I work with them every day; so I know how awesome Precision Nutrition’s coaches really are.
Today you get to meet one of them, Erin Weiss-Trainor. This way you can find out too.
Erin Weiss-Trainor has some simple advice on how to be a successful parent.
“Be selfish and lazy.”
Well, that’s a lot easier than I expected. Especially from Erin.
She’d always struck me as a diligent, altruistic and tireless mother hen, forever wiping away toddlers’ snotty noses and PN Coaching clients’ “before photo” tears. Sneaking vegetables into kids’ and adults’ meals alike. Pushing boys out the door to hockey practice or women out the door to the gym.
And at PN, she seems to do it all. She’s been a PN coach and Member Zone moderator. Behind the scenes, she manages all the content for PN’s coaching and certification programs. She’s worked in Customer Service, doing everything from firing off Gourmet Nutrition cookbooks to hungry health nuts to booking JB‘s busy schedule. These days, Erin spends her days managing teams and projects across all aspects of Precision Nutrition.
In short, like the matriarch of a bustling household, she’s the hub of all activity.
Turns out, according to her, she was slacking the whole time.
“Yeah, I’m lazy,” she claims. “I just go with the flow. When it came to motherhood, I just did what our kids let us know they needed. I’m not some hippie chick, but I breastfed the older ones until they were about two years old. I let them self-wean. It seemed like what they needed. My husband and I just took their cues and made it work with our family.”
It’s not a free-for-all in the Weiss-Trainor household or on Erin’s PN Coaching forums, though. Erin’s sneaky too. Her diabolical plan for both kids and PN Coaching clients: to build independence and self-sufficiency. Critical thinking. Autonomy. Even… let them screw up.
“They won’t always make the best decision, of course. Sometimes they’ll be like, ‘I want ice cream!’ but they haven’t had any vegetables.” (She’s speaking, of course, of her children, not her clients… I think.)
“So I say ‘Well, if you want ice cream, that’s one choice, but you also want to be better at hockey. Does ice cream fit with that choice?’”
Darnit. She’s good.
And pragmatic. When kids and clients go through picky phases, she helps them figure out ways to love broccoli. She gets her workouts when she can, and doesn’t feel obligated to be supermom. She once gave me three silicone spatulas, knowing I’d love them a lot more than bath salts.
However, despite her apparently relaxed attitude to child rearing and coaching, she doesn’t compromise completely (“I’m a little bit selfish,” she reminds me.) Nor does she sit on the sidelines as a spectator to her children’s lives, although thanks to an ass-call from her cell phone that treated me to the soundtrack of cheers and slapshots, I know that she’s warmed at least one bench at a hockey tournament.
Of course, Erin knows she’s throwing BS at me by claiming slackerhood.
She’s one of the top coaches, always has time for client concerns, and seems to have boundless energy for making PN a better place. She answers email before the sun comes up. She’s even been awake (and unselfish) long enough to indulge me in a big-sister chat at 5:30 am (although sometimes neither of us manages to crawl out of PJs before 11).
And deep down, she cares a lot about doing a good job.
For Erin, quality is important, whether that’s time, food, work, or movement. She helps clients find what’s purposeful to them, rather than following arbitrary rules. And if the kids want to play, then they have to expect mom’s gonna bust out some pullups on the jungle gym, or be in their faces as they all walk, run, or ride bikes together.
“When I spend time with my kids I try to do so in a way that is meaningful to all of us, versus just fulfilling their needs alone. My time is pretty valuable.”
She laughs. “I guess I’m not a good mom in that way. Taking you to the park where I just sit there isn’t productive. It sounds wrong when I’m saying it, but I guess I’m just really choosy about the time I spend with them, making sure it’s quality time for both of us.”
She’s creative and flexible, though. Sometimes, a mom’s just gotta shove a stroller down the sidewalk for a while instead of spending an hour at the gym. “It’s like we tell clients about things like traveling: It’s not always going to be ideal. But don’t just do nothing. Look for the best case scenario. Find something to do.”
These days, her kids are much more independent, a quality she says she’s deliberately fostered. “Now, they’re not reliant on us being there for them every moment of the day. Our kids can function in our household, in our lives, being independent, creating their own fun. Sure, they don’t do the laundry – yet – but if the kids say they want breakfast I say ‘You know where the cereal is.’
“As a a mom and a coach, my role is to create independent, secure, happy people, not people who are dependent on me forever.” It may not be Dr. Spock-approved, but being “lazy and selfish” has paid off.
These days, her kids are following her around for their workouts. They’re picking their own vegetables and fruits out of the fridge. They often want to join in when mom’s training in the basement, and they’ve started doing family running races together in their small town on the shores of Lake Huron. As for Erin’s clients, hundreds of clients have lost thousands of pounds and found joy in healthy eating and regular exercise.
Now, this mother bear is less of a herder of stumbling cubs and more of an alpha female who simply sets the pace for the pack and expects them to keep up.
“I see my role changing now. Now as a parent I share what I love to do. I show the kids how to be healthy and balanced with their lives. For instance, you can’t be on the computer or video games all day. You have to spend time moving around.”
“Obviously parenting is a lot like coaching. You give people a lot of open-ended direction. Let them choose what is important to them. Empower them to make decisions. Help them through transitional times. Give them direction and support without always telling them what to do.
“Most of my coaching skills come from parenting. Not that I treat my clients like children, but I teach them how to fish instead of giving them a fish. I teach them how to assess what’s a good decision, and why.”
Erin’s cheerful practicality is a welcome break from the mommy-blaming and mother-angst that seems to pervade many discussions of parenting. After all, pregnancy and parenting is tough stuff. It’s even tougher for health-conscious folks who are trying to stay in shape amidst the late-night feedings, evening homework battles, and early-morning hockey practices.
And it can be downright nerve-wracking when working for a company like Precision Nutrition where – although schedules are flexible and working attitudes are git-r-dun casual instead of bean-countingly rigid – excellence is expected and everyone is working on self-improvement.
Erin started out working part-time at PN and quickly transitioned to full-time coaching and managing the PN Coaching program behind the scenes. Even though she was older and arguably more of a grown-up than the upstart youngun entrepreneurs behind the PN wheel, Erin felt like the newbie. While the role of coach was somewhat familiar to her given her background in personal training and parenting, the added workload was not. She’d given up a paying job for years to raise young children.
When she started punching a clock again, she floundered for a while, trying to figure out how to juggle everything, learn to fit in, and measure up to PN’s high standards for personal development. Trying to live up to Ryan Andrews’ voracious reading habits? Krista Schaus’ ripped abs? JB’s prodigious productivity? Amanda Graydon’s angelic customer sevice? Nuh-uh. A successful day for Erin was managing to shower, trundle the kids around the block, and answer client emails compassionately and coherently.
“I was trying to basically fit full-time work plus full-time parenting and household stuff into a day where most of the other people only had full-time work. The advantage of PN, where we can work wherever and whenever we want, is great in theory but doesn’t always work seamlessly when you have other commitments. I had to take this flex job and set some real boundaries in terms of when or where I’d work.”
Yet the meaning of life for Erin is in the struggle and the journey. (Karl Marx and a Zen master would both nod approvingly.)
She didn’t hide her challenges, although she did install a door on her office to keep sticky little fingers out. “I wanted my kids to see this struggle. It’s like Lean Eating. Sometimes you have to work hard. Put in long hours. Say no to things you want to do. Set some physical and even mental boundaries. Figure out what works for you, even if it’s not necessarily what everyone else is doing. Do your best.
“I have to be choosy about what I’m going to spend my time on and be OK with the stuff I can’t do.”
Wait, Coach Erin… does this mean that I’m not going to magically lose fat and transform my body without changing anything I do? I can’t have a tub of ice cream and kick ass at hockey?
If Erin were played by Al Pacino, she’d have bellowed a big blustery Hoo hah!! at that concept.
“In order to be successful at anything, whether that’s body transformation or parenting, you have to accept that life isn’t always going to be rosy. That goes for everyone. Young guys without children, for example, don’t struggle with the same things I do in my late 30s as a mom, but they have things that suck for them too.”
“Anyone making a change has to accept that at some point, not everything is going to be the way you want it to be. Some things are not meant to be. Getting uber-lean means you can’t eat fruit or grains whenever you want – yes, it seems insane, but that’s how it is.”
Erin’s cheerful, warm extroversion and well-grooved smile dimples hide her deep acquaintance with things that suck. She battled food allergies and illness during her pregnancy – which, luckily, led her to seek out JB’s writings and PN. “I didn’t want to feel like that freak that couldn’t eat anything!”
Eventually, she became curious about the project of getting super-lean. “I thought as a coach I needed to experience that. To know what was involved. It wasn’t about proving myself or fitting in. I just had to know what it was all about.”
With the able assistance of pro physique competitor Krista Schaus, Erin got – temporarily – shredded. Did a photo shoot. Had a six-pack too.
Yet the world did not change. Life went on. The laundry was still there. Erin looked in the mirror and saw… herself. Leaner.
The experience was edifying and instructive, but left her hollow. “There was so much self focus. It drained my spirit. Not being able to frickin’ eat an apple when you want an apple.
“During that time, I wasn’t a person I liked very much. I realized that this was no way to live. To choose that for the sake of looking a certain way, it just wasn’t worth it to me. It just wasn’t something I could imagine putting my attention into – to go to that extreme.”
These days, she’s returned to the go-with-the-flow approach that characterizes her coaching and parenting.
She still wants to be leaner than normal, but saner than average, too. No more living on egg whites and chicken breast simply because it’s challenging. It’s not because she’s afraid of hard work – indeed, PN Coaching clients have a seamless experience with all aspects of the coaching program in large part thanks to Erin’s high standards and dedication to efficiency.
But for Erin, as in Lean Eating, hard work should have a point. Again, quality rules. She’s not a workaholic, she’s a… qual-aholic.
And she’s got aspirations beyond the stereotypical ideals of supermom or bikini babe. She wants to be stronger. Faster. Wiser.
“I’m going to be 40 next year. I’ve always felt driven to make sure that every decade of my life, I’m better in a well-rounded way than I was the decade before. I’ve thought about the things I really want to be better at. I don’t want to be lean for a day. I want to be lean and fit for life. I’m finding my own interpretation of what that means. I want to feel happy and balanced. I want to feel good in my body.
“Just like we tell our clients, that’s not a 6-week thing. It’s for life.”
She also wants to learn more and expand her horizons. Sitting back in the waiting room of life isn’t for her.
“I see people who do nothing when they retire, and I’m like ‘Omigod, shoot me!’ I just can’t do that!” If age 35 saw Erin doing pullups at the playground, 85 will probably see her doing pullups between rounds of shuffleboard. Or skydiving.
After all, being better every decade is no small feat.
“A lot of my energy goes into processing and growing and just making sure at the end of the day that I’ve gotten somewhere. It feels like it’s a lot of work to be a good, balanced, whole person. That surprised me. I never thought it would take so much energy to always be the best you.”
At this point, the “I’m lazy” line is starting to wear a little thin.
She realizes, despite her modest protests, that achievements require hard work and tradeoffs.
“If there’s something I want to achieve, I have to look at what I’m willing to accept. I don’t think you can really go forward until you accept those things. If you don’t accept reality as it’s handed to you, then you’ll just resent that and not be a happy person.
“I accept being a parent. It’s a choice I’ve made. I’m not going to go through life wishing it was another way just because other people seem to have it better than I do.
“So I look for the balance between selfishness and dedication to other people’s needs. What I can do in my situation so I’m happy and the people around me are happy?”
Being a coach may come naturally now that she’s got a decade of parenting under her belt, but it doesn’t make it any less challenging. Being a mother duck – in any capacity – is hard work. It takes creativity and resilience.
And, just maybe… a little “laziness”.