Jon Dame (L) and Wayne Burwell (R)

Ever Dream of Getting Revenge on Your Trainer? Wayne Burwell and Jon Dame Want to Give You That Chance


Created by
Rob @ Story Kitchen

Let's say that a couple of times a week -- every week -- someone makes your life miserable for an hour.  He or she pushes you to exercise until your lungs are bursting. They make you do things with oddly unsettling names, like "burpees" or "sally-ups." They have no pity. They laugh at your pain.

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Then let's say that one day a year you have a chance to pay them back. You'd do it in a heartbeat, right?

Well here we go: That day is coming. On January 19, in fact. That's when Wayne Burwell and Jon Dame and, they hope, a gang of other Upper Valley fitness trainers will volunteer to suffer at your whim. But here's the catch: you have to help beat cancer.

As volunteer fundraisers for the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, Dame, a trainer at the Dartmouth Fitness Center, and Burwell, who runs Wayne's World gym in Lebanon, are organizing Crush Cancer And Your Trainer, a day when (for the most part, as we'll see) they submit themselves to whatever pulverizing activity the vengeful minds of participants can come up with. At $5 a minute. 

Definitely do not try this at home!

This is personal for both of them. Dame's wife is six years free of breast cancer. "Watching her go through breast cancer I thought, 'There’s nothing I could do in one day that would amount to the pain she went through,'" he says. 

Burwell lost two friends to cancer. The first was Fr. John Mullin, a longtime DHMC chaplain who was a trainee of Burwell's. "He'd walk through the gym yelling, 'He's trying to kill me!!!'" Burwell recalls. "He was the funniest guy you ever met, though he dealt with death all the time." The second was Burwell's therapist, Peter "Pano" Rodis, whom Burwell consulted after a 2012 incident in which Hartford police officers pepper-sprayed and subdued him in his own home. "He basically saved my life," Burwell says.

Burwell actually started the event five years ago, and the two have held it for the past five years at Wayne's World, mostly--despite Burwell's efforts--without other trainers joining them. This year, Dame is working hard to expand it by enlisting more gyms and more trainers. So far, Dartmouth, Lebanon's CCBA and DNA in Quechee have also signed up.

So what are they getting themselves into? "I really like the creativity of the clients who show up," says Dame. "They get so much joy out of hurting us. Because we hurt them all the time." There was the pregnant woman, for instance, who made him put on a 30-pound weight vest... and then do burpees, handstand pushups, and all the other exercises he'd made her do. "She remembered everything," he says.

"You definitely find out what your clients don't like," says Burwell. "I once had to do 200 Bulgarian split squats, then crawl like a crab up a hill with dumbbells in my hands. That was pretty terrible. One of the worst was baby-carrying a guy 40 yards -- he carried me back, which was fine if you're the heavier guy, but I was the lighter guy. And it was the first workout of the day." Not surprisingly, they tend to sleep a lot the next day. 

On the other hand, every year Dame's mom will sponsor him to rest. And another local trainer -- "He's the toughest trainer in the area," says Burwell; "we were terrified!" -- made them eat Oreos and drink milk. "It was fantastic!" Burwell says.

Crush Cancer And Your Trainer will actually be in two parts: a boot camp followed by "Train Your Trainer." It will take place at participating gyms. You can find out more and sign up here.

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