Last week a client of ours died unexpectedly. Although he did have quite a few health problems, he began training about 6 months ago and was trying to make changes. Things like this open our eyes and make us, as Trainers, ask “what else could we have done? What if he had started a year earlier – would he have had 10 more years to live?” His passing reminded me of this blog I wanted to share with you.

“This is a story about a man named Don. Don showed up to the club everyday, six days a week and had been doing that for 11 years. He became a member of his club the third month it opened and considered himself one of the original members. His group of friends always met every morning in front of the shake bar. The average age of all the guys was about 60. Everyone in the gang ambled in around 6:30 am for morning coffee carrying gym bags and sporting old tired tee shirts and shorts in every combination imaginable. No one wore new stuff because new stuff wasn’t as cool as wearing the same beat up workout shirt for 10 years in a row.

These guys were loved by the staff and other members. If one missed, the group was concerned and if anyone needed help the gang was usually there.

Sometimes these guys even worked out. Most of them did the same circuit, using the same reps and the same weights, year after year. On off days, they all walked on the treadmills slowly talking to each other up and down the row; never fast enough where you couldn’t hold a good conversation.

Don died of a heart attack at age 60 and he died because the fitness industry failed him. He died because every trainer knows that what he had been calling fitness for the last 11 years was in reality nothing more than a gentle stroll on the tread followed by a circuit that hadn’t challenged his body since the first month he started as a member.

Of course there might have been other reasons for Don’s death, but for 11 years, six days a week, someone knew that what he was doing wasn’t enough of a challenge for him; was actually working against him, and no one did their job and intervened.

So how hard do we push our “Don’s”? As a professional trainer we are not doing you any good by ignoring what we know to be harmful behavior. We have to do whatever is possible to change the behavior and at some point we might be better off pushing enough that the client either changes or leaves. You might justify to yourself and say that at least Don was moving a little every day, but in reality we are showing you how much we care, and how much we believe in what we are doing, by pushing you hard to get more out of you – whether you like it or not.

So when we accept your money, then failing you is not an option, and we will push you and do what we can to help you live a long and healthy life.”

*Don’s story adapted from Thomas Plummer.

Rest in Peace, JD.

~Danielle Wirick, MS, CSCS, FMSC