“Oh my dear, you’re not a teacher.” Words that rocked my world and made me rethink who I am…

If asked, do you love your job, how would you respond?  Is loving your job really all that important?

For me, the dream of the perfect job began in elementary school.  I couldn’t think of anything other than getting out of school and on with my life.  I shifted my focus from hating school to convincing my mom that school was a big waste of time.  She saw it differently.  Rather than learn, I would constantly concoct new ways how I would escape my childhood prison.  I was totally convinced at eight, that I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up.  Even though, I hated school, I justified my actions because I had a plan.

Third grade sucked big-time. Mostly, because of the senseless multiplication tables that were drilled into my brain.  The one thing that made that year tolerable was career day.  The most memorable speaker was one of our local dental hygienists.  She made an enormous impact and gave me the direction I needed.  It wasn’t her lecture on brushing and flossing or the silly dental hygiene cartoon that left an indelible mark.  It was her five foot red toothbrush.  Sadly, I image today, that kids would take toothbrush selfies, post it on their social media pages and be done with it. 

School was the bane of my existence and the source of all that was wrong in my childhood.  I was afflicted with ADHD and concentrating was out of the question. What made school unbearable were all the distractions.  If a bird flew outside the window, in my line of sight, I would gaze at it for a moment, watch its flight path and instantly forget everything I had been taught that morning. Growing up in a rural town and finding a qualified teacher that could manage my ADHD would not come until fourth grade.

As an adult,  everyone I’ve spoken with has had that one special teacher who made a significant lifelong impression.  For me, that teacher was Mrs. Eklund.  She stood out above all the other teachers because she was patient and caring.  She worked tirelessly to help me understand and organize my thoughts.  Her focused determination is a cornerstone of my personality.  Throughout the years, most of my other teachers lectured for hours, made us memorize what seem to be utterly insignificant information and put on a movie so they could step outside for a smoke break.

When you google the word “teacher”, the definition states; one who shows and explains with encouragement, and demonstrates a fact or principle and makes you understand with their personal experience.  Meanwhile, “instructor” is defined as a person who gives direction or informs of a fact.  Personally, Mrs. Eklund was definitely a teacher by all standards and my other teachers were merely instructors.

In my current profession, in the health and fitness industry, these titles are used interchangeably by individuals with various experience, education and skills.   You might be thinking who really cares and why is this so important.  I bring up this point because in the health and fitness industry, it’s nearly impossible to know who is truly qualified, educated and skilled at being a teacher.  I’ve seen countless personal trainers with multiple qualifications and they still do no more than instruct.  It’s a sad fact, that in a profession where we are supposed to teach, individuals merely instruct and collect their paycheck.

I remember a discussion I had with a mentor shortly after completing the final stages of a comprehensive Pilates teacher training program.  After completing the nerve-racking process of testing out, I approached my mentor to pick up my certification.  I remember the “I’m proud of you” hug she gave me just before she handed me the certificate. I stepped back from the hug and with a huge smile I said, “It is so rewarding to be a teacher.”  She paused, took a moment to think of her rebut and with a subtle eye roll,  which was followed with a sad and I must admit, a patronizing sigh, she said “Oh my dear, you’re not a teacher.” 

For a moment, her words drifted in the air.  I wasn’t sure if I felt like a deflated balloon or if I was a firecracker about to explode. I looked at her completely and utterly confused.  She had to be crazy I thought.  I was holding, right in my hands, the certification that signified that I was a teacher.  She put her hand on my shoulder looked into my eyes and said, “You have simply completed the necessary hours, education and personal practice that signifies that you have gone through the process of learning the Pilates Method.  Your certification does not make you a teacher, what makes you a teacher is years of practice and the passion to teach.”

I remembered on the flight home, feeling completely frustrated and lost.  I had no idea how I would go home and tell everyone what she had said.  For the record, I kept this little conversation just between the two of us.  I wasn’t humble enough to admit that she was correct.  It would be years later before I acknowledged her little nugget of truth.

Today, I understand what it means to be a teacher.  First and foremost, you need to love what you do.  You must continually experience and educate yourself on the subject you teach.  The truth is that you can only teach an individual something if you have personally experienced it yourself.  If not, you’re merely instructing.

Personally, I use my body as a teaching tool and constantly hone my skills in order to relay a clear message.   Learning how to better move, allows me to teach the depth that comes with experience.  I struggled with specific physical limitations from past injuries.  I consider my injuries as a blessing and use my experience to help teach my students how to move properly. 

The important question is, what makes a teacher great?  I truly believe you must love what you do in order to be an effective teacher.  Everyone picks up on passion and enthusiasm and that is what makes the biggest difference.  Knowledge is also a big factor.  Know your stuff and when you don’t know something, acknowledge it and look for the answers.  No one likes a phony.

One of my biggest peeves is when a personal trainer or Pilates teacher tells a student that they can’t do something.  I have worked with countless students, that have previously worked with health and fitness professions that have limited their growth because of their inability to teach.  When I ask them why they were told they can’t or shouldn’t do a specific exercise, they tell me that their former trainer had tried to teach them and when they couldn’t perform the exercise correctly or had pain, they told them that they were the problem.  Remember, an instructor can’t teach no matter how much they try.

Teaching should be fun, and to learn, you must be engaged.  Adults, are nothing more than big kids who want to learn.  What we need is the right teacher to do the job and students who are inspired to grow.

Joining a gym was worse than four years of high school combined. How I harnessed the power to overcome my insecurities.

When I was a kid, physical critiques were not an issue other than the occasional “you are looking too skinny”, yelled at me while mom prepared meals.  My adolescent insecurities did not stem from body image or wanting to “look” a certain way.  I struggled with fitting in and I constantly worried about “acting” a certain way in order to be liked.  As you can probably guess, despite my struggles for acceptance, rejection followed me everywhere.

I wanted to be the cool kid but discovered that I was destined to be the “weird” kid.  Suffering from ADHD and constantly getting overly excited made keeping my enthusiasm and energy in check nearly impossible.  I tried everything to be liked.  I constantly wished that someone or something would rescue me.  It would take me years to find that one thing that would change my life.

It wasn’t until high school and through the ever appreciated encouragement of others, that I began to view myself as a wimp and weakling.   This new insecurity began when I discovered how all the jocks had muscles and got all the attention.  The awful truth was that I could never excel at sports or athletics.  I began to dislike my body and with the help of my classmates, this self-loathing was magnified.  I had sprouted long limbs and my metabolism was out of control burning everything I consumed.

In the summer of ’88, I  moved to a new city, got a job and hoped that my move would bring a positive change.  I was one of many young adults who yearned to be noticed in a world that places far too much importance on good looks and toned physiques.  I was self-conscious and afraid to take my shirt off in public for fear of judgemental eyes. I found it easy to shy away from the public and believe that I was not attractive enough or deserving of others attention.

One evening, after completing a typical work day, I walked home and nearly fell flat on my face when an object stepped in front of me.  This “object” was the fittest man I had ever encountered.  As I shook his hand, my body quaked, and I felt faint.  I knew right then and there, I wanted to possess this amazing strength and build.

Our personal views are not entirely correct, and if we could step back and appreciate what we can achieve instead of how crappy we feel and look, our motivation would be healthy not harmful. Unfortunately, I chose to change my body instead of my attitude and whip it into shape no matter the cost.  I joined a gym.

Joining a gym was worse than four years of high school combined.  Everyone on the gym floor was staring at me as I strolled past the front desk, and I nearly turned around and ran out.  I eventually mustered up the courage to make it to the locker room.  I took a deep breath, found a locker and got ready for my first workout ever.  Stupid, I thought to myself, what do I do now?  After pacing the gym floor for what seemed to be hours, and feeling like a fish out of water, I decided to park myself on a treadmill that was pointed directly onto the gym floor.  This was my safe haven for weeks and served as my observation perch.  Each day, I would locate the most muscular guys and take notes on what they did.  After my test subjects had completed their routines and left the gym, I took my note pad onto the gym floor and, to my best abilities, I copied everything they did right down to mimicking their grunts.

Little did I know, I had it all wrong.  I went to the gym to change my body in hopes that it would quash my insecurities.  I failed.  It would be another 20 years before I realized it was not the muscles that would change how I felt.  I would learn that I first had to change my personal viewpoint before I changed my body.

In 2016, following the summer Olympic games in Rio, I had an aha! moment.  My students and I were debating on which Olympic athletes had the best physiques.  I suggested it was the gymnasts while others voted for the swimmers.  In that moment, I realized Olympic training had it right!  The answer was so obvious!  How had I missed it all these years?

It’s simple when you think about it.  When you have a kid who is good at something, the parents or caregivers typically push them into a sport or activity that will offer them a skill in which they can excel.  Kids begin the intense training to be an Olympic gold medal winner with the goal of winning the gold medal, not to look good.  Kids train and fail time after time and struggle to be reach their personal best.   Years later, after training their asses off, they have an amazing physique and the confidence to back it up.

Over the years, I have acquired helpful tools to locate the underlying cause of my insecurities and instead freaking out and losing my sh*t, I now can spot the triggers and make adjustments to my attitude.  I always joke that during a full moon, my childhood fear of rejection can rear it’s ugly head and cause me to regress.  I can tell you that switching your personal view point on what defines health is paramount.  If we continue to join gyms to look good instead of learning to be great, we will always fail.

With that said, I am less inclined to read articles on how to love yourself and steer clear on topics that span the metaphysical spectrum.  Rather, I read science articles and love them.  I have grown to understand that “healthy” is more than your perception, it is your approach.

If you focus on being your best and winning your personal “gold medal”, you will be rewarded with a physique that matches your confidence.

As always, thanks for reading my latest blog.  I greatly appreciate your feedback on this topic and any future or past topics.

 

 

 

 

No one wants you to get off your ass more than your ass itself. Too harsh? It’s time for a #truthbomb

When examining your life, how would you described yourself?  A fat ass or a hard ass? 

Yes, I actually ask my clients this question and I get the same expression you just had while reading the first sentence.  I profess to my clients, with a uncontrollable tone of sarcasm, that reaching your personal fitness goals and maintaining them is rewarding and tough.  This is typically followed with a disapproving look and me apologizing for something.

Like many others, you may have experienced the dread that creeps into your workouts when they become monotonous.  Or on a typical weekend afternoon, after a week of hitting it hard, your body may even scream, willing you to stop.  The important point to focus on is that you are creating a strong, flexible and toned body that will thank you in you later years.  I wont lie, it is a slow and arduous process that luckily has more benefits than drawbacks.  As you know, or should know, results do not come overnight.  “If you want a hard ass, you have to work hard on said ass.”  That is a tongue twister that I don’t recommend using in public.  I always mess it up.  LOL

Disclaimer: If you have an aversion to hard work, discipline and commitment, I recommend that you try the top three fitness approaches that every fat ass in America has done over the past two decades.

1. Google the latest exercise fad that guarantees you sexy and ripped abdominals overnight. 

2. Find the newest and coolest piece of fitness equipment that will revolutionize your body in 30-days. 

3. Read the proven diet that finally guarantees results while still eating donuts every morning for breakfast.

If you decide that choosing the top three choices is perhaps not the best idea or you’re reading this and thinking to yourself “I’ve already done them and failed.”   It’s not too late.  You can do the same thing everyone with a rockin’ body has been doing for decades.  FYI, it’s not a secret.

The easiest and most powerful piece of advice I can give you is the following: “Get your fat ass in gear and prepare your body and mind for the most rewarding and challenging journey you’ve ever taken.”

Here’s the #truthbomb, it’s called hard work. Remember, hard work and getting a hard ass isn’t really all that hard. All you need to do is listen the old adage, “take it one step at a time.” You’ll need to know, you’re going to trip and fall down the stairs hundreds of times but all you have to do is get your ass moving again. Personally, I’ve done this since I was 18 years old and I have more trips and falls than anyone I know.  Luckily, I’m still going strong at 48.  I’ve been teaching Pilates and physical exercise for many years.  I have had the pleasure to work with multiple different personalities, body types and personal fitness goals. The one thing that I can tell you is that it’s all the exact same sh*t. No one is unique when it comes to getting your fat ass on track. 

If you’re not interested in hearing the hard truth, may I suggest that you find a fitness blog tailored to the reader that promises rainbows will shoot out of your ass when you complain about how hard your life is instead of how hard your ass could be.

Thanks for reading and I hope that I can somehow help put some fire under your ass.  It is important to know that I am experienced in fitness education and not quite adept at writing.  I welcome any edits and comments on my writing and hope you will follow me and keep up with the ramblings that flow out of my mind.

Let Go to Gain

 

Almost eight years ago, I lost something that had been with me from my early 20’s and it defined me. Like many other people, I was addicted and couldn’t go a day without it. It felt strange to give it up and trade it in for something new; however, I gained something more valuable as I let go of what I had held on to for far too long. Here is how it all went down.

On a fairly typical day, I placed my water bottle and towel on my favorite piece of cardio equipment. I was determined to spend another mundane hour of healthy indoor living while staring at multiple TV monitors. After spacing in and out for an hour, I tuned back to reality when the treadmill stopped. Time for me to move on. I grabbed my water bottle and wiped the sweat off my face and walked onto the gym floor. I was warmed up and ready to move from one exercise machine to another.

I spied someone new from across the gym floor. She caught my eye as she began her exercise routine. Innocently, I found myself staring at her chest. As awkward as it was, I simply wanted to get a closer look at the words on her t-shirt. After a few innocuous glances, I saw that it read, “I Don’t do Cardio!”

I wondered how she was able to maintain such a phenomenal physique? Was it purely genetics or did she know something that I did not? Her body was toned, defined and muscular. The question on my mind was, “How is it possible to have a ripped physique without doing any cardio?” As I was leaving, I spotted her chatting with the counter staff. I waited for the right moment to swoop in and ask, with a subtle undertone of resentment, “How are you are so lean when you advertise that you don’t do any cardio?” “What is your secret?” She leaned in and whispered the words that changed the way I exercised from that point forward.

After that day, my time spent exercising changed forever. There would no longer be two-hour routines consisting of cardio and strength training on machines. I streamlined my workouts to less than an hour. She introduced me to a form of strength and conditioning exercise that built the cardio aspect into the workout. I found it to be equally challenging and enjoyable. For the first time, I exercised without the use of fitness machines and loved it! Functional strength training is one of the most efficient forms of exercise bridging the best of both worlds into one incredible workout.