but then again, neither is the Barkley Fall Classic.
(note: I really don’t recommend running until you almost puke as a regular training technique.)
Thursday was spent traveling. We drove a round trip of about 8 hours to Augusta Georgia and back, and then I got on a plane bound for Boston. I finally made it to my sister’s couch in New Hampshire around 3:30 am on Friday morning. So we’ll consider that another exercise in mental toughness (the travel and lack of sleep, not my sister’s couch. The couch was quite comfortable).
Friday was spent catching up with my family, as well as a too quick visit with Geoff’s mom, dad, step mom, and sister. I’ve probably mentioned this countless times already, but let me say it again: I married the best man in the world with the BEST family. If ever there was a lottery for me to win, this was it.
Saturday I headed out for a 5 mile exploration run around my parents house. All of this? Practically their backyard.
As I ran, I took the time to truly appreciate how green everything was. “They” say that the “grass is always greener on the other side”, but in this case, it is literal. Everything in New England in July is so painfully, incredibly green. I also took the time to admire the lack of humidity…at least in my coastal South Carolina opinion. It was nothing short of perfect.
Sunday morning I declared that I was going to hike Mt. Monadnock. When I briefly moved back in with my parents back in 2012, Monadnock held a very special place in my heart. There was a time in my life where I would head to this mountain when the screaming in my soul was so overwhelming, I didn’t know what else to do. I’d run up her as hard as I could, until the pain in my legs and lungs was louder than the pain in my heart. She always had a way of calming me, of making me see things more clearly, of giving me hope that the future held better things for me. So I figured it was time to go back, to visit her from a very different point in my life.
Fun Fact: Monadnock, at a mere 3,166 feet above sea level, is the second most hiked / summited mountain in the WORLD, second only to Mt. Fuji. Who would have thought? Knowing this, I decided to take a) a trail slightly less frequented, and b) summit first thing in the morning. I started off running, thinking to myself “I’ve totally got this, my sea level legs are stronger than I thought!” Then very quickly, the trail changed from this:
and continued to look like this for the next 2.25 miles. I got my ass KICKED. I was gasping for air, dripping in sweat, and regretting my shoe choice (chunky Hokas getting caught in rock crevices = not the best idea.) the entire way. I was also beaming from ear to ear. I marveled at the fact that the only thing I could hear was birds, not a single car or other sign of modern life could interrupt the beauty I was experiencing.
Eventually I made it to the top and took a few minutes to marvel at how incredible the view was.
But not for long…a cloud rolled in (easy to do when you are IN the clouds) and visibility quickly diminished. When you summit Monadnock from the main park on the White Dot trail, there is a massive sign at the trail head that warns hikers of the quickly changing weather and dangers at the top of this deceivingly small mountain. The summit is a massive field of boulder faces, and when visibility drops, it’s very hard to figure out where you came from, or where you are supposed to go next. Knowing this, and knowing that I was alone, I reluctantly headed back down after only a few minutes at the summit.
The descent took longer than the climb, mostly due to the slippery rocks and not-made-for-New-England-rocks-Hokas. I only landed on my ass once though, so that’s a bonus. But I got a lot of practice in the hands AND feet aspect of trail running as I lowered myself down the steep cliffs and large boulders that were much easier to ascend. I thanked myself profusely for all of the tricep work I do in the gym.
Round trip total: 5.5 miles and a little over 2 hours. Yeouch.
Training Week #3 Report Card: five gold stars
On paper (or Google spreadsheet, as it may be) this week was a big fail, as far as mileage goes. However, sometimes life is more important than giving myself a “green” ranking on my training week, and this week was a perfect example of that. I spent a ton of quality time with my parents, talking about life, laughing at the shenanigans of the chipmunks in their front yard, traveling to antique shops, and just being together. So I’m not giving this week a red or even upgrading to a yellow. Nope, it gets a gold. Because time with loved ones can be fleeting. Running? It’s not going anywhere.
9 weeks to go…
Heather Hart is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), UESCA certified Ultrarunning Coach, RRCA certified Running Coach, co-founder of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, and creator of this site, Relentless Forward Commotion. She is a mom of two teen boys, and has been running and racing distances of 5K to 100+ miles for over a decade. Heather has been writing and encouraging others to find a love for fitness and movement since 2009.