Lessons learned on a treadmill

Image by Alexa Verdugo Morgan, St. George News

FEATURE COLUMN – I learned a very profound and gut-wrenching lesson recently, and it took me a week long to really learn what it meant to me and how it applies personally in my life. How can a brief moment in fitness teach so much about who you are and where your weaknesses lie?

Tiffany Gust training | Photo courtesy of St. George Health and Wellness
Tiffany Gust training | Photo courtesy of St. George Health and Wellness

As part of my Runner Fit class at Intermountain Healthcare’s Sports Performance Training Center, there are several stations each participant rotates through. Two stations are on a treadmill. I have a love-hate relationship with this treadmill.

Recently I had heart surgery and returning to training made me a little nervous. My last station that first day back was the “speed-hill drill” on this treadmill, which was set at a 24 percent incline. To convey the intensity of this, most ordinary treadmills max out at a 15 percent incline. Well, this monster at Sports Performance goes to a massive climb of 40 percent and can reach speeds of 28 miles per hour.

I walked up the platform to perform my first 30 seconds and ran with great form and precision. I jumped off for my recovery and found my heart rate didn’t recover as fast as it did before my heart surgery. Trevor Smith, the exercise physiologist, made me wait until my heart rate dropped into the 150’s before starting my next 30-second set.

I pedaled my foot several times to get a feel for the steep incline, before launching onto the 11.5 mile-per-hour speed demon. Then gracefully I jumped on. No hands on this baby; the arm swing is the only way you can pull off good form and get the maximum benefit. While running, Smith placed his hand just inches away from my back and said, “I got you. Just lean back and get your knees up.”

“Five, four, three, two, one,” he counted, as I jumped off the fast roaring belt.

Gasping for breath, I walked around the room for a moment to see if I could get my heart rate to recover quickly. I had only one more 30-second opportunity to run and then class would be over.

Again, my heart rate didn’t drop as quickly as I had hoped. When it did, I was back on the super speedy hill simulation.

Smith said, “Lean back this time, Tiff. I have you.”

Tiffany Gust training | Photo courtesy of St. George Health and Wellness
Tiffany Gust training | Photo courtesy of St. George Health and Wellness

I leaned back and the very moment my back touched his hand, I blurted out, “I can’t do it.”

I jumped off and by then my time was up and class was over. I didn’t think much about it, until later that day. The thought came: I’ve never said, “I can’t do it.” Ever. Why today? Why would I say that at the exact moment I felt his hand for support?

Well, here are my answers to the hard questions I had to ask myself. Does this have anything to do with my fitness level? Maybe. Most likely not. More than that I believe it has to do with who I am and how I can improve as a human being. I am so independent that I hardly ever rely on others. Is that why I wouldn’t let him help me? Or was it because I have a hard time trusting others, and I was scared to trust him when he said, “I’ve got you?”

I’ve been working towards getting my triathlon coaching certification, and have been studying for my test. One of the things I learned through that study is that as a coach, you teach your athlete to deal with mental toughness. How do you teach the mental game of competing and racing? During my certification class, an instructor said, “Whatever holds people back in life will hold them back as an athlete.” Who knew? This concept came true for me through my treadmill experience.

So, what is holding you back in life? Is it holding you back in your fitness? The lessons learned in the gym can be plugged into the fabric of our lives. In this case, I’m learning to see what is holding me back.  Awareness is key. Once we know and bring consciousness to our training, we can bring that into our lives. Top athletes all over the world are achieving greatness, because they are bringing consciousness to themselves and allowing the opportunities of growth to come from the valuable lessons they are learning during their training.

I challenge you to take notice of your training and your life and find the parallel lessons that will help you move forward, let go, or find your purpose. If you open your heart and mind, the learning will come.

Written by Tiffany Gust for St. George Health and Wellness magazine and St. George News.

An ACE certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor, Gust helps clients from all over the world achieve their goals to become healthier by motivating and encouraging a healthy, active lifestyle. She also currently works as the fitness expert at Life Ethic, Inc. to build custom programming for their weight management offerings. Specializing in kickboxing, Power Pump, water aerobics and spinning, Gust has been in the fitness industry for over 20 years. Currently, she works at The Biggest Loser Resort at Fitness Ridge. She has competed in over 50 triathlons, most recently the 2012 St. George Ironman. As an age division competitor, she qualified for World Nationals in the Olympic division. Gust is a mother of three, and understands the importance of balancing her time and being efficient. She enjoys photography, swimming, cycling, dancing and spending time with her family.

St. George Health and Wellness

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Copyright St. George News, StGeorgeUtah.com Inc. and St. George Health and Wellness magazine, 2013, all rights reserved.

Image by Alexa Verdugo Morgan, St. George News
Image by Alexa Verdugo Morgan, St. George News

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  • Treadmill Review Guru June 4, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    Great story and thanks for sharing. I think it is spot on. We can be our own worst enemy. When I’m on the treadmill I always think to myself “yeah, I should set it faster or at a higher incline, but I don’t think I can do it.” I just have to push a button…or in one instance simply wave my hand (pretty cool tech, not gonna lie). But to take your analogy a step further, sometimes blasting through that mental plateau is as easy as pushing a button. We make it more complicated than that.

    Great article!

  • Luke June 18, 2013 at 3:47 am

    Great story, amazing how everything is interconnected.
    Got to work harded at pushing the boundries

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