Pull back the curtain and see how a suspense writer puts the thrills and chills together.


Hello Dear Readers,

When I was a kid, I hated gym class. I believe I’ve written about this before, but the worst part was always when two students were chosen as “captains” and got to pick their teams. Whenever a close friend of mine was captain, I’d get all excited, thinking that for once I wouldn’t be one of the last selected. But, alas, they still left me until the bitter end. I had absolutely no eye-hand coordination back then, and the other kids made fun of the way I ran. (They said I ran like a horse, which I still don’t understand. Aren’t horses good runners?)

Starting at KWest Kickboxing brought back some uncomfortable memories. Students who join the club without friends or spouse in tow have to go up to the front of the room and be matched with a stranger. It wasn’t quite like being picked last for dodge ball, but it brought back some of the same feelings of dread. It was so much nicer when I started making friends and could find my own training partners, and even nicer still when I was the one asked! It always feels good to have someone choose you as their partner for the day. I still consider it an honor to be asked.

One of the conditions of my green prajioud training is that my kru has to select my training partner for every class. He wants to be sure that I am getting matched with people who will really push me past previously-conceived limits. These people, ideally, will be stronger, faster, and better than I am. There’s no such thing as an “easy” class anymore.

This has put me in the strange position of having to say no to people who request to be my partner, just when I’m at the point where people are actually asking me! Thankfully, I can say that it’s up to the kru, and most understand. But it seems so odd to be back at square one when, really, I’m moving forward.

After being paired with one of my club’s original fighters on Monday night, I had an epiphany. I finally understood–really understood–the reason behind my coach’s decree. It’s not just about making me work harder, which is part of it. It’s that when you train with someone who is so far above your skill level, it makes you determined to get better. I admired this person’s incredible technique and power, and now I’m driven to achieve it (or the closest I can possibly come to it). It was inspiring, and he was inspiring.

Working out with friends is fun, and it’s comfortable, to a degree. You know your friends are going to forgive you if you say you’re really sore or tired. They’ll look the other way when you have an off day. But if you want to achieve greatness in any sport, sometimes you have to leave that comfort zone behind and work with someone who’s out of your league. Punch above your weight, so to speak.

You’ll be inspired. Trust me.

How about you, Dear Readers? Have you ever experienced something similar?

PS…if any kids are reading this, and you still get picked last for teams, don’t worry. You have lots of time to have the last laugh, believe me! Wait until you see those team captains fifteen years from now, and who knows where you’ll be then?

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  1. Mystic_Mom

    Oh I hear you on the dreaded gym class! And horses are wonderfully graceful runners, we human equine runners are only lacking the other pair of legs to pull it off! 🙂

    When you can be challenged by people who are genuinely interested in the benefits of the challenge it is a real blessing! I’ve gone way out of my league a few times and sometimes I still get picked last and a few memorable moments had me picking the teams!

    You are right, those former captains and royalty of the sweathogs in gym class are often not that way anymore…laughing last is still best!

  2. Kim

    Most of the people I know who are amazing runners and cyclists and swimmers were TERRIBLE at team sports in grade school and through adolescence. It is unfortunate though, because gym class is set up to promote teamwork (for the most part) and creates that discouraging self-image of “not being good at sports” — EVERYONE is athletic (or can be).

    And yes, I am continuously motivated by those who are better than me. But I would distinguish better than me but not “out of my league” better. I’m more motivated by people who are just a little bit better than me. Before you can catch up to the leader you have to catch all the people in between you and the leader first.

  3. Lisa

    Have I experienced this? Absolutely! I actually have a lengthy blog entry dedicated to this very subject. When I first started running with my now-husband we were both coming off a year of injury. It worked out well as neither of us needed/wanted to push ourselves too hard while we healed. Once we were ready for speedwork again we decided to focus on a one-hour tempo run each Thursday. (Run for 30 minutes, then turn around and run back). I would notice that each week we would get further and further out before the 30 minutes were up. Because he knew that I basically fell into whatever pace he was running, he would deliberately bump up the speed a little bit each week. Then near the end of each run he would speed up to the point where I did notice. I either had to keep up with him or be left in the dust. He taught me how to run way outside my comfort zone and push beyond what I thought I was capable of. I bested my half marathon PB twice that year! (In two half marathons I ran 6 days apart!)

    Yes…it totally works! But you have to be open to it.

  4. Lisa

    p.s. I was ALWAYS last to be chosen for teams in school too. It still haunts me…

  5. Story Teller

    Thanks for your comments, everyone. It’s interesting to hear from people who I’ve only known as extremely athletic relate to the feeling of being chosen last!

    @ MM – Without exception, those team captains are all overweight and out of shape now. Even though it’s petty, that still gives me a measure of satisfaction. 🙂

    I love being challenged by people who excel in my sport, and although it hurts at times (literally–I’m covered in bruises), I feel fortunate that my kru is intentionally making sure I benefit from their expertise.

    @ Kim – I completely agree. I used to tell my mother that if I ever had children, I would spend a lot of their early years developing eye-hand coordination. I know from painful experience the kind of hell unathletic kids go through. My mom would become very defensive and say it depended on the interests/abilities of the child, but I do think (like you) that athleticism is always possible. It may not be innate in some children, but everyone can learn how to catch a ball and do a somersault. In some cases, it just takes patience, and it’s a lot easier to learn some of these basic skills as a child than to tackle them as an adult. This is one reason I *still* don’t know how to ride a bike….

    @ Lisa – I can’t believe you were chosen last, too! That floors me. It goes to show that our past does NOT dictate our future.

    You are lucky to have that kind of relationship with your husband. Sometimes it’s tricky to mesh love with that type of competitive spirit, but it works for you, and that’s wonderful.

  6. Anonymous

    Get out of my head Holly! 🙂

    I would love to be your partner, however I too go to the front of the class everyday now to have my partner chosen for me by Kelly, and only to have them wipe the floor with me. But in the master plan it’s gonna make us better and stronger. As much as we love our regular partners it’s exciting to be pushed a little harder everyday and to see how much we really can take.

    I’m personally learning and growing everyday through this kickboxing challenge and its mostly due to the elite partners I’ve had in the last couple weeks pushing themselves and me so hard. They are inspiring.

    We are also making new friends along the way and our long time pals, well… we love them and hopefully they will be inspired to push for a little more too.

    “Life begins outside your comfort zone”

    Stay strong my kickboxing sister…


  7. Story Teller

    Hey J,

    Thanks for your comment. I was really interested to read about your challenge, because in a lot of ways, we’re going through the same struggles. (Only I get Thurs off and you get Sat!)

    I agree with the experience of pairing with new people. It is less comforting, perhaps, but with the right partner, it is completely inspiring and well worth it.

    Thanks for your encouragement, and the same goes for you! You’re inspiring a lot of people along the way.


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