If you know me personally, you know that for the past seven years I’ve arranged my schedule to make room for teaching ski lessons in the winter. I love to ski and I’m happiest when I’m able to teach others how to love the sport as well; I generally work with children under the age of 7, but the other day my supervisors asked me to teach an adult lesson. Most instructors would jump at the chance to get out of a children’s lesson—it’s not easy work and involves a lot of nose blowing, mitten finding, and coming up with ways to distract the kids from eating the snow.
I ended up teaching one on one with a woman who had been taking lessons for three days; she said she started to get the hang of it but on the third day they gave her longer skis. She felt like she had to re-learn everything—the skis weren’t responding the way she wanted them to, she couldn’t turn, and wedging to a stop was proving to be next to impossible for her. She was frustrated, defeated, and kept trying to give up completely. She was uncomfortable in the situation and felt like she was failing; her ultimate goal of learning to ski and taking the chairlift with her husband was no longer on the horizon, and instead it was nowhere in sight and seemed to be completely unattainable.
When the lesson ended that day, she said she would keep practicing and knew what she still needed to work on. Whether or not she follows through, I’ll never know, but I did what I could to help her and tried to make the experience as positive as possible for her.
Somewhere along the line, the fear of failure becomes stronger than the urge to try something new, or increase a weight, or make a big life change. I actually prefer teaching younger children how to ski because they haven’t developed any fears and they learn by doing rather than overthinking every movement. They’re there to have fun and learn best by playing games, not even realizing they’re learning new skills. They don’t really have any goals in mind and even though they may get frustrated sometimes, tears can usually be fixed with goldfish crackers and a quick break to make a snow angel or squish a snowman.
Identify Your Progress
The women that I train at Vermont Sport & Fitness Club generally start out using weights that are significantly lighter than what they’re capable of lifting. They’re afraid of “getting too bulky” or lack general confidence in themselves and their abilities. Getting them to understand that a rep range is a range for a reason is a big part of what I do—they don’t always have to make it to 12 repetitions.
Progressing by failing isn’t something that is easy to wrap your mind around and it takes time for them to stop beating themselves up for only getting to 10 reps with a heavier weight rather than getting in a full 12 using something easier and lighter. They often see it as a failure rather than as a way for them to progress and increase their weights and reps in a future workout. I love my job as a trainer because I can help women realize their full potential and that they truly are stronger than they think.
Similar to coaching skiing, I like making workouts fun and something to look forward to. Coming to the gym shouldn’t feel like a chore or punishment. Even though I push my clients and encourage them to work and breathe through the tough exercises, I also try to make sure they leave with a smile, even if it’s a sweaty, tired one.