Monday, December 21, 2009

The Gleesons

The Gleesons by Natalie Anderson, West Vancouver Coach

No matter how many times I have had to say goodbye, it never gets any easier.
I met Shaun and Emma Gleeson in August of 2009, a lovely couple from England who I had the pleasure of training individually once a week.

They seemed like your 'average run of the mill' suburban family and I got along with them like a house on fire from the minute I put them on the bikes to warm up.

The first clue I had of their selflessness was when they sponsored me for the my very first adventure race in September. I was delighted and followed up with the token email and photograph.

Now I don't know what happened in October but there seemed to be a turning point in Shaun's thinking. It was Nutrition Challenge month and I encouraged both Shaun and Emma to enter. Shaun's ultimate goal was weight loss as this was directly correlated to his high blood pressure and for Emma, more about education and accountability, as she had done the challenge so many times before. However, this was Shaun's first and final experience. The nutrition challenge involved writing daily logs about food consumption, completing weekly fitness challenges and participating in events. Initially, Shaun was sceptical as he had to travel a lot during this time, but along with fellow trainers Richard and Dave we convinced both of them to do their best.

So week 1 down, 14 excellent food logs later and 7 delightful yet useless facts from Shaun - made reading and analysing every one of them tolerable!

Week 2: Emma was impecable with her logs, even calculating calories burned during each workout. Shaun on the otherhand was traveling in England, socializing with friends and working... in that order! I received a few late night emails... and to my surprise he was still sticking to the guidelines of the challenge. Shaun required very little motivation, he was so tuned in to succeeding he even ordered a salad in front of his mates.

Week 3: Shaun is back, he has booked in extra sessions to make up for his time away and is coming in on his 'off' days to do an hours cardio! This week both Shaun and Emma completed the 24th hill fitness challenge! A credit to them both, who suffer from back and knee injuries respectively.

Week 4: By this time Shaun is focussed, his eyes are on the prize. This man is getting super fit... In fact I think during the month of October he spen more time at IF then he did with his family. Everything was going so well for them both, it was falling into place.

I was training with Emma one night and I noticed she wasn't her usual bubbly, chatty self, I felt close enough to ask if everything was ok... and with a glazed look in her eyes, she replied, "Shaun's work wants him to move back to England in December." At this point I must admit I was very selfish - thinking, but I will miss you, who will I laugh and joke with? Not even thinking how hard it must be to uproot your family to another country. I put on a brave face and thought a lot can change in three months.

This weekend was the 10km Turkey Trot. Shaun and I were registered and I decided our game plan was a walk run combo as he had not run that far in 2 years since his injury.

Its race day and I let Shaun set the pace, '5 minute run 1 minute walk,' I say, trying to convince him it is a jog, not a sprint. We set off dodging and weaving fellow runners (thank goodness for those agility exercises). 5 minutes into the run and Shaun has set a steady pace and with dignity says "I don't need to walk, let's keep going!" So with no ultimate goal, other then to finish the race, I agree. At this point fitness was not the issue, it was weather his back and knees would hold up. 1 hr and 8 minutes later we crossed the finished line having jogged the whole way around without stopping. I was so proud of him.

Weigh in day of the Nutrition Challenge: Now neither Shaun nor Emma won, as it was based on a cumulation of points. As cheesy as it sounds though, Shaun did win his own challenge. Neither one of them missed a log and Shaun lost the most amount of weight during the 4 weeks out of everyone that entered the challenge at West Vancouver IF.

And so I think, 'that's the end of that, back to reality now,' but I was wrong! Shaun continued to come in to the facility during every day 'off' and always made up sessions that he missed. We even decided to do the Chief Hike as it was one of his goals before he left for England, we unfortunatly had to pull out due to poor weather.

Richard and I continued to 'up' the intensity during each session, challenging him more and more. Shaun proved to be an excellent workout buddy, and I spent many a session working out beside him, while he danced his way through a squat press or reverse lunge bicep curl. Emma called it his midlife crisis music. We even had a few of our own 'Ashes' matches, Australia VS England in cricket with our makeshift half blue foam roller cricket bat!

The 10km Fall Classic was coming up and I challenged Shaun to complee it in under an hour, if he did I would buy him a vivianno from Starbucks, which he had religiously after his workouts at IF. And so one afternoon after his workout I had to buy him his viviano - he did it in 56 minutes. Good on you Shaun, it must have been those new running tights.

3 weeks out from their expected departure date and Shaun is booking extra sessions and Emma is rescheduling every session with me to fit it into their moving plans - Quote 'I can't miss my IF workouts!' Ironperson of December: Shaun Gleeson for his dedication, hard work and commitment.

Next challenge for Shaun was the 5km Santa Shuffle in under 25min! It was a fun event and I dropped a hint that Emma should bring the kids down for the 1km Elf walk. To my surprise, she did, 3 years at IF and this was her first and last event!

Donned with Reindeer antlers, I met the Gleeson's at the start line, we took some photos, complained about the cold weather and Shaun and I were off. Again I said, 'you set the pace.' And at the time I wish I could have taken it back!

So apparently this one was a sprint! It was an icy morning and Shaun sprinted off overtaking the social runners, his technique and form resembled a Kenyan completing a marathon. I grinned and ran along side him, thinking - he won't be able to keep this up. 2.5km into the run and we are still sprinting like we are being chased by the cops. In between breaths I manage to gasp, "your getting fast!" 27 minutes later we crossed the finished line - disappointed but not defeated. We spent too much time at the beginning trying to get past the pack.

As 1 of many send offs, Shaun, Emma, their two children Oliver and Ruby, Kate, Richard, Kati and myself went out to lunch after the Sanata Shuffle and relived their fond memories at IF. A couple of stories that stuck in my head:

Quote: 'After I got home from my first session I cried, I said to Shaun, 'What have I got myself in to?' Now I can't miss a session, I love it. I asked for a medball for Christmas so I can still do my woodchops when I leave.'

Quote: 'I was sceptical, I didn't think I needed another person to push me, my first few sessions I had to go home and have a sleep on the couch!'

Dave, Richard and myself decided that we would make the last few weeks of the Gleeson's IF experience a blast. Dave did an awesome whiteboard workout for Emma which involved traveling around the world, en route to England - rowing to Australia, hiking up Ayres Rock with a backpack, just to name a few. I also had my first cardio core workout with Emma, while Oliver and Ruby played DS and drew in the corner of the facility. I lost count after 180 crunches, but chuckled very loudly when during a 30 second hold of a back extension on the floor, Ruby kindly slid a drawing right under Emma's nose, so that she didn't have to look up. I loved training Emma's cardio core hours, I use to do hours of research for new and challenging core exercises. My favourites were the worm, where your legs and arms are extened, lieing on the floor you must roll yourself from your stomach to your back without using your arms of legs, reverse v-sit on the lat pull down with leg drops (she hated this one) and V-sit kettle bell crunches - I had a killer ab combo for this one!

Emma got her revenge at Train the Trainer. She had written down every exercie I was to do and had all the equipment prepared, all while hollering at Shaun to 'watch the kids!' - who might be asking for a treadmill for Christmas this year! Shaun was much more leaniant, all I had to do was give him a nasty look and he asked, 'are you ok?' - he is much too nice to be a trainer.

By the last two weeks Shaun was dialled in to burning calories. So Rich and I did the 1000kcal challenge. In my attempt to have Shaun burn 100kcal, I worked out with him and had him on the treadmill at the highest level he has ever done... NICE. But I came in short at 987kcal. Not to worry, Rich had a crack at him 2 days later with 1000 and something kcal, nice workout both of them.

It was profiling week and Emma convinced me she didn't need to do it. Actually no... she flat out refused! However I convinced Shaun we should take his girth measurements just for interest sake. He lost over 10lbs in 3 months, and 6 cms from his waist, and after an office medical was told he could come off his blood pressure medication. I was so excited for him, he had worked so hard, there was no better reward.

After what I thought was his last workout with me I gave him the Gleeson Gladiator Gauntlet whiteboard workout. Shaun had to reschedule his last workout with Rich and ended up with me. Unfortunatly the night before was his going away party and Shaun was not up to the slaying I preppared - having to dash to the bathroom on numerous occasions. He left me standing with the dumb bells a few times looking bedazzled because I didn't know where he was.

1. Working out with Shaun and he is spottng me on the chest press and a drop of sweat from his forehead onto my nose..eeww gross!
2. Dave giving Emma thunderclaps for the Santa Shuffle, or slow handclaps as they are known to the Gleeson's - she hates being made a fuss over!
3. Shaun shouting profanities during peak of the hour and sometimes during the warm up if we were lucky!
4. Shaun's dance moves - there is nothing more to say about this...
5. When Emma suggests that the exercises I have chosen are not real, they are made up exercises - how rude!

Leaving Day: The Gleeson powerpoint is showing on the big screen, a poster on the door read 'goodbye Gleeson's, we will miss you,' a card is signed by all the IF coaches, a collage of photos has been printed and framed, and the IF waterbottles and jersey are prepped.

I turned down the music, stood on the small box and declared what a loss for IF it was to lose not 1, but 2 of its most valuable - not customers, but friends. Emma compared finding new trainers, like finding a new hairdresser - which I totally understand, which is why we got along so well. Nowhere else will they find a gym where they yell your name when you arrive. Emma and I both joked that she will arrive at her new training facility and announce in her propper Brittish accent, 'Hello everyone, I am here!' I've also jokingly mentioned to Shaun, that when he is back in Vancouver for business he should come back for a session, he boldy stated that he would like 2 hours in a row!

All was said and done, gifts exchanged, I got through my whole speech without breaking down. It was definatly the team huddle with the 'Lets break on Gleesons in 3... 1, 2, 3, GLEESONS' followed by a round of thunderclaps that did it for me! The tears rolled down my face and with as much dignity and courage as I could muster, I said thank you and goodbye.

Special appreciation to the team at IF West Vancouver for your support. Rich and Dave my co-coaches, Kati for looking after Ruby and Oliver, Justine for giving me the freedom and opportunity to work with the Gleesons, and Josh for your advice.

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