"Let's go ahead and start with burpees and back squats for the warm-up." I laughed at the joke the personal trainer was making. "No but seriously, what's the warm-up?" His blank stare left me with the realization he wasn't joking.
It was March 2020. I was in Chanhassen, Minnesota wrapping up my week of training for my PT Manager certification. We would be doing our final presentations later that day but first, in true fitness fashion, we were participating in some team building with a small group training class led by one of the training assistants at the club across the street from the corporate headquarters. Apparently this particular assistant thought it appropriate to try and beat the shit out of all the PT Managers that were taking his class that day.
I informed him of my back surgery that I had about 18 months out from and that I couldn't back squat. This was also me showing great restraint since I was still dumbfounded that he thought back squats and burpees were part of the warm-up. As he struggled to figure out some alternatives for me to do I watched as everyone began to throw weight on the bar and perform their burpees. And then that little voice inside of me began to rear its ugly head.
I am a super competitive person. I was a college athlete who endured 60 mile weeks for 4 years. I've run numerous half and full marathons. I've dead-lifted 200 lbs and squatted 175 lbs. And then I suffered through years of chronic pain before my microdiscectomy back in 2018. But I still "look fit", which leads people to judge the book by its cover and assume that I can do what "normal people" do. Which in dumb trainer terms means things like burpee's and jump squats. So I swallowed my pride and began to perform body weight squats and my version of burpee's without the jump. Nothing like having numerous certifications, two degrees and an MBA that having to minimize your workout around your peers can drop you down several notches in the blink of an eye.
We got through the workout but not without half the crew winding up with tweaks in their backs or just suffering from exhaustion as most of us are more accustomed to working hours at a desk each day not doing compound movements and plyometrics. I was angry. I was disappointed that even after all of the information that we have at our fingertips of movement patterns that we need to do more of and how less is more with workouts we still have trainers walking into sessions assuming it's okay to give irresponsible workouts to a group of adults they know nothing about.
And more importantly, I suffered through an experience that made me feel less than. And for someone who continues to work in the industry to help others overcome this feeling, it's infuriating.
It's memories like this that fuel me to stay in fitness because I know that every day people muster up the courage to walk into a facility to take a class or meet with a trainer and they wind up having an awful experience that leads them to never set foot in that place again. That fitness professionals worry too much about making the workout difficult when most of their participants are tired after just the warm-up.
We live in a time that the average adult knows they need to work out. There is some responsibility involved for that person to put in the effort and try of course. But if that person can't learn what they should be doing how can we blame them when they quit? I don't have to worry about my accountant not getting me the right deductions when I file with them. They just do it. So why does a fitness consumer need to double check with numerous professionals on what they should be doing to move and feel better?
My philosophy has moved more towards fitness for life. Make habits that you can do for the next 40 years, not the next 30 days. Don't be afraid to try new things and when you're tired of a workout program it's okay to pivot to a new one. But it's also our responsibility in fitness to give the right basics to everyone. For those of you reading who are fitness consumers...you should never have to suffer through a workout. Unless you are a conditioned vet who's been working out for awhile and taking things to the next level, there is no need to feel like you are going to hurl after a workout. Workouts can be done anywhere and can be 15 minutes or 90 minutes. They can include equipment or not. They can be at a gym or in your home. But most important, they should allow you to feel just a little stronger after they are done.
For those fit pro's out there reading, remember, it's not about us; it's about them. And make sure to educate yourself on what the average person needs; otherwise you're just making them sweat with no good reason.