College Coach and Studio Owner

It has been so long since I have been here. Where to begin? I guess with this moment as the past will be represented by where I am now. Especially since I finally know what I want to be when I grow up – exactly what I am.

I landed the job of my dreams without even knowing there was an opening or pursuing any position like it. I am the volleyball conditioning coach at St. Norbert College. The head coach also is the head of our areas high school club league (and 90% of my clients are club players). In this world I find myself in, he is a VIP and I avoid VIPs like the plague (keep your head down and do your work is my motto). So the day that name showed up on my phone was a strange and exciting day. Apparently by keeping my head down and doing my work, his club athletes have improved and parents speak highly of me. The college team needs someone to show up, show interest and show enthusiasm when training. Check, check, and check – with the bonus that I write great programs. The ladies are lovely. They show up, they show interest and they show enthusiasm – with the bonus that they work their butts off.

College team training is extremely different than 1:1 high school training and there was a moment I thought I would compare. There is no comparison. Marrying the two is truly enhancing both. I have two dream jobs and, if you know me you know how uncharacteristic the following is, I am damn good at them.

I am also opening my own strength and conditioning studio. What to describe it as has been a struggle (studio sounds so cardio) but as it will solely be for 1:1 training I think studio was the term to us. The Husband, The Coach, and I all sat down to talk and it was decided that the time was right. I had been looking for places for 2 years and we all agreed that if I wait for the dream to be perfectly revealed, I would wait forever. But if I start living my dream, I will be able to create my vision over time. Dozens of friends donated time on renovations, Coach is loaning me some equipment, and the Rogue rack/Ohio bar/bumpers are en route. I worry what the girls and parents will think of the space (it isn’t beautiful or shiny) but, after telling them, most girls squealed, one girl cried in excitement and gave me hug, and all the parents have said “this is just another reason we chose you to be our daughters’ role model”. I’m not really sure if their daughters’ took such gambles they would be this thrilled.

And yes, the gap of time has filled my shelves with medals and trophies from powerlifting. I still do my thing. But that isn’t my life anymore. These young women that I am so blessed to have in my life and I get to watch and guide as they turn into college women and medical students and strong professionals…well, that is where my life is.


My Miss NCAA Makes The News

I have so many drafts building up and no posts. But as I lay down for a nap I have to share a story about one of my girls (known here as NCAA). Here is a link to the newspaper article she was featured in (real name Sarah Johnshoy; she’s pictured in the center in blue). I was surprised to read my name in the bio. I’ve told her many times “I’m not that good, I just don’t quit. I’m always the underdog and that works for me” but the darn kid doesn’t listen, as you will read.

The Girl Who Never Quits

Two years ago this very date, on a heavy day of Smolov, I squatted with 285# and my already damaged hip crumpled underneath me. I thought it was one of the worst days of my life. It was, in fact, the worst day in the life of whoever that Warrior Girl was.

What I forgot at the time – what everyone forgets when they go from the happiest moments of life to utter darkness in less than a second – is that I was exactly where I needed to be. Who I thought I was becoming wasn’t who I was supposed to become. I just needed to have a little faith, continue working hard, and patience. Wow, did I need to learn patience.

I walked into Coach’s room and set up the squat rack. Coach walked in and we had our normal “conversation” (see yesterday’s post) and I warmed up as he unpacked his stuff. He threw weight on my bar and we worked our way up to 180#. I have been back to squatting 6 or 7 weeks since that fateful day 2 years ago. I have learned to appreciate every squat I can do: body weight, light weight, kettlebell, back, front. It took me all this time to not care about my squat numbers and instead remember the beauty of doing them. So I was proud of that 180#. Last year I could still barely squat to a chair without pain. I told The Cool Girl I was starting a post-injury PR list because the comparison to pre-injury doesn’t do me any good, it only makes me sad and I want to be proud of these small steps.

Coach told me to line up all my shoes and he stripped the bar down to 95#. He then had me put on my low converse and worked my way up to 140# in each. He stripped the bar back to 95# and had me put on the high tops and worked me back up to 140#.  We repeated this for every shoe I own. Last, but not least, I put on my oly shoes. And this time we worked past 140#. I didn’t do the math. I still didn’t know what was special about this particular day.

We ended the day and as I put notes in my journal Coach said “2 reps at 200#”. And I smiled and recorded it in my book. I’ve been wondering how long it would take to get back in the 200’s.

I have been trying (and actually succeeding lately) to not look back. There’s no purpose. But things will always feel heavy come mid-June. I decided to pull out my journals from June 2013 and read about that fateful day. 2 years to the day I went down. How fitting this day, years later, I would have the biggest squat accomplishment I could imagine. I have to be honest, many times I doubted I would ever make it back. I just never quit. And in those writings I can see I am not who I was. That Warrior would have been ashamed to type “I squatted 200”. This Warrior Girl will always cherish 200.

I e-mailed my old coach “on the 2 year anniversary I hit 200 on my squat. I fought my way back and it’s too big a moment not to share with you” (I would want to know news this big about one of my girls) and as I hit send a text came in from Coach. All it said was “I’m so glad for you”.

My client list is full. I kept 2 adults and the rest are high school and college athletes. Throughout this day, what once was the darkest day, I received random messages from some of the girls and some of the moms “S said she had an amazing day with you”, “thanks for listening today and being so cool”, NCAA sent a picture of her poolside in Florida with a note “you are my inspiration”. On the really hard days, these girls are the reason I never quit.

So I did not become the Warrior Girl I pictured myself becoming 2 years ago. I suspect this Warrior Girl is becoming something more amazing that I can even imagine. Isn’t this exciting?!

It’s good to be the girl who never quits.

Illness, Friendships, and Lessons

I have been physically ill 6 times in 40 years: Twice with influenza, the standard high school mono outbreak, and I am currently suffering from my 3rd cold. Whenever I have called in to work “sick” (which was rare) I was in the midst of a severe anxiety attack or in the hospital under “watch”. I don’t count either as sick, those are just part of being me.

Anyway, I canceled my clients today but I never miss a workout. New Coach made this a hard call. He has World’s Strongest Man in one month. If I get him sick this close to his biggest competition, I would hate myself. And if I, inhuman immunity girl, am sick this must be one hell of a bug! I went in and let him make the call. He said I lift. My competition is just as important as his.

Reverse band deadlifts. Breaks were longer…much longer. 3 reps would leave me seeing spots and  gasping for air. We are down to purple bands (taking 20# total off the floor) and I got 3 sets of 2 reps at 290#.

He asked about my meds and if the constricted breathing makes my anxiety worse (nope). And then he detailed his anxiety attacks and asked more about mine (he’s been studying again, prep for both of us). I told him generalities and when he said “if you’re uncomfortable…” I replied “no, I hate admitting how weak I am. I’ve finally got a diagnosis I can get behind: OCD. The anxiety sets in when I can’t get a hold of it. And the fact is, if Coach is here I have to take 2 pills and sit in my car waiting for them to kick in before I can face walking in here. Otherwise I’m fine most of the time and if I do need one occassionally, it is only one”.

It makes perfect sense to him. I wish it did to me.

My absence has been due to good reason. I had 2 filmings (one for the gym!) and a photo shoot. I’ve been cordinating a summer program for high schoolers, prepping for comp, and hanging out with the husband and friends. I have the best in each.

One of my closest has a new girl and the vetting process has been…fun. She loves anime, PC gaming, and is getting ready for a Cosplay convention. She’s in school, gainfully employed, and sensible. And cute as cute can be. Spending loads of time with them has been healing for my spirit. The Husband threw me a belated 40th birthday party, complete with tiara and all. My new Training Partner is a beautiful red-head who did my make up for my photo shoot and she took me make-up shopping (her feeling is tough girls should still be pretty). After 40 years, I am learning how to put on make-up. And my dear New Mother (whose name will have to change soon…) continues to be the dearest friend I have ever had. We spend what extra time we have playing Mario Kart and chatting.

I am officially excited for the competition. I said to New Coach “I know you’ll tell me to reign it in” and he said I can and should be excited. “I wouldn’t have okayed it if you weren’t going to have fun. If you weren’t excited, if you weren’t having this much fun, I wouldn’t have encouraged it.”

This is such a different way of coaching. It’s better but nothing I’ve ever experienced before. Ever. It will take a lot of getting used to. I really hope I’m that kind of coach.

But the biggest change has been in me. The girl that never quits because she never learned how. I tried to keep fightig but when Coach left, I was ready to quit. At my last “real” job (at Target), a job I only took to buy time until I figured out what to do with my life, i met people who changed my life. I call them my Target family. They were all so proud that I competed even with the results. They all regularly ask when I will again (I couldn’t quit and keep face). They all called Coach cuss words when I tried to defend him. They all held my dream in safe keeping when I lost my energy for dreaming.  And now that I haven’t quit, that I am making another leap, several have asked if they can come support me in April. I never would have been open to this love and support before. But this victory – yes, even trying again is a victory – is theirs as much as mine. What a gift to give me?! To waste a whole day watching a sport they aren’t familar with, a long boring day, just to encourage me through 3 attempts on the bar…who in the world is luckier than I am?

So I guess I still haven’t learned to quit. But I have learned tonbe open to people. I have learned to say “yes, if you want to support me, I could use the help”. And slowly, though I miss who we should have been, I’m learning to let go of those who don’t.

New Coach Responds

The sun was out all day today! It looked beautiful but deceptive. I keep the 30″ box in front of the window at the gym, where the sun lands, and between clients I would curl up on it and work on my program. Surrounded by books and Kindles and notes, I wrote and scribbled and assessed realities.

New Coach had asked me to send it on when I was done. I did, with notes on my logic: my current program has 12-13 workouts per week. By the time the weekend comes my body shuts down, I’ve missed my 2 weekend workouts the last two weeks and I beat myself up. The new program has a rest day mid-week and rest day on Sunday.

I hit send without expectations, having been so used to these being ignored. It must really suck to be the coach that follows Coach. An hour later a long response came. He was hoping I would realize what was happening and was happy I made the choice before injury or mental fatigue.

Before tweaking the program he will study it more in depth this weekend and I am supposed to be prepared to answer questions, prepare sound logic for Monday.

I had my first rest day today. One of the teens (The Crossfitter) will be traveling with me to my April competition. A better ally I couldn’t ask for.

NCAA made my day. She’s beginning to become a mental fighter. Coach once said “someday you’ll have one like you and then you’ll know what a pain you are”. Well, I do and I couldn’t be more proud.  She and I are going to be filmed this weekend for some local stuff. I do wish it would focus on her, you can see how amazing she is – as all my kids are. But just look, I can’t take credit for this!


My Purpose

Over the course of the last year my husband and I have come to be the hang out house for the 20-somethings. I thought it would get on my nerves, but I actually kind of love it…it’s like having kids without the years of rearing them.

One comes to steal our internet and raid our cupboards. Another comes for safe haven…and to raid our cupboards. Another comes for the Playstation…and to raid our cupboards. And there are more which all end with food.

Upon news of losing Tonto they all appeared, some with hugs, one with flowers, and another with chips and milk (his favorite comfort foods). It’s a motley little crew we have! My cats and the kids (and myself) are just all strays that found the same corner In The Middle of Nowhere. My husband is a saint and his social work degree is useful when juggling all of us.

I have many emotional injuries inflicted by Coach but the best thing he gave me was time and at one point he believed in me. One of my high school girls asked for extra workouts this weekend. I could never turn that down. When her dad picked her up he said “don’t let her bug you to death. You don’t have to give up your weekend” but I do. I said to him “because someone believed in me enough to sacrifice his time, I became someone I never dreamed of being. If my kids love it enough to give up their weekend, they deserve me showing up. It doesn’t bug me at all”. I don’t charge for the extra workouts, their enthusiasm is enough. And every kid needs someone to believe in them.

I knew it made a difference but I didn’t realize the power faith had until Coach had some in me. That is a lesson I am so blessed to pass on…to my pets, my “kids”, and my high school athletes.

Pain Free


I am where I belong, no matter how hard the good-bye has been. The progress I have seen in two months is unprecedented,  even for me, and the fact that New Coach has total faith in me being able to figure it out is helpful.

I have mentioned before that he is someone of note in the Strongman world and how I didn’t speak to him for years, out of awe and respect. Two months into training with him, silence and distance has been my MO even though he has repeatedly told me to communicate.  But today I think we did more talking than lifting. He’s older than Coach and he loves studying our sports, as do I. We somehow got on the topic of what youtube channels we subscribe to, what books and blogs we read. I totally geek out about this stuff so my silence is broken. And tonight he sent a bunch of emails with links and ebooks and a list of books he is going to loan me.

I always say “successful people surround themselves by more successful people”. I finally followed my own rule. It will make me a better coach and athlete.

Deadlifts for volume today, working with the flipped grip. Not one little twinge in my hip, just minor inflammation in that shoulder. He said at the end “you’ve met goal #1: lift without pain. Next is to lift consistently pain free”. I may not be in total control of it, but it’s nice to have met a goal.

I’ve been studying all night. He said “it’s nice to know someone In The Middle of Nowhere that loves this stuff like I do”. Maybe Coach was wrong…maybe I’m not a pain in the ass. And he said, again, “bring your clients into my room, it’s so much better for them to learn on my bars and plates”. So tomorrow I will.

One of my clients is on vacation and still working out everyday, sending pics of all her PRs. Today she out-deadlifted her 29 year old son and called to report the news. I hate that I can’t witness it all but you can’t imagine how proud I am of her. She was such a timid thing when she started and her self-confidence has shown over the last few months. I have the best job ever!

Yesterday Coach had a moment while we were with clients, it normally would have sent me running in tears but NCAA brings so much joy I just forgot about it. Afterwards, another trainer stopped me and said “I saw that, I hope you remember it’s a reflection on him, not you”. I don’t understand what happened.

But New Coach and his people have welcomed me with open arms and with so much respect for my work ethic, it’s been pretty great and a bit overwhelming. At least in all this heartache I have landed where I belong.