How to Train When You're a Caboose

 

You were the last one picked for the team.  There was an audible groan when you were the last one left and the other team HAD to pick you.  If someone selected words to describe you, they'd say sweet, funny, smart, or kind, but never strong, athletic, or fast.  But you were content being the friend, the confidant, and the student.  Being an athlete never even crossed your mind.  You were always last.  You were the caboose.

At age 12, I was 5'7" and 135 pounds.  I wasn't obese, or even overweight. But I was hardly the one of the popular diminutive waifs that wore tight-rolled skinny jeans and Hypercolor t-shirts.  By some strange circumstance, I somehow got talked into playing basketball and track & field.  It was a small town.  No tryouts required.  If you expressed interest, you were on the team and they would find a place for you.  

During basketball games, the place they found for me was on the bench. 

During track meets, the place they found for me was shotput.

No girl, and I mean NO GIRL, wants to be the one who is 'sturdy' enough to do shotput.  I'd talked my parents into buying me some expensive Asics so I could run the 800 meter.  I didn't even know it was called the '800 meter'.  I just knew it was two laps. I was a terrible runner and apparently showed no promise of improvement, because I was soon moved to shotput a few days before our track meet.  I had never even practiced shotput, but I guess they thought I would naturally be good at it because of my build.  But alas, I was also a terrible shotputter, and when school ended that year and we moved out of state, my days of school athletics were dead. 

Fast forward twenty years.  Same height, same weight, vastly different physique.

The girl who couldn't do a single push-up can now do dozens without stopping.  I am strong.  I'm not a caboose anymore.  I'm still a terrible distance runner, but as it turns out, I'm a pretty decent sprinter!  My husband and I take our three children with us to the track as often as we can, and our oldest daughter, age 6, even sprints with us!  When it's been too long, they request to go.  I'm proud that we're setting a positive example for our children, as well as for other women who don't have an athletic background.  It's never too late to start. 

If you're a caboose, here is my advice:

  1. Start Slowly.  Don't change everything at once.  If you do, you're setting yourself up for failure.  Start with the easiest change you want to make. Something where you think, "Well, duh, of course I can do that. That's easy!".  After you master that one, try something a little harder.
  2. Read, read, read.  It can be confusing and overwhelming at first, but the dust will start to settle and you'll start to see commonalities in most major articles or books.  Getting fit and healthy doesn't have to be complicated or difficult or expensive.  There are countless free resources available at your fingertips. 
  3. Ask questions.  Lots of them.  Find a reputable person who's willing to help.  And then, I can't stress this enough, FOLLOW THEIR ADVICE! 

Most of all, never, never, never give up. Before you know it, you won't be a caboose anymore.  You'll be The Little Engine That Could.

 

Rachel Flint

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