A case for being underprepared.

I love my job. Like, I really, really love my job. I love working with my elderly patients with memory problems. I complain to my friends and my husband a lot about how much I’m working and that I’m exhausted after every shift, but I complain with a smile on my face because, for the first time in my life, I have sincere and deep job satisfaction. I feel great about what I’m doing and I love being at work.

This experience has been an eye-opener for me. During the 3 years of our marriage, I’ve specialized in being over-prepared and always having a future Plan A, B, C, D, E, and F “just in case”.

Here’s the thing — I never could have predicted this job opportunity and its carry-through to a now-possible nursing career, regardless of the research I performed prior to moving here. While living in Japan, I thought my nursing aspirations were over. I assumed that I would have to enter a new career field because, had we moved almost anywhere else in the United States, that would have been the case. However, the laws here are different, and I’m able to work in the medical field by completing requirements, certifications, and bridge certifications as I go. This kind of path enables the state to have more qualified and practiced medical practitioners on hand and it gets people into the work force quickly. On my end, I have so many doors open to me right now, I’m like a giddy child.

Though I had too many pre-conceived ideas of what I would do with my time here, my husband persuaded me to take a few weeks and take it all in before charging ahead in what I thought I would be doing here. After a few weeks of taking it all in and focusing on getting settled, the perfect opportunity presented itself to me.

At first I thought my situation was a fluke and could only happen in this particular location, but then I realized that it’s not a fluke. In fact, I was in the same situation in Japan. However, instead of listening to myself and applying for positions with the Red Cross, the Naval Hospital, etc, I did what “everyone” was doing and taught elementary school-aged English classes. I hated it, but I did it because I thought it was what I was “supposed” to do. Eventually I left those jobs and found my own way, but it took me almost 2 years to get my head on straight.

So, based on my experiences, I implore you to keep your mind and heart open when you arrive in a new place. Do your research ahead of time and arrive with a few ideas, but also arrive knowing that every state is different, every town has different job opportunities, and you may be able to do something in one place that you were not able to in another. You may end-up with new and better opportunities in your new location than you did in previous locations. Sure, the opposite can happen, but maybe it won’t. Maybe, because you kept your mind and eyes open, you will always find a new opportunity.

 

Aircraft carrier life for the sci fi nerds among us (me).

My husband and I have been watching Battlestar Galactica for the past two weeks. It sounds super nerdy (it is), but it’s also a great representation of what life on an aircraft carrier is like. The “battlestar” is a futuristic space aircraft carrier, complete with a CAG, CIC, flight ops, squadrons, and all kinds of Naval aviation stuff. My husband appreciates that it’s mostly accurate, to a point where it’s humerous. For example, catapults are used to launch the space-jets into space from the battlestar. Catapults would be extreme overkill in space, but it’s accurate for the current, sea-based Navy! Also, some of the inner components of the space-jets are identical to the inside of a F-18. It’s a lot of fun watching the show with him because I’m learning about what he does for all those months he’s deployed … which is coming right up … again … :( 

FYI – it’s not available on Netflix. We found a (legal) website that has all the seasons. I’ll post the site later because I can’t think of the name right now. 

Finding the right coach & making the most of the coach-athlete relationship.

My lifting coach and I had a quick, interesting conversation a few weeks ago about athletes who coach other athletes vs professional coaches; this conversation got me thinking …

As a coach and an athlete in two different sports, I have insight into this topic. Because I know how to be a good coach, I also know how to have a good relationship with my coach.

I spent 7 years chasing the Olympic/National Team dream in rowing; I eventually moved on to coaching, which I’ve grown to love much more then competing, and I’ve built long-lasting professional relationships with my rowers. Then, over the past 4 years, I’ve transitioned my body from rowing to lifting. Though I don’t have any desire to compete in lifting or other related events, like figure or bikini, I’ve worked with some of the best coaches in the business, especially right now, and I’ve built professional, beneficial bonds with my coaches.

Here are some thoughts about how to find yourself the right coach and how to make the most of your relationship with your coach:

Begin by being very honest with yourself about what you want, what you can afford, and what you’re willing to put into your relationship with your coach. Do not over-commit yourself when you begin working with a coach.

Know that there is a huge difference between a personal trainer and a coach with a specialty. Personal trainers are perfect for “the generals”, such as losing weight and basic but thorough workouts. If you envision yourself doing a leg day, arm day, etc, find yourself a personal trainer at your local gym. If you want to enter a specialty area or your goal is specific, like gaining a lot of muscle, starting strongman comps, etc, find yourself a specialty coach. I enjoy power lifting, so I work with a power lifting coach who has tons of experience. I would never ask a personal trainer to coach me in power lifting, and you shouldn’t either, no matter what they claim they can do.

Seek a coach with the education and experience you need to achieve your goals. This sounds hard, but it’s very easy to do. If you have never lifted weights before and want to learn the basics, most anybody with a personal training license is right for you. If you need guidance on nutrition, look for someone who has a certification or degree in nutrition. The internet is your friend. Google your location and what you’re looking for, and Google will present you with many options! Coaches specialize in a variety of areas: obesity weight loss, physique and bikini shows, body building, strong(wo)man, etc. If you want it, somebody does it!

Professional coaches are compensated appropriately for their time, so if you can’t pay them for their time, they cannot afford to give you their time. This is a business deal, not a statement about your worth or potential as an athlete or person. I see so many people online commenting to professionals, “I’m a student/unemployed/etc and can’t afford to pay you. Can you give me advice anyway?” The correct answer is no. Professionals need to be compensated for their time. The only people who receive “free” stuff are seasoned athletes who are already at the top of their game.

If you’re new (and even if you aren’t!), it’s okay to work with a newer coach or trainer. This has worked out really well for me in the past because we were able to grow together. However, make sure they have the proper certifications. New trainers will sometimes give discounts or other perks to new clients — if you’re short on funds, these are great people to work with. It’s a win-win.

Before you begin working with someone, interview them. Ask them all of your questions to ensure you’re going to get what you want. For example, I have some medical concerns, so I made sure my coach was aware of those things and could work around them. It’s okay to walk away if the interview shows that you aren’t a good match, or walk away if the trainer or coach doesn’t want to be interviewed. Professionals will want to “interview” you too, though that may be done during your first session. If you have specific needs, talk to them before your workout. Any true professional will be okay with an interview. If you’re not sure what to ask, I recommend these questions: “Who in the fitness industry inspires you? What fitness professionals do you look to for workout and fitness ideas? Have you worked with someone like me before? What kind of education and training do you have in this field?”

Once you’re their client, keep the lines of communication open, but base that communication on what you are compensating them for. As a coach, I make it very clear to my rowers how and when they may contact me. This isn’t just for my convenience – it’s also to ensure they receive a timely response! If you’re only paying the trainer for the time you spend together, you should keep your questions until your next session, unless it’s something urgent (like you are injured, etc). I would not Facebook-friend their personal account or other personal social media accounts unless they make it clear that that’s okay. That goes for you, too – let them know if they are out of bounds.

Some clients challenge their coaches and trainers. They may read or view something online that is different than what their coach has them doing in the gym. As a coach, I want my rowers to talk to me about new ideas so that we can have a dialogue, but I expect them to keep the dialogue professional. They’re paying me because I have more expertise and experience than them. I am always open to new ideas, and as a coach I will try most anything once to see if it works, but most times I know better, just like my coach knows better than me. If you think you know better than your coach, why are you working with them?

This seems like an obvious one to an outsider, but I see a lot of people making this mistake — do not work with someone just because they’re “hot” and you’re attracted to them. As a female, I generally look for female coaches and shy away from super attractive male coaches (this isn’t the case with my current coach, but my previous coaches were females). I have a few friends who aren’t getting great coaching but are paying a lot of money to spend a few hours a week with a hot dude. If that’s your goal, great! But if you want more from your coach, find the right person, not just the most physically attractive one.

Sometimes clients and coaches/trainers outgrow each other, and that’s okay! I am training someone who hopes to make the US National Team. Once she’s on the Team, I don’t expect her to come to me for training advice anymore; conversely, if she doesn’t make the team, I expect that she will find another coach. If you feel like your goals have changed, you’re ready for something new, or you’re just not jiving with your coach or trainer anymore, it’s okay to move on. Keep the separation amicable. All of us in the sports and fitness industry know that our clients won’t always be our clients, and that’s part of working in this industry. Also, it’s okay to “take a break” for a month or more. Sometimes we need a little time away from the gym for personal, professional, or other reasons. Don’t be afraid to take that time. We professionals want happy clients, just like we clients want happy coaches.

My last point is an important one: Is it better to hire an athlete who is a coach on the side or a professional coach? I’m going to base this on my personal experience.

When I was an athlete trying to make the top tier in the rowing world, I dabbled in coaching to help make ends meet. I enjoyed applying my knowledge and working with people who were new to the sport, but I was not a great coach because I was more focused on my own success. This isn’t a question of holding others back for my betterment — my rowers had different goals or were not eligible for the National Team — BUT, I was focused on my own schedule, practices, etc, so I couldn’t give all my energy to helping my rowers improve. Now, as someone who is no longer trying to be a top performing athlete, I can dedicate my time to learning how to be a better coach and fine-tuning the nitty-gritty of the sport.

While some professional coaches keep their hands in the fire, so to speak, do not be afraid of hiring a specialty coach who is no longer in tip-top shape or winning national and international titles. I no longer look like a coxswain, but that’s because I’m no longer trying to be a coxswain — I’m a coach, and a darn good one.

Finding my place in the weight room. 

I have a confession:

I am not comfortable in the weight room.

Since I started lifting 3 years ago, I’ve lifted regularly in 8 different gyms. Some were commercial and some were military, but my experience has been the same: deep insecurity with my physical presence, deep insecurity my physical expenditure, and even deeper insecurity with the attention that my presence and expenditure cause.

With my current coach, I workout once per week with him and three times per week at my local gym. He gives me weekly programming (workouts) to do on the three days I workout without him.

The following is an honest discussion of my experience. I don’t have many gym choices where I live, so I can’t just “go somewhere else”.

Like many women, I struggle with the concept of taking up space in public. I’ll gladly give up my seat on the train, move down the bench a few feet, and otherwise go out of my way in public to accommodate others and not take-up more than my “fair share” of space. This pre-programmed space insecurity extends into the weight room.

In the weight room, it’s impossible to not take up space. I need the whole squat rack to complete most of my workouts, and I need it for at least 45 minutes per session. If it’s available for me to use, I worry that someone is waiting on me to finish or that I shouldn’t be using such an important piece of equipment for my still-novice lifts. I don’t know who this somebody-in-waiting is, but in my mind I am in their way and I need to take up less space. I feel the need to rush through my precious workout to accommodate this unknown person.

Beyond taking-up square footage, I am also worried about my physical form taking up too much space. I’m not a svelt size 2, like most of the women I encounter in the weight room, looking attractive and barely sweating. There I am, a full size 14, grinding through squat sets with well over 100 pounds on my back, long bar, wide butt, thick waist, and taking up all the room I need. I’m not skinny and I jiggle. I am not in Lulumon’s latest cute ensemble, and I know the stares I catch in the mirror aren’t in admiration of my physique.

I am also embarrassed by my obvious physical expenditure in the weight room. I am a woman who sweats: from my head, from my back, and from everywhere else, too. No matter what I wear, it’s soaked 10 minutes into my workout. Additionally, noises escape my pursed lips when I’m exhausted or working especially hard. I’m a loud breather. Sometimes I grunt when I’m benching. I think I sound like I’m having sex or panting like a dog, and I endeavor to stop whatever noise I’m making for fear of attracting attention, even if it detracts from my lift. And, perhaps most counter productive of all, I try to make as little noise as I can with the weights. Metal weights make noise. Racking and unracking weights makes noise. Deadlifting makes a lot of noise. To control the noise is to wreck the lift and possibly injure myself, but I do it by force of habit because I don’t want to attract attention to my femaleness and my taking-up space in the weight room.

And it’s not just my femaleness or the space issue, it’s my whole package: my out-of-shape body that is carrying too much fat in my midsection, my bright red face that is gushing sweat, my loud and heavy breathing, and my boobs, butt, or whatever body part that is prominently displayed as part of the lift.

Unfortunately, my resting bitch face does not prevent men (and only men so far) from interrupting my workouts, sometimes midlift. “You’re doing front squats wrong” (I wasn’t doing front squats); “You’re lifting too much weight” (too much weight for what?); “You’re not getting full range of motion. You should back down on the weight and go ass-to-the-grass” (go away); “Your programming (workout) doesn’t make sense” (GO THE FUCK AWAY, IDIOT). One guy made derogatory comments about my body right in front me. A trainer loudly told his client that I wasn’t working my “Barbie muscles” like her. Wtf are Barbie muscles?! I actually laughed out loud at that one.

Most insidious are the stares. Yes, dude, here I am, lifting in the gym. The gym I pay to go to. In full-coverage attire, sweating my butt off, literally. No need to look at me while I deadlift your body weight. Yes I’m new. No my technique isn’t perfect. Please stop staring.

These confessions might sound a bit extreme, but they’re coming from a rape survivor. I don’t like attention from strangers. In fact, one of the primary reasons I lift is because I want to be able to protect myself and those I care about.

With all that said, I realize that I need to change myself and my mind, because I can only control myself. If I’m sound in mind, the externals matter less.

So what if people stare? I don’t know for sure that they’re thinking mean thoughts or even forming an opinion about me. So what if someone is waiting? My workout is just as important as their’s, and they can let me know if they’re waiting. So what if I take up space? We all have a right to exist, just as we are, deadlift safety zone area, squat rack, weight bench, and all. And, if people are going to make asanine comments to me, fine. I mean, really? You’re wasting your time by watching my workout so closely as to form opinions about it?

Dude, get a hobby. Might I recommend weight lifting?

 

You are more than your husband’s wife.

It’s now nearing the end of our THIRD month in the USA (w00t w00t). Everything is falling into place for us, especially me. In all the fun of building a life for myself, I’ve rediscovered something really, really important:

I am more than just my husband’s wife.

Ladies and gents, spouses of our service members, you are more than the spouse of a military member. You are a whole person, belonging to yourself and of yourself, and you have a right to possess a life for yourself that has nothing to do with your spouse’s job description. You are more than a tool in your spouse’s arsenal of ways to get in good with the boss. You are more than a worker bee for your spouse’s command. You are more than a pretty thing to hang on their arm at formal events.

You are more than married to the military.

Now that I’m working part time at a residential care center, working my butt off with my lifting coach, and coaching rowing again, I’ve remembered that I am very much my own person, with my own dreams, desires, and aspirations. Sure, I had those feelings while living in the fish bowl of an overseas military base, but those feelings are flourishing now, and I’m finding my own voice again. My husband does his work, comes home, and we talk about topics beyond just what he did at work that day; now, we also discuss what I did at work that day. We discuss my latest gains in the gym. We discuss my coaching plan for my rower (I’m doing private coaching work). We talk about our weekend plans, which have nothing to do with the Navy.

It’s beautiful.

Don’t allow petty, small voices to make you feel like you’re a bad spouse if you’re not involved in your spouse’s work life 24/7. Don’t allow anyone to tell you that there is only one way to be a “good” military spouse. Don’t let yourself get boxed in.

Be involved as much as you and your spouse want you to be involved. Go to spouse club meetings, if that’s your thing. Help decorate the command table for the ball, take part in homecoming festivities, make friends with the other spouses in the command, but, above all else, do it because it makes YOU happy and fulfilled, not because you feel like you have to fit into a pretty, little military spouse box. Take part because it’s fun and adds value to your life. If it doesn’t add value, don’t do it.

Be yourself. Do you. Remember that your personal life and hopes and dreams and aspirations are important, too. 

You are MORE than a military spouse. So much more.

A delightfully civilian life. 

We have been living a delightfully civilian life for the last two months, and I’m beginning to see our move from Japan as a major lifestyle watershed.

We’ve been living in our chilly paradise for 2 months. It’s hard to believe our timeline – it feels like we’ve been back in the USA for 6 months, not 2. How does that happen? Japan is but a distant memory — one that I am both thankful for and thankful that it’s over. I was ready for a new chapter, and it’s gratifying to have turned the page to a new day.

Speaking of new things, I GOT A JOB! I’m back in healthcare! It’s a part time, day shift nursing type of gig. I’ll be working with Alzheimer’s patients mostly, so it will be tough but rewarding. The medical center will pay for some extra certifications for me, and this seems like the perfect position for me. I am so freaking excited to buy new scrubs and a new stethoscope. 

My weight training is on a whole new level thanks to my new coach. Physically I already look a lot different (especially my legs), but what gets me most is that I’m going up and up and up in lifts and confidence every week. As my measurements are decreasing, my lifting numbers are increasing. Perfecttttt!!! This is exactly the ratio I was looking for. 

I’ve been soooo lucky with lifting coaches. My first coach was the kind and gentle voice I needed at that time in my life. My second, who was my coach in Japan, showed me my potential, got me healthy, helped me find my place in the lifting community, grew with me, and was the friend and firm voice I needed at that point in my development. Both of those coaches are female weightlifting badasses, and I look up to them so much. 

My current coach is a dude who is mega badass, and I joke that he doesn’t care about my feelings (he does, but he kicks my butt anyway and I love it). He’s a strongman and power lifter, and he has me doing all kinds of fun things. My second trainer and I followed him on Instagram and Facebook for more than a year before I found out that we were moving near-ish to his gym. I now drive +4hrs to train with him once per week. It’s so worth it, though! 
We love living near family! My in-laws, brother in law, sister in law, and niece and nephew are within 90 minutes, and my parents love it up here so much that they are now looking for a place, too! It’s so unusual for us military folks to live near family that we are feeling very lucky. 

My husband’s work load hasn’t been too bad, but we expect things will get very busy later this month. I’m not looking forward to it, but we recognize that we need to be grateful for this 2 month “vacation” after a lot of time apart in Japan. He’ll go away a bunch this spring and we are looking down the barrel of another deployment. Boo! I won’t worry about that until after the holidays … or so I tell myself. I expect that I will choose to go full time or take on more shifts when he deploys to keep myself busy. I can walk to work, so why the heck not. 

Some recent pics:

   
    
    
   

Lead parenting & designating roles.

After today’s session with my new lifting coach, I spent the 90 minute drive home talking to my previous lifting coach, who is a fellow Navy wife. We are finding ourselves in the same situation of being over-qualified and under-employed🙂 This is a common refrain amongst us military spouses.

So, when I got home and saw that a friend had posted this article, “Why I Put my Wife’s Career First”, I was excited to read it. Most of us military families prioritize our service member’s career, right?

Check it out if it sounds interesting to you. You might find yourself nodding your head — even if you are the lead parent as a wife, or if you don’t have any (human) children.

Speaking of non-human children, here are a few recent pictures of our Norma🙂