It’s about time I laid all this out.
The events I’m going to relive here for the sake of posterity are disheartening. Here is the first point I need to make, and it’s something I’ve stated and re-stated, not in my defence but deference: I am not a personal trainer. Yeah, because that means something. But I digress…
I wanted to build something at my gym and, for a little while there, it was happening: a ragtag bunch of fellas and one woman (my first trainee) were showing up each week and doing the program I set for them. And they were getting stronger. Ashleigh was always a free spirit and has since found several other exploits to occupy her time and energy. The guys joked around and shirked some sessions, but the majority were pretty devoted to the goal: they wanted to get actually strong. They wanted to compete. And they knew it would be some months before they were strong enough to do it.
The day after the State Finals, word got back to me of a problem with my group. There was a sleazy element which was becoming an issue for some female gym-goers. While I had not witnessed the behaviour discussed first hand, I was aware of the puerile nicknames that a couple in the group had given each other, and the casual misogyny displayed by the same pair. So when more bad news was presented to me, I was forced to act.
Here is the second point I need to make, and it’s the most important one: while I am not a PT, I am a member of WA Strongman. That means a lot to me, and the reputation of WA Strongman means a lot to a whole bunch of people, including me. It is a business and a professional organisation, with a public face.
Some months earlier I had created a private group chat on Facebook for myself and my handful of aspiring strong/wo/men to communicate with each other. I used this private forum to send a non-specific warning to all members that the behaviour I had been informed about had to stop. The reaction to my stern diplomacy I can best describe as petulant. No names were mentioned, yet the suspects all but outed themselves by telling me to ‘get fucked’, et cetera, and leaving the group. It was a pathetic end to what might have been a fantastic new chapter of Strongman in this state. I was, briefly, in discussion with Genesis’ management regarding sponsorship for a fledgling team in 2015. But when they learned of the sleazy behaviour they washed their hands of the whole affair.
This, combined with my sleep apnoea and old-lady knees, proved to be more than I could deal with. I quit training for nearly four weeks, as I’ve mentioned. During the time I took off, trying to gather my wits and deal with my own shit, for the most part, I was contacted by one of the belligerent ex-members of the group (which disintegrated in my absence) accusing me of using his newly-created ‘Strongman’ email account and making a fake Gumtree advert with his contact details… my motivation for doing this? To mildly inconvenience him. He’d apparently decided I was responsible for this because the Gumtree advert used better english than he did himself. Oh, and I was the only person, according to him, that he’d given the password for this email account to.*
I was almost bewildered… I first tried to explain to this special person that Gumtree scams were a common thing, and I really didn’t give enough of a shit about him to waste my time thinking of ways to mildly inconvenience him… but he persisted. Soon I got mad. I told him he was now harassing me; that he was an idiot (I used worse language) and he should’t approach me at the gym in future. While he continued his semiliterate protests and accusations, I blocked him on the social network.
The other members of the group were good people and I remain friends with them. I am still hopeful in the new year they will return to training and enter the novice comp in January. Tweedle-dumb and Tweedle-dumber are still circulating in the gym. One is pretending to know what he’s doing and the other is apparently asking everyone, including gym staff, where he can buy steroids.
So that’s that, really. I’m back to training more or less by myself, which suits me fine. I will use the time wisely and focus on my own training and development. And here is my third and final point: Genesis chapter died because a minority of members tarnished the reputation of WA Strongman and weren’t prepared to step correct. I will never turn away someone who genuinely wants to learn from me, or train with me, unless I have a real, real good reason for it.
*I looked up my archives and found the password: it was Strongman2014. Real cryptic.