When Sydnee started with me a few months ago, I really had no idea what to expect from her. Her mom, Debra, has known me for about as long as I’ve had my business and while we have always stayed connected via social media we rarely crossed paths over the years.
So, it was a pleasant surprise when Debra reached out to me to explain the challenges Sydnee was trying to overcome.
Sydnee is 12 years old and is active in gymnastics. She is, by my account, a smaller framed young lady, very quiet and reserved until she gets to know you. In my case, she’s still somewhat quiet and reserved but that is slowly changing.
However, my definition of smaller framed and the definition given by her gymnastics coaches must vary wildly. Sydnee is outgrowing the other girls in her class. At a mere 107 pounds, Sydnee is reaching a point where her body is ready to mature but her gym mates are well behind her.
When it comes to all of the bar work required to advance at gymnastics, Sydnee has been struggling. The pull-ups, muscle-ups, and toes-to-bar exercises have all become vastly more difficult.
And when Debra reached out to me, these were the bulk of the issues they were hoping I could fix. Debra said, in no uncertain terms, that the coaches weren’t exactly nice in their criticisms either. It’s my understanding that’s it not uncommon for Sydnee’s fellow gymnasts to cry during their sessions either because their bodies cannot perform the exercises or the coaches are completely unforgiving, perhaps both.
This is where the touchy part comes to play. Debra asks me, “But she shouldn’t be dieting should she?” “No” I said, “Absolutely not. There’s nothing wrong with Sydnee’s weight.”
And as a coach, these situations infuriate me. Historically, I haven’t worked with a ton of youth athletes. I’m very cognizant of what it was like for me when I was that age and having a build and a skillset that didn’t lend itself to great performance at sports.
But to see Sydnee, someone who is obviously shy and not in control of how and when her body would grow, I sure as hell wasn’t going to give her that experience at our studio.
I said to Debra and her husband, Dan, “I’m not sure if I can help. This is a new situation for me to to work with. But I will do what I can to get Sydnee stronger and more confident in what her body is capable of. If we’re not seeing progress, the data will speak for itself and I may have to outsource her to someone else.”
So, the relationship started there. Due to Sydnee’s schedule, she would typically come in to the studio during peak times and while there weren’t other children here her age at that time, she has continued to walk in to see a room full of people with a similar goal: to get better than they were when they walked in.
As with a lot of our clients, she’s had her time in the trapbar: a piece of equipment that you have definitely seen a lot of if you follow my posts. The first day she tried it, she was able to pull her bodyweight successfully without any hesitation. That was promising.
And we’ve tried a lot of other things too. We continue to train her whole body: legs, back, chest, shoulders, core, etc. Little by little, Debra has said that some things are improving in gymnastics although it has not been at the rate that I think anyone had hoped. So, little by little, we keep doing what we can to get Sydnee stronger and more capable.
She is not disappointing.
One day, Debra and I watched as Sydnee continued to pull more and more weight in the trapbar. I kept asking her, “How does that feel?”
Sydnee, in typical quiet fashion, would just shrug her shoulders and say “Fine.”
“Want to try a bit more weight?” I’d ask.
Another shrug of the shoulders.
“Does the weight feel easy?” I’d continue.
Sydnee’s head would nod. Debra and I would look at each other as if to say “Well, if it’s easy let’s bump it up.”
And we have.
If you read my article from a few weeks ago, Ladies Of Iron, I have already tipped my hat to how things have progressed.
One measuring stick for a traplift or deadlift is to see if someone is strong enough to pull double their bodyweight. The power and focus required to do so is not easy. It takes time to get there and you generally can’t accomplish it by accident. For some, depending on their starting bodyweight, it can take a year or so just to keep pushing the needle forward.
And last week, Sydnee, who I have recently dubbed “Steel Sherman” did it. All 12 years old and 107 pounds of her pulled double bodyweight (215 lbs.)
It was incredible.
A week prior, I somewhat said in jest to Debra within earshot of Sydnee, “You know, if for any reason this whole gymnastics thing doesn’t pan out, I think Sydnee would be a great person to bring to a powerlifting competition!”
To which Debra replied “Maybe she can do both!”
I like the way she thinks.
Now that we have a handful of clients who have their sights set on competing in their first meet, Sydnee would be roughly 14 years of age when that competition would be a reality. I think she can do great things at one.
But I will say, something has definitely changed with Sydnee. She doesn’t have the same apprehension that she did when she started. I think and hope that she has found that when she’s here, she’s already won. There’s no derision just support.
And she’s obviously attracted the attention of any other client who is here because, to be frank, they’re ALL rooting for her.
I mean, how can you not? This is not the same 12 year old who first came through these doors.
But maybe I’ll let Debra’s words say it best in a text sent to me just after Sydnee hit her personal record.
So, keep your eye on her. I’m expecting you’ll see a lot more accomplishments from the youngest member of the RevFit family. Who knew that this quiet and rather shy gymnast would be such a dominant force to reckon with once she got introduced to some strength training?
“We Make Great People Greater”