Holistic Wellness in Austin, TX

Training For Excellence, Talking With a Friend in New Zealand: Conversations With Coach Ray of Qwik Kiwi

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What do you like best about social media in general and Facebook in particular?  Do you find that you are able to meet interesting people from all over the world via the internet?    Or is it that you enjoy having a massive source of information readily at hand?

Me, I love being able to make new and interesting friends via the groups in which I interact.  One place I’ve never been is New Zealand, but the new year is young and I’m inspired to broaden my horizons.  What about you?  Do you want to go someplace utterly new and see what’s what there?  Or maybe you are in New Zealand and want to visit Texas.  Either way, keep reading and considered yourself introduced to wellness professionals from one side of the globe to the other.

No kidding, some of my most interesting conversations are the result of online friendships.  About three and a half years ago, when the concept of Two Hearts Wellness was just a sketch in my Business Management class notes, I started becoming more active on Facebook and in varying groups, including one for online personal trainers.  I’m not quite sure how–it’s been that long–but one guy, Coach Ray Boardman, and I ended up becoming friends.  We remain colleagues  and loosely connected to this day.  He has had some of the coolest adventures as a trainer and, after the recent Invictus Games in Toronto, I knew I had to corral him for an interview.  I wrote him some questions, he wrote back, and now here we are.  As much as I’ve lived abroad, it’s been only in Spain and in Italy.  Making a friend in New Zealand and learning about how a fitness/wellness career flourishes there is indeed fascinating.  I hope that in sharing this, people in New Zealand might become more interested in those of us here in Texas, too.

The internet is a great way to meet people who are far away, don’t you agree?

In any case…first things first, and that was catching up.  I reminded him of when we first “met,” noting that he had another job at the time, and recollecting that the coaching was his second gig back then.  I asked him to remind me of his primary occupation to start, and also to tell me how he got into coaching.

Coach Ray wrote back, saying: “I’m still a soldier in the New Zealand Army, where I am a Physical Training Instructor (PTI). I’ve been participating in triathlons and associated events since 1990, and commenced coaching professionally in February 2000. I got into coaching as I wanted the knowledge to make myself faster with my racing, and then just sort of started advising people, then writing programmes for people and then in 2000 started doing so professionally.”  His professional coaching work is akin to his job in the military, he told me.  Coach Ray has a thriving online coaching business, which allows him to coach athletes world-wide.  Meantime, he wrote, “[I continue] to serve in the New Zealand Army as a PTI where I’m responsible for training the PTIs in the Royal New Zealand Navy, New Zealand Army and the Royal New Zealand Air Force.”

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One of Coach Ray’s more interesting projects is his involvement with an event that supports indigenous health.  This is the  IronMāori athletic competition, and when I first heard of it from him a couple years ago, my initial thought was to interview him on that subject.  We in the United States have some marvelous running groups that support worthy causes, too.  These include Back On My Feet, a group that combines social service to America’s homeless with running and outreach.  Another really marvelous group is the Hogwarts Running Club, of which I am a member.  This group sets up virtual runs and in-person events and, in so doing, raises money for worthy causes across the nation. But we don’t have anything similar to the IronMāori and I really wanted to learn more about it.

Coach Ray explained that, and I quote: “Māori are the native people of Aotearoa/New Zealand. Unfortunately they disproportionately appear in health statistics (amongst other population statistics in other social indices as well). Large numbers suffer from health issues such as obesity, heart disease, hypertension, and lung disease. The majority of the health issues can be influenced by lifestyle choices. A fit and active Māori couple from Hawkes Bay (a region within in New Zealand with a high proportion of Māori) set about creating a change. They encouraged people (of all races but with an emphasis on their whanau/extended family) to get more active and involved in events that will improve their health through training and preparing for it. They established IronMāori (a play on words from Ironman), a half Ironman distance triathlon which is focused on participation and personal achievement over the winners (who are also acknowledged). This series of events has been responsible for a number of positive changes in many people.”

It sounds like an amazing event.  Coach Ray is an active blogger, and he wrote of his own experience with this race here, saying, “I rate IronMāori as one of the best events I have ever done.  Everyone is smiling and supporting each other, with their not so serious look on their faces that you see at other major events.  They all have their “give it a go” look.”  And, though the race is for the benefit of the indigenous population, any and all are welcome, as one of the founders explains (here).  One of Coach’s longer term clients, a woman now in her sixties, also participates in this event (and many others, as you can see here).  It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

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I love the happy smiles!

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Coach Ray participates in other socially conscious sporting events, in any case.  IronMāori is not the only project that made me say, “Hey, we need an interview!”  When I heard that he was going to the Invictus Games in Toronto with the Kiwi team, I knew the time had come.  I asked him how he got involved with this event, what his role was, and–the burning question now that the US is going to be linked with British monarchy via marriage–if he got to meet Prince Harry.  (I don’t speak for all Americans, but I will say for myself that I am charmed by the engagement, I think that Meghan Markle is super pretty, and I hope that they have a happy marriage, and that they’ll have at least one or two darling dual citizenship children.  Not that I’m a fan of the royal family; generally I don’t think much of them one way or the other.  But this engagement is very sweet, I think…).

All digressions aside, it sounds like this was a marvelous event.  Ray explains, “The Invictus Games are an adaptive sporting event for wounded, injured and ill service people from around the world to assist them on their recovery journey. I got involved through a colleague who had been involved in previous years and was the head coach for the team this year. I had helped him in small roles at training camps and for 2017 I put an application in to be selected in the team as a coach.”  Ray was in fact selected to participate, and he says, “My role for the New Zealand team was as the coach for running, swimming, cycling, and rowing athletes.”

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InvictusCrew

A big moment of pride and joy for the New Zealand team

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To my question about meeting Meghan Markle’s future husband, he says, “I did not meet Prince Harry in person.  Although I was in close proximity to him a few times, I allowed the athletes of New Zealand team to get in the limelight with him. His involvement with the games [was due to] his passion to help wounded, injured, and ill service people recover both mentally and physically. These games provide them with self-worth and creates such a positive environment, and by getting the opportunity to meet an inspirational person his persona rubbed off on the athletes that are continuing on their journey of rehabilitation.”  Though Ray didn’t speak to him personally, his athletes did, and, Ray says, “They all raved about how great he was and [said] that he was charismatic and personable.”

I think that is so neat!  Don’t you?  Coach Ray has so many stories about that experience and could not choose one for me when I asked about it.  I love what he wrote about making new friends, though, and I quote, “I met so many cool and amazing people over my time there. I tried to sit at communal meals in the food hall with members of other national teams or travel on buses seated next to other nations’ athletes and support staff, just so I could meet people and make the most of the experience. As a result I’ve become friends with a whole new family (as Invictus IS a family) of friends from all around the world.”

Sports event camaraderie is the best, don’t you agree?  I did field acupuncture at two different Spartan races (you can read about that here and here) and I, too, experienced the same thing.  The feeling of “we’re all in this together” and the sense of collective joy and enthusiasm was pervasive and encouraging at a Spartan event.  I loved those experiences and hope to participate in a Spartan race myself one day.

What really stuck with him, though, is pride in the athletes.  He has that coach’s pride, the kind that comes from the heart.  As Ray explains, “The successes of my athletes would be another highlight. I had a couple of athletes pick up multiple medals, although that is success, it’s not the success that means the most to me. The success of athletes achieving above their expectations, I had one athlete who I’ve taken on a journey from not being able to swim to competing in two swimming races at Invictus. I made the mistake of sitting down with her in the day’s prior and discussing how her races will go and that I had no expectation or pressure on her for making any finals and she qualified for two swimming finals. ”

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A guest post on Ray’s blog, here

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In another instance, he explains, “I also had another swimmer who was challenged just swimming a length and had her confidence shattered during our first training session at the Pan Am Centre. Due to clashes with her other sports she couldn’t make the other team swim training sessions, so I scheduled a one on one and we spent half the time discussing goals and what would be successful for her and then set about having a successful session. The Danish swim team recognized the challenges she was going through and offered her support and assistance which not only made her day but also made mine.”  (Coach Ray has a lot of stories to tell about the Invictus Games, and if you’d like to read more of them, go here and here to enjoy!).

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Great picture, & Coach Ray is in the back corner (source)

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I loved reading these stories.  Though I don’t have a lot of experience with people from New Zealand, I do know several Australians (and I know enough to know that this is not the same as being a Kiwi).  Still, learning of Ray’s exploits brought back wonderful memories of working with my Coach Shaun while he was living in New Mexico, where I was writing my dissertation when we met.  This would be Shaun Creighton, of Australian distance running fame, and I wrote a blog post about it that you can read, here.  Personally, because I’ve only met a few people from that region of the world and because they’ve all been really nice, I of course think that ALL Kiwis and ALL Aussies are fun, kind, laid-back people.  I know this from just my limited experience but I feel quite confident that I am correct in my assessment.  (It’s a good prejudice to have, right?).

On the subject of limited experiences–I tried to make sure that Coach Ray would eat barbecue during his and the team’s layover in Dallas.  Unfortunately, they didn’t get that opportunity but they did try some Tex-Mex.  It’s comforting to know that the Kiwis are now experts in what we eat here in Texas, and surely they are in awe of our wonderful food here, airport-quality or not.

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Fun with the crew

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When he’s not working with teams on events or training in the military, Coach Ray also provides online coaching for a wide range of people.  He tells me that each of them has their own obstacles and goals, and that he works with “beginner and recreational triathletes and marathon runners to achieve their sporting as well as lifestyle goals.”  As with my clients in health coaching, he notes that, “There are a range of obstacles to clients’ training. Fitting training into their busy lifestyles and around family & work commitments is often the biggest obstacle.”  Some things are the same world-over, aren’t they?  Here in Austin, people are busy and their health takes a back seat to work and family commitments too.  Because I start from the perspective of holistic health, the focus is not always on athletic goals.  Different people have different conditions that can better served by having the support of a health coach and, in fact, I wrote about how to decide whether a trainer is better in your case or a coach, here.  Either way, time is a big concern for everyone.

Whatever a person chooses (health coach or athletic trainer/coach), what matters is the relationship.  Genuine support and care make all the difference in the world.  Everyone has a different starting point, but Ray remains committed to coaching each and every one to their personal best.  One of his more dedicated clients, besides Di Chesmar (linked, above), is John Humphries, whose story you can read, here.  Clearly, Coach Ray’s clients love working with him and get a lot out of it.    As his business grows, so do the goals for the work itself.  As he explains, “I have a range of coaching and training services to help a range of people achieve sporting and lifestyle goals. I have the goal of helping 100 people complete a marathon in 2018.” (Training plans, if you would like to look, can be found here).

When we first met, I was still early on in my program of study in the field of traditional Chinese medicine.  I don’t know how it is in New Zealand, but here in the United States, a licensed acupuncturist spends about four years in graduate school and a lot of time in clinic as an intern.  Depending on the state, there are rigorous board exams (I’m halfway through mine and if you want to read about my Western biomedicine board, go here).  Getting licensed is a challenging process, but the end result is–one hopes–that the public can trust in our professionalism and skill.

A lot has changed for me since when we met.  I am still a certified personal trainer, but when I train it is short-term and specific to an immediate goal.  Generally, this can be something like identifying and overcoming a particular mental block that expresses through the body, or making a program for someone who is stuck.  My main practice now is that of health coach.  I’ve also been a practicing traditional Chinese bodywork therapist for almost three years now and I’m a prolific blogger too, especially on the subject of traditional Chinese bodywork, as you can see here.  At present, I am able to perform all the healing modalities of traditional Chinese medicine except the invasive (acupuncture) and I can’t write herbal prescriptions yet but that really doesn’t limit what I am able to do for patients.  My background in personal training (both as a trainer and a trainee) enrich my work in Chinese medicine now and will do so in the future.  I know what matters to athletes because I’ve been one.  I know the anguish of injury and I know how important it is to be able to heal correctly and as quickly as possible.  When I work with athletes now, all of this is in the room with us.  I expect that I will continue to work with athletes when I’m licensed and throughout my entire career.

How interesting it is, I think, to have friends who are far away, and ones who I met during the early stages of my program in Chinese medicine.  Here we are, at the start of a brand new year, each in our corner of the world.  I’m thinking about goals for myself and for my patients and clients, and so is my friend, Coach Ray.  It is a small world after all, don’t you think?

Happy New Year to all of us, and may we achieve our goals and personal bests, no matter what they may be!

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BOOK AN APPOINTMENT

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2hw.v2Have you ever though to try traditional Chinese bodywork? At present, I offer tui na (similar to massage) and other ancient Chinese therapies, including cupping, gua sha, moxa, and more.  If you are looking for a holistic wellness consultant and coach, my services can entail short or longer term programs.  You are your own best investment, and when you take charge of your wellbeing you invest in yourself now and for the benefit of your future.

Two Hearts Wellness is a local holistic health and wellness outfit with a passion for all things nourishing, including but not limited to: joyful living, great food, art, and literature, and–of course–traditional Chinese medicine.  If you want to learn more about me, click here and do feel free to follow my blog and/or my Instagram, connect with me on Facebook, or contact me here to set up an appointment for personal training or health coaching services.  If you are interested in Asian bodywork therapy, click here to book an appointment online.

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