CLIENT SPOTLIGHT – Carolyn K.

When did you begin working out at the TR and what prompted you to start personal training?
Honestly, Tyler could have picked a far more successful “success story.” I am chubby and klutzy and I routinely whack myself in the head doing halos. Oh, and I’m 20+ years older than most everyone else there.


March 2012, that’s when I showed up; I made Maren meet me at 7 am on a Sunday (because of course I had no time to go to the gym). The FMS made me cry. Why’d I come in? Two words: Homicidal bitch. I was stressed and cranky and constantly exhausted. Feeling like total crap. I felt no better after a weekend, or even a vacation. My colleagues were driving me insane, I had zero patience, and someone was gonna get it.

In my worklife, there is a lot of talk about the importance of “self-care,” though not much guidance about how to actually do it. Well, pedicures just weren’t cutting it for me. I am not a personal trainer kind of person. No one fetches me skinny lattes and I do not carry a pup in my purse. But as my friend said, if you were failing calculus, you’d get a math tutor, right? I was failing, badly. So I got a tutor: Tyler.

I had a lifetime of ignoring my physical self—really, I thought my body was just an elaborate conveyance for my head. Can I get out of bed in the morning and make it to the coffeemaker? If so, then yay body! I had never done any type of exercise, ever. But I heard the rumors, you know those rumors, something about endorphins and energy, stuff about how good exercise can make you feel… I had always thought it was an elaborate lie, an urban myth, something propagated by Lululemon and women’s magazines, along with the elusive “runner’s high” and “multiple orgasm.”

How many times per week do you train and what does your home routine consist of?

I started with a small group training class with dynamic duo of Heidi and Maren, and spent a lot of time comparing myself to others. There was so much I couldn’t do, and I hate feeling incompetent! I couldn’t even balance on one foot! But I came back the next Sunday, and the next, no place to go but up. Then I started training with Tyler once a week. This big-time trainer of athletes had gotten himself a total newbie, with tears and whining, 2 busted ankles and a lifetime of bad habits, and still he believed I could learn. Somehow, he got me stop whining and start trying. And pretty soon I could do some Actual Exercise! Rather than cut down at that point, I super-sized the Tyler experience, and started working with him twice a week, most weeks. And all sorts of cool things started to happen…Balance, and a real push-up, or 10.

In addition, I use the gym next to my workplace 1-2 days each week. I pretty much try to repeat a workout I’d done with Tyler recently (except for that awesome exercise where he sits on me…) It’s your standard corporate/hospital gym, with people scuttling around on the ellipticals and shuffling along on the treadmills, reading the New England Journal of Medicine. Let’s just say, I get a lot of attention doing Turkish Get-ups.

What training accomplishments have you made that you are most proud of?

I have avoided killing my colleagues!
By which I mean, maybe my goals are not the same goals everyone has when walking into a gym. I am a normal woman. I am not a fitness model. I work out in slobby gym wear, and I get dirty and sweaty and messy-haired. My breasts are not lifted and separated; they are mashed onto my chest by my cheapo sports bra. I am in there to work hard, to lift some heavy shit, and to think less about how my body looks and more about what my body can do. One hour when I am thinking about nothing else (except, ok, there’s usually a little gossip, that Tyler is such a gossip!).

Training is oddly relaxing. Finally, I can quiet my mind and not worry about the zillions of things I was supposed to get done at work that day, or the phone calls I didn’t get to or even big stuff that I am usually thinking about, like Suffering and Death. Imagine: an entire hour of being in the same place with your body and your mind. No matter what else is going on, there is not a day that I come in to train when I don’t leave feeling great.

What goals are you currently working on?

I look better, I lost some weight, I have some muscles (though they are still a little hard to see…). I am so much less cranky! People ask about a diet and I love to tell them that I’ve started lifting weights, because really, that’s the last thing anyone would expect to hear from me. No one is more surprised about this than I am: I get a thrill moving big chunks of iron, and I see a 1.5x bodyweight deadlift in my not-so-distant future.

My real goal is just to feel better and better and stronger and more capable. I don’t know if I’d ever be able to do a pull-up but I do know that I enjoy the work and process of trying to get there. I cannot imagine going back to the “before.”

What has been your overall experience at the TR? How have you progressed, and what impact has this had on you?

Initially stepping into the gym felt totally alien (see “Tears,” above). But very soon I felt at home there, everyone has been great, they’re all quirky and funny, and the whole scene is non-judgemental, very Somervillian.
I know with absolute certainty that I could not have done this without Tyler. He strikes the perfect balance of pushing me to do things he knows I can do, but never embarrasses me. He can explain all these principles of exercise science to me (why is 8 the magic number of reps???), and he indulges me when I want to geek out on anatomy or the finer points of the Krebs cycle. He is really supportive and encouraging (and he knows I do not respond well to yelling.) We joke that he’d make a lot more money as a therapist. He has a tremendous sense of what’s possible, in the gym and out in the world, how people can learn. He is so actively engaged in learning about the many contributors to wellness—not just exercise, but nutrition and sleep, and stress (not that I have any problems with that…) and his enthusiasm for the process of learning is palpable. After all these years of teaching people, seeing their weaknesses and strengths, fears and abilities, he is pretty wise about people. He may think that I am dawdling or putting off some hideous set of squats, but really, sometimes we just get involved in interesting non-gym-ish conversation. I can’t imagine having done this with anyone else.

Because when you do something you never, ever thought you could do, you begin to believe all sorts of things are possible. All sorts of change and growth are possible. And that is the ultimate awesomeness of my experience here.

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