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How to Train When You're a Caboose

By. Rachel Flint

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. When people described you, they'd use sweet, funny, or smart, 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 weighed 135 pounds. I wasn't obese, or even overweight. But I was hardly one of the popular diminutive waifs that wore tight-rolled skinny jeans and Hypercolor t-shirts. By some strange circumstance, I got talked into playing basketball and doing 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 shot-put.

No girl, and I mean NO GIRL, wants to be the one who is 'sturdy' enough to do shot-put. I'd talked my parents into buying me some expensive Asics running shoes 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 shot-put 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, I thought my days of athleticism were over.

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 am 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 we haven’t gone for a while, they even ask 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, 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…and DOES.


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