“Get your foundation,” Richard Fine is telling his pupil at the White Rock YMCA. Kyra Woodson is in a semi-crouch, grasping two twenty-five foot lengths of inch-and-a-half thick rope which are anchored to a weight machine. “Now move side-to-side and pump.” Richard Fine is giving Ms. Woodson, a “Y” employee, a “demo” on the battling ropes.
“Lotta rope! Lotta rope! Lotta rope! You can do it girl!” And she does, unfurling huge waves as she inches slowly toward the anchored end. The shorter the distance the harder the effort, but she keeps it up for thirty seconds. “You knocked em dead,” Fine says.
Exhortation, praise, sensitivity. These are the tools of the personal trainer, and they are Richard Fine’s tools, too, but he has greater goals than improved physiques.
“Training is a medium, is a metaphor to teach about life,” Fine says. “How we show up in physical movement and how we transfer that into our life is how we engage the world.” Fine found this out for himself growing up in South Texas. Smallish, he was often excluded from the cliques in school, until he realized he could lift heavier barbells in the schoolyard than the bigger kids could. He ultimately gained his peers’ acceptance by showing them how strong he was, which lead to a hobby in body-building, and the huge arms he has today.
Person-building has become his passion as an adult. Fine earned a PhD. in counselling and psychology at Arizona State, ultimately deploying those skills with native american populations in the areas of alcohol abuse, mental health and family violence.
Besides being a personal trainer at the White Rock YMCA, Fine also has been conducting surveys with members on how to improve services, which in his view are already stellar. “The “Y” is a place that intensely wants to make a difference in peoples’ lives, regardless of (financial) ability. Each year we sponsor a number of families in need to have this place to come and belong,” he says.
“We love Richard,” says Stacie Renfro, the “Y’s” associate executive director. “He’s always trying to contribute.”
Vulnerability and Strength
As a trainer, Fine is aware of his clients’ vulnerabilities. But he’s also aware of his own, and he’s always attempting to reshape them. “Every human being reinvents themselves several times in a lifetime,” he says A few years ago he had his left hip replaced. This month, a new right hip went in, and he’ll spend the next month getting back on his feet. “One in life is always vulnerable, and that’s what my coaching is about. How to move through change. Life transitions invite us.”
Three times a week, when both hips are healthy, Fine goes to the Meadowstone Retirement Community, where he leads an exercise class. Once a week he facilitates a focus group where residents talk about themselves. He learns as much as he teaches, he says. The group loves it, Meadowstone manager Lawanna Dance told me. Fine would like to expand the concept. ”One of my dreams is to create in all of these retirement communities group story telling, shared experiences. People want to talk. They want to be heard and cared for.”
Fine seems ready to assist just about anybody. “He helped one man, who had no family left, get his drivers license. It was invaluable,” says Ms. Dance, the Meadowstone manager. This is an obvious stretch from being a personal trainer, but part of a whole, in which Fine is training himself as well as his clients.
“Right now, I’m recreating myself. I start with a new hip and I build step by step back back into expression. And so I have some of the same feelings as the little kid picking up the wight outside the school, and also some new visions that I have a place to make a difference. And I just try to get back out and do it again.”