Although only recently my personal training client, Alicja and I have ties in a prior life. The last time I'd seen her she was struggling to keep her head above water during a difficult chapter of her life: her marriage had unraveled after 20 years of devotion and commitment; she lost a friend and roommate to suicide; alcohol was an easy source of comfort; and her constant stress and loss of sleep allowed a bout of shingles to knock her down.
Nearly a year had passed since our paths intertwined, but my heart never forgot what she underwent in such a short time . . . with very little support . . . and yet with such grace. Handed a giant boulder with flames shooting out of it, the direction of her life could have turned one of many directions. So, when I reached out to her a few weeks ago to see how she was doing, she was quick to reply and was eager to visit. When I saw her, I was truly awed by how far she had come . . . and how well she had emerged from the fire of the prior two years. She was clear eyed, with a bright smile, and looked trim in her all black outfit.
During a cool down, we turned on my voice memo to capture some of her thoughts. (I've transcribed them here).
Q: Why did you choose to come to The Fittest Me?
A: I met you in a previous gym . . . liked your personality. You were supportive during the hardest time, and always gave me a hug and asked how I was doing. Even though you didn't know everything, you were still kind. As for now, you approached me at a very good time. I was looking for a gym and wasn't impressed with Planet Fitness. They didn't have rowing machines and I didn't love it. When you texted me, I thought you could give me suggestions . . . I didn't know you had your own gym. No question about it, even if I move to Florida, whenever I'm back, I will come here.
Q: What do you hope to get out of a fitness program?
A: My physical strength used to be athletic (as you know) [Alicja was a professional ballerina for many years in Poland], and I need to lose weight. I don't fit in my clothes recently so it's kind of depressing . . . when you see yourself in the mirror and think "oh, I hate myself, what did I do?" And of course mentally, I strongly believe it's going to help me . . . so I can face the day easy like I used to do.
Q: Why would you recommend our studio to somebody?
A: Number one, you . . . because of your personality. Outside of being very professional and very good at what you do, I experience that personal attention from you, so it makes me even feel more welcome, more close, more open, more like I'm coming to my good friend's home. I very much admire you that you decided to start your studio. I really believe that you will be the one who people will want to come to. And my exercising with you is not stressful. So, you are very careful and tell me what I can and cannot do . . . but you care and want me to get better and feel better physically, to get stronger.
I thought we were done there, but then she asked if she could ask me a question:
"What is your dream in this field?"
"I want to make sure there's a place for people who aren't comfortable in a gym."
And although Alicja is building up her strength now, there was a time when the intensity, competition, and pressure of a gym was too much to bear. And it was at a time when she needed exercise the most. I want to make sure that people who are coping with depression, trauma, or anxiety, or who are emotionally sensitive have a place to reset their brains, hormones, and moods with a satisfying workout in a safe environment.
So glad we reconnected, Alicja. Keep doing what you’re doing!
- Coach Rebecca