Veronica Chambers gets in shape after a baby and an illness.
Photo: Gabrielle Revere
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The first thing Dr. Charlie emphasized to me is that I needed to get the best doctors possible and to ride herd on them. As he explained it, when an athlete like Lance Armstrong gets sick, everybody on his medical team takes it seriously because he's Lance Armstrong. What I needed to believe, and what had to guide my behavior, was that my body was just as important as Lance Armstrong's. The result is that I've fired one set of doctors (a first for me) and replaced them with a doctor who is serious about healing. Goodbye, Doctor "Well, you could die if you don't do what I tell you. Just take the medicine and stop asking questions." Hello, Doctor "Best in the Business, Let's Meet for Two Hours and Come Up with a Plan."

I've also learned that a coach isn't a therapist. A big part of therapy is validation and affirmation, and Dr. Charlie isn't really concerned with that. Yes, I had a really horrifying, scary pregnancy and delivery. It's frustrating to still be on so much medication with so few answers. It's exhausting to have a newborn baby and a job, and be so physically challenged. But we don't waste a lot of time talking about what hurts and why it really sucks to be me these days. Our work together focuses on my body, not my feelings. Our sessions are based on the fact that if I can get it together, I can get back on the field.

I've been now been working with Dr. Charlie for just over 11 months. We communicate by e-mail three or four days a week and talk on the phone every other week. I send him performance evaluation forms, the same ones his professional athletes use, as if my 45 minutes on the treadmill were a trial for the Goodwill Games. Thanks to him, I've made several big changes and hit a few new milestones.

Our work is not about the scale. I already have a great trainer. I love lifting weights with him and doing all those cool plyometric exercises he comes up with to challenge my body. But if he asks me one more time, as I lift a medicine ball while he checks his BlackBerry, "So, are you back in your skinny jeans?" I will scream. Because the answer is no, no, and oh, yeah, hell no. I'm not back in my skinny jeans. Not even close.

And it bothers me. I oh-so casually mentioned to Dr. Charlie that I read an article about a woman who lost 10 pounds in one month. The article had a diet and exercise plan and, well, I wanted to try it. There was silence on the other end of the phone. Dr. Charlie took a deep breath and then very patiently explained that he is not a diet doctor and that for his clients, weight matters only as it affects their ability to reach their athletic goals. So if my goal is to get back to running 10-milers by adding a second daily interval run to my schedule, then we could talk about how to make that happen. But Dr. Charlie does not give a rip about my skinny jeans. What he wants is for me to get up every day and somehow—in the midst of work, marriage, and motherhood—find two or more hours to devote to my physical health.


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