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I told myself I wasn't taking new clients...

Helping a Covid Widow gain independence

By Blake A SwanPublished 3 years ago 7 min read
I told myself I wasn't taking new clients...
Photo by William Olivieri on Unsplash

You are a gift to the world... but not everyone will appreciate it.

Not because they don’t recognize its value. People must be compelled to act. Even when you are offering them a chance at a better quality of life. Deprioritizing ourselves to keep the machine going. Losing sight of what keeps us going.

I improved lives. That’s the easiest way to explain working with doctors and therapists to help patients when their insurance stopped. If you were unaware, insurance will only carry you so far. Once you’ve reached the markers for being “healthy”, they will not pay for therapy. That’s where I came in.

NSCA certified physiologist. It’s one of the most influential bodies in the world of performance. Working with sport and tactical athletes. However, the role trains any “body” to do any activity. Taking an ACL patient and transitioning them back to sport without re-injury. Taking a grandmother with a hip replacement and helping her squat down to play with her grandkids. Helping a single father avoid surgery so he could keep working and provide for his girls. That’s priceless.

All I wanted to do was help people get back to doing what they loved

Another cog in the machine. Except this cog was often an afterthought. The extra pieces of the IKEA furniture set. Everyone knows those pieces are important, but we can make it work without them. Thus, with the pandemic, I was a leftover piece.

Something the machine could function without

Perhaps, in my eagerness to help people, I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings. Making grand statements about my accolades was never a priority. The clients understood the impact. However, that’s the way the game is played.

There was no sign of my part of the business. Didn’t even have a website or an accurate brochure. Clients couldn’t even sign-up and pay for my services. With a medical facility, if there was an error, they would bill clients that had already paid. Clients could be added to my schedule, even when I had clients scheduled, if another department needed my services.

Instead of complaining, I put my head down and worked... in difficult conditions

Leaving my house at 6am and home at 8pm. Traveling from site to site. I didn’t even complain when I was asked to move equipment from one site to another and the vehicle provided had faulty breaks.

Fortunately, I could divert the vehicle from entering a busy intersection, dodging cars and buildings, until I jammed through the gears to put it into park. At least my boss apologized after. Found a new truck that was always available and sent us on our way.

My department was lost to the pandemic. Most gyms shut down, and it wasn’t something to take personally. It allowed me to become more selective with clients.

Why work with people who didn’t want to invest in themselves?

It’s easy to work with athletes. They are easily motivated and understand the value of professional coaching. Plus, training outdoors was the best option. Low barrier to entry for a coach on his own.

The clients that found excuses or were unreliable I could avoid. My sessions became strict and if you weren’t ready, you missed the boat. There was freedom in this mindset. Never again would I take the “difficult” client.

Jaded, several opportunities came and went.

Doctors I worked with wanted to refer me to clients. Which resulted in consultations and nothing more. It wasn’t my job to take care of them anymore. As a courtesy, send them in the right direction and hope they figure it out. I was done going above and beyond for everyone else. My circle was closed.

Until Mo called

Mo was a therapist where I used to work. With his own space, he was offering a personal touch with his treatment. When we worked together, it was the best of both worlds. His patients could ask me questions and I would create programs to cover areas beyond his expertise. My patients could ask questions and get examined for injury/pain issues that went beyond my scope of practice. A professional I trusted.

He told me he had a patient that wanted to meet with me. She was having a hard time progressing with therapy. If it could help Mo out, I was going to be there.

The Plan: Discover the problem and move on

The consultation started... late. The patient was late, it apparently was the norm. To leave would mean waiting a few weeks when everyone’s schedule aligned. Nothing else to do but wait.

When she finally arrived, she was a sweet old lady. We connected over growing up in Michigan. Discovered that she had hip surgery after an incident with her dog. An incident that occurred after she lost her husband in the pandemic. It’s doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know there are increased rates of mortality with hip surgeries later in life.

At the end of our consultation, there was hope. She felt she had been heard, and I had created a roadmap for her to follow. Language used to communicate with doctors and therapists. The type of professional that could help her cause.

Then she asked if I could train her

Meaning, could I adjust my schedule. Was I willing to accept a client and visit them in their house? The jaded sides of me said let it go. She was late for the first appointment. I’d have to make concessions to train her. Didn’t even know how I would get paid because she was using insurance and I don’t take insurance. A million reasons to say no... but here’s why I said yes.

People go into health and wellness to help others. Improving their quality of life. When you’re young, everyone wants to work with the high functioning athletes. The freaks that are special before you even got to train them. However, as you get older, you realize the significant impact you can have on an adult. Here, a grandmother that had lost her husband and lived by herself with her dog.

The problem? She didn’t move correctly. Odds are, you don’t either

Like most of the people reading this post, you may experience aches and pains. It may surprise you to hear this, but you aren’t supposed to. A professional can hear your complaints and start looking for a solution. That’s what I did.

After assessing her movement, we discovered she wasn’t using her muscles to move. Which was exacerbating her issues at the knee and limiting her recovery at the hip. It was the true culprit behind her issues with recovery. She had been to several physical therapists before finally getting to Mo. At each facility, she was going through the motions with no connection to her body.

Over the next two months, we made tremendous progress. Just one session a week. My goal was to get her started on the right path. After month one, we stopped getting pain in the knee. Month two, we corrected the hip, and she could climb stairs without pain.

Then, winter came

One downside of training outdoors is your training becomes seasonal. One downside to being successful with athletes is that in college, they have their own strength coach training them to meet the demands of the team. I was going to have to get a job to supplement my income.

The time would not line up with her schedule. She had given me the means to charge her insurance, but she didn’t know I refused to. Insurance has limits on visits allowed. Even worse, if I were to charge and it is not covered would leave her with a hefty bill. A few smiles and nods typically got me through that part of the conversation.

Our last session came a week ago. Got to meet her children and their dogs. Bond over the pain of being a Detroit Lions fan. We discussed the plan. My schedule was going to change after the holidays, but she was ready to start therapy. A new year, extra sessions, and at last a connection to her body that would allow her to benefit from therapy.

She has the knowledge and the language to express what she’s feeling

I promised to be available regardless of what route she takes. A reference to solve problems she may encounter but reminding her to be confident she has all the information she needs.

I left. Perhaps for the last time. Two months of work meant a lot to her. It wasn’t just a workout. It meant freedom. Freedom to travel around her house, walk the dog, enjoy vacations with her family. Despite my situation, I couldn’t help but be satisfied.

Over a year, I had been denying new clients. Giving parts of myself out of the pain of the past. That mindset turned me into the person I was lamenting. Refusing to change and do what’s best for me. Taking care of others gave me purpose. Made me happy. All that time, avoiding it was only hurting me. I had deprioritized my own needs because the world didn’t value them. How was I any different from the people I judged?

Life will surprise you

Giving you exactly what you need even when you don’t think you need it. For me, it was a lesson. My passion was never the problem. Helping people may not have been valued by everyone. However, it was valued by the people that needed my help.

Turning away from it didn’t help anyone. Only made me more cynical and less useful.

Clients that were turned away were opportunities to get back to doing what I loved. Now that I’ve taken that step, there’s no going back. Work, time constraints, transportation may not be in my favor for now. Opportunities will come and now, I won’t deprioritize myself when they do.

By Tim Mossholder on Unsplash


About the Creator

Blake A Swan

NCSA Strength and Conditioning Professional certified as a CSCS, TSAC-F, and CPT. I have my FMS Certification as well, and spent over a decade working with athletes in various sports. Including youth, high school, college, Olympic and Pro.

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    Blake A SwanWritten by Blake A Swan

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