There may be few things in life more intimidating than facing a super-accomplished person, especially when you're not feeling so hot about yourself.
So when Lynn Gray, a teacher, trainer and veteran of 90 marathons, contacted me with an idea to help Personal Best readers get into shape, I had some questions.
Not about her qualifications — you'll see her bona fides on Page 10 along with the first entry in her Walk to Run series. And certainly not about her enthusiasm.
I wanted to know how an athlete like Gray can even relate to somebody who's struggling just to get off the couch. Or who might enjoy walking, but can't imagine doing it for miles and miles at a fast pace — or even running.
"I had modest beginnings,'' Lynn told me. "I started out as the last person in the race.''
That was during her student days at Florida State in the late 1960s, back when you got funny looks if you ran for fun — especially if you were a woman.
"I never really felt like I had camaraderie or support,'' she told me of those early days. "I never had a professional training plan.''
So Lynn knows what it is to feel kind of lost. And after years as an award-winning schoolteacher and a fitness coach, she knows how to offer guidance.
Another question I had for her: What do you think when you see somebody who's really out of shape — What a shame?
She's envisioning the possibilities.
People starting from scratch are "the most rewarding, because you see the most progress out of them,'' Lynn told me.
"I see women that have low-self esteem and don't really believe they can accomplish such-and-such a distance. But you know, it's not the run or the walk itself; it's mostly whether they believe they can do it.''
Lynn reeled off example after example: A student who hadn't exercised in 20 years and progressed from walking a mile to running a half-marathon. A woman in her 60s, with a hunched back and an unsteady gait, now walking miles and miles — and losing 6 inches from her waist.
"She has completely changed her core! She even looks taller!'' Lynn said, her enthusiasm bubbling over. "She's a story unfolding right before my eyes.''
If all this is giving you a new sense of optimism, come along with Lynn's program over the next few weeks, and start unfolding a story of your own.