Sync Fitness Blog

Red Head Rant

Many of you know I have had the opportunity to do many speaking engagements in the past few weeks. I’ve been speaking about The 6 Pillars of Fitness. It’s a great topic. What I love about this presentation is I am able offer people a TON of tips on how to begin to make fitness and improved health a part of their lives immediately. We cover everything from how to take simple steps to improve your diet to how to take simple steps to improve (or begin) workouts. Things that are relevant and ESSENTIAL for everyone, regardless of age, size, ability.

The people I have encountered in these presentations have been great – warm, friendly, gracious. This makes the experience very rewarding. I am grateful to have these opportunities to touch more lives.

I have to tell you something that has happened as a result of these talks. I should probably be embarrassed to share this. But, actually, I’m deeply upset and, honestly, pretty enraged by the whole thing. I have lost a decent amount of sleep over this this week.

You see, one of the companies to whom I presented had their employees evaluate me after my presentation. Totally appropriate. I was actually excited to get the feedback. The first email I got with feedback from an HR woman said I was enthusiastic, passionate, high energy, knowledgeable. I was also told I spoke too fast (I’ve been hearing this since the 7th grade – so nothing surprising, although I need to keep working on it). I was also told I crammed too much info into the talk. Ok, I agree, there is a fine line between giving a ton of value (my goal) and overwhelming people. All in all, I was fine with this feedback.

Then I got a follow up email from the same woman (who was not at my talk, BTW, she was just reviewing the evals.) She said based on evaluations (or maybe just one eval, I was never told) I had a “clear inability to connect with the 40-60 year old audience”. She said she wanted to talk to me on the phone about this. In complete shock and on the verge of tears, I agreed. Over the phone, she told me I should curtail my presentation more to middle age women and promote things like walking and stretching.

Here is what my irrational red head mind basically heard as she was talking to me, “Hey Sara, you know that thing you think you are really good at? The whole working with women between 40-60 and COMPLETELY changing their lives thing? Yeah, well, we think you SUCK at it.”

Ok, so excuse me while I rant.

First off, my talk suggested things along the lines of cleaning the junk food out of your cupboards, drinking more water, getting in more exercise. You know, CRAZY things like that. I recommended that people looking for weight loss exercise 5-6 days a week, starting at 2-3 days a week and building up over the course of a few months. Again, completely crazy, right? Then I talked about high intensity interval training and how it is so much more effective that steady state cardio. You know, a scientifically PROVEN means of effective and efficient fitness and weight loss. I talked about how to do HIIT training if you were a walker vs a runner. I talked about the significance of planning your workouts and meals every week. I know, you can see how this wouldn’t have anything to do with people who are 40-60 years old. . . .

Clearly, I’m feeling super sassy about this. It’s not my fault, it’s the red hair.

I guess I should change my talk to tell people to stretch and walk more. Do you know many people who have improved their fitness from walking and stretching? Do you know people who have lost large amounts of weight, reversed chronic health conditions, dropped multiple clothing sizes, significantly increased their bone density, gone off cholesterol and blood pressure medication, developed enough strength to do push ups on their toes for the first time in their lives, learned to enjoy looking at themselves in the mirror or been able to out perform people half their age in Boot Camp from a walking and stretching program? Hmmmm, funny, me neither.

Interesting that each of the above accomplishments have been reached by multiple of my 40-60 year old clients in the last year. Too bad I’m not better at connecting with those 40-60 year olds.

Can I tell you how many prospective clients I have met with over the years who have come to me in tears saying, “I eat pretty well and I walk regularly, but I can’t lose weight?” Those folks aren’t walking anymore. They are squatting, lunging, doing push ups, doing timed cardio intervals, etc, etc, etc. And many of them are in the best shape of their lives. But I should probably tell them to stick to the basics. You know, walking and stretching.

Now, I’m not about killing people at the gym. More importantly, I’m not about telling people to go out unsupervised and take on a crazy hard exercise program. If you’ve ever met me, you know this about me. Walking can be an appropriate STARTING place for someone who hasn’t exercised in a long time, or ever. It is my number one priority that people engage in safe and appropriate exercise for their current level of fitness. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to promote walking and stretching as the cornerstone of a fitness program. THERE IS NO RESEARCH TO SUPPORT THIS AS SUPERIOR MEANS OF GAINING FITNESS OR LOSING WEIGHT. So it would be irresponsible of me to perpetuate the myth that a few walks a week coupled with some stretching can change someone’s life. I think we’ve been misguided enough when it come to health and fitness.

Given my strong feelings on this issue (and my inability to rest until I prove I’m right… Again, the red hair) I pulled aside two of my Boot Campers, Lisa and Jill, yesterday morning to get their input. Lisa and Jill are both in their 50’s. They are boot camp regulars and have been for some time.

You should see Lisa rock out the push ups on her toes. You should see her beside ladies half her age outworking them. Amazing! She’s worked really hard and it shows. Lisa participated in my first Total Body Transformation Program and in spite of having at least 10 years on the rest of the gang she was in the top 3 of 18 people for overall weight loss AND total inches lost. When I tell Lisa about this silliness over this presentation, she says, “SHOW THEM MY BEFORE AND AFTER PICTURES!!! Tell them I’m 53! I’m an example of Fit Healthy Menopause!”

Then there’s Jill. Wow – Jill is HOT! Jill came to me after struggling with her weight and diet for 3 years. She lost bunches of weight in TBT, dropped multiple dress sizes and now she’s this petite little thing. When Jill first came to me she was scared to jump and overwhelming frustrated with what had happened to her body during menopause. Now I can’t stop her from jumping. In fact, there are weeks Jill comes to EXTRA classes to get her fitness on. So Jill says to me yesterday, “You changed my life when you told me jumping was good for me and it will prevent osteoporosis. Now I’m not scared of breaking bones anymore.”

Where would Lisa and Jill be if I just told them to start a walking program? Thank God I’m better at my job than that.

Ironically, in the middle of all this, another Boot Camp client, Deb (in her 40’s), writes on my Facebook wall, “You told me ‘Become comfortable with being uncomfortable.’ That advice seriously changed me in a significant way. Thank you!!”

Oh, and there’s Sydne, who adds up the weights we use throughout her whole workout and calculates how much weight she moved at the end. One day we totaled over 3500 pounds in 30 minutes. She’s like a little kid as she adds up the numbers and asks me to pile on more weight. She’s UNSTOPPABLE. Sydne is 62 and came to me about a year and a half ago completely deconditioned. Do you think this has changed her life?

The list goes on and on. . . . The point is I have worked with countless folks with stories like these over the last 8 years. I have to say, all of you who listen to me everyday and do what I say, even when you want to flip me off (you know you want to sometimes!!) have changed MY life. So changing YOUR life has been and honor and a privilege.

Now for those of you folks about to start my 4 Week Rapid Fat Loss Program – have no fear. Don’t let all this talk of push ups and jumping scare you. I will take good care of you. I will give you what you need to build fitness in a safe way before you become a bada$$ like all the folks mentioned above. But know that your life is about to change because that is what I do. I make you better. I make you fitter. I help you find your inner athlete regardless of your age, size, abilities. Walking around Greenlake just won’t do that for you. Sorry.

For those folks out there who want someone to set them up on walking or stretching program, I’m sure you can find a trainer to do that for you. But I’m not your lady. I’m in the business of changing lives. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

9 Comments:

#1 - Brenda Says:

15.04.2011

Damn right Sara! Walking and streching are great if it’s your off day, or you’re grabbing coffee with a friend, but otherwise you better be working. Shout out to all the sexy 40+ year olds. Oh and Lisa…I have seen your before and after photos, you kick ass lady!!! Smoking!!!

#2 - Helen Halloran Says:

15.04.2011

First off, I totally understand your reaction (being a redhead myself, maybe it is a redhead thing), but honestly consider the source. You can’t beat yourself up over a comment when you don’t even really know the source. For one thing, I’m assuming none of these people have ever attended one of your classes or training sessions. Whomever offered up this “suggestion” might also have some kind of bias or agenda that they are promoting as well. I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten outright criticism from so-called friends whenever I’ve posted something about trying to change my diet or start an exercise program. Last year when I started doing early morning boot camps in the summer, I had about 4 of my friends (on facebook, and they are actual FB friends that I know) tell me that I was crazy, I was doing something unhealthy (?), I’d be better off just sleeping more, and that I could just give up a few “bad” foods and the pounds would just drop off (this from a woman in her late 20s who has no clue what it is like to try & lose weight when you’re over 40.) I actually had a couple of people try to talk me out of starting a fitness program.

So what I guess I’m trying to say is, as hard as it is sometimes, you have to consider the source. The critique would be more valid if it came from someone who participated in one of your programs. It really doesn’t hold much weight when they won’t tell you how many people said it, and give you a little more context.

As a person who is 47, struggling with peri-menopausal weight gain as well as a stubborn shoulder problem, I appreciate your fitness programs. I think that the way you train and teach is completely appropriate to all ages, and I especially think your methods are VERY relevant to those of us in the 40-60 age group. You challenge each person within their abilities, and I really appreciate that you are willing (and gracious) about offering modifications when an activity is beyond someone’s ability level. I have trained with a lot of different people over the years, and I really think that you are one of the best (if not THE best) trainer I have had the pleasure of working with.

I have also been on the receiving end of vague criticism in the past (related to a job I had at the time) and it was really hard to take. And also very frustrating since they also would not offer up where it came from. There are a lot of different opinions and philosophies out there regarding fitness, and some people stubbornly cling to ideas they learned about exercise a long time ago, or something they heard worked for someone else. Occasionally you will run into someone who disagrees with your methods. It’s unfortunate that this woman framed it in such a way that it came across as a personal attack instead of a difference of opinion.

#3 - Carol Sundstrom Says:

15.04.2011

You go, Sara!!

#4 - Melissa Says:

15.04.2011

Sara, some people just aren’t ready to leave their comfort zone–of walking and stretching. If they hear you telling them to do more, their answer is to criticize and say that you didn’t address their needs. But, I think all of us who have worked with you and who read your blog know differently. And remember…there were probably plenty of people in the group you addressed who had an “aha!” moment and, maybe for the first time, realized that walking and stretching wasn’t going to make the changes that they wanted. Remember that you have really helped them to move beyond their comfort zones into a new workout phase.

Just a thought for your future presentations: Maybe you should hand out at the beginning, and collect at the end, your own presentation evaluation. That way, you will have a better idea of what the participants are really saying without the remarks being filtered by someone who wasn’t even at the speaking engagement.

#5 - Lise Says:

17.04.2011

Sarah-Good for you! Stick to your guns! As a nurse practitioner I see this frequently. The bottom line is there are many of us who want the easy road, (read: don’t want to take full responsibility for changing, in fact don’t really want to change unless it’s easy). Since when did anything of value come easily? So good for you! Do what you do best which is to motivate and support folks who want help for their change process and mean it!

#6 - Josh Says:

18.04.2011

Great post!

Yes, this is the eternal dilemma.

Maybe you should try a fear-based marketing campaign…seems to work for pharmaceutical sales…hahaha

#7 - Kryss Says:

18.05.2011

Hi Sara – As an HR professional who recently had you speak at my organization, I’m appalled at this woman’s ignorance! She had absolutely no business telling you how to change your program to meet the needs of those who are over 40. I’m 46 and offended that this woman doesn’t think I am capable of participating in a boot camp. She must have never seen The Biggest Loser where many of the contestants are over 40 years of age. They certainly aren’t getting results from a “walking and stretching” program! I also got feedback from the folks that attended your presentation at my organization. Most of our attendees were over 40. Guess what?? The feedback was unanimously positive! We will definitely be inviting you back. Hopefully, that woman knows more about HR than she does about fitness! By the way, I’m a redhead too. I totally get the temper thing. 🙂

#8 - admin Says:

18.05.2011

Thank you very much Kryss! I appreciate the redhead support 🙂 . I’m also really happy to hear you all enjoy our time together. I had a wonderful time presenting to you all!

#9 - admin Says:

19.05.2011

Thank you all so much for your support. I really appreciate it!

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