Editor’s Note: Ashley, a Second City Fitness client, began training with Jeff in late February and is blogging about her experiences. Today, less than a week after she snagged a huge PR in the Wisconsin Half Marathon, Jeff talks about how “The Ashley Project” is progressing and the race, which he ran along side her. She’ll give her version of the events tomorrow.
When I first met Ashley, I was amazed at how perky, energetic, and happy she seemed. She was always smiling and giggling as she interacted with her fellow classmates waiting for yoga class to begin. Then Ashley came to check out one of my core classes and I noticed how self-deprecating she could be and how much she lacked self-confidence. So when we started working together — she’s teaching me how to use social media and I’m helping her with her training — I knew my biggest challenge would be getting her to trust me and believe in herself.
Now, it helped that Ashley was already exercising regularly. She was running 3-4 times per week, taking yoga classes, swimming and occasionally taking other classes. The problem was that she wasn’t really pushing herself at any of it. Her lack of confidence and fear of failure kept her stagnant. So my first priority was to get Ashley challenged regularly. The first step? I had her attend core classes and a full body training session each week. I also did a stride analysis and made some adjustments to her running form and strategy, by asking her to try a 5:1 run/walk ratio instead of 4:2. While these things would eventually lead to physical changes, I knew I still needed to change her mind.
No matter what I was able to get Ashley to do physically, she was never going to reach her true potential if I couldn’t get her to believe in herself. So every chance I got, whether in person, via text, email or Facebook, I told Ashley how great she was doing and how proud I was of her work so far. Every time she said something negative about herself or that she couldn’t do something, I quickly corrected her. “Can’t” became the worst curse word she could possibly say. And I called her on it. Repeatedly.
As weeks passed, I began to slowly see her confidence improve along with her strength and stamina. She actually shocked herself with consecutive PR’s in 5Ks. Finally, as we approached race day, she was beginning to believe she could run a sub 3 hour half marathon – something she’d previously thought was impossible (or a long way off) since her best time was 3:12.
In the week leading up to the race, Ashley was still showing some anxiety, but nothing near what was typical when we started working together in February. It seemed as though she was actually beginning to trust me and believe that she could do it. When I found Ashley on race morning slightly jittery, but otherwise ready to rock. And I felt sure we were on the verge of a momentous day.
From the beginning of the race, I tried to distract Ashley with stories and jokes while covertly pushing her at a pace a bit faster than she was used to. Surprisingly, even to me, she didn’t even bat an eye for the first nine miles as we moved along well ahead of pace. Even when the fatigue and pain did set in, Ashley grit her teeth and kept on pushing. When I demanded one last push for the final quarter mile, she came through again with her fastest running ever. (She did threaten to punch me, but that’s a different story. I’ll let her tell you about it tomorrow.)
At the end, she snagged a new PR by more than 14.5 minutes! And I’m so proud. Although “The Ashley Project” is by no means finished, I’m incredibly happy with the results we’ve achieved so far. I can’t wait to see what else she can accomplish as both her confidence and fitness continue to improve. Stay tuned for further stories of the adventures of Miss Ashley. After all, triathlon season’s just beginning.