Rich Rowland changed the shape of my body – and my life.
Way before I met Rich, I was a fat kid. Not just your standard ‘cute but chubby’ kind of fat, I was childhood obesity fat. I remember the day in High School when my gym teacher first told me what obesity was: a body fat percentage over 30%. Mine was 35.
A little before I met Rich, I decided to get in shape. Somewhere between college and my first job, I realized that part of being independent was taking care of myself - plus, I wanted to land a guy. I joined a gym (then another, then another… ), I experimented with diets and tried my best to live by every tip I ever read in a women’s fitness magazine. Little by little, the weight started coming off.
One day while at the gym, I met my very first trainer (not Rich) who introduced himself to me and told me all the reasons why I should work out with him. I bought in. He “trained” me in the sense that we met, and he gave me workouts to do. But he also paid more attention to his cell phone and to his friends at the gym than he did to me. I didn’t know any better, and at least I was getting a workout. But when I decided I wanted to train for my first half marathon, this trainer told me it would be a breeze – all I had to do was add one mile a day. I thought I’d be running a race in no time.
But… about two weeks later, after running my first 10-mile run (on a treadmill!) something felt wrong. I had a sharp pain in my right hip, and I could barely walk. Turns out, I had progressed too quickly and my body couldn’t keep up. I tore my hip cartilage in two places. Doctors told me I needed surgery to fix the injury and that it would never heal itself (it won’t). But, there was hope to stabilize it if only I could strengthen the muscles in my hips and legs to keep everything “in place.”
With that goal in mind, I went looking for a new trainer. At this point, I only knew Rich as “that super beefy intimidating guy at the gym.” I was jaded and skeptical, but a close friend trained with Rich and was always gushing about him. In the context of group training, I decided to give him a shot.
Flash forward a couple of months and one group session per week turned into two. And then I added one-on-ones whenever I could. It didn’t take long for me to see what personal training should be like. It started with being personal: Rich cared about my goals (losing weight, #1, and fixing my hip, #2). I saw progress pretty quickly, and before I knew it I was able to run again. I feel extremely lucky to have been able to strength train with Rich to a point where not only did I not need the surgery, but I have become an accomplished runner despite my injury. I am proud to say I have run five marathons (and countless halves) – all of them WITH my torn cartilage.
I think I was able to achieve this because Rich made training fun: in our groups, he changed things up to keep us on our toes, and always accommodated when we had special requests (whether they were for music or moves). Some of our routines were as much “field day” as they were functional fitness. And he was ALWAYS on top of the latest and greatest trends, news and education as it related to his job. It is his personal and perpetual mission to better himself in the name of his clients.
He also himself available to answer questions or help me out whenever he could (not just when we were ‘on the clock’). He often spent extra time showing me stretches, reviewing my food diary, and carefully measuring and tracking my progress. He was always there when I needed someone to talk to – a reality check when I was being too hard on myself, and a kick in the ass when I was being too easy. He was even there for me during important life events – charity fundraisers I organized to support my race teams, celebrations for finishing those races; he even came to one of my rather epic birthday parties (and didn’t judge me for stuffing my face full of cake).
With him, personal training also meant personal connection, personal support system, and the personal push I needed to get into the best shape of my life. Rich gave me the right balance of “tough love” and camaraderie to not only hit my initial goals but to continue to set (and reach) new ones. Far from my days of being obese, I eventually surpassed the “normal” body weight percentage and eventually landed in the “athlete” category – me! The fat kid, an “athlete”!