Chapter Two - Shoshin
“The mind is like a parachute, it only works if its open”
It was 7am. Charlie got out of bed in his typical slow and careful way. Usually when he strained his back, the first thing he’d do would be to get some hot water from the shower on it.
“That’s a little better, I just won’t bend over for a few days and it should come right.
The shoulder, well it is what it is. Some painkillers should see me right for a couple of days"
Exiting the shower he reached for his towel and slipped. Just barely catching himself he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror, which he usually avoided expect for shaving.
Was this really him?
I mean, he’d done quite well for himself in life. He ran a profitable business, was raising a family and had a loving wife. He had friends who he drank with every other weekend and had hobbies. Although saying he “had” hobbies was precisely it. His downtime was usually spent sitting doing more work or watching TV.
Neither of those were really Olympic sports.
“I’ve got to do something different”
It was Jack's (Charlie’s son) cross country in a few months time and he thought he would love to be able to at least run alongside him for the finish.
“I’m going to sign up to a gym” he told himself.
“I’ll start running to shift some of this weight and then I’ll get fit, probably do a bit of weights like I used to.”
During his lunch break that day he walked down to the local gym near his office, Lively Fitness and approached the front desk. Within 20 minutes he received a tour of the full gym with a nice young woman who signed him up for a month roll over contract. “You can cancel anytime, and we’re open 24/7”.
Just in case he needed to come at 3am, that was good to know.
The following day he turned up to Lively Fitness, got changed into some workout gear and jumped on the treadmill. Bumping the speed up to a fast walk, he figured he’d just go for it. Up to 10km/h he broke into a jog, then a run, and 30 seconds later a full on sweat.
“Time to sweat it out”.
After 2 minutes, and dropping the speed down a few notches, he had cooked himself. Barely able to even walk, he panted trying to keep himself together. After a minute or so he had to stop and sit down.
Finding a nearby seat, holding back tears (men do cry but not at something like this!) he began composing himself. After a minute or so he felt a hand on his back and a fit young women was holding a water bottle front the vending machine out for him. Smiling kindly she said “this is for you, have a good drink, I’m Riley”. “Thanks” is all Charlie could reply with.
“I’m a coach here and I saw you on the treadmill looking a little uncomfortable. Believe me I know what it's like”
“What feeling middle aged, male, tired and overweight?”
“Ha! Not quite. But feeling like I bit off more than I could chew”
“How could you tell I had cooked myself?
“The same way a mechanic can tell what that rattle is in your car”
Charlie took a good sip and thanked Riley again. After much deliberation he decided he’d try some weights. Grabbing two 16kg dumbbells (is gravity heavier in this place?!) he gave a few chest presses a go. With his shoulder still stinging he managed 5 reps then opted to call it a day.
In the shower (it was always the shower) he couldn’t stop thinking about what Riley had said. Did everyone see him struggle, did everyone think he was silly for running? Was he wearing out-of-date workout gear?
Leaving the gym he caught Riley’s attention. She was mid explanation with what looked like someone she was training. She gave a friendly wave and he returned it with a small wave, nod and a silent “thank you”.
Charlie returned the next day and decided he’d give the treadmill another go. With his back still bothering him he thought he’d do some stretching first. A few twists side to side, grab a leg and stretch that. Throw the leg onto this rail for the hammies, nope not a good idea!
Onto the treadmill he went. Same routine, same speed. And same result. This time at least he had his own water.
Feeling a little deflated and sore (right foot feels a little tweaky too) he called it a day.
On his way out of the gym he decided to grab Riley’s business card wondering if he should get in contact. He probably needed to be a bit fitter before starting with a trainer, and he did have one for a while in the past that definitely made him sweat, but did little to help him shift the weight. He recalled the voice yelling at him to do another rep before he felt that twinge in his back. Never quite recovered from that.
Once home, he flicked Riley an email and within a few hours she responded with a time slot booked for the following week.
Ok, 5 days to get ready before training REALLY starts.
The next day Charlie received an email from Blair with a list of questions he needed to fill out before their first session.
What would you like to achieve in the next 6-12 months?
Do you have any current injuries?
Is there anything you’re currently avoiding?
Are there any sports you would like to take part in?
What would you like to learn?
Charlie realised he hadn’t put much thought at all into these questions in his life. He had just expected his body to always work the way it had. Until it no longer did.
He somewhat answered the questions with a vague uncertainty of what this might all mean.
The day of the first session with Riley arrived and Charlie was nervous. No, not just nervous. Out of his depth, wanting to cancel. In fact happy to have a family emergency just to not have to turn up.
He turned up, workout gear, sweat towel and most definitely a water bottle.
“Hi Charlie, how are you doing today?” Riley asked.
“Yeah good” he replied. Like if good meant nervous as hell. He was used to being in control and confident in what he was doing.
“Good is a great start. How did you sleep?”
She cared. She actually cared. When was the last time a human asked another how are you type questions after receiving the satisfactory answer of "good”? Ok over exaggeration but nonetheless, why did this matter?
“Uh well, sleep was alright, got about five hours, woke up a few times”
“Interesting, is this usual for you?” She queried.
“Yup, I generally feel like thats enough for me”. Although as he said this out loud he perhaps wouldn’t mind the odd sleep in.
"Ok, well lets pocket that conversation for now, good to know nonetheless. Today we are going to go through our movement assessment. I want to see how you move in a variety of different ways. Think of this like a Warrant Of Fitness for your car."
“Does that mean if there’s anything wrong with me you can just order an aftermarket part that's better than the original?” Charlie quipped.
“Maybe in 10 years, for now its old school consistency, education, patience and the odd leech for blood letting.”
Charlie wasn’t sure how serious she was.
Riley guided Charlie through a series of movements from lunging, squatting, over head pressing, standing one leg (“with my eyes closed? Impossible!”) to more intricate movements with his feet, hips and spine. It was a workout in itself.
She was aware of his current injuries he had picked up from his overzealous tennis forehand in his garage and his past niggles which never seemed to go away.
After an hour they grabbed a seat and she pulled out a spreadsheet.
“What we have here is essentially a basic representation of your body as it is right now.”
“I know I definitely have a spare tire, maybe even more than one”
There is no right or wrong here. All of this information tells us a story. That story is one that we can understand, and that we can change for the most part.
“For the most part?” He wondered
“Well, Charlie you’re not likely to be the next NBA superstar”
“That’s ok, I’m more into Tennis”
“Firstly because you’re not not 6 feet 7, secondly because unless I’m mistaken, you’ve not been shooting 3 pointers accurately for the past 10 years?
“I’d be happy playing an hour of tennis without breaking myself”
“Well I believe you can do so much more than that”
“But I’m middle aged, my body is past is best”
“Charlie, during our time working together, there might be certain beliefs you have that crop up in which I may want to challenge”
“Like if I believe in life after death?
“You’d be surprised at what us coaches talk about during rest periods. Given the fitness and health industry is expanding faster than education can keep up, there are some common myths that we might debunk along the way.
“I’m keen to learn”
“Fantastic, sometimes these are in the form of myths, stories we tell ourself or merely misunderstandings”
“Ok, first question then. How do I get rid of my belly?”
“Questions right back at you, how long did it take for you to get this belly?”
“Onwards. Let’s get into your assessment”