Been Caught Stealing: Part Two

Yesterday we told you the beginning of J’s story with us. Long story short: like so many other of our clients during their intro, J talked about having inconsistent energy within the different segments of his life–tired at the start of his workday, rushes and peaks in the late afternoon, crashing on his couch after dinner, and spending too much time awake late at night.

In all, there was the palpable feeling that J. was borrowing energy and time from each segment of his life to service the next, and that left him feeling like an unwitting passenger on a pretty gnarly hamster wheel–never fully present, never really operating on what felt like his own power. He was hurting and his family was too.

And when we hear a story like this, we hurt too. J., like so many others before him, was absolutely doing his best. Effort and intention were not the issues. In situations like this, they rarely are.

This is the hard part to get right, honestly. As coaches, it’s perilously easy to stand in front of a new client and tell him the five or six things you’re going to make him do to fix the problem: sleep eight hours a night, more protein at every meal, 4 workouts a week, never ever stay late at work again, and so on. “Hey…all you have to do is…ALL THIS!”

But that’s like a quarterback getting into a huddle at the beginning of a two-minute drill and simply telling his teammates “okay, we’re going to score a touchdown right now” without actually calling the play and giving his corps some direction.

In J’s case, he needed a simple plan he could step into, and he needed that plan to help him start moving the ball to establish some momentum at the beginning of his own two-minute drill. That’s where we came in:

1. First, we set J. up with four 1-1 coaching sessions over the course of two weeks to familiarize him with big, basic movements. In his first two sessions, he’d learn how to squat, press, deadlift, bench press, and power clean, along with some accessory movements like kettlebell swings, ball slams, ring rows, and glute bridges or hip thrusts. In his second two sessions, he’d return to each of those movements with a little more skill and a little more weight on the bar. It’s not uncommon for our clients to tell us they feel a difference in strength and skill even after just four sessions with us–and that’s a powerful motivator, especially when the numbers in their training log tell the same story.

2. Second, we gently reinforced that these workouts were likely going to feel different than he’d expected or had felt before. Because major, full-body movement patterns like squats would form the bulk of J’s work, rather than isolation movements like curls or lunges, he’d likely feel like he’d worked hard but not to failure or exhaustion. Excessive soreness at the beginning of a new workout program can be super discouraging, and we weren’t trying to play that game.

3. Third, we brainstormed 2-3 times a week where he could commit to a 20-30 minute walk outdoors. While our workouts weren’t going to crush J., he would have some soreness from using his muscles and joints in new ways, and we wanted to begin installing a more virtuous cycle here: exercise, then move between appointments for some active recovery. We knew one of the keys to the kingdom would be shifting J’s pattern from “hang on by the skin of your teeth” to “stick and move.”

4. Finally, we came to a joint decision on next steps. J. wanted to try our group classes for some accountability in the form of fellow athletes, but had also come to really enjoy the 1-1 connection he’d forged with his coach during his four private sessions. We came up with a plan that would incorporate 2-3 group classes per week–is initial 4 sessions had prepped him perfectly for classes–and 1 personal training session per month. This worked for J’s schedule, budget, and most importantly his stake in the project. We didn’t point at some object in the distance and yell “run there!”; instead, we had a discussion and arrived at a plan that we all agreed would be a great first few months at Woodshed, and we committed to walk these steps with J. as he began his journey in earnest.

And that’s how we got J. started. After just a month with us, he reported dramatic changes: he was getting more done in less time at work, had more energy for his wife and kids at home, and felt a distinct sense of ownership over his own days and as he said back then, “that’s awesome!” The small changes in body composition and scale weight that he’d begun to notice were icing on the cake.

I think there’s probably a little bit of J. in all of us. We can often feel like we’ve got too many things to do, not enough energy to get them done well, and at the end of the day, like we just can’t figure it all out.

While those are big feelings to be sure, the paradoxical thing is that small steps can lead to big progress down the road. You don’t have to score a touchdown on the first play, after all.

You just have to start moving in the right direction.

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