Monday, August 20, 2012

The Creation Of All Out Effort Part 2

Enter Cindy!

Read the Creation of All Out Effort Part 1 -

My favorite law professor, full of knowledge and worldly experience, came to each class empty handed and told enticingly vivid stories about farmers, cows, random doodads having nothing to do with one another. Yet, he would magically and inevitably relate every story back to common law at the end of each class. Even though there was always assigned readings, the entire class, which started off diligently devouring every boring word of the assigned text, grew accustomed to skimming or never reviewing the text at all. One fateful day, the good professor decided to show up to lecture armed with our 1000 page textbook and began directing individual students with specific points from our assigned reading. The usual three hour story-time quickly turned into a contest of who can sink lower into their seats. A few picked up their bags and walked out of the lecture hall, with double doors slamming behind them. I, not quite as brave, stayed. Finally, the professor grew tired of our unpreparedness, sat down and told us something I will never forget.

It was quite simple, the class has 60 officially enrolled UC Berkeley students. These 60 students embodied some of the brightest minds. But not all 60 students were equally deserving. The professor's job was to bestow his knowledge to all 60 unequal students equally? How does he do that? If he chose to tailor each class to only the most prepared, discuss only the most difficult concepts of the law, he would undoubtedly lose those students who were not prepared or even those of moderate preparation. Conversely, if he chose to lecture to the less prepared, he would end up creating boredom and laziness in the minds of the prepared and diligent. So what's a good professor to do? He has to mostly lecture to those few average students out of all 60, i.e. dumb it down. Is this fair, he asked all of us. Even though by this time, we were all too ashamed to answer, we all knew the answer was no, this is not fair. By the end of the semester, only about 30 students remained.

Lesson: you can't teach everyone the same, and you can't teach the ones who do not want to learn, to learn.

Sometime in January 2012, one of my hundreds of acquaintances on Facebook messaged me. It was a short and to the point, "are you still a trainer?" Not being an avid Facebooker, I had forgotten my password and didn't feel like jumping through hoops to reset it just to respond with a "no, I no longer train people."

Over a month later, I received an email from the same person, asking the same question. This Sam Yang who was emailing me was quite adamant about getting a response. Then I remembered Sam, we were both trainers at a Globo Gym (any typical franchised big gym where people go to work out but no one gets in shape) a few years ago. He was the only one who shared a consoling look when we observed dangerous maneuvers our fellow trainers were putting their clients through. Curious to what he was up to, I finally responded. That evening, he asked me to join him and his group of clients to watch a UFC fight. As soon as I pulled out of my driveway, my tire pressure indicator popped up. Hoping I was simply low on air, I pulled into a gas station pump. As soon as I surveyed the tires it was obvious the rear right tire was low, upon closer inspection, a nail glimmered under the bright gas station light. I had to text Sam with a raincheck, whatever he wanted to talk about was just not meant be, or so I thought.

Sam must have had something up his sleeve because he decided to get my address and drive over to my house the next morning and took me to brunch. As we sat across from each other, we finally engaged in the conversation that never took place while we were colleagues. He told me about his frustrations about the fitness industry, his recent marriage, his current success, and busy schedule while alluding to looking for another trainer. I updated him about my life and let him in on all the minute details he never knew.

I had met my ex-boyfriend at the age of 22 while he was 37. We had a truly tumultuous relationship that ended 4 years later when his fist connected to his bodybuilder physique slammed down with full force to the right side of my skull, slightly above the ear. The blow struck me to the ground, took away my immediate ability to breathe, my hearing, and my vision. Huddled on the floor, I tried to catch my breath and waited for my vision to return while my brain tried to center itself after the recent sloshing. It was the first and the final time he hit me. That blow took away more than just my hearing and sight, my sense of self fled my body with my breath.

I didn't know it at the time, but I began searching for ways to empower myself. Having always been a devoted hiker and rock climber, I began spending more time outdoors and training harder at the gym. My mere interest with functional training became a full-fledged obsession.

Not long thereafter, a close friend of mine was informed she was a diabetic. After sobbing for hours, we formulated a plan, I wanted to help her defeat diabetes. Even though she lived 30 miles away, I loved her so much that I would drive to her house every Saturday morning to review her diet and activity for the week and train her. We started off with a bang, she did very well. 6 short weeks later, her lab work reflected the hard work she had put into her nutrition and our workouts. I was confident she executed all the assignments I gave her and stayed active on her own during the week. 12 weeks later, she told me she didn't want to do this anymore. She said to me, "Cindy, I don't drink, I don't smoke, I don't even have sex!" All I want to do is eat, let me at least have that." The terminal tone in her voice crushed me. I had wanted her to be healthy more than she did.

In 2008, I resigned from my comfortable Beverly Hills office job to pursue a career as a firefighter. After meeting a handful of dedicated yet now obese firefighters who all suffered from various injuries due to the physically demanding nature of their job, I researched even further into health and fitness. I needed to prepare myself for the physically demanding career I craved while preserving the functionality of my body. In order to mirror many of the on the job movements, I abandoned the traditional gym setting completely. I began training with ropes, shovels, ladders, sledge hammers, axes, sandbags, kettle bells and weighted vests. I slowly shifted from training in an air-conditioned setting into the outdoors, my favorites being the Santa Monica stairs and the Sand Dune Park. While deeply vested in my own training, I shared my knowledge with my clients while working for the first time as a personal trainer at a Globo Gym, where I met Sam.

The most successful trainers at this huge corporate gym were the best salespeople. The goal was always to sign up more clients with the most expensive personal training package possible and make sure they renew at an equally or more expensive level. I felt my integrity dwindling fast. Even though I took advantage of all workshops offered in order to gain more knowledge into fitness, most workshops were focused on sales and marketing. Realizing how far I was from helping people, I left. At around the same time, I had also realized being a firefighter is not the right place to make my contribution.

I began working as an emergency medical technician ("EMT"). It allowed me to quickly see the fragility of humankind and more importantly, the absolute significance of health. Yes, health, not money, love, shelter, house, job, car but personal health. Without health, nothing matters. Without health, nothing good can ever follow.

I told Sam about some of the miraculous medical incidents I witnessed and had taken part in on the field and in an emergency room ("ER"). My incredible stories slowly migrated to stories about patients whose medical histories include but are not limited to diabetes, hypertension, previous myocardial infarction (i.e. heart attack), liver cirrhosis, etc. Many of them come in still intoxicated or under the influence. Too many diabetics are brought in by ambulance completely unresponsive to pain. The lucky ones are stabilized and get to return home with more prescriptions after a few days of observation. In the ER, we always talk to them, tell them what to eat to get their health under control, show them pictures of foods to avoid if there is a language barrier, instruct them to be more active, suggest walks and better habits. The doctor will always tell drunks to stop drinking, call social services, followed by nurses telling them to stop drinking and I will stop by and chat with them then finish with telling them to stop drinking. They usually walk out of the ER after being discharged only to come back a few days later completely intoxicated again.

Here, I'm reminded again, I cannot help people who care less about their personal health than I. While talking to Sam, I had to keep myself from sounding too pessimistic of human beings through my experiences in the ER. Why do I keep trying to help people who don't want my help? I desperately missed sharing my knowledge with people who want to learn and work hard to earn their health, happiness, and pain free longevity.

"Health is not guaranteed but earned," as Sam says.

When Sam bared his mind and told me honestly why he had been trying to get a hold of me, drove to my neck of the woods, and took me to brunch in an effort to convince me to get back into personal training, I told him, "I don't need any convincing."

I didn't give up on my diabetic friend completely. I researched group fitness classes in her area and encouraged her attendance. Group classes are just that though. They are not meant to take your fitness to the next level. Like my favorite professor said, the class is only as good as the average person in class. It is never tailored specifically for you. People who care deeply about the quality of training they receive will seek out coaches dedicated to individual goals and interests and never a one size fits all training regimen. We have to focus on changing those lives who desire to be changed. 

- Coach Cindy
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