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October 30, 2020

Full-Time Life: How a Muay Thai Instructor at Easton Training Center Denver Strikes a Healthy Balance

Maggy Stacy

Full-Time Life: How a Muay Thai Instructor at Easton Training Center Denver Strikes a Healthy Balance

Stephanie Johnson is a Muay Thai instructor at Easton Training Center Denver. I spoke with Stephanie about how she manages her “full-time life” and seemingly strikes such a healthy balance.

M: Stephanie, can you share how you began with Muay Thai at Easton?

S: I was one of the folks who stumbled on kickboxing through Groupon and honestly had never found anything I stuck with long-term. I definitely jumped around with various fitness and exercise but never found anything I enjoyed long-term, so I assumed I would do the month and call it good. I ended up going to my first class and it was the first time that I was like, “Am I a little bit coordinated?” 

I was always intimidated with anything that involved actual contact, so when I started it was just kickboxing. Then they added kickboxing level 2, and I thought “Well I guess I’ll try that, but I’m still never going to try Intro to Muay Thai.” Then Sean made me go to Intro to Muay Thai, and I thought “Ok, I’m going do this but I’m never going to spar…” I’ve done that the whole way through! Now, I’m coaching and a couple smokers in. 

Did you expect you might coach? How did that happen?

I didn’t at first. I became interested once I started going to Muay Thai. I realized I really liked being partnered with the newer folks in classes and having newer people talking to me and having contact with people in that sphere. So, when an opportunity came to teach the individual private sessions that are offered to new members, I did that for a while and very quickly after that decided I wanted to actually coach. That’s where I felt I fit in and it was something I really enjoyed and wanted to continue.

Remind me of your career focus and how more post-graduate education entered into your life. Do I remember correctly that you had a career shift in a way?

I work in mental health as a social worker. As I started coaching, I am now back in school for another masters degree in sports management. A career shift? Maybe more like a second career, as I still love what I currently do and think a background in social work is one of the most helpful things I use in coaching.

M: Can you say more about that?

I think people are looking to be supportively challenged, and a background in social work or counseling is good for learning ways to motivate people, to challenge them in ways that aren’t overwhelming. I encounter that for a lot of us, the gym is some sort of way for us to work out something, whether it’s controlling our emotions or processing a difficult day. There’s a big element I find of that being the space where we work out what’s going on in our lives, and so I think having some training in seeing that and helping people with their mental wellness overlaps all the time with how people are presenting in class. 

Wow, that makes so much sense. And when do you complete your masters?

I’ll be done next July or August.

It sounds like you work so much. You have a full-time career, full-time school schedule, and you continue to train and coach. So you have a full life! How in general did your life shift during the shutdown, how did you maintain all those passions of yours?

I did have to learn because, yeah, my life is busy, and I’m a “yes” person, so I didn’t want to backtrack on any of the things that I’m doing that are important to me. Those are, as you said, the four big things in my life, so I’ve had to work on how to set some healthy boundaries. Some of that has been the recognition that for me, I love training and I love coaching, and I’m not proving anything by making myself go every day when I just can’t do that mentally or schedule-wise.

Im sure a lot of people could stand to hear that right now; a lot of people seem to be feeling a lot of pressure, like theyre not doing enough and simultaneously doing too much, and feeling overwhelmed.

Yeah, I think for everyone, people in many ways are busier, and burned out and frustrated. Like many people, I have a sort of fear of missing out in class, thinking “someone’s going to learn something I didn’t learn” or “they’re going to go over this in class, and next time I’m not going to know it” and so for a long time I told myself I must go every day no matter what, and I think I’ve developed a healthier level of “push yourself to go because it’s good for you, and know when it’s just not what you need to do right now.”

In terms of motivation, is there a particular mantra or something that you go to for a reminder to keep yourself motivated or anything you look to for inspiration?

I’m sure there are many, now to just name them! There are two things: One of the things I always remind myself that’s come out of my mental health-work piece, is that you can’t take care of anyone else if you haven’t taken care of yourself, so I’m always reminding myself of that. And then another thing I really practice throughout my day – I’m always going from one work thing to another work thing – but one thing I do is reflect, normally toward the end of my work day, with this skill we use at my job called Homeward Bound, by asking yourself, “What are three things that I did well today, what are three things I learned, and how can I be the best _____ tonight?” So you can fill that in (How can I be the best sister, or the best coach, or… whatever.) I use that pretty much daily as a way to refresh my perspective and clear my head.  Working through that now, asking those questions, reminds me that the days are so busy and at the end of it, the things that were super important, I can often boil down to much smaller than what I felt was a crisis in the moment.

I love that, I want to implement that immediately. Do you journal these things, or just go through in your mind?

Currently I go through in my mind. In order to get in the habit, I did right it down. I had one of my coworkers, one of my friends that worked with me, we would at the end of the workday before we left we would have to email each other our answers. It helped up build the habit and we were finding that with your friends you actually tend to focus on the negative a lot. Friends are where you can vent, so  it helped open up our conversations to be a little more forward-focused and more positive. 

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