I’ve often heard it said that “coaches need coaches”. How we enter into that relationship can impact more than our personal journey, but the way we coach going forward.
Recently I joined a gym…four months ago to be exact. I wanted to make some healthy lifestyle choices and when I saw an ad for a local gym on Facebook, I signed up for a trial membership. For five weeks, I would have access to training sessions, a nutrition plan and coaches. I have been to gyms that give you access to a coach for a training session or two, but this was something quite different. Here, the coaches are always available and lead every class. Knowing how important recovery coaches are to maintaining recovery, I figured maybe this could be what I need to not only get a jump-start, but to sustain this type of lifestyle. When I signed up I filled out a questionnaire with some general questions about my health. I was also asked…
1.“What are the top three reasons you are joining?”
2.“What do you hope to accomplish?”
3.“How often do you plan on coming?”
These very pointed questions directed me into establishing goals. I finally took action.
I brought my paperwork and dressed comfortably for my orientation. As soon as I walked in, I met the owner who is also a coach. He was warm and welcomed me openly. Of course, this disoriented me. I am not physically fit – more like physically unfit. I was already worried about the greeting I would receive, and even though my anxiety was through the roof, I managed to walk through the door. His demeanor instantly calmed me. There were only going to be three of us for this orientation session, “un-physically” fit me , an extremely fit gentleman, and the owner. Once the other two began speaking gym jargon my anxiety spiked again.
“What on earth did I just sign up for?”
We toured the gym and we grabbed grab foam rollers.
“What on earth are these?” I questioned silently.
We were instructed about the rules of the gym, when to arrive and how foam rolling before each work out was mandatory. Noticing the hesitancy on my face, the owner quickly jumped in to give me the basics of foam rolling and helped me get into each position. Again, my mind started racing…
”How bad is the workout going to be, if I can barely do the warm up?”
The owner, once again, sensed my anxiety and promised I would be able to do this. I was assured that the coaches work with you every step of the way. Anxiety relieved, I left that meeting pumped! I went immediately to buy a set of sneakers (no outdoor ones were allowed) and some other gear for the journey ahead.
The day of the first workout, I arrived at 5:35 a.m. I knew the rule: arrive ten minutes ahead of time to foam roll or you have to do 50 burpees
“HA! – I’ll never be late”.
I nervously thought I would see a bunch of fit people around me and wondered what they would think about me. None of that happened. There were a bunch of people, in all shapes, sizes, and abilities. I immediately felt myself relax. A coach who greeted us that Monday morning wore a bright smile, mismatched socks and came right over to introduce herself. She didn’t have any judgement about my appearance or my perceived lack of abilities. I immediately felt safe with her. I noticed that she said good morning to everyone that walked in.
“How on earth could anyone be so cheerful first thing on a Monday morning at 5:30 a.m.”?
I found a quiet spot on the floor and started to roll. At 5:45 a.m. sharp, she turned off the music and began the instruction of the routine. I heard words like planks, kettle-bells, chest presses, jungle gyms, push-ups. In my head I second guessed buying that new pair of sneakers. This, obviously, was not for me. She came over during every step of that routine and instructed, modified, and encouraged me so I could do each exercise. I felt so empowered by the end of that first day, I could have run a marathon (well in my head…maybe). That night I was sore, my muscles tired. While checking my phone I noticed I had an email from my gym, checking in to see how I felt after the first day and if I had any questions. I felt an odd, immediate need to connect to this new community and to my coach. I wanted to work hard for myself, but also I wanted her to see that I would make an effort. I didn’t want to let her down, or feel like I was wasting her time, so I showed up three days a week, and worked hard.
For three months I went Monday, Wednesday and Friday. With each session I got physically stronger and my connection to my coach got stronger as well. We bonded over my development. She called me out when I needed it and praised me when I truly deserved it. I gained a sense of trust. I knew she wouldn’t push too hard to the point where I felt defeated, but push hard enough to give me the confidence to surpass a goal. Whenever she gave me a critique or an encouragement, I didn’t question it. There was always a sense of her belief in me, even if I didn’t always believe in myself.
I decided to start going to the gyms on Tuesdays and Thursdays for cardio in addition to my strength days. There was a different coach for these two days and I had only met him once before. It was strange to work with him for the first time and I wasn’t even sure he knew my name. He sat by the computer as people walked in. He was quiet, even stoic. He left me alone for the most part that first day – which was a good thing. He was tough – no nonsense. I felt lucky he didn’t know me well enough yet to give me too much attention. He gave me the modified instructions for the exercises I had a hard time doing, but for the most part I stayed under his radar. On Thursday, it was more of the same. And…it was okay. But I didn’t want this experience to be just OK. If I was going to keep coming back, I needed to not just get through Tuesday and Thursdays routines; I needed a connection with this coach too. So I thought a lot about how to do that. If I was going to succeed I needed him to push me. I needed to develop the same trust in him as I had in my other coach so that when he did finally push, I would react favorably. If I wanted him to care about me in this journey, I had to care about him too. We have to be a team in this, or it would not work. Eventually, I’d just stop going on the days he was coaching and who would that hurt in the end? Me.
I thought about how to be more accepting of his coaching style. I wasn’t going to give up just because he’s tough – because that could just be my perception of him. I went back to the tools in my toolbox. Maybe I had to manage some of my own stuff. It’s not just about my opinion of him, but his opinion of me as well. I needed to find a way to connect and to build a relationship so we could both get what we wanted from this coaching relationship. Coaching is rewarding; that’s why we do it. If I could figure out his motivation for coaching me, and express my dedication to my journey, there’s so much to be gained from this relationship. But more importantly, I will gain his trust. That’s what I needed. I think that’s what we all need as coaches and those of us being coached. It is up to me to share these expectations with him. But also I had to be open to hearing his expectations as well. The relationship between a recoveree and coach can’t all be one-sided. This experience showed me just how true the statement is: People don’t care about how much you know, until they know how much you care. Building trust in each other can take some time, and work.
I look back now and think about the relationship I built in three short months with my first coach – there is care and more importantly, there is trust. I know I can get there with this new coach. It may take some time to get there…and that’s ok. I’m there to put in the work.
Stacy (Rosay) Charpentier began working at CCAR in 2013 as the CCAR Recovery Coach Academy (RCA) Coordinator and now serves as the Director of CCAR’s Center for Addiction Recovery Training (CART). Although she had the qualifications on paper to serve in this role, she didn’t fully realize that she had a place in the recovery community and felt like an outsider. When Stacy first attended the RCA she discovered her powerful story provides a much needed perspective on addiction and recovery from a family member’s point of view. She hopes to utilize her past experiences, along with her passion for this work, to bring professional development opportunities to people who want to help others discover that Recovery is Possible. Stacy lives in her new home in Bristol, CT with her newly blended family, which includes her husband, 2 daughters, 2 bonus daughters and a new puppy!
By Stacy Charpentier
Date Published: July 2, 2018