Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Making a Difference

I've been a Madd Dog Athletics/Johnny G Spinning instructor for 10 years this past April. The ultimate compliment is to have people of different skill levels in your class all enjoying themselves and working out to the best of their ability. This is really the fever behind the Spinning phenomena. I could tear it up with Lance Armstrong and we could both get a great workout. Just going to a Spinning class can be intimidating if you are heavy, less coordinated, or have never really been athletic. If you were like that it would be hard go to a class where the music is blasting and people come out sweaty with red faces.

Living in Chicago and eating the way a lot of Chicagoans do, I understand how hard it is to just get to the gym let alone hammer away in a class. Add in a corporate job with a "just do it" culture and 100 hours in five days later you start to understand the stupor that many folks are in. You eat McDonald's and Starbucks for breakfast. Have a snack out of the vending machine. You run down and get a high fat lunch in the cafeteria and bring it to your desk to wolf it down while working. About 2:30pm you go grab a Mountain Dew because you are about to pass out from eating poorly and to cap it off a candy bar before dinner so you have "enough energy" to get home where you eat dinner and fall asleep at 6pm in front of the boob tube. The cable TV washing over you like a wave at the beach.

When people break this pattern and say "No more" is when I get excited.

My friend Kate (who I'll just say is older than I am) is an attorney here. She is from Connecticut but came to Chicago to work 100 hrs a week on a specific project for our legal team. Kate came into my spinning class and "her life changed".

Kate is part of "the back row". The back row in my Monday night class are people newer to exercise, those struggling just to get to the gym, but people who deserve the encouragement of any instructor because THESE are the people who can make the difference in others with their transformations. They sit in the back row (just as I did when I started working out again) because they are just trying to do the workout and don't want to look foolish in front of a room full of people. "If Bob can do it, I can do it. He was so fat and now look at him." I take special pride in helping these people. Seeing how they are changing their lives gives me a charge. (Think Biggest Loser TV show.) I have two people who have lost over 200 lbs. each who attend this class. I love it.

Eight months ago Kate couldn't do a push up, sit up or any other kind of up. In February, she came out to the ALS spin a thon and rode for two hours (a virtual marathon for her but she did it) because she had "nothing to do" on a weekend and I encouraged her to try it. Last night she did 50 push ups, 50 sit ups and a three minute wall sit plus the 45 minute spin class.

Kate is headed home now. Her work project complete. After class Kate gave me a hug and thanked me for encouraging her and all "the back row" people. Kate is down 17 lbs. during a project that put 15 to 20 lbs. on most of the attorneys she worked with. She has a new perspective on bike riding and her own fitness goals are completely redefined. Kate is even considering the Iron Girl Triathlon or the Women's Reebok Triathlon in her area this summer.

Kate is a great living example of what people can do with a little encouragement and positive advice and influence. I got it when I started in triathlon. I give it ever time I teach any fitness class or go to a race. In my opinion, having Kate as a friend and co-athlete is one of the best things I get to experience. Knowing that she is confident enough in herself to try these things is the greatest high an instructor/coach can feel.

Make a difference in someone.


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  2. EXACTLY, BOB! Nice work with Kate!! That is WHY I coach...Keep up the good work! :) Jen H.

    PS Got your phone msg. last night...just haven't had a chance to return your call!

  3. Oh Bob - You DO make a difference in people's lives. A big one... thank you for all that you do. You are one of those athletes that truly make a difference. Got caught up reading your Monday and Friday post.... both Nate and I agree that "people suck" but that we "like individuals". Sometimes you have to wonder what/where/why/how people do the things they do.

    Thanks for keeping it real...

    Thought of you last night while watching "Deadliest Catch...:)

  4. We'll miss you and Nate this weekend. I'm looking forward to hanging out with you guys more when you race.