As any Wellness Coach is well aware, life consistently brings speed bumps to our (and of course our clients’) pursuits. These are things that slow us down and have the potential to send us off course.  But what happens when, instead of speed bump, you hit a goose bump?

A goose bump? Is that in the Wellness Coach handbook? It wasn’t – but we’re considering adding it.  And no – we’re not talking about the little bumps that appear on your skin when you’re excited or frightened. This is a singular, life-impacting event – a goose bump.  Allow me to explain…

Six months ago, a friend of mine (Jerry Schemmel – you may recognize him as the voice of the Colorado Rockies baseball team) asked me to team up with him to compete in the 2015 Race Across America (RAAM).  This is a 3,000+ mile race where one of the two of us is riding 24/7. Our goal was to finish in under 7 days and raise money in the process to help build an orphanage in Haiti for some special needs kids (please see for details) in the process.  Frankly, the months of training were going superbly.  As a triathlete, I’d never ridden over 140 miles. But as part of the RAAM prep, there were training days that extended 14 hours at race pace or above, and weekends with over 350 miles of riding built in. With the training focused specifically on cycling (vs swim/bike/run), the progress was encouraging.  At age 49, the body responded well, and everything from Functional Threshold Power (FTP) levels to personal course PRs were improving almost weekly. The road was smooth, and the tailwinds were kicking in.

Then came the goose bump.

On Wednesday morning, May 6th, I was out early on a favorite course, doing 3 x 10 mile time trial efforts.  At the .88 mile mark of interval #3, traveling at a speed of 31 mph in aero position (thanks GPS for the details), a goose took off, ramming my bike and crashing me to the ground.  Things didn’t turn out very good for either of us.  I don’t remember exactly what happened, as I blacked out but the results weren’t fun: Concussion, 4 broken ribs, broken clavicle and 10 stitches between my skull and hand.  As bad as it sounds, I was so very thankful it wasn’t worse. No spinal injury. No head injury. Traveling at that speed in that position and only a few broken bones. Disappointed? Sure. Thoughts that the pursuit of RAAM had hit a wall? Definitely. But still very thankful.

Surgery on the clavicle the next night went well and 3 days post surgery, I was able to get back on the bike.  This goose bump had been painful but everything was going to be just fine.  Back to training and 5 wks to go until RAAM.  Not optimal, but no worries, right?

And then came the 2nd goose bump.

After the initial 4 days of riding post-surgical, I put in a long day on the trainer (14 hours). Everything was fine during the ride, but that evening and the next morning, something wasn’t “right” with my hip. Our team Doc took a look and suggested an MRI, and the results were tough to hear: multiple fractures in the superior and inferior rami as well as the acetabulum (translation – hip/pelvis area).  I was crushed. Months of training, of devoting practically every waking, non-working hour to sitting on the bike down the drain. But even more significantly, what would this mean for Jerry? How would it impact the plans for a documentary of the event? And what about our unbelieveable crew that had prepped for the big week ahead? I’ve had to pull out of plenty of events over the years due to injuries, but this time it wasn’t just me – the decision influenced so many others. How could this happen?!? Why???

Fortunately, I wasn’t on an island. I was encouraged me to have the situation examined further. I certainly didn’t want to risk the next few decades of competition for one event, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask the experts.  3 days later, the opinion of two different surgeons confirmed that, barring any sharp pains, I was cleared to return to training for RAAM with no concerns of future damage thanks to the location (and non-displacement) of the fractures.

As of this writing, I’m cautiously optimistic, and if a planned 8 hr ride goes well in the coming days, the “All In” feeling will return.

So what does this have to do with wellness coaching? Besides offering a story with extra twists and turns that may someday offer a good story for the grandkids, how does this help you, as a wellness coach, more effectively meet the needs of your clients? There are many wellness coaching lessons contained above. I’ll provide a brief overview of 3 here:

  1. Perspective is invaluable:  One of the greatest gifts you provide to your clients as a wellness coach is perspective. When the goose bump hits, your client can’t see the bigger picture. You – through the questions you ask and the discussion that ensues – can help provide that. My only perspective was that everything hurt – and everything was ruined. It took others to help me move beyond that feeling. Your clients have pain that often goes beyond a broken bone (or 7).  Perspective takes the broader view. That means the broader perspective can go a long way in helping her get to the finish line (or at least the starting line).
  2. It’s not about you: The Doc who originally saw me for the hip issue is one of the best Docs I know (and as a Physical Therapist for 25 yrs, I know quite a few). Yet he knew what he didn’t know. In spite of his super powers as a Doc, he lacks X-ray vision so he sent me for an MRI. Once those results were available, he then suggested we get the advice of an Orthopedic Surgeon in terms of the plan. The Orthopedic Surgeon then pulled in a Trauma Surgeon to get a 3rd opinion.  As a Wellness Coach, you have a great deal of knowledge. However, don’t ever hesitate to refer a client to a specialist when the situation warrants. It’s about the success of your client – not you. And the more that focus remains your focus, the more successful you will become as a Wellness Coach over the long term.
  3. Hope changes everything: There’s a great song with that title, and remembering this fact will enhance your wellness coaching outcomes consistently. This doesn’t mean to take on a “Pollyanna” approach with your clients.  We must deal with reality. However, even a little spark of hope can positively impact your client’s mindset, and thus enhance the results. There were 14 days between the crash and the final “go forward,” and it came to a close a month prior to RAAM. Without hope, it would have been very easy to let the nutrition plan fade, give up on trying to ride, etc. That 14 days could have brought with it 5-7 extra pounds (easily) and a significant deterioration of fitness, both of which could have ruined any chance of a successful race. Instead, the hope provided by family, friends and the Physicians kept me on track just in case – and in this case, things eventually appear to have turned in a positive direction.

So the next time you or one of your wellness coaching clients hits a goose bump, maybe this will help provide a little extra wind beneath your wings 🙂

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