Spring 2015 I remember looking at the GMB website and saying to my partner at the time – this is going to be my next project. I want to be one of the GMB trainers. I felt I had a ways to go before I would possibly be accepted to the apprenticeship, so I left it for the moment.
Background: I have been a performer and teacher of circus arts since 2004, focusing mostly on handstands, partner acrobatics, tumbling and trapeze. I also work at as Personal Trainer. I have felt frustrated by the teaching I’ve received in the circus world. I have never felt like I’ve been given any real answers about how to achieve skills. There have not been many progressions that have worked for me to achieve new skills. I feel like I fell somewhere in the realm of mediocre in all of my areas. I still enjoyed what I was doing and mostly I enjoyed the training process. But I was always suffering from injuries. Mostly in my neck and shoulders. I have always wanted to mesh the progressive approach of gym exercises that I learned through personal training – with my circus training.
Fast forward to fall of 2015, a fellow GMB trainer friend of mine suggested I apply for the GMB apprenticeship. I was resistant because I felt like I didn’t have enough skill. I wasn’t strong enough or flexible enough to learn the skills I saw other GMB trainers doing on Instagram. My friend reassured me and urged me to at least apply. I did. And I was thrilled to be accepted to the round that started in February 2016.
I had just finished an intense training period for a lifting certification that demanded a high volume of heavy weight. I knew my mobility was worse than ever and I was only strong in certain movements, very weak in others. I started working with the GMB Focused Flexibility and Elements programs to keep moving and try to start getting my body back on track for another type of training (one that is way more familiar to my body). Those two programs did start to bring me back slowly. However, I pushed forward too hard with my assessment movements at the beginning of the apprenticeship and injury occurred around my cervical spine and left shoulder. I felt like I had waited a whole year to do this kind of work with GMB and now I couldn’t even lift my arm overhead or turn my head in either direction without intense pain.
I struggled with telling Ryan and Kirsty, the apprenticeship coaches, how bad my injury was. I didn’t want them to be upset with me for pushing too hard. I didn’t want them to think I was too weak. I didn’t want to lose this very coveted apprenticeship spot. I modified exercises for a few weeks and then I received a direct email from Ryan. He asked if I wanted to pull out of the apprenticeship to deal with my injury and rejoin in the next round. I cried. Here was the face of GMB – the guy everyone wants to have time with – emailing me directly to offer his support and express his care as a coach. He didn’t ask me to pay for the apprenticeship a 2nd time, even though they lost a paid slot in that apprenticeship. He simply asked me to wait and take care of myself.
I have done numerous certifications and most companies don’t give a crap about each individual student. They are focused on making money, pushing their brand and maybe teaching a few things in a weekend, offering little to no support after the weekend is over. Since this has typically been my experience with certifications, receiving Ryan’s email was surprising and made me understand that this was a typical certification course. I was embarking on an actual certification that could be THE certification in my career – the game changer.
I graciously accepted Ryan’s offer to postpone my apprenticeship. I spent the next 3 months in serious rehab for my injury. PT twice a week, massages, cranio sacral and Feldenkrais work. It was quite the journey. I learned a ton about my body and where my bigger restrictions were. May 1st was the start date for the next apprenticeship round and the week before I still had barely done a downward dog, much less a handstand. I had been off my upper body completely for 3 months. I was a complete mess thinking about having to start the rigorous workouts the apprenticeship entailed. I was scared of reinury and even more scared of “wasting” my time in a training I wasn’t physically ready for.
I sent Ryan a panic email. His trust in the process never waivered (at least in his communication to me). He reassured me that we would take it slow and this might actually be the next step in recovery that I needed. We started with all of the foundational attribute programs that work specifically on building strength, flexibility and motor control (Elements, Integral Strength, Vitamin and Focused Flexibility) – all of which I was sorely lacking from months of time off in pain. While it was a lot of work, I kept to the most basic, baby progressions of each exercise. I could only stay in a downward dog about 15 sec. I could barely hang from a pull-up bar for 10 sec. My handstands were bent-legged kicks – no holding and definitely no attempts at balancing.
It was emotionally very hard for me as well. I had to watch my colleagues work on more advanced progressions that 6 months prior I could have been doing too. I wanted to be where they were. I wanted to be doing to the sexy, harder skills. Ryan and Kirsty kept reminding me to stay aware of what I was doing – really FEEL what was happening to me physically – to stay in my body and on my course. Mindfulness is something I have a lot of experience with in other areas of my life – meditation, teaching, but not my own training. Ryan had me do an exercise in which I had to write in my training log every single thing I felt when I did each exercise of that day’s workout. This opened a whole new door in my training. Instead of just going through a workout and getting the tasks done, I had a different relationship with what I was doing. I feel like from that point on I began to excel again because I worked at where I needed to each day. I stopped looking at the others and comparing myself. And I realized how much was changing. Within 4 weeks I was working on pull-up holds, full pushups, and starting to balance again on my hands. I could sit in a full squat again without feeling like I would fall over. My backbend no longer looked like a table top. Shit was happening!!!
Even though it didn’t feel like it at the time, the GMB apprenticeship was exactly what I needed. I had the opportunity to start at ground zero again and build my physical autonomy back. After those 3 months I was stronger, more flexible and had more control over my body than ever before. I also did not relapse with my injury at all and I feel I’m now set up to stay more injury free as I move forward with more intense skill building – I’m working on Rings 1 currently.
The GMB model offers a progressive approach to bodyweight training. I feel like I can do skills now as a result of doing GMB for 6 months, than I struggled with for years in the circus world. Not only is the GMB apprenticeship a 3 month program, with direct coaching support daily, but they provide support long after you become a trainer. The GMB online community is very active and offers training and teaching feedback and guidance. Not to mention these trainers and coaches are hilarious, silly, and some of the kindest people I’ve worked with.
If you want to commit yourself to really learning body weight training, how to practice mindful training, and how to teach it, this is the course for you. I cannot speak more highly of these coaches, the programs and the process. GMB changed my relationship with my training and my body. GMB changed my attitude about how I want to live my life – with mindfulness and intension. And to all the women reading this, apply. You have the enough skill. I promise.