The Quiet Leader


The Quiet Leader

Leadership is everywhere. I believe it is within all of us to varying degrees. Leadership is not always an in-your-face kind of a thing. It is not always something that you can be taught in formal class room settings. I would like to explore the idea of leaders who fly under the radar: quiet leaders.

I strongly believe that popularity is often mistaken for leadership. Just because someone has a lot of followers or a big squad does not mean they are a leader.  There are a lot of people who can say catchy things or post pictures on their Instagram accounts that people gravitate towards. I argue they are not always leaders. They may have thousands of likes. Does that make them leaders? In some cases yes depending on what message or positivity they are spreading.  For many though, they might be simply popular.

Leading is not defined quantitatively. Not every leader is a public figure. Not every leader has a big platform. Not every leader has the intention to lead.  Leading is not always so deliberate or obvious. There are many leaders out there who are inspiring, encouraging and motivating in much more subtle, quiet ways. Sometimes it is through example. Sometimes it is through one’s passion that becomes infectious to others. Sometimes it is simply by being a gracious, humble human being.

Sometimes leading is built over time. Sometimes it is one’s journey that ends up cultivating leadership. To be an authoritative, respected leader people demand trust, transparency, relevance, and a sense of connection.

I have been a reader through a great organization, Read to a Child, for 4 years. I have been lucky to read to the same child all 4 years despite moments of questioning whether I was really making any difference in the child, Michael’s, life. From the very beginning, it was clear that children were either part of this program as they are in need of improved reading skills or that they are in need of extra attention. Michael falls into the latter category. He is an extremely introverted, quiet child. It took months to get him to even laugh. There were days of reading where I felt like yes, we are bonding and he is into this. Then there were just as many, if not more, days where I had to ask him to peel his face off of the table.

When I had the choice to continue on this year, my initial thought was not to.  I felt perhaps Michael should be with a different reader to see if he has a more enjoyable, beneficial experience. Ultimately, I felt though like I would be quitting on him, and that was not something that I would ever want to do. I had my first 1:1 session with him a few weeks ago and it was one of our best ever. He was engaged, excited to read, and uncharacteristically very chatty.

One significant thing happened. Michael had been telling me since last year about how at a visit to the doctor he was told that he weighed too much and needed to lose weight. (I could write a whole blog about how much it breaks my heart to see a then 9 year old, now 10 year old worrying about his weight. Kids should be worrying about upcoming soccer games and math tests, not about how they are going to diet. Anyways, I digress.) Ever since then, he sprinkles out of the blue comments into our sessions about his weight. Anyways, I knew he had a doctor’s appointment since I last saw him as he had told me that he was scared to go because he thought it would hurt to get blood drawn and that he didn’t want the doctor to tell him that he needed to lose weight. When I asked if the doctor’s visit ended up being scary he said no. He did express he still feels like he weighs too much and so I did my best to give him encouragement. I asked how he likes playing sports and being active and to focus on that. I want him to be excited about exercise and fitness for more than the reason to lose weight. I told him how I love to work out and that I too lost weight. Look, I by no means want to undermine his parents or family. I just know in my heart that Michael keeps a lot to himself, and so if he is expressing his fears to me, it would be only natural to chat with him about it. He is not a kid who talks to talk or tells everyone everything. He feels comfortable enough with me to talk about it, and that is not something I take lightly.

I typically grapple with the idea that I, myself, am a leader, despite many people telling me I am. When I think about my recent reading session with Michael, I realized that I am starting to accept that yes, I am a leader.  It is not about being in front of a room of kids. It isn’t about having one enlightening conversation or interaction. It is not about preaching to even one kid as to what I think he should or should not be feeling. It is about building trust and being someone that even one child confides in. It is about being authentic and listening to someone. It is about delivering a message at the right time to the right person. It is about understanding. It is not always about broadcasting my mission to the world, or even to Michael. It is about organically being able to instill something in someone, no matter how big or small. It is about quietly leading.

I have had many unexpected people comment or tell me how posts I have written were so relatable or powerful. I have had people tell me at CrossFit how I have inspired them or pushed them. I have had people who have worked for me tell me how I made a difference in something they have done or how they improved in something through my guidance. I am not saying all of this to toot my own horn.  I say it because these are all things I do because I am passionate about them. They help me grow as a person, which indirectly is cultivating my own leadership. I did not start CrossFit to lead.  I did not start writing to lead. I did not even start managing to lead. I simply love working out and feeling healthy. Writing is therapeutic and fulfilling for me. Managing is well, an exercise in many forms. The point is I do not go through life with the intention of leading. Yet, leadership is in me. I strongly believe it is in many of us quiet people and we should nurture that. Bring it out.  Own it. The world needs more of it.

To steal the quote of Paul Shane Spear, I align with this school of thought: “As one person I cannot change the world, but I can change the world of one person.” It is not always about how many people you have an impact on.  It’s about how you impact someone.

 

 

The 5 Things That Make Physical Therapy More Than Just Fixing Stuff

With recently wrapping up the last of Physical Therapy/Personal Training, I leave with understanding so much more about myself in terms of how to train smart  and all that goes into being healthy when it comes to fitness.  (A side note and added bonus is it has taught me what sets a great therapist/trainer/coach apart from the rest).

  1. Seeing is just as important as feeling. (As a CrossFit enthusiast, I do strongly believe that one of the things missing from boxes are mirrors). There is a lot of benefit in actually watching ourselves work out. (I’m not talking about giving yourself a gun show although there’s no shame in that). It is seeing the details and breaking down a movement where you can actually pinpoint what you are doing right and wrong. At Physical Therapy, there are mirrors everywhere, and as much as I dislike seeing the agony on my face while I struggle through a workout, I do appreciate being able to see what my body is actual doing versus what I think it is doing. I tend to base how well I am doing a movement off of how it feels, which is important; however sometimes I can’t feel everything my body is doing at one time. Seeing gives insight into being able to correct form. For instance, I used to feel like I was off balance when I squatted after surgery, but I did not really understand why. When I was able to actually see myself squatting, it was obvious I was favoring my right side. My trainer (BJ) was able to give me physical queues while I was squatting to correct form.
  2. Form is more important than lifting heavy or getting a faster time. After having 1:1 PT sessions, I was lucky to have the chance to not be distracted by anything else. I solely focused on what I was doing which meant dissecting movements. (Seeing a theme here based on #1 as well?) It taught me that it’s ok at times when my body feels fatigued or something just feels wrong, to not worry about adding weight to the barbell or trying to power through to get a faster time or score. I had quite a few strength portions where I would lift very light weight to get in the habit of good form. I also had more than a few instances where BJ had me scale down mid workout when my body was fatiguing resulting in bad form.
  3. Get mobilizing! I spent a lot of time stretching out before a workout as well as having a pro stretch me out after. It’s painful. It’s grueling. It’s time consuming. It’s worth it. Often when form is off or something feels wrong, it could be your body’s way of telling you to stretch out. I am not an expert in stretching and mobility so I won’t spend much time on this point. I just want to say in my humble opinion, everyone would benefit for spending more time doing this, whether it is on your own, in a mobility or yoga class, via massage or one of my personal favorites, the hot tub. For those of us who CrossFit and do other equally aggressive workouts, our bodies need reprieve. We need time to recover and loosen all the muscles and tendons and whatever else we have to avoid injury (and to just feel good!)
  4. It is important that your coach/trainer is supporting your goals.  *I am putting a disclaimer that this is personally important to me, and so I am assuming it is to others. If it isn’t, well then I owe you burpees. One of the key factors that has gone into my recovery and getting stronger by the day is that I had a team backing up my goals and being just as vested in them as I am. When it comes to my own health and fitness, I am always working towards something. I am a woman who likes a plan, even if it’s a plan that someone else is putting together for me. It is no secret that plans are only as effective as whether they coincide with goals. Having people who understand you and your goals is fundamental.
  5. Have a connection to your coach/trainer. This is more like #4 part 2, so really the same disclaimer applies. (I have a lot more to say relating to the importance of connecting that is for a blog to come soon. Stay tuned). It can really take your fitness journey and goals to the next level when you truly feel like the person training understands you. They know your weaknesses and your strengths. They know your goals.

 

Injury recovery and working out can be just as mentally and emotionally trying as it is physically challenging.  I had many moments throughout PT of feeling utterly discouraged. I got through them because I had the best Physical Therapist and trainer who talked me through it, without judgment. I was able to be open and express what was going on in my head as much as what was going on with my body. It is normal and par for the course to have a therapist ask how your body/injury is doing. It is not as common but possibly more important that they ask how YOU are doing.  To this point, here is a perfect example. After I did my most recent body scan, I was completely crushed by the weight I had gained. I told them about it and they gave me solid advice (like reevaluate my diet and throw in extra cardio) as well as just gave me a pep talk. They did not discount what I was feeling nor did they make me feel crazy about it. They continued to be supportive throughout my dieting journey by checking in and asking how I was doing with it.  What was working? What wasn’t working?  They paid attention and it made a difference. (I would be a total liar if I did not admit to thoroughly being pleased with the compliments they gave me as the pounds started coming off. I will never grow tired of hearing about any muscle definition someone else sees in me!)

As much as I do not like to admit, I have gone to physical therapy quite a few times over the years. For many of those instances, I went really to just fix whatever was broken or not working right. I wanted to get in and get out so I could get back to my regularly scheduled programming. The last year and a half though that I have spent in PT has been life changing for me. Seriously.  It is why I strongly believe this time around departing from PT will end the long reigning slew of injuries.  It is because of all these 5 lessons I have learned that are setting up me for success and a healthy journey here on out. It has taught me how to train smarter and how to take everything I learned at PT with me in my journey.

 

 

 

Top 4 Reasons Why CrossFit Sucks -Debunked!

I recently conducted some very official research (I polled my friends on Facebook) to find out why people either do CrossFit or why they chose not to. I realized from the responses I got from those who do not find CrossFit appealing, that well, CrossFit is terribly misunderstood. I can’t deny though that they touched on many of the stereotypes, that to be fair, anyone who does CrossFit would admit to there being some truth to them. From the outside, CrossFit seems like a craze created by the devil.  CrossFit athletes (yes we are athletes) appear to be weight lifting-arrogant-hyped up-injury prone bros and swolemates who grunt, sweat and over indulge in bragging about snatches, PR’s and squats. I want to, acknowledge that yes, these things do exist, but more importantly, I want to debunk these stereotypes (maybe once and for all?!)

  1. CrossFit is dangerous and you will get injured. Yes, injury happens at CrossFit. A lot. I ask though, does it happen any more frequently than any other form of exercise or sport? Many running injuries, for example (much like those obtained through CrossFit) come from the lack of stretching and mobilizing; over training; lack of rest days; improper technique; and plain stupid luck. When someone running experiences an injury, we do not tend to denounce running as a sport. Yet, when it comes to g­­etting injured at CrossFit, there is an immediate reaction and assumption that CrossFit caused it.

The onus of injury should be on the individual athlete more so than the sport itself. We are all adults. We have the ability to choose for ourselves how much or how hard we train. We know when something in our body does not feel right. If we are injured because we feel peer pressure or that competitive feeling sets in, again, that is within our control. CrossFit is designed to have varied workouts and to always challenge us. Yes, it is a demanding and high impact sport, but it is completely possible to train at that level safely. Many CrossFits start athletes out in their fundamentals class so that newbies can focus on technique and continuously build on that.

Not every CrossFit box is the same. Some are better than others depending on their coaching, members and programming. A good box has coaches who are paying attention to their members and all the details that go into movements. A good box has members that are encouraging and supportive. A good box has programming that is methodical, calculated and designed for gains. If you find yourself in a box that does not have these 3 things, then there is more likelihood for injury. Again, we are all adults. We have the ability to recognize a good environment from a bad one. Be proactive enough to research and find a box that encourages and promotes a safe fitness environment, and injury is less likely to happen.

 

  1. CrossFit is too competitive. CrossFit is perceived to be highly competitive, which some people find alluring and some people find unappealing. Quite a few of my friends stated this as a reason as to why they have no interest in CrossFit. I can respect anyone who does not want to bring that to their fitness. However, just to be devil’s advocate, I will say this. I think of the competitive aspect as it is what you make of it. While some athletes’ egos thrive off of that competitiveness, there are plenty of athletes that use it for their own personal gain and gratification. Some are happy they beat someone else in a PR, but for most, they are happy they beat their own PR.

 

I also know it is entirely possible to take classes alongside other people and not give a hoot about what anyone else is doing. There are plenty of people who love CrossFit and pay no attention to the competitive side of it. For many of us, we are most competitive with ourselves. We strive to be better today than we were yesterday. For me, there are times I do benchmark myself off of others and it pushes me to get those tough reps in during a metcon or to push through that last 200m run. I get stronger from people around me, not necessarily because it is competitive. Rather, it is inspiring. To see someone do something you want to do can be quite motivating.

 

Also for every ounce of competition, there is twice that showing support and encouragement to boxmates.  Many people CrossFit because of the camaraderie and not the competition. Sandra Dickson of CrossFit SouthBay reinforces this well, “I’ve stayed for the past 4 years because of the camaraderie of the classes and the friendships I’ve made.”

 

  1. CrossFit is too intimidating.

One of my friends said she feels intimidated to go to CrossFit and would want to be fitter and stronger before going. (Which for the record, I have heard other people say this about not just CrossFit but global gyms, boot camps and other group classes). People who CrossFit come in all shapes and sizes and all skill levels (not everyone is a Rich Froning or Katrin Davidsdottir). We are all at different levels and that is what is so amazing about it. CrossFit is so scalable that you could have 5 people doing the same workout with totally different variations. For example, not everyone can do a Handstand Push-up (HSPU) so when a workout has them at Rx, it is common to see some people doing them (with varying degrees of difficulty even: some with 1 ab mat, some with 2, some with none) while other athletes may be doing hand release push- ups and others may be doing inverted push- ups. No matter the scale, everyone is experiencing the same feelings of suck and elation. What is challenging for one person to the next is all relative.  If you are scaling appropriately, the person cleaning 130 pounds versus the one cleaning 65 pounds is not having any easier of a time.

Personally, I prefer working out with people fitter and stronger than me. It is so gratifying to be successful at something that you previously had only been able to envy. I also like being able to be the one motivating others. It is what keeps it exciting and somewhat altruistic.  Some days you are the ones getting encouragement and some days you get to give it.  As Feo Diaz of CrossFit PT6 in Krakow says so well, “I do it because it’s much more fun and engaging than going to the gym by yourself. It doesn’t matter if you finish first or are still going after the time cap. The people in the CrossFit community always support and push you to do better.” I think this is far more prevalent in CrossFit than the intimidation factor.

  1. CrosFit is expensive. Along with CrossFit comes the finances. My friend, Jackie, who is a tennis fanatic asks, “Isn’t Crossfit expensive? Tennis is $8 for 2 hours.” Touché, Jackie, touché. Yes, CrossFit is expensive (it can be anywhere from $99 a month upwards of $300). I will argue though that if CrossFit is something you love, when it comes to finances it is how you prioritize this expense. Coming from someone who has worked for a cable company, there are plenty of people on budgets who manage to spend $120 a month to binge watch television. Whether or not that is practical, it goes back to the point that it is how you chose to spend your money. If fitness and health are a priority for you, it should be less excruciating to dole out the cash for it.

I fully acknowledge the cons to CrossFit.  I fully recognize CrossFit is not for everyone. If it is any consolation, I have desperately wanted to get on the yoga train without much success. So I totally get it. The world is full of choices on how to be fit and healthy. I simply would hate for stereotypes to be a deterrent for even trying Crossfit.  I also believe CrossFit to be a great phenomena that should be recognized for everything it has to to offer. Poojita Puligundla of CrossFit Fremont had one of the most encouraging testimonials about CrossFit that I hope puts some of the negative perceptions to rest.

“Pre CrossFit, I did work out but I was very limited in the sense that I would just stick to the treadmill or the elliptical. After I got exposed to CrossFit I do so much more because I’ve been trained by wonderful coaches about the importance of having the right form, exercising different muscle groups etc.  Apart from that, it gave me a whole new perspective on my ability to challenge myself. I am the kinda person who can get comfortable too easy and with CrossFit I’ve never felt like I stopped at my comfort zone. I’ve learnt to push myself and started enjoying tiny victories. For ex: Before CrossFit I couldn’t do a single push up and now is a different story. This experience is beyond exercise for me, it’s changed my mindset.”