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  • Derek

The Acropolis - Creating Memories on Step at a Time

Photo by Javier Quiroga on Unsplash

The Acropolis of Athens. Home of the famous, Parthenon and several other ancient Greek structures that date back to the fifth century BC.

*I love ancient history stuff!*

I've never been there myself. BUT in about a month, a client of mine is headed there to experience it with her family as one of the stops on their cruise. Wow.

My client has reached various goals since coming back to the studio a couple years ago, however a few weeks back she chatted about how stairs were still an issue for her.

She's had some knee issues in the past but that has all been worked with and corrected over the years, and since we've worked together again. Her activity level is consistent again. We've been working on strength (of course), among other things, but it surprised me to hear that her stairs (particularly at home) were still a struggle. As we chatted more I suggested we head to some stairs soon to look more closely at what's going on, and tackle this more directly. She was totally open to that idea.

We headed out last week (end of August) for the first time. I met her at the park here in town where we have the option of walking to the steps at the canal and/or the stairs by the Oasis (our gas station/store in Frankford).

We started at the canal stairs at the top.

She went down (as she would at home); sort of on an angle and taking the stairs one at a time while holding the railing. Granted, her steps at home are different heights than the steps we were using, it gave me a more specific view of how she was tackling steps.

Now we were at the bottom; time to go back up. I challenged her to not use the railing and very quickly it became apparent that balance was an issue as we ascended. We walked around down the hill to restart at the bottom. This time, I asked her to just go up a few steps, turn around and come down without the railing and facing forward (not on an angle), and try taking steps one after the other (like a walk). Very quickly once again it became evident that strength was not the concern. She lacked balance but mostly lacked confidence and practice in that movement pattern. After all, she'd be altering how she would take stairs for several years now.

We did a few rounds of just those few steps; going down and back up in a controlled and more fluid manner. She was surprised at how it was coming along quite quickly and was happy she was doing it. We did a little break and walked around the grassy area to the point, to give her mind and body a little active rest. Then we went back to the steps, but this time went a bit higher up. Same result; she was doing it! Coming down the stairs "normally". It was a very cool ah-ha moment for both of us. Nothing fancy happening. Just basic practice, support and effort.

We chatted about the experience as we walked along the other side of the canal to the steps at the Oasis gas station. These steps are higher, but a slightly different angle and with a flat section at the half way point. She went all the way up and down these steps a couple times without the help of the railing and without going down "on an angle".

Proud Coach + Happy Client = Awesomeness!

It was around this time when she reminded me about the cruise coming and the visit to the Acropolis. She said it's 75 steps to get up to the Acropolis (granted, not standardized to today's building codes which can make them more difficult possibly). We discussed the importance of making sure we practice her stairs over the next 5-6 weeks leading into her trip. The idea of visiting an ancient place like the Acropolis of Athens and not having the ability to go up those steps OR getting up but with discomfort/pain wouldn't be an ideal situation. A trip like that is something you want to be able to experience fully, with those you love, and be able to fully take it in (without self-doubt of your abilities or discomfort/pain).


As we walked back, we discussed the simple math that we needed to keep in mind:

5-6 weeks until the trip.

75 steps up to the Acropolis.

40 steps from bottom to top at the Oasis.

We agreed that 1 out of 2 of her weekly sessions would be a walk from the studio, to the park and stairs to work on them. This will build her confidence, balance and fluidity in her movement, as well as aerobic and work capacity overall. The aim would be to have her build up to HUNDREDS of steps in a session before her trip over the handful of sessions we'll have. That way, 75 steps up, spending time wandering at the top around the ancient buildings (while in awe of course) and then back down after a while won't be an issue at all. AND... she'll be able to enjoy the experience even more! She was on board with this plan.

This week, was our first session since making the plan last week. Due to the long weekend, she really didn't get any practice on any stairs since we last did them together as they were away camping, but immediately her ability to do the stairs was there. I attribute that to the points made earlier; practice and confidence. Because she experienced last week's stair session and knew she could do it, it was a much more confident approach to the stairs this week.

We did 4 "laps" of the stairs to total 160 steps, and that was just session 1/5!! Look out Greece! My client his heading to the Acropolis!

The Moral of the Story

My client (in her early 60's) has adapted the way she tackles stairs over the past several years. Initially this was due to injury. However, since then the past injury is not the issue. It's been the idea that she naturally evolved into the "I can't" mindset that so many adopt for various reasons. Many times, understandably.

What needs to ALSO be understood is that if we DON'T PRACTICE something, we can never improve it. In this case, my client went so long without "being able to" do stairs well, that her mind believed exactly that. With that, she would go into "default mode" whenever faced with the task of taking certain stairs. When in reality, she didn't lack the ability, but simply needed to re-train the mind and body. Practice was all she needed. This would strengthen her confidence, balance and the movement itself. In just two sessions, that was the case. I'm not saying there isn't room for improvement; but a massive barrier has just been knocked down on her way to progression and success. That limitation on herself is gone. And because of it not only is her movement going to improve, but also she's going to create some wonderful memories!

This is health coaching.

These are the kinds of things we need to put more energy into for ourselves.

This has nothing to do with a fancy program or specific diet.

This has nothing to do with how much you weigh or the size of your muscles.

This is DOING something.

This is focusing on the BASICS.

The basics are all most of us need when it comes to our health. And through the basics, we can live a healthy, happy life and experience some pretty awesome stuff along the way!

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