I had never seen cocaine before…
It was the summer of 1985 and I was on break between my sophomore and junior years at Manhattan College. Going into my junior year, I knew I’d be taking courses more specific to my Exercise Physiology Major. I figured some exposure in a health club setting would be a great way to get applied experience before starting the fall semester. So, I got a job as a Fitness Instructor at a health club in Nanuet, New York. It was part of a highly recognized chain of clubs on the East Coast.
Soon after being hired, we had an after-hours staff party in the club. Most of the fitness staff was at the party along with a few members. There was a lot of food, booze and music blaring on the club sound system. As a new hire on staff, I was at the bottom of the employee food-chain. I taught aerobic classes, did fitness assessments and covered the floor to help members. I also cleaned exercise machines… lot’s of machines… multiple times. That really sucked! But that was all part of paying my dues towards a future as a Fitness Trainer. (Side note: This was prior to the Personal Training trend. We didn’t offer Personal Training services because… Personal Training had not yet become a mainstream service like it is today.)
The staff party was a cool idea. We took over the entire place – classroom, pool, hot tub, weight rooms. People were everywhere. Much like the job, I went into the party wearing my idealist goggles. I’ve always been an idealist; raised in the Boys Scouts, going to church, believing in God and Country. I look for the world around me to be as altruistic and morally pure as I hope for it to be.
Call me naive. I am.
Furthermore, I was tremendously naive in my 20’s. I understand there is no perfection in me or anyone else; not on this side of heaven. And I don’t expect anyone to be perfect. I’m just frequently hoping everyone is at least striving to be their absolute best on all levels. I’m also frequently disappointed by the grim reality that not everyone shares the same ideals and values. Likewise, I get disappointed in myself when I’m not striving for my best. That’s the problem with being an idealist – we are hard on ourselves and therefore, we’re hard on everyone around us. That’s why we become Trainers and Motivators. It’s the best way we know how to channel this asinine characteristic into a career.
So when it came to wearing my idealist glasses, this night at the club party was no exception. I was caught off guard when I walked into the ladies’ locker room to find the fitness managers and staff hovered over the bathroom counter snorting cocaine. I didn’t actually see the cocaine but I understood quickly what was going on and immediately distanced myself from the whole scene as fast and subtly as possible. I left the party majorly bummed. I wanted to believe that the people in the fitness industry, the people I wanted to respect and from whom I took my guidance, I wanted to believe they were equally or even more passionate about their personal health and healthy living. I wanted to believe they were striving to be living examples of total health – body, mind and spirit. I wanted to know they walked their talk. I only found myself surrounded once again by cheap-talkers; not all of them, just enough cheap-talkers to taint the profession.
A couple of weeks after I was hired, I got promoted… by the managers on drugs… to Floor Manager. Not a big deal. It just meant for an extra $0.25 per hour, I got to show-up earlier and leave later than everyone else. It also meant being sent to a different club. Go figure! I was closing the club one night with the floor-manager from the women’s side of the club. It was a huge place and we had a separate women’s gym. The female floor manager was SUPER-HOT! She had leg’s that reached the sky and a figure with curves to challenge the strongest hands. She needed a ride and asked if I could give her a lift home. (If this is starting to sound like a Penthouse Forum, cool your jets. I was a retired Boy Scout driving a 1980 Chevette; two HUGE turn-offs for any woman in her league.) I eagerly…rather… cooly offered to save this “damsel in distress” and I drove her home… to her cop boyfriend. On the way home, she told me she needed to relax. (Insert smokey voice here: “I need to relax!“) She reached into her purse, pulled-out a small cylinder, held it up to her nostrils and… SNORT…SNORT. I was majorly bummed. Here was this incredibly “healthy” woman, another fitness “role-model”, my managerial equivalent, using her extra $0.25/hour to purchase and snort cocaine in the front seat of my car as I drove her home to her boyfriend THE COP!!! My world was completely ruined. I was transporting a fitness coke-head and her…contraband… to her cop-boyfriend who was supposed to be fighting drugs. There was cocaine in my car! I would have driven my car off the Tappan Zee Bridge that night except, the cocaine would have been found in my car and my family would have been majorly disappointed in me.
I wish I could say my days of frustration with phony fitness trainers on drugs was left back in the 80’s. Unfortunately, as the Personal Training industry has grown, more and more people are gaining access to it through simple certifications. There is no industry standardization, no licenses and certainly NO DRUG TESTS to determine who is truly qualified to be a PROFESSIONAL Fitness Trainer. Everybody and anybody who thinks it would be cool and wants to be a Personal Trainer has easy access. Just write a check, take a simple test and ~ badabing-badaboom ~ you’re a trainer.
Seven years ago, a lot of Mortgage Brokers in our town had a personal trainer. Today, after the housing collapse, many ex-brokers are trying to become personal trainers. I also see a lot of former exotic dancers entering the fitness industry. More power to the former exotic dancers for wanting a career upgrade. Same to all you former mortgage brokers. Unfortunately, the pole dancers bring “habits”, most particularly their drug habits, over to the fitness industry.
Some of you reading this may be thinking, “I wouldn’t mind having an exotic dancer as my trainer.” If that’s what you’re into – go for it. Likewise, some of you may enjoy your own recreational drug habit and you’d appreciate learning from someone who can teach you how to improve your life while screwing it up at the same time. Best of luck to you with that plan.
And others will quickly judge me for being judgmental and not even recognize the hypocrisy. Being judgmental IS wrong. So quit judging me on the judgement baloney. This isn’t about judgement. This is about discernment and discernment is necessary. What’s the difference? Being judgmental is when we tell other people how they should live their lives. That’s what the police and judges do. I’ll leave your drug habit for the police to chase…or supply. Discernment is when we decide how we want or don’t want to live our own lives and with whom we want and don’t want to spend our time and money. Discernment is all about choosing how and by whom we wish to be influenced. Again, if you’re into having a trainer on drugs – go for it. I sincerely wish you the best. As for me and my family, we’ll strive for higher pursuits and we’ll choose to be influenced by people with higher standards.
I shed light on this issue because a trainer on drugs is Dangerous and Misleading.
Please name for me any industry where you want the principle person taking care of you, your health, your family and/or your assets to have even the slightest trace of drugs in their system.
Your Financial Planner?
Your Airline Pilot?
So why would you want to have a trainer on drugs handling free weights over your face or throwing medicine balls at you? Should a trainer on drugs be allowed to design cardiovascular protocols for a client with heart disease? What if the client’s maximum heart rate is 120 BPM and their coke-head trainer designs a regimen which takes the client’s heart rate over 130 BPM? Sound crazy? I learned of a trainer advising a 400-pound man with a heavy drinking problem to “just go do interval training”. No protocols. No heart rate or speed maximums. No time limits. “Just go do interval training.” That’s advice coming from a “certified” trainer. There are many instances when a good trainer’s knowledge and understanding of physiology and biomechanics is crucial for the safety of their clients. These are times when sound judgement is critical. I have watched a trainer with a “secret” drug habit throwing medicine balls to a client with severely chronic neck pain. There’s a real bad mix – a client with a compromised neck catching weighted objects from a trainer with compromised brain cells. After 25 years of rehabilitating people through several maladies, I can tell you of a few instances when the person I was training would be glad to know that I didn’t have the slightest trace of drugs in my system while stretching their neck.
The second issue pertaining to trainers on drugs is the element of false advertising. Let’s face it, clients want to work with trainers who appear fit and healthy. That makes sense. A trainer on drugs can look incredibly good! Trainers on drugs are a walking lie! Sure they train hard. They’re also willing to do things you and I won’t do.
You too can have their hot body IF you workout hard AND
1. Snort cocaine to accelerate your heart rate and metabolism.
2. Inhale nicotine regularly to suppress your body fat.
3. Inject Botox into your face to hide the wrinkles from the smoking.
4. Injest prescription drugs with your booze to help you relax between workouts.
And, if you think I’m exaggerating, throw-in the silicon breast implants and I just described a very popular trainer who promotes healthy living to everyone else while she, in reality, is a walking, talking toxic waste dump full of narcotics and toxic chemicals. How do I know this? One more time, not very long ago, I had another phoney trainer bringing her cocaine into my car and into my home; a potentially great trainer from whom I unfortunately had to distance myself personally and professionally so I would not be presumed guilty by association. I watched her on several occasions as she smoked like she was on fire and drank like she was trying to put it out!
And the sad truth is…these trainers on drugs are advising people who trust them and pay them for honest guidance on their physical health.
Folks, I’ve gone long on this topic because I’m passionate about what I do. I want to see integrity in my industry and the people who stake their claim in it. Please don’t get me wrong ~ The majority of professional fitness trainers are very decent people living drug-free lives. I’m talking about a very small minority who use and abuse drugs. Can you actually drug-test your trainer? I highly doubt it. You certainly can’t count on your health club to do it for you. I’ve worked with many health clubs and I don’t know of any which drug-test their trainers. Health Clubs, especially large chains, have their own agenda and they don’t necessarily have your best interest in mind. Remember, I watched the fitness managers at my first job snorting cocaine with their staff. They don’t care how a trainer maintains a “hot looking body”. Just so long as their club is staffed with hot looking trainers to attract more of your business and money.
I share this message as a reality check and something for you to think about as you select a trainer who is right for you, your health and your safety. Most generic articles on “How To Choose A Fitness Trainer” will tell you all about certifications, education, experience and references. That’s all good but, let’s get real. If having a drug-free trainer is important to you, ask your prospective trainer for the referrals. Not one single client has ever asked me for a referral in 25 years. I’ll gladly give you many. Seek out trainers with college degrees in the fitness field. I’ll show you mine. Sometimes a certificate isn’t enough to qualify a trainer’s knowledge and commitment. A certification takes only weeks to acquire. A degree takes years. Speak to other trainers and clients in your prospective trainer’s circle. Trust your gut as you gather information. Chances are very good your trainer will be drug-free. But don’t be surprised if you occasionally encounter a trainer with a drug habit. There’s not a whole lot we can do about this reality. I can only wave a red flag to caution those of you who are serious about your health and who gets access to it.