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Last winter I caught wind of a little smack talk that was going on in Geoff’s place of employment. It seemed that a co-worker of his, who happened to also attend the same gym that we did, had a thing or two to say about “chicks” in the fitness field. Something along the lines of “no woman could ever train me hard enough to actually give me a good workout”. Of course I was annoyed by the comment, but not necessarily offended, as I figured he was just another jackaloon who was talking out of his butt in order to stroke his own ego. I brushed it off my shoulder and moved on.
But the smack talk kept coming. I heard recounts almost daily from Geoff and from other co-workers about how this guy would not let up…and eventually I was brought into the picture. Again, I’m paraphrasing, as it was almost a year ago and I don’t remember the lofty, ridiculous claims verbatim, but something like “your girl (i.e., me) could never beat me at anything in the gym.”
Challenge accepted, jerk face.
At some point in the next few days, we (the jackaloon and I) happened to be in the gym at the same time. I marched right up to him and called him out on his arrogant claims, then challenged him right there to a mini fitness competition: three rounds of ten pushups, ten mountain climbers, and ten burpees. Whoever finished first was the “winner” (winner of what, I’m still not certain).
What happened next is that in the middle of the gym, during peak hours (it was maybe 5:30 pm), with many people looking on, I finished the entire circuit before he even finished one round.
And I gloated…might have even puffed out my chest a little. I shamed that poor man as older ladies on the tricep and abductor machines cheered me on with smiles and “you go, girl!” affirmations. And then I once again brushed it off my shoulder and moved on.
Fast forward to last summer. Geoff and I decided to start up and lead a local group that met twice a week for bootcamp style workouts. Imagine my surprise when the Jackaloon showed up. I, of course, immediately rushed to the defense, and started with the “if you even dare start with the ego trip, I swear I will burpee you into the ground…”. Imagine my even greater surprise when he replied that he was there because he wanted MY help getting into shape.
jerk face friend.
Now, I won’t give this friend an A for attendance, but I’ll certainly give him an A for effort every single time he did show up. As a trainer, it is often difficult for me to see someone struggle so much with an exercise or movement that comes naturally to me and many other clients. In this situation, it is the elusive burpee. He struggles with the burpee in a way that makes my mom voice want to tell him it’s OK to stop, he’s done enough…but my trainer voice always wins out and simply keeps counting reps out loud.
Every time I offer modifications, as well as core and hip strengthening exercises that will ultimately help him achieve better burpee technique. Sure I know there are hundreds of alternative exercises other than a burpee, and over the course of the summer we had him do many other exercises. In fact, we even helped this friend train for, and complete his first obstacle course race, and he has moved on to other fitness regimens on his own. But at this point I believe the burpee itself has become more than just a benchmark of improvement; instead mastery of this exercise has become the summit of a proverbial mountain.
Yesterday, this friend challenged me to meet him after work for 40 burpees. In typical fashion, there is still that level of competitiveness and smack talk, though we both know I’ll still finish my burpees first. But we did them anyway, and while he struggled…though a little less struggle than last time…it occurred to me: I can’t wait until the day he does beat me.
There are a lot of times I become frustrated with my career path. Despite my advanced certifications and college degree in the field, I compete for jobs with people who aren’t even certified. I fight daily to quell misinformation spouted off by people who are in multi level marketing “coaching” businesses under pretenses of helping people loose weight (disclaimer: not all of them have bad intentions). The diet pills. The infomercials. The “my cousins boyfriend’s best friend is a trainer and HE says cardio and carbs are bad for you”. Some days it makes my head spin so much I just want to throw my hands up and go work in a bank.
And then I see someone succeed. I see someone push just a little harder than yesterday, grow more confident, gain more strength. And I get a thank you, because even though they were the ones who did all of the hard work, they were the ones who dug deep to find the courage to change, something I said or did was the catalyst to help light that fire. And that, to me, is worth far more than any paycheck I could ever receive…
… and is a damn good reason to lose a burpee competition.