This idea of being coached sits with me soooo deeply, and it's no surprise to me why that is: I have a great coach. I have a spectacular coach. I have a coach who has impacted my life so profoundly that the trajectory of my life changed. Or, maybe, corrected back to its' right and original path. Yes, I showed up. And, yes, I'm doing the work. But every difficult thing that I had to do to course correct, MID LIFE, was introduced by him, modeled by him, encouraged, supported and even tough-loved by him. He has said to me on a few occasions "You were ready. You would have changed no matter who you ended up with." Well, maybe...some. But wholesale like this? No way.
I actually don't know how to talk about being coached without telling some of the background of how I got here, so this is the story of how I got the gift of a coach at the start of the second half of my life, and the story of why you follow those strong inklings you have inside you about what you're supposed to do. But most importantly, it's the story of how much we all need each other in this world.
Four years ago, I walked into a gym. Four years ago everything was so buried in me that all I knew was that I needed help. I desperately needed help to shed the weight I had been carrying. I was on decision overload in my life, and had no idea where to start. I knew I needed a trainer. I couldn't have imagined I was looking for a coach. Or that I would run again. But here is what I knew for sure: I DID NOT want to work with a GUY. I WOULD NOT work out in a GYM.
I spent the better part of June 2016 looking for a trainer. I had interacted with a number of them, all women (of course), who were fine, I guess, but all of them felt flat. Not one of them was panning out, for various reasons, and I asked myself if I was finding fault with everyone because I wasn't ready? Or because I was scared? Well, I wasn't ready (when are we ever ready for the big changes?), and I was scared. Terrified, actually. But I also knew it was time, and I felt like this was my last shot, and so who I chose was critical. Maybe it was that little athlete in there, that little runner, keeping the embers burning in that fire that wouldn't go out, who was calling the shots. I have an image of her yelling "NO, NO, NO...ummm, NO!" to each of these candidates I was interacting with. I have a feeling, now in retrospect, that she knew exactly who we needed. She remembered Coach Flim. Maybe she knew we needed to pick up where he left off. So, I scrapped the whole lot of them, and started over. I don't know how I ended up finding Kirk. I don't know what I googled or why he hadn't come up before. But I know when I found him something inside of me yelled "YES! HIM! CONTACT HIM!" So I did. He responded immediately, and we set up a meeting.
The only little hiccup, well two hiccups: he was a MALE trainer, a GUY, and he worked in a GYM. Lion's Gym. Dear God, that sounded awful. On the day of our first meeting, I walked in the front door of the small family gym, greeted by a larger than life mural of a roaring lion's head. I guess desperation pushed me down that hall and around the corner into the gym, because every fiber of my being wanted to flee. As I rounded the corner, I looked across the empty room and saw one man--one young, ripped, man, arms folded across his chest, staring at me. Oh my God, NO...no, no, no, no, no, no, NO...my poor, panicked ego exclaimed. Jesus, let that not be him. I don't know if that was profanity or a prayer, but it didn't matter. He had seen me and yelled "Are you Diane?" Oh f**k. I am Diane.
To try and describe, now, what has ensued over the past four years feels like a near impossibility, not just in the sheer volume of changes and accomplishments and things learned, but more so in the ability to capture the magnitude of the gratitude. Four years ago I signed up for 8 weeks of training, somehow naively believing that what I wanted could be wrapped up in 2 months. That gift of ignorance, or denial, or both, was necessary, I think, to get me through the door and locked in. What I did not expect was to be met with the force of the coach I was given. To be entirely indelicate: I did not know my head from my ass for those first 2-3 months. I felt like I had been thrown up in the air and came down in a land that was utterly foreign to me, yet, at the same time, strangely like home. Quite quickly, according to Kirk, we transitioned from training to coaching.
I told myself, right from the start, that this was a no-holds barred deal--meaning, no matter how difficult or embarrassing or stupid something felt, I was going to be honest and upfront--cards on the table--at all times. How could someone possibly help me if I didn't do this? But I knew that, in order for me to do this, I would have to trust this person implicitly. And that happened within the first 45 minute meeting. This guy was transparent, and direct, and smart, and curious, and kind. And he made such good eye contact that I wanted the whole thing to be over--he was looking at me, seeing me, and that scared the crap out of me. He took me seriously, and I knew in my core that this was who I was looking for. So the big lesson for me: Don't make assumptions about who people are. Be open to opportunities you never considered. And don't judge a book by its' cover. I had been walking through life feeling judged as an overweight woman, and I don't think that's altogether incorrect. But I was making assumptions about him as a young, ripped gym GUY, too. So, shame on me for that. Lesson learned. I COULD NOT have been more wrong in my judgement. And this man was about to change my life.
That trust grew quickly, and deep. I showed up and did my work. And I began showing up for myself outside the gym and doing my work--with fitness and, slowly, everything else. And he showed up, too, in spades. He was tuned in, encouraging, and curious. The more invested I became, the more invested he became. I began to understand how lucky I had gotten, not just in his expertise, but in the person that he was. My weight loss goal quickly expanded into performance goals, and the training shifted to coaching. Two months turned into 1 year, then 2, and 3, and 4. Since I first walked through that door, we have exchanged hundreds of emails and texts, and had over 400 hours of in person training. Goals have been set and smashed and lost and reset. I started in the gym feeling like it was a foreign land, to knowing my way around like a boss (and loving it!). I've acquired a whole new vocabulary, including (but not limited to): crushed, baller, grind, hustle, PR, negative splits, beast, get after it, blew up, guns, and shred. I've ripped my hands learning how to climb a rope and go across the monkey bars, and I lost a toenail because I ran that many miles in a day to do so. I've spent hours on my own learning to throw a spear and carry a heavy bucket up a hill. I've learned about pacing, and effort and heart rate; and dropped 13 minutes off my 5k time, and counting. My most valuable possession is a toss up between my GPS watch and my Wreck Bag. I'm beginning to understand what shoes I need for different kinds of runs and different kinds of surfaces, and I can tell you exactly how long it will take on a calm day at 20 degrees before I finally start to feel warm on my run. I've been injured and learned to cross train; I've plateaued for months on end. I dropped 70 lbs, gained a little back, and dropped them again, all the while learning to feel, accept, and then manage the emotions that go along with that. I learned how to eat well, and learned how to fuel like an athlete to perform. I've run 30 plus races, from 5K's to a Spartan Beast to an Ultra. And all of this is because of my coach.
But the most important thing that has happened, and the most unexpected and amazing, is how my life has changed--my WHOLE life. You see those transformation pictures of someone before and after weight loss, but what would not be captured in my picture is the transformation of spirit. The transformation of belief. The transformation of hope. My confidence was reissued. I was given a new identity of athlete. ME. ATHLETE. And this is what sport is for. This is what taking care of our bodies is about: it's about learning through this body that carries us through life. I am learning through this identity, this fitness medium, and this body. And that didn't happen in a vacuum. That happened with a coach. That happened because of an exceptional coach. That happened because he saw me, believed in me, and invested in me. He held all of those things for me until I could hold them for myself. He trained and coached and taught and questioned. He took me seriously as an athlete, as a newly minted, middle aged, those-are-some-big-goals-lady athlete. And that's a big deal. He believes I can do those big things, but he also doesn't sugar coat it. I have gotten further than I ever could have imagined because there have also been tough conversations and a good share of tough love. He has called out my attitude and need for consistency, and forced rest when I needed it but did not know how to stop. None of these things were easy in the moment. Every one of them are hallmarks, now, of not only a better athlete, but of a life changed exponentially.
Because of this coach, I have learned what it means for someone to be proud of me. I have learned what it means to feel proud of myself. And I have learned how to feel that for other people. My positive outlook has been restored. And my good attitude, what I was known for when I was a beginning runner all those years ago, is also on the mend. My gratitude for everything grows by leaps and bounds, so much so that I feel grateful for the feeling of gratitude--it's an unstoppable train that is a joyride like no other if you can find your way on board. I've been given the flow of writing: if I run, I write freely. And I've been given a role model, someone who walks the walk, or runs the run, as it were. Nothing is asked of me that he doesn't do himself.
So, Coach Kirk: THANK YOU. Thank you for having my back. Thank you for pushing and pulling and backing off and jumping in. Thank you for seeing me and believing in me at my most broken point. Thank you for calling me an athlete. Thank you for the example you set for all of your athletes. And Thank You for never settling and always keeping an eye to the future and what great challenge lies ahead.