I’ve wondered since beginning to work out at CrossFit what it’s like to be on the other side of the weights – the spotting side, the coaching side. What’s it feel like to work with people, guiding them as they transform themselves into new versions of themselves? My husband calls the changed me Dana 2.0. and while I’ve been the one that’s lifted the weights, struggled with the prowler, the sand bags, the sledgehammer, sweated through the jump rope and the rower, the consistent force behind all the work has been my coach, Ben. From the first days when he yelled when I didn’t think I could push the prowler another step, to my most recent workout when he called me out in no uncertain terms for not focusing, his instruction, his encouraging, and even his reproach have been the driving force behind my transformation. And I’m just one at the gym. Everyone who works with a coach is making changes and meeting goals because their coach is pushing them, teaching them, praising them, and when needed, giving them an old-school verbal thrashing. So just what’s it like to be that force?
I asked Ben that question, and he shared what it’s like for him. Not surprisingly, I learned that he takes his role very seriously.” It’s an amazing thing to be a part of changing someone’s life …not something I take lightly and more often than not I get emotionally attached,” he says. There’s a down side to this degree of involvement, though. “If they quit or fail then it really brings me down that I didn’t do more. Maybe if I had done that one thing it could have made the difference.”
He has to impart some tough lessons sometimes. I imagine it’s easy to cheer someone on when they’re doing great. But when I failed to give my all at my last workout, he had to stop acting like a friend, and instead act like a pissed-off drill sergeant. I had plenty of reasons and excuses for losing my balance coming up on a 130-lb squat – a migraine earlier in the week, loads of prescriptions meds I’d taken a couple days ago – but that didn’t matter. “You have to FOCUS!” he thundered. “I don’t care what the weight is, you have to come at it with 100%. You treat it like it’s 175 pounds, like it’s the big weight.”
And, painful as it is to admit , and even though if you’d asked me I’d have said of course I was focusing, I probably wasn’t taking it as seriously as I should. I’d overdone my mental pep-talk, telling myself I can do 150, so 130 is nothing. Ha. 130 is NOT nothing, it’s almost a quarter more than I weigh, and I could have really injured myself “dancing around” as Ben called it later when he cooled off after the thrashing. He explained later why he came down so hard on me. “My biggest concern is that you haven’t had a big fail,” he said. “Often we don’t respect something unless we have been beaten or embarrassed by it.”
With years of lifting behind him, he knows a lot that I’m beginning to learn the hard way. “Sometimes we forget that sometimes the weights win,” he says. “That’s why I like lifting so much. Weights don’t care about anything but themselves. They don’t care how your day went or if you treat them nice. They are unforgiving and can hurt you severely. They will beat you down time after time with no remorse or apology. But … sometimes you win. Sometimes you conquer the unconquerable!”
And he hit the nail on the head with what happened to me. “Just don’t get cocky, because weights are quick to remind you that there are more of them. And if you want to take more on, you’re going to need patience. And humility.”
He must find it worth it though, the struggles to make his students understand what he has learned through experience, the pain of watching them fail when they don’t do what he’s worked so hard to teach them. “To watch you change and accomplish goal after goal is very inspiring,” he says. “The greatest thing about seeing someone transform like you did is that I got to show someone that if they put in the time, get over a few fears, they can accomplish anything they want!”
I can’t wait to see what I can accomplish next, when I listen to what my coach has to teach.