Saving the Best for Last

The crowd roars in my imagination.  Secretly I am an American Gladiator with a cool name like Lace or Zap.  My athletic potential is boundless as I scale The Wall and crush my opponent in The Eliminator.  Then I wake up and remember that in the world of sports my name is “Last”.  Last pick for any sports team.  Last place in the Creighton 2K row.

When my physician moved me to first in line for blood pressure and cholesterol medications, I seized the opportunity to make a drastic lifestyle change.  Nutrition and life coach Matt Jackson came on the scene Labor Day weekend of 2015 – ironic timing. Jackson had hard work ahead to help this athletically hopeless computer geek.  Finding a cardio in which I would push myself may have been his greatest challenge.  I’m the woman who thinks mad Photoshop skills should be a calorie burning Olympic event.  He recounts how I struggled to walk from the parking lot to our first workout at Dynamic Fitness.

“Push Yourself!” Matt Jackson – Owner of Make Everyday A Transformation

Old habits die hard, but the man I now affectionately call The Boss was committed to me and the task at hand.  Brisk walking was the cardio on board; forty-five minutes a day, every day. It was painful. Awful.  I would text Jackson during my workout. “I’m dying.”  Never wavering when I whined, “Keep it moving!” was the three word response.  He minced no words when he told me face-to-face “You are just freaking lazy when it comes to cardio!”* and would often text the two word admonishment “Push Yourself!” with no smiley face emoji.  I don’t mess with the Boss, and I did strive to exert myself.  In the empty apartment gym in the six a.m. dark winter hours I would remember what I learned most from Jackson;  consistency in the small things when no one is watching pays off. Progress was slow but steady. Every aspect of my life was improving for the better. Jackson was right.

In February of this year, life caught us by surprise when The Boss put me on the indoor rower for my Monday workout.  There was a break in the cosmic universe.

Sweet Jesus…I love rowing.

Jackson was all but giddy when he sensed my spark of enthusiasm.  But what’s not to love;  you get to sit the entire time and slide back and forth on a seat similar to those little scooters in the grade school gymnasium. The Bossscooter told me I was good at it and cheered me on for the Creighton 2K Row.  Even in my last place defeat, he was absolute in his encouragement and commitment to me on this life changing journey. I was back in the rowing saddle 48 hours later.

The odds continued to be in my favor when Dynamic Fitness introduced Dynamic Rowing that very month. It seemed no coincidence and Jackson wasted no time in coordinating my first meeting with Coach Trevor T. Fleming.

I stood in happy expectation waiting for the new owner of Dynamic Rowing to arrive. First impressions did not disappoint.  If the truth be told, my heart leaped and I thought “I wish you could have married my daughter.”  Beyond the personal, Trevor was everything I imagined in a coach that was certified in rowing on the grounds of Harvard University. Though modestly dressed in pristine Under Armour attire, his muscular physique was apparent as his shoulder pressed through the front doors with laptop in hand.  Down to his coordinating black socks, I knew he was a man of order.  The introduction was warm and engaging.  By golly, I smiled. We hugged.  With medium roast latte in hand, he directed me over to the new fleet of water rowers.  From his crystal blue eyes to his perfectly tousled hair, the handsome 27-year-old new kid on the block seemed to have the swag of a Hampton boy just in from the golf course. My internal dialog thought “How hard could this be?  And how grueling could that boy-next-door mug make a workout?”  The night ended with an agreement.  Though still under the umbrella of Matt Jackson, Coach Trevor would take this senior citizen who placed last at the Creighton 2K Row with a pitiful 3.0 split time and put me on the medal stand in 2017, just days before my 60th birthday. He was absolute about the difficult road ahead, reminding me that I’m short for the sport, but that it wouldn’t be impossible.  I would need to just trust him.

That little evening soirée was over by the following morning.  An accident on the expressway delayed my arrival and Coach Trevor was waiting.  He glanced at his Apple watch and said, “You’re two minutes late.” Thankfully by age 59 you learn to not say every thought that rattles through your brain like “Hey you little millennial whippersnapper, I’m old enough to be your mother!”   I was now in uncharted waters, late for a sport that is all about timing. Hampton boy and his latte must have stayed home, as a new man stood before me that moved on Trevor Time…a system governed primarily by intervals, but one that demands seizing every moment.  On Coach Trevor T. Fleming’s clock, the most important time is always now.


We advanced right into rowing intervals.  Don’t tell anyone, but I’d never rowed for more than 12 minutes straight.  “What the heck was I thinking?” Trevor Time was 45 minutes to an hour, averaging 6,000 to 7,000 meters per session.  The kindergarten scooter was no longer fun and I wanted phys. ed to be over. My arms hurt and the legs were not far behind screaming for mercy.  The worst was when I pulled in for the catch:  a huge ‘cinnamon roll’ of stomach fat seemed to be right in the way.  Author Craig Lambert accurately writes in “Mind Over Water”,

Unlike running, rowing calls on every major muscle group in the body — legs, buttocks, back, abdomen, shoulders, arms — and pits them against resistance.  Activating so much muscle tissue at once generates a tremendous demand for oxygen that sets your lungs on fire.

I was dead in the water, and there was no turning back.  It was game on with a five day a week rowing schedule.   I wanted to tattle to The Boss that Coach Trevor was mean to me, but both men had made special concessions to open up this enormous opportunity.  The only words Jackson would want to hear were those of gratitude, so I kept my little yap shut.  Pushing to the next level of physical conditioning was the solution to diminish my misery.  Push I did.  Row for row, pound for pound, my post-menopausal physique was morphing into the best shape of my life.

Little did I know that under Jackson and Fleming, I wasn’t just building a body, but building a life after the death of my daughter.  Jackson reminds me, “We weren’t going for the scale number – the goal was RECOVERY.”   A 1994 Standford University study states.

“Recovery from grief requires more than grieving.”  They call it “Adaptive coping – doing things that renew your sense of control and take your mind away from your worries for a short time…a little bit of distraction leads to more motivation and to do more pleasant activities.  You can start small and build.”

Trevor Fleming – Before 50 pound weight loss

We started small, and misery turned to power.  Rowing became the one place where my mind checked out at the door, and the sound of the water became my therapy.  The relationship with a man who I never would have met had my daughter not died began to grow.  In punctuality and purpose, Coach Trevor is so very much like her.  Megan was molded in the fire of chronic illness until her death at 27.  Enter the 27-year-old rowing coach;  witty and wise in all the same ways that she was wonderful and able to steward every precious moment of time like it was the last.   It was a wink from God, giving me one to pick up the oar that she left behind nine years ago.  It comes as no coincidence that he, too, has been shaped by a chronic condition.  Coach Trevor was only eight when he was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes, an autoimmune disease that requires daily insulin shots.  Not only does he have a keen understanding of the unfairness of life that one must press through, but compassion for the struggle to make fitness a priority.  In his lifespan, Coach Trevor successfully conquered 50 extra pounds, leading him on the road of self-discovery that water rowing can manage his insulin levels better than any other cardio activity.  It is his passion and purpose to continue to pass that truth on to a world that is being diagnosed with both Type I and Type II Diabetes at an alarming rate.

Coach Trevor T. Fleming – After

Trusting two men with workout regimes I didn’t always understand has landed me at my best blood pressure in 40 years and a body that is just 10 lbs. away from goal:  my high school weight of 135.  In 12 months time (12 months under Jackson and six months under Fleming) I’ve gone from a size 18 to 8.  My formerly shipwrecked life is discovering new people who I never would have known that are helping me achieve goals I never thought imaginable, giving evidence to the truth that sometimes

The best is saved for last.

Key Notes:

  • Nutrition under Matt Jackson has been a key element in the process.  You can’t out row or out run your fork.
  • Trevor is a Certified Rowing Instructor, Certified Personal Trainer and Certified TRX Suspension Trainer.
  • Your first rowing class is free.  You can reach Coach Trevor Fleming through or find him on Instagram.
  • You can contact Matt Jackson through the M.E.A.T. website contact form.  Check out The Boss on Instagram, too.
  • The Creighton 2K Row generally falls the last Saturday of February which would be February 25, 2017 – 48 hours away from my 60th birthday.
    • Currently my 1,000 meter warm-up is a leisurely 2.30.
Photo Jul 22, 3 22 40 PM
With Best Friend Kim Schiltz

On a Lighter Note:

  • The Roman Name Generator translated Valerie Jeanne Bourdain to Adriana Baccus as my coliseum name. Roman women were often referred to by their middle names.  Jeanne Bourdain translates to Balbina Baccus. Yup, Balbina it is. The crowd roars.  I love it.
    • My friend Linnette recently taught me that she has a Starbucks name;  who knew you could give the barista an imaginary name instead of your own! Next time I order my trenta black ice tea, unsweetened, no water, I’m going to say my name is Balbina.  The crowd roars.  I love it!
  • Coach Trevor T. Fleming uses words such as shenanigans and skedaddle.  I tell him “You sound just like my mother” not “I’m old enough to be your mother.”
  • *Coach Matt Jackson did not use the word ‘freaking’ when describing my laziness.  He used another ‘f’ word that ends in ‘ing’.
  • A friend recently said, “So you row because you are really lazy and you discovered it is the most efficient way to get your cardio over with?”  Yes.  That would be right…

On a Thankful Note:

  • Thank you Dynamic Fitness and Dynamic Rowing.  You’ve given me enormous opportunity and support.
  • Thank you, Kim Schiltz.  You got me to The Boss in the first place.
  • Thank you, Water Rower…your equipment is the bomb.


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    1. I was just searching to see if Bell was like a friend who goes to Starbucks and uses the name Simon! Yes, Balbina is beautiful! 🙂 And by the way, I recall you being one of the many that outran me in grade school.

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Article by: Valerie Bourdain

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