In this edition of ‘In the Spotlight,’ let’s talk with Jennifer Ishee. I met Jennifer over a year ago while working with the Fleet Feet training program. She was new to running and started experiencing some foot pain. This corresponded nicely with my first ever 6-Week Challenge for Runners and I was excited when she joined the program!
Ishee has been one of my favorite people to work with over the years. She works hard during each session and focuses on the key points which makes each exercise matter. Just like every training and rehabilitation program, there have been ups and downs from time to time. But, through continued effort and perseverance, Jennifer has created a system which works for her to see the best long-term results.
Without further ado, let’s shine the spotlight on…
Q: Where are you from?
A: “I grew up in Franklin, TN.”
Q: What do you do for work?
A: “I teach Latin to high school students.”
Q: When you aren’t working, what are some of your favorite hobbies?
A: “I love putting together jigsaw puzzles, listening to music by The Piano Guys, snuggling with my cat, and studying chess. Chess is actually more than a hobby, because I train quite a bit and compete in tournaments from time to time.”
Q: If you could live anywhere in the world where would that be? Why?
A: “I would live somewhere in Europe, because there is so much more history and culture there as well as greater opportunities and appreciation for chess.”
Q: When you first started working with Garrett, what were the goals you wanted to achieve?
A: “My original goal was to build physical stamina and endurance for chess tournaments, because I was having difficulty maintaining a strong performance level over consecutive rounds lasting 3-5 hours each. I also wanted to incorporate some strength training to better prepare my body for more running programs for beginners. My goal almost immediately switched to surviving Garrett’s six-week challenge and coping with pain from the plantar fasciitis which had apparently been developing during my previous 5K training.”
Q: What motivated you to work with Garrett and/or start making changes in your routine?
A: “I had recently discovered running and had just finished two back-to-back 5K Fleet Feet training programs, and the next one wasn’t for two months. So I needed something to do. I also wanted an in-person experience and was lacking confidence and consistency with the strength-training book I was using and was bored with workout DVDs. I remembered Garrett from a Fleet Feet seminar and thought the six-week challenge would be a budget-friendly way to try out a personal trainer.”
Q: What are the most noticeable improvements you’ve seen so far?
A: “My foot pain has decreased significantly. It is more of a discomfort now and is not even noticeable some days. My balance has also improved drastically, and I feel stronger.”
Q: Were these improvements easy to achieve? And, tell us a little bit about any struggles along the way.
A: “Nothing worthwhile comes easy.
I was halfway through the six-week challenge when I informed Garrett that I was quitting the program because it was aggravating my foot and causing a lot of pain. He shocked me by declaring that quitting the program would actually be worse for my foot. He backed up his claim with scholarly research to help me understand how loading the foot would be more beneficial than letting it rest. He modified or replaced exercises like sled pushes and squat jumps and assigned lots and lots of one-legged eccentric calf raises with a rolled-up towel under the toes. It was uncomfortable, monotonous, and seemed to take forever, but it was a concrete plan backed by research and eventually this plan paired with the RAILs and strength program started making a noticeable difference after months of consistent effort.
Then as the school year resumed, I had difficulty balancing work, chess, and fitness. I only seemed to be able to make time for two of these, and fitness kept being knocked off the priority list. I looked up one day and was horrified that I had essentially missed 3 months of RAILs and strength sessions. It was really, really hard to get back in, because I had lost so much stamina and some strength. It’s amazing how much the daily RAILs program had compounded over just a few months and just how far I had fallen. The first few strength sessions were especially humiliating and caused much soreness, but I pushed through and am now back to making progress again.”
Q: If there is one piece of advice that you could provide to yourself when you first started this program, what would that be?
A: “I would have tailored my RAILs to fit my mini habits plan a lot sooner. A “mini habit” (per Stephen Guise) is a habit that you do everyday and is so small and easy that you can talk yourself into doing it on even your worst, unmotivated days. This small daily action compounds over time, moving you toward your goal and decreasing your resistance to working out. There is always the option to do “bonus reps,” but it is never required. I initially made my mini habit a “Garrett session” (RAILs, group strength, or eccentric calf raises), but this proved to be too large and caused resistance and excuses. Overtime, Garrett and I found a solution. He decreased my RAILs significantly and put asterisks next to a few must-do exercises. These asterisked exercises take 5-7 minutes and are my current mini-habit. I give myself a sticker every day I do this habit (and my chess mini habit). It hasn’t been perfect, but this new plan seems to be working better for me.”
Q: Despite still having some lingering plantar pain, what strategies have you found to be the most beneficial?
A: “Following Garrett’s plan has been most helpful. He is very knowledgeable about plantar pain, and my feet suffered whenever I veered from the plan. Part of what made his plan work was that I was strengthening weak areas higher up that were leading to some of the pain, especially my hips and calves. I’ve noticed that if my hamstrings start feeling tight after a strength session, my feet usually hurt the following day. So I have become accustomed to wearing compression socks and drinking rooibos tea after strength sessions. I also wear supportive shoes at home when my feet are especially tired.”
Q: What is your favorite part about the group training program?
A: “I love receiving individual feedback from Garrett but also having the camaraderie of others. Even though I am quiet by nature and don’t crave conversation, it really helps to workout with a small consistent group of people. Sometimes I start strong and lose steam as the session goes on, and seeing others pushing through really helps me during those tough moments. And after a long day at work, it is a relief to just show up ready to workout instead of having to encourage myself on every exercise.”
Q: How do you feel the quarterly check-in/evaluation plays into your success?
A: “The quarterly check-in is huge. Having that quiet, one-on-one time with Garrett to talk about my specific struggles, concerns, and goals is invaluable. One time in particular, it was an important wake-up call, because I hadn’t really done my RAILs or strength consistently for 3 months, and it really showed in my test results. It was a vital chance to dig into what was going on, regroup, and form a new plan.”
Q: What is that one thing you dislike the most but continue to work on because you know it will help?
A: “I really dislike calf raises, especially eccentric ones with a towel under the toes, because they are uncomfortable and seem to take forever. They also don’t fit neatly into my mini habit plan, because they are meant to be done every other day. I tend to “overlook” them unless they are part of the strength session but realize that they helped me in the past and that I should aim to complete them more often.”
Q: How do you feel Garrett’s services may differ from other professionals in his field?
A: “He is the first athletic trainer with whom I’ve worked, but I really like how friendly and encouraging he is while also pushing me to lift heavier or go further. I also love how organized he is with his training sheets and clickable exercise videos and I highly value his ability to explain why certain exercises should be done a certain way and how he supports his techniques with scholarly research.”
Q: Looking ahead, do you have any new goals you are working towards in 2019?
A: “Obviously, getting rid of my plantar discomfort completely and running again would be awesome. But my real goal in 2019 is to be process-oriented (rather than results-orientated) and to focus on building consistency. I want to see how many continuous stickers I can earn by doing my mini habit (i.e. the asterisked activation exercises in my RAILs plan) every day and work toward completing my full RAILs more often. I also want to be more consistent with my strength sessions and eccentric calf raises and start going for moderate walks. “
Thank you for reading this ‘In the Spotlight’ segment. And, a big shout out to Jennifer Isheel! Please feel free to comment below with any questions or feedback.