Why I Value Fitness and Helping People Be Fit.

Posted December 9, 2016

Two experiences from my youth shaped my approach to fitness.

The first was comparing two of my uncles. They were about the same age, but in very different shape. One was trim and healthy, while the other was obese. One could do what he wanted physically. The other struggled to get up out of a chair. I realized I had a choice about whether to keep myself fit or not, and this choice had consequences for how I could live my life.

I decided to be fit.

For me, fitness is a mindset. It’s an awareness of your body and whether you’re doing what you can to have it perform the way you want it to. It’s working hard in the gym so you can do the things you want to do outside of the gym.

The other experience from my youth was observing the preacher in the Baptist church my family attended. He took people to a different level. He changed the energy in the room, just with words. People were in a groove together, feeding off of what he was saying. This taught me the power a person could have to motivate other people.

That led me to becoming a fitness coach.

I say coach, rather than instructor, because I see an instructor as someone who tells people what to do. A coach – or at least a good coach – helps people figure out how they can accomplish their goals. That’s what my best coaches did for my during my track career. It’s a deeper level of communication, driving you to own what you’re doing in a meaningful way.

The importance of coaching is one of the reason we limit most of our classes to 15 people at Rival. With smaller classes, we can focus on what people are doing and how to motivate them. And, while we’re talking to one person, hopefully others can get something from what we’re saying as well.

For instance, I’ll look at one person with posture issues and say, “We have to remind ourselves to have a neutral back, and this is why.” I’m talking to that person, but the entire group is hearing at the same time.

And the one constant is that I will talk, for the entire time. That’s because I’m going to keep people present. People can drift off and lose focus, particularly in larger group classes. But you need to be attentive in order to get the most out of the class and avoid injuries. The movement of our bodies is so important, and we have to be aware of what’s happening.

I know people are listening because they’ve started to talk about “Jim-isms.”

“Stay present”

“Where are you right now?”

“You work hard in here so that you can do the things you want to do out there.”

Listening to me is helping them stay in the groove. Just like when I was in church as a boy. If I can help somebody go a little bit faster, harder, stronger, that’s a cool thing.

See what your potential is. If you regularly come in and row 800 meters, for instance, take time once a month or once a quarter to push yourself farther, to go all out and see what you’re capable of doing. If you never do that, you never get a full sense of who you are.


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