“These mountains that you are carrying, you were only supposed to climb.” ― Najwa Zebian
This is my favorite quote.
These words often worm their way into my mind during a tough workout or race as a sort of mantra. If you were running/cycling with me you might hear me mumbling ‘…climb….’ Sometimes with an expletive. Sometimes just that single word. It’s at those moments when this quote is going through my head.
For a long while this was a mind-expanding epiphany. Now it’s profoundly motivating and a touch-stone of sorts. This quote has found it’s way to the core of my coaching philosophy.
Turns out I was not the only one trying to freaking carry the Cascade Mountain Range on my back – when it was meant to be climbed, explored, enjoyed.
When someone is tackling a lifestyle shift that involves triple-digit weight loss or battling health complications that accompany obesity or reversing life-long unhealthy behaviors; there’s some… uh… tremendous baggage we have to trip over, name, claim, move, give-away and figure out along the way.
Mountains of shit.
So, I have one simple job at the very start: I listen to their mountain(s).
Listen patiently and with grace and creating space for them to be raw, honest and share and say things they’ve perhaps never said aloud/confessed/acknowledged to another person.
When someone is willing to trust you and tell you how they got to a place they really don’t want to stay, a place that might even be trying to kill them, a place they aren’t even sure how/when they arrived… A place that is oddly and sadly more comforting that the unknown of trying to change…
Honor them by listening to them talk about the mountains they are carrying.
Those mountains they’re carrying, they’re going to have to learn in their own way, and in their own time, that they were meant to be climbed.
If I’m really lucky, they’ll invite me along for the learning, work, sweat and adventure that follows when we learn to climb ‘their’ mountain one step at a time.
I get asked ‘why do you coach?’ and ‘what kind of people do you coach?’
The simple truth?
I got certified as a health and wellness coach because I wanted to be the person I NEEDED when I was starting to lose weight, reverse type 2 diabetes and learning to be active as a morbidly obese woman.
I’m coaching the kind of people I was just a few short years ago.
I was obese, morbidly obese, grossly overweight, fat. Call it what you want. I was very ill, unhealthy, with a lifestyle-induced disease. Yet I had this wild, burning desire to change things and NOT A SINGLE CLUE where to start…. I needed help.
There was a whole lot of wonderful/helpful/supportive humans who had (and still have) my back and I refuse to deny their role in helping me change my life…
…But the other truth was that I needed a level of specialized expertise I couldn’t find…
You can’t take someone who is inactive and carrying 100-300+ pounds and apply a normal ‘weight loss and activity’ plan. You can’t. Well you can, and the desperate client is going to try to do what’s being asked; and they’re likely going to get hurt and discouraged and give up. I know what I’m talking about. That cycle of failure is one I know intimately.
The coach has two jobs… The first is to believe in your client. The second is to start from where they ARE; not where they used to be, or where they think they should be…
- What do you do if you can’t reach your feet to tie your shoes? Or normal shoes don’t fit on your feet?
- Where can you find a 48FFF bra that someone can actually run in? How do I compress my belly rolls or other body bulk so I don’t get hurt when trying to move?
- What if I’ve been (or get) laughed at, or the race times don’t allow me to be on the course because I’m slow or the gym equipment is not rated for my weight?
- How do you start running/moving when you weigh 300+ pounds?
- What if you have complicating medical conditions that limit what you do – they aren’t just handy excuses; but real barriers?
- What if no one else in your life supports your desire or efforts to change?
- What if you can not do even day ONE of the ‘Couch to 5K program’? You can’t even get on the gym floor to try a sit-up/push-up? You get winded walking up the stairs to the indoor track?
The issues that the overweight/obese face and deal with in their daily lives can swamp them before they even get started on a routine. They see the mountain they have to carry or climb; when you’re 100+ pounds overweight ‘carry’ AND ‘climb’ seem to be the same effing insurmountable level of effort needed... They know it’s going to be chaos, messy, uncomfortable, lonely, discouraging and hard and they barely have the energy to get through the day. They’ve likely failed in previous attempts. They need someone who’s been there and can help them navigate the barriers and feel some hope and stay focused on the long-term goals.
I have a health and wellness coaching certification. This past Fall I went one step further and got additional education and training in working with those who are inactive, obese and/or are dealing with chronic illnesses. I spent hours learning how to get people moving safely and get some solid lifestyle skills in place to keep them moving towards health. Learning about change behavior, social/physical obstacles and best practices. It was odd to learn about all of this and look back and apply it to my own journey. I got a lot right with sheer determination and dumb luck. I got plenty of stuff wrong – and now I know better and will help others do better.
As someone invited into a life-changing process, how can I help people learn to CLIMB the mountain instead of carrying it?
I coach because I have been in their shoes. And their 48FFF bra. And their sweat-drenched clothes from walking a mile. And questioning whether a piece of gym equipment can handle my weight.
I coach because I love helping people find a new, healthy path in their life.
I coach because the people I’m lucky enough to support are doing the exceptionally hard work of trying to get handle on their lives. I know how hard that work is.
I know, as their coach, that I’m being invited into a really special place in their journey to help them figure out exactly how to get started climbing when they’re standing at the bottom of a mountain and aiming for the top.