Saturday, January 25, 2014

Ask the Banter- Getting Started

It's sort of the end of Resolution time. Right around the beginning of the New Year (the Gregorian Year, not the Athletic Year, Academic Year, or Fiscal Year), the average person's motivation to start a new exercise routine is high. Society has taught us that January 1st is a sort of re-birth of positive behavior. Countless would-be do-gooders pledge to turn over a new leaf and finally improve their lives. The motivation to continue said behavior typically wanes after about 3 weeks. This is why is was a little in shock when one of my work colleagues recently came up to me with the following news (some details may be embellished).

Her: Guess what?
Me: Um, you've become a billionaire and are willing to give me a few million because you like my smile?
Her: No. Not even close.
Me: Well, you can't blame me for trying.
Her: I'm going to start running
Me: [sincere smile- which probably isn't worth any cash] That's awesome!
Her: So, umm, I have no idea how to get started. Help please.

On the surface, I seem like the right guy for the job. I advise/ coach several of my co-workers on their athletic endeavors. I'm a semi-runner by trade. For some reason, the other people of whom I service don't seem to have any complaints.

Me: Let's set up a more formal meeting.

Intake Interview
As a coach, I will always do an athlete interview before taking on a new client. I need to know a few things about the soon-to-be glutton for punishment before I agree to move forward. During this discussion, I try to learn the athlete's background, measurements, commitment, goals, social security number, and reasons for needing a coach. This specific interview was easy, since I already knew most of what I wanted.

During the meeting, a couple of interesting points were exchanged. First, she asked me if she should start with running 5 miles a day for 4-5 days a week. Keep in mind that the amazing specimen of a human is a working mom who hasn't done anything close to organized exercise for more than a decade. Her question highlights the reasons why people enlist the services of a coach in the first place. (Just in case you're wondering, the answer is no.)

Second, she asked me what her first step is in getting started. "Go out and buy running shoes?" Possibly. But, not for my athletes. Purchasing gear is around step 3, depending on the athlete. For most of my peeps, step 1 is to have a conversation with your family. Here's why:

Becoming an athlete, recreational or professional, is a lot like an invitation to a party. The invitation is to yourself and the party is your life. Any decent invitation should answer the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How questions. Some of the answers are very easy. In the case of my newbie runner, it went like this...

#1- Who- You
#2- What- Running
#3- Where- ???
#4- When- ???
#5- Why- to get healthier
#6- How- Coach will tell me

Communication Problems
The Where and When are the reasons she's talking to her family. The ones who love you the most are also going to be your biggest supporters and biggest barriers. If you want their support, you need to include them with your plans. If you want them to be a barrier, you simply start changing the family routine. Communication is key in any relationship. Like it or not, she is in a relationship with her kids and husband. Their support is crucial to her success.

Sure enough, she went home and had the conversation. Sure enough, upon hearing her intentions, they were almost teasing and in disbelief. In their defense, I get it. My new athlete doesn't have a history of activity (past being an outstanding wife and mother). We are right smack in the middle of Polar Vortex 2.0, happening during the traditional coldest time of the year. She doesn't have a gym membership nor any indoors training equipment. She doesn't own any gear or cold weather running clothing. She thought that she'd start running in the wee hours of the morning, despite the fact that she's never been a morning person. She's basically in over her head. I can easily see how the family would be hesitant. They weren't on board.

A Collaborative Approach
She came back to me deflated. This was a good test for her. Her reaction was still positive. She was serious about getting started and wanted ideas on how to bring her family around. This fact, in and of itself, was all the information I needed to convince me to take her on as an athlete. She was faced with the strongest of demotivational circumstances and still wanted to move forward. She's mentally in a good place. And, there are strategies to bring the family around. On it's most basic level, anytime they throw up a roadblock, toss it back and have them come up with a solution.

-When they say that she's not a morning person, ask them when is a good time for her to do her work (she needs to set aside 1 hour per day).

  • Show them some commitment by taking them shopping for clothes and gear. If they want something, purchase that too. Who knows, she may get a workout partner or two.
  • Suggest a trial period. She's going to need about 6-weeks of introductory training before a habit forms. Ask for leniency or grace during the initial stages.
  • Get them to come up with routes that would be appropriate for Mom/ Wife to run on and give them piece of mind.

The idea is that she is to go into the family meeting with an open mind and leave the meeting with concrete answers of the Where and When. This, in my experience, is the most challenging part of getting started. Without these answers, running shoes are essentially useless.

As it stands right now, I'm fairly confident that she can swing her family. I hope that it won't take too much work. If needed, I'll host a mediation. I could convince the family by using the same techniques that I've trained her to use. I doubt it'll come to that. Only the most stubborn of families won't negotiate with moms wanting to workout.  She's got a lot of power in that family. If worst comes to worst, I'll remind them who's in charge of cooking dinner.

With the Where and When answers, planning workouts are simple. She'll be starting at 20 minutes times 4 days a week. Her initial runs will be run/ walk variations with subsequent weeks trying to increase the run portion until she can comfortable do the entire 20 minutes without walking. Conveniently, I expect this to take about 6 weeks (see how that works?!)

So, let this serve as a reminder to all you youngins out there. The actual act of working out is one of the easier details of your venture. Start slow and be consistent. The Where and When are the bigger challenges. Neither are likely to be successful without the help of your support crew. If necessary, threaten them with starvation. They'll come around.

1 comment:

  1. I love the family talk. I have never thought of that and wish I and my wife had done this sooner. We take for granted the schedule changing and the time away and how it impacts those around us. In many cases, it turns into resentment and problems. Your process is very simple and very effective, thanks for that input.