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, Pam Ruhland.
“I have a Master’s degree in Precision Nutrition coaching,” Pam Ruhland jokes.
“I’ve been through the program as a client so many times, in so many of its iterations. I’ve benefited from the guidance of so many of the coaches. And I’ve made so many online and real-life friends in the PN community.
“Working for the company feels a bit like coming home!”
Coming home. Pam doesn’t use that phrase lightly.
Home is special to her. She’s mother to six children and now a young grandmother. So she’s an expert at building healthy communities and creating a sense of belonging.
Born in Belfast, Pam immigrated to Canada as a six-year-old, settling with her parents in British Columbia
“I was not an athletic kid,” she says. “Instead, I was the ‘artistic’ one.”
She took part in plays and musicals and sang in a band that performed at curling bonspiels, weddings and in bars.
“Of course, we had to get permission for the bars as we were all underage,” she laughs.
But in her early twenties she started exercising. First, she bought an old stationary bike.
“When that got old I began going to aerobics classes and got hooked.” She had soon graduated to teaching those classes.
It was the beginning of a life-long love affair with exercise and fitness – one that Pam would go on to nurture in numerous ways, from long-distance running to powerlifting.
Even before she discovered her love of exercise, Pam had already met the other love of her life – her husband, Bill. They married fifteen months after she graduated from high school, and it wasn’t long before they’d started their family.
“Raising my kids to be healthy, productive, happy people has been the most important and rewarding challenge of my life,” Pam says.
Most parents can identify with that. Raising kids is not easy. But it’s clear Pam’s done a terrific job, because her kids are all thriving and, in particular, each has felt free to explore his or her own special aptitudes and gifts.
Take her eldest daughter, Erin – a talented photographer.
She took the pictures that celebrate Pam’s successful completion of her first round in our coaching program.
“It was so much fun to do that shoot,” Pam says. “She brought a really creative element to the whole experience, and it made us feel closer to one another to be able to play that way.”
In talking with Pam, what’s obvious is how much joy she takes in her children’s individuality – and how much space and encouragement she has given them to become their own best selves.
Not mirror images of each other or of Pam or her husband – but the people they want to be.
Pam approaches coaching in the same way.
She looks for the best in each person, and then with her natural warmth, energy, and enthusiasm, she draws it out.
While raising her kids, Pam, like many women, took on a variety of part-time jobs – everything from bank teller to Weight Watchers Leader.
Eventually, as she became more and more knowledgeable about health and fitness, Pam came to disagree with some of the Weight Watchers principles and approaches. But she still thinks that the system can be a good launching pad for some people.
“What was positive in it – what I took away – was how important relationships are. It’s the people you meet who help motivate you and keep you inspired.”
Pam found PN in 2009. She was immediately impressed by what she found there.
“I’ve been part of a quite a few different fitness forums in my time,” she says. “But PN’s forums are different. They’re more than just a collection of people who want to get in shape. There’s a real community here. People really care about each other.”
The more involved in PN’s community Pam became, the more she wanted to become involved. When you find your passion it’s like that. You want to get closer to the flame.
Because increasingly, she found that fitness was becoming more than a “hobby.” More, even, than a part-time source of income or a handy way to make friends. Fitness was becoming her identity.
She’d been teaching classes and pursuing her own training and continuing education. But now she wanted to take it even further. So in 2009, she enrolled in Mount Royal University’s Personal Fitness Trainer program.
At the time, this felt like a bit of a leap. It wasn’t because of the work itself; after all, none of the other certification programs she’d taken through Can Fit Pro or the YMCA had intimidated her.
But those courses hadn’t been offered in a university setting.
And, as someone whose sense of herself had been tied up so long in her role as a mother, it was tough for Pam to shake the idea that university was meant for people her kids’ age. After all, who did she think she was, going off to study something just because she loved it and was good at it? Wasn’t her life supposed to be devoted to others?
She could easily imagine the armchair critiques: Don’t you think you’re a little bit old for this?
“It turned out I wasn’t quite the oldest in the program,” she says. Not only that, but she enjoyed it so much and did so well that it whet her appetite for further learning; since then she’s gone on to PN Certification and a course of study at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.
It took a superb and intuitive coach, Krista Schaus, to help Pam make the transformation from “busy mother of six” to “independent and focused athlete who happens to have given birth to six children.”
The fact was, as a cyclist and long-distance runner, Pam had been participating seriously in sport for years. Not only that, but she had been teaching classes ranging from aerobics, to strength and conditioning, to something she fondly describes as her “ass class”. And her leadership skills were so remarkable that she’d been honored with several awards.
Yet for some reason, Pam hadn’t been focusing on all of that.
“When I joined PN’s coaching program as a participant, I was “Mommy6,” she says. But Krista gently challenged me to think of myself in a new way. To recognize myself as someone valuable outside my role in the family. This was really key for me. And until Krista mentioned it, I never thought about it — all these years! It’s been a tremendous lesson for me.
She chose a new screen name to mark the change: Bamm-Bamm.
Bamm-Bamm is Barney and Betty Rubble’s club-wielding adopted son in the Flintstones, a cartoon that aired in the 1960s. It’s a nickname a co-worker gave her because it rhymes with Pam – but for some reason she liked it, and it stuck.
“Bamm-Bamm has great strength,” she notes. He’s also the source of humor. He helps Pebbles, the Flintstones’ daughter, learn how to walk – and later, when they grow up, he connects their two families when he marries her.
And Bamm-Bamm seemed to suit the person she was becoming: Not just strong, but focused, determined – maybe even a bit stubborn – and eager to coach and mentor others.
“I’ve always been the ‘perky’ one,” Pam says. “I’m a ‘glass-half-full’ kind of person.”
That doesn’t mean she hasn’t faced her share of trouble. Her sister died of cancer while Pam was enrolled in PN’s coaching program. One of her sons has juvenile arthritis, an incurable condition that inevitably affects the entire family.
And when her husband was involved in a serious car accident in 2010, Pam faced some very dark days. Even now, he suffers from chronic pain and is unable to work. This has created some serious financial challenges for the family.
But money is the least of it. Chronic pain patients frequently find themselves dismissed or disbelieved by healthcare practitioners and this understandably leads to frustration. Not to mention the grief that a loving wife naturally feels when she sees her partner hurting this way.
This is the kind of situation that could drive the most upbeat person to the depths of despair. But for a while, Pam actually tried to pretend that everything was the same and everything was okay.
It wasn’t exactly that she was in denial about it. It was more that she needed every bit of energy just to get through her days, and reflecting too much on how she was feeling didn’t seem like a sensible use of her time. But the failure to accept our trickier feelings comes with a cost, and for Pam, it contributed to some niggling health issues.
Again, it was a PN coach who led the way, recommending that she might benefit from some professional help. And as someone who was used to focusing on the bright side, Pam found the process challenging.
“It was also somewhat revolutionary. I had never talked to a professional about my own issues before. I thought everything was fine the way it was. I thought I didn’t need therapy.”
“I thought wrong,” she adds.
Pam is still the “perky one.” Just because she sought help doesn’t mean that she’s changed her fundamental personality or her orientation to the world – which, after all, is a healthy one.
Instead, by accepting and making room for and giving due to some of her more negative emotions, she has, paradoxically, become stronger. Her natural hopefulness and optimism are now grounded. And this makes them more real, more believable – and that much more galvanizing to others.
“I always tend to be the one who drags everybody else up with me,” she laughs.
For Pam’s 50th birthday, her oldest daughter organized a very special gift – 50 letters from friends and family, outlining the ways that Pam has inspired them.
You get the feeling those letters were probably pretty easy to write, because Pam’s such a warm, energetic, and encouraging force.
“I’d take that book before anything else if there were a fire,” she says, her voice cracking with emotion.
Pam treasures the book in part because it was such a thoughtful gesture, and in part because it contains the loving words of the people she cares about most.
But it’s also special to her because it’s a glowing testament to the good she has done in the world. An affirmation of her unique power for motivating people to become their fittest, healthiest selves.
A concrete embodiment of her talent for shining a light.
“There’s always light on the other side,” she says with a smile. “You just have to work toward it.”