Joe Asch was persistent. I arrived in Hanover in September of 2013. Because I worked at Dartmouth, and because Joe Asch was interested in all things Dartmouth, I met Joe. I came to the Upper Valley with my wife Gretchen and we both commented on how many active and fit people there were in the area at all age levels. I was pretty sure that wasn’t me. Instead, I learned about all the great local food from the aged Vermont Chevre that Joe so favored, to Muriel’s donuts deep fried in beef lard. So, I came to the Upper Valley as a large guy, and became larger. Joe noticed, and gently prodded, “You should try training” or “I can help you find the perfect trainer.” I successfully ducked those entreaties for a year or more. Then, in the spring of 2015 I fell from a stool and strained my back and broke a rib. As I recovered, Joe insisted that we have lunch. There was one agenda at lunch, Joe was getting me into training and ducking wasn’t going to work. He made an appointment for me with Chris Acker at RVC for an assessment. Some guy named Jake Adams was going to call me to set up training. Joe’s parting words from lunch were, “You won’t live any longer, but your last decade will be a hell of a lot more enjoyable.”
I went through the assessment – not fun (because of what it documented for me in a way I didn’t want to admit) but I was treated with respect and Chris assured me that I would make lots of progress. Next, I met Jake – he was pretty much exactly what I was worried about – an incredibly fit guy who must think I was a hopeless case. That could not have been further from truth. Well, it was true that Jake was fit but he never made me feel hopeless – instead he embodied support, encouragement and a total lack of judgment of me or my fitness level. Jake just wanted to help me improve my fitness level and have fun while doing it. At the start I dreaded my sessions, but I went. I didn’t want to let Joe or Jake down. I also started to meet other incredibly nice folks training at RVC as both trainers and clients.
Weeks and then months went by and I was making real progress. I bought new, smaller, clothes. A little later I bought even smaller clothes. I still didn’t look forward to training, but I really liked it when I was done – and that kept me going. Then Jake took me down to the CrossFit room – it was utterly intimidating on the first visit. But I loved it. Weightlifting was so concrete, so fundamental, so all consuming. The conditioning work was hard, but I could see new progress. Jake had to teach me to breathe. I had setbacks and Jake would adjust, I would try to take it easy or stop short and Jake would push – and I realized I was having a blast.
I convinced my wife Gretchen to come try training with us (she had been doing some training elsewhere but to support me she joined me). As much fun as it was alone, it was suddenly much more fun and much more competitive with the two of us. Yes, Gretchen is very competitive. And Jake managed to somehow integrate a training regime for the two of us that pushes us both – and is ridiculously fun. Now we train together with Jake three times a week and it is an amazing way to start our days together. Somehow, Jake never has us doing the same things. He manages to encourage and support us while also pushing us to go well beyond what we thought we were able to do. Training has changed our lives and is the best investment we have ever made.
I have lost thirty pounds and eight inches from my waist. Gretchen and I are able to do things we couldn’t do when we were fifteen or twenty years younger. And Joe was sort of right – I am quite sure our last decade of life will be more fun – but this decade of life is more fun too.
Rick Mills (Executive Vice President, Dartmouth College)