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.

Warrior Girl Has A Tribe

My sessions with Coach begin with the same conversation everyday. Coach “how’s it going?”. I smirk. He laughs. Then he calls out “Deadlifts” or “Bench Day” or “Squat Day” and I set up the area and put on the appropriate shoes (converse low-top for deads, oly shoes for bench, converse high-top for squats).

Deadlifts have been crazy fun. Coach always mixes lbs and kg weights so I can’t quickly do the math between sets. Every week we inch towards that glorious 300#. I’m so close but starting next week he’s bumping me to reps of 3 at the current weight. It’s the right thing to do but I really want to keep maxing. It’s a good thing I have a coach.

He’s been sending me videos daily. I’ve finally caught on to the message: the best lifters all lift differently. They know what feels good to them. The average lifters follow the “rules”. I told him I finally caught on and he replied “your old coach taught you how to lift technically and that’s important. You follow the rules very well. But that can only get you so far. Figuring out what is best for you – and only you – will take you as far as you want to go”. I have  started playing a lot and he never discourages or gets mad at me. He always smiles (sometimes laughs) as he critques what works and what doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong: he’s tough and he expects a lot but he expects what I can give. He said today “I love the journey my athletes are on. I want everyone to do well but I don’t really care about the outcome or the ending. I like being a part of the story”. I finally have a Coach that coaches like me. A coach that my New Mother always said I deserved.

Bench day was great. It has been a sore spot for me since December. Coach has been keeping me sane throughout with his words of wisdom (which when he says them The Wife – his wife – and I look at each other and roll our eyes. She too has been struggling). The Wife then said she started using her oly shoes to bench in. The bigger heel allows her to plant her feet. We are both all of 5 feet tall. Keeping Coach’s words in mind, I laced up my oly shoes Tuesday and benched. No PRs but I got 3 sets of 3 reps at a weight I failed the week before. I left the gym yesterday the happiest girl in The Middle of Nowhere.

As I put on my shoes Monday, I mentioned to Coach that the meds were kicking my ass. He said “you should be adjusted to them by now. Has your diet changed?” Not really. Well…I’ve been having ice cream. Daily. A gallon of chocolate milk. Every few days. “And how clean was your diet until the last few weeks? How much sugar did you have?” Extremely clean. I listed my daily food intake for the last 5 years (easy to do since I ate the same food every day). No sugar – except for my 4 oreos a month which was really only every-other-month. He laughed and said “Holy shit.” and I replied “It’s the food that’s making me exhausted! I’m such an idiot. But I want to have a normal life. I want to get ice cream with The Husband sometimes (for 15 years we’ve talked about walking to the Dairy Queen 4 blocks away but we never have) and I want to eat a piece of pie – everyone says I make amazing pies and I have never had a bite. I want to have those moments”. Coach said my body just needs to get used to it and I can have those things but I need to slow down and let the body adjust to sugar. Start with once a week and build up. He basically told me what I would tell a client who was too strict for years but I forget to apply these things to myself. He said The Wife is having the same problem.

Today I got to introduce Coach to the man whose name is on the Credit Card I pay him with – The Amazing Husband. And they chatted quite a while. As I was leaving The Wife stopped me on and we spent 20 minutes lamenting our sugar withdrawal headaches. I have been trying to talk her into doing a powerlifting meet and she is going to!!! I may just change mine set for September so I can lift with her. Then Coach joined us girls and we talked about all the big names in lifting, some they are good friends with (worldwide!), and talked about all the big meets said friends have been doing. The Wife and I mocked our own shortcomings and how Coach has to remind us both of the obvious. And then they announced they were getting a puppy toy poodle this weekend. I squealed for her and made fun of him. Seriously? One of the world’s strongest men is getting a toy poodle? How could I resist!

Coach left and The Wife and I continued talking. Some of the other lifters drifted in and out of our conversation. Two hours after I started leaving I picked up my bags and on my way out the door I said to The Wife “Thank you for making space for me in the group” and she smiled and said “you bring a lot to our little group”.

The Husband had dinner on the table when I got home. “You look happy” he said. I curled up in my chair and started eating. “I’m so glad you got to meet everyone. And…I have a group. I’ve never had a group. I drifted around until you and in college your friends were the group and even now, your friends here are the group. I’m friends with them but they aren’t my group. And my few friends aren’t in the same circles. But I realized tonight I belong to a whole little group.” He smiled and said “I knew you would find your way”.

Tomorrow I squat.

Slowly Healing: Hip and Spirit


I hate it when people do this to me, but it can’t be helped…I am standing on the brink of a dream coming true and I can’t say a word about it. On one hand, it is a little diabolical how much I am enjoying sitting here beaming and making everyone wonder but I do wish I could at least tell you all. I am getting zero enjoyment from withholding it from you. I do hope, as you all have read my stories and witnessed my struggles, you are excited and enjoy the “maybe it’s this dream”. Since I don’t think I have many dreams, I am sure a couple of you have it right!! Still a couple months out, therefore things could fall through, but today…today I enjoy being one step away from the biggest dream I’ve ever had.

I loved every moment of my rest day. It was really cold here in The Middle of Nowhere and the cat and I spent our entire morning snuggled up, drinking coffee, and reading about ACL tears.

My afternoon at work included NCAA working on Oly lifting for her first time. I know this is the beginning of a long, frustrating, joyful and tearful journey. I’ve been there. She started off great. She knew this was step one on a long journey but she is used to succeeding and doing so quickly. Half way through the session her trademark sass started and she looked at me and said “You don’t know what this is like. You can just do it. You don’t struggle at all”. Coach was in my sight line and I just pointed at him as said “There’s Coach. YOU ask HIM about my struggles”. And what do you know…I magically had a well behaved child in front of me. Inside I giggled and thought “Coach is a handy threat to have in my back pocket”. I, an adult woman, was scared of him for years. Imagine what terror that instilled in her. I do love that kid!

Today was squat day with Coach. All these little changes (similar to how he re-worked my DL) came together today as we widened up my stance, changed the trajectory of my upper body, changed how I hold the bar and where it sits on my back. At the end of the day he asked how it felt, he was most curious about my back – there will be bruising – but my back was fine and all I could say was “my hip feels amazing. Not once did it snag.”

He had asked for a history on my hip and it wasn’t until I was reviewing my doctor’s notes that I remembered I was diagnosed with a labral tear. It suddenly makes sense why my hip felt like it was “catching”. It is. Imagine snagging a fingernail on a blanket – that is what is happening in my hip. Coach agreed with the doc that because it is the hip, surgery could end my lifting but we should be able avoid tearing it more AND lift pain free. We have already achieved that with the deads and now, today, we fixed the squats. There is a little part of me that is angry: this could have been fixed 2 years ago if there had just been a little more attention paid instead of “suck it up” talk. As my 4 year old niece would sing “let it go, let it go”.

The Cool Girl, Coach, and I sat around and talked about our injuries, our comebacks, I stressed “don’t come back to soon” and when The Cool Girl said “I have to do my WOD yet today” I reminded her to enjoy it for those of us who can’t anymore. And she laughed and said she would but that “ya know, we’re a little jealous of you too”.

Coach’s Wife and I had a long talk Tuesday morning about normal stuff…not lifting, not programs, and not my comfort zone of geeky things. Just a normal conversation like people have: work, weather, life goals and house chores. A normal conversation that I just usually don’t engage in because, as Patricia would say, I am unique and this uniqueness keeps me from engaging with people. Coach’s Wife is just sweet, soft-spoken, and I don’t detect an ounce of judgement or snobbery in her.

When I first started with Coach, I mentioned how his people took me in with open arms. It was nice. And 6 months later, I am beginning to feel like I belong with these people. Having a place, and a place where I am equal and honestly respected, has helped me move on. Please don’t confuse moving on with forgiving. It is not. But there is more light in the place I am.

Oh…and I told Coach July wasn’t going to happen and he laughed. “I didn’t think you’d figure that out so soon. Good job!”. I thanked him for letting me figure it out on my own. “I figured if I told you, you would try to prove me wrong. You’re at your  best when you set the limits.”

Good Days

I am having a pretty awesome week. When last week ended (and with my schedule week end is Saturday evening) I breathed a sigh of relief. Sunday evening, reviewing the week ahead, I just asked the universe for one thing: a win. I didn’t need a big win, I didn’t need more than 1 win. I would take a perfectly cooked egg or the exact right temperature of coffee for a win. My hip hurt, my shoulder hurt more than ever, and that meet in August had to be bumped up to July because of a prior commitment (I put together a team for a fundraising event for the local domestic abuse shelter August 22, a cause much more important to me than a lifting meet).

Monday as dawn broke and reasoning set in, I realized I didn’t need to be locked into this absurd schedule. Absurd not because of time but because I needed more time for recovery. I have to laugh as I wonder how many times will I need to learn to stop putting so much made up pressure on myself? There is one in September, if I think I am ready.

After the last meet, which left me walking on air, I knew my cycle would be starting with lower numbers and building up again. But knowing something and experiencing it are entirely different matters. I was a little depressed that a month later I was struggling with 240 on deadlift. Monday I thought maybe I should just change one little thing and see if that resets something. I placed a mat under the weights, lifting the bar less than an inch. Instead of the high top Chuck’s (too much sensory feedback for my already overstimulated mind) I put on the low cut Converse. Boom. 265#. Little changes, a win, and the return of positive energy.

I was good with my win for the week. Thankfully. Tuesday is bench day and I have managed to go backwards again. I sadly accepted (months ago) I would never see 215 again. Obnoxious weight on the bench for someone my size, I only have enough courage to try when Joel is there. That is a terrifying weight to have above your body when you weigh anywhere between 120 and 130. But the drop off had been so significant…last week I got 115# for 3 reps. I’m trying to let it go. At meet time bench won’t make or break my total anyway. But Tuesday I was still feeling good at 120. I felt good at 125. By the time I hit 130 I was feeling the reps add up but I chose to try anyway. I stuck a little midway up but didn’t stop and got it. Who knows? Maybe this is just the first step back to 215. Maybe I just need more time on my own with it to develop my own courage. I’m not going to over think it (hopefully) and just take my win.

Accessory work was just plain fun those days. And for once, my rest day feels well earned. I did not feel the need to sit on my hands or tie my feet to keep me off the weights. 2 wins deserve a break!