We can all agree that life throws us curveballs from all angles; a lot of the times, at times that are inconvenient for us. Just when we become consistent with our regimen and are heading in the right direction with our health and wellness goals, or any goals we have in general, we hit a wall.
The wall may be a short one that can be bound in one jump or could be a little higher and requires some climbing. Fortunately for you, you’ve learned how to jump and you learned how to climb…but what about when the wall is so high that it physically puts you on your back, staring up at it, almost feeling defeated?
I guess its cliché to say, “Dust yourself off and pick yourself up and try again!” Yes, that’s the spirit! Despite the dirt that comes with it, you can get over that wall. If you don’t believe me, let me introduce you to Virginie Dame. I had the opportunity to interview her and boy oh boy – talk about having a “no quit” attitude!
Name: Virginie Malka Dame
Occupation: student in kinesiology and personal trainer
Professional since: 2012
Sports/training background (what sports have you played in the past or present; how long have you been a fitness professional, etc.):
Soccer intercity AA (16 years), gymnastics (12 years), Latin Dance (8 years) and training in a gym for 6 years now
Why did you become a trainer?
I’ve always been an active girl since I was young, as I come from an active family (both parents are former athletes; sibling an athlete). When I started working out in a gym at the age of 15, I was training with my brother. At first, I hated it; it was so hard and so intense, and I wanted to quit. My brother pushed me and motivated me to keep on going. Once I saw how much I could do and how strong I actually was, I got addicted to the feeling and that’s when my passion for training was born. I then told myself, if my brother can motivate me and help me feel better in my own skin, I could do the same for others. That’s when I decided to study to become a trainer.
What about fitness motivates you?
The way I feel after a workout – I feel so good! Training relieves my stress and when I am upset, training helps me to focus on myself and helps to clear my mind. It does not only help on a physical level but mentally as well. I feel stronger and it’s an empowering feeling to lift weights.
How do you help your clients to stay motivated despite the challenges and obstacles that may interfere with their progress?
I set small challenges with my clients. If a client hits a plateau and hasn’t lost weight in a couple of weeks, I try to focus on a different objective, for example, being able to do 15 push-ups or 1500m of rowing, etc. I set different challenges every week, so they can push themselves and still be proud and happy about reaching that small challenge.
I try to set really short-term goals (1 month) and short-term objectives (3 months). For example, lose 4lbs in a month and then 15lbs in 3 months because the client is leaving on vacation. I make sure the client is the one who sets his own objectives and that he signs the paper where the objectives are written. That way they are committed to it.
In 2013, you faced a rather large “wall” early on. What was it and how was it discovered?
At the age of 19, I had really bad migraines and I was vomiting all the time and at one point, I couldn’t feel my right arm and right leg. I had these symptoms for 3 months before the doctors finally figured out what was going on. I did a CT scan and that’s when they found out I had something on my brain. That’s when they sent me to McGill Neurological center to do an MRI. And on June 17, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Fortunately, I had surgery in the summer after my semester was completed and was cancer-free.
Clearly, this was a huge life-threatening test! How did you handle it? How did you manage to overcome it?
I tried to see it as a learning and growing experience. I figured I can either be miserable or I can think positive and grow out of this. Yes, at first I was shocked, sad, and I thought many times, “Why me? What did I do to deserve this?” Then my mom told me one thing I will always remember. She told me that I was, yes, unlucky, but that God knew I was strong enough to handle it and that I would make it through (and I am not religious at all). Those words hit me! She told me “be strong” (which his the tattoo I have on my wrist that I got when my parents got divorced). I made the decision to be positive and to see the good part of it. I was young, healthy and strong enough. I was thinking of all the things I could do after my surgery, since I wouldn’t be sick anymore (I stopped training, doing yoga, going out with friends because of my migraines and the vomiting). I was at the hospital for 6 days before getting surgery and I was watching videos of Gad Elmaleh (a Moroccan Jew comedian), which I used to watch with my dad and my brother often. It made me laugh and not think about my surgery that was coming. I was lucky enough to have my family there every single day and my friends were visiting often. Their support and their presence would help me think about other things and not focus on my surgery.
How have you used your challenge to be an inspiration or motivator for your clients? Most importantly, how have you used it for yourself?
The doctors told me that if I hadn’t have been in good shape, I would of probably been dead a week later. I consider myself lucky and blessed. My surgeon told me my convalescence period would be of 8 weeks, and after 6 weeks, I was back at the gym training under the supervision of a kinesiologist. I tell my clients that health is everything! I tell them that if I was able to go back to the gym, after a brain surgery, and only after 6 weeks, they can do anything. When my clients tell me they can’t do it because something hurts, I tell them it’s all mental. Anything is possible if they stop being scared.
When I workout, and feel like quitting, I tell myself that I’m strong enough to do anything; it’s a mental game. I also know that we cannot take anything for granted in life. That is why you need to care of yourself and your health. You cannot train to look “fit”, hot or pretty; you train to feel good (in your body and in your head), to feel better and surpass yourself.
What do you do now to ensure that you’re happy and healthy?
I now train 6 times a week, not to look a certain way but to make sure I feel good in my head and relaxed. Yes I do watch what I eat, but I do allow myself to have a cheat day once a week. If I want a beer with friends, I have one; if I want to have a piece of cake for a friend’s birthday, I do. I do things that make me happy, like go out with friends, watch a good movie or workout! Because yes working out makes me happy, that’s why I am a trainer.
What would be the top three tips that you would give to our audience to help them stay motivated despite challenges, big or small:
1) It’s not your body giving out, it’s your head that’s giving up. So keep pushing and keep going!
2) You have to cultivate a winning attitude by focusing on the times you’ve been successful.
3) Focus on the small wins…
And my favorite quote that I tell my clients – “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great!” – Zig Ziglar
So there it is – a BIG wall, almost insurmountable. Looked impossible to clear…and she did it. She made it happen and she did not quit. She did not allow the wall to defeat her, but she stepped back, examined the height, and began to climb one step at a time. As a result, she is motivated and driven to keep going while motivating others to do the same.
April is Motivation Month FITTFans. Let’s take advantage of it and be driven to not give up, even when it hurts.
Until next time…
Trainer Profile: Kareem Rawlins
Experience Personal Training – 5 years | Nutrition Counseling – 3 years | Group Fitness – 3 years