The Longest 12 Minutes of My Life

Very often when a client comes to me, they already know my story. They’ve seen me on posting things for the gym on social media or one of my clients has told them about a trainer who used to be 250lbs and a stuffed sausage in a size 22.  In some ways, I’m really glad I have that story, because it helps break down the walls of “I’m too embarrassed at how out of shape I’ve become to get some help.”  Trust me, I get it.

When my now trainer came to me over five years ago and said he could help me, I tried not to accept his offer of help for the same reason. It wasn’t really that I didn’t want him to know how little strength or endurance I had.  I realize now that I’m a trainer that he would’ve known. But what I couldn’t accept was admitting it to myself.  To admit that was to admit that life had handled me, that I hadn’t held up my end of the bargain of having a body, and that I’d come to accept mediocrity when everywhere else I talked about excellence.

But as I’ve written other places on this blog, my trainer was persistent relentless annoying. And by some sort of miraculous occurrence that I still do not understand, he convinced me to try.

All these years and hurdles later, I have a body for which I have a deep respect– not because I 100% love its shape yet, but because it will let me do amazing things that I never imagined I could.  I can safely leg press more than many men.  I can do real, hands forward, dead hang chin ups.  I can do jump squats like they are nothing, and box hops off a 36” box.  Or step ups with a 40lb dumbbell in my hand. I can train hard for an hour with very little rest.  But it wasn’t always that way.

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Pudge– at not quite her Pudgiest!

For any client who sees me train now and says “I couldn’t ever do that”, here’s what Paul Harvey would’ve called “The rest of the story.”

We agreed that he would train me at my house, because there was absolutely no way I was letting him take me to a gym– especially not where people knew him.  I firmly believed that they would judge him because of me.  (Yes, yes, in fact this was a somewhat ridiculous assumption, but it made perfect sense to me at the time.)  I was convinced that I was too out of shape to be in a gym, convinced that people had nothing better to do than laugh at the “poor fat girl over there.”   Note: I didn’t say I was terribly rational, but I said I’d give you honest.  At least at my house, there were no mirrors to remind me of how I actually looked– or else I would have spent the whole workout watching my “rolls” bounce.

But my now trainer said he could train me at my house, at least for a while– until I got stronger and needed more.  I sort of counted this as buh-loney, along with the promise he made me that he could fix my knees. (Despite the fact that a knee doctor told me I’d never be able to squat, lunge, or jump.  Don’t even get new and improved me started about what an asinine…and utterly ignorant…statement that was.  But I didn’t know better at the time. I assumed that a doctor knew more than a trainer could.) When he told me he could do a whole body workout with only the 5 and 8 pound dumbbells and stability ball I had plus a 4″ step, I might have just snorted.

It was the last snorting I did that day.

True to his word, he hit everything: Chest, Biceps, Back, Triceps, Shoulders, Quads, Hamstrings, Calves, and Abs.  Also true to his word, there was no extra equipment, though he failed to warn me what an excellent cardio workout I’d get by doing basic kicks up and down my den between exercises. (And I had done Tae Kwno Do for several years! I should have known!)

This is the point where I’d love to lie, and say I had a great 45 minute workout and felt

There are no pictures from “that” day, but I probably looked even worse!

like a champ.  But that story is only true in my imagination.  What actually happened is that I lasted 12 minutes–and 2 minutes of that was a break between rotations that he “generously” gave me!  My heart rate went to in excess of 190, all the color drained from my face, and I was very certain I was about to break a rule that I have now taught my clients:  no passing out, puking, or dying.  I wasn’t sure exactly how I was going to break it, only that I was! He helped me off the floor, and onto the futon, and instructed my then husband to go make me some chocolate milk with extra chocolate. Once it arrived, he told me to “chug it”, and promised that in just a few minutes I’d feel a lot better.

He was right– and because he is a Master Trainer who knows how to read his clients, he knew that I was running low on Carbohydrates.  Of course, he would have known then that I hadn’t eaten properly before that workout, but that information would come shortly down the road.

1. Read more books2. Get a new hobby3. Try rock climbing4. Be more creative-2I didn’t have some grand and glorious introduction to getting my body healthy. It was kind of awful.  And I was soooooore after that day– like couldn’t move my arms or you know… get off the toilet sore. But I also realized that those 12 nasty minutes were the best workout I’d ever had– which was also a kick in the pants, considering how many workout videos I’d purchased, magazine workouts I’d printed out, and time I’d “spent” at the gym.  In 30 years of living, I’d never gotten that far out of my comfort zone.  Of course, I was also the person who faked ankle injuries to get out of running during soccer practice and was conveniently “sick” every time the Presidential Fitness Test came around, so maybe that wasn’t truly a shock.

These days, I use the phrase– and hashtag if you’re trolling social media– #pudgeproud. You can read about being Pudge Proud , but know this: it started that day.  The day I couldn’t do what I wanted to do, and decided that I didn’t ever want to feel like that again.

That was the first day I’d ever gotten my “pudge” handed to me.  But something else happened that day:  I realized that I could do this, even if it wasn’t easy or I didn’t love every minute of it.  I realized that I didn’t need fancy equipment or expensive videos– and that all I really had to do was learn to show up.  I realized that day that there was more in me than I ever imagined, and that somewhere buried under all that “me” was a fighter.

My trainer– who is also now my best friend– swears that is the day I changed careers. I didn’t for several years after that, and only with a lot of heartache, but that day changed me. That day, something was born in me.  Something bigger than a hope or a dream: it was a belief that my future could be better than my present reality.

It hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows, but I’ve never looked back.   I’ve also never forgotten what it was like to see a person in great shape demonstrate an exercise, and say out loud “I’ll never be able to do that.”  But, then again, I won’t say those words ever again.

You can read how I actually felt about that workout that day (after I was picked up off the ground, given the chocolate milk, and in the endorphin rush phase!)


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“Wherever you are, don’t be afraid to start!  You CAN do this!” 

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