Trainer Long makes fitness personal at Chautauqua

Kreable Young | Staff Photographer
Josh Long, personal trainer at the Turner Community Center, works with patrons one-on-one Wednesday on workout routines that are catered toward each individual’s needs.

Chautauquans, in all their variations, share a common thread: each and every one has a story to tell. 

Josh Long, one of the most familiar faces at the Institution’s Turner Community Center, recognizes this fact and relishes the opportunity to listen to and learn from regulars at the Center. As a personal trainer, Long said he enjoys his job most — and does it best — when he builds relationships with his clients.

“A lot of Chautauquans are fascinating people, and they all have some unique story,” Long said. “I get to learn about their families, their likes and dislikes, their successes and their personal nuances. I don’t know anybody who wouldn’t want to hear their stories or advice.”

The social aspect of Long’s career on the grounds is not purely for his own benefit, though. He said that his personal connection with his clientele is essential to a successful workout. When devising workout plans for his patrons, Long takes conversation into account.

“The clients I work with, I want to be able to relate and talk to them,” he said. “Working out with people that you can relate to and get along with drives both of you to do better and enjoy your workout more.”

Intimate discussion and casual banter are not the only ways Long individualizes his workouts. Having studied sports medicine at Mercyhurst College before receiving his master’s degree in athletic training from Ohio University, Long is well versed in human physiology and athletic peculiarities. He tailors his regimens nontraditionally, with a focus on putting the “fun” in functionality.

“I don’t know much about dancing, but I know dancers need to maintain changes in their center of gravity, balance, proprioception and single-leg strength” Long said. “I tend not to stick to the traditional workout. Usually, my exercises are very functional and off-the-wall.”

Kreable Young | Staff Photographer

Long, a consummate soccer player, is familiar with the distinct necessities of a wide range of sports and physical activities — from ballet to hockey, golf to cycling, and nearly everything in between. As an athletic training professional at Alfred University during the off-season, he is also acquainted with the college demographic and the difficulties of being a student athlete.

“Although our society can be very sedentary, more people in the 20- to 40-year-old demographic are following the trend of personally investing in themselves,” Long said. “People want to do more outdoor adventure vacations and need to be in shape to do those things. Chautauquans are no different.”

With recreation as one of its four pillars, Chautauqua Institution puts a premium on active leisure. Golf, tennis, sailing and biking are just some of the many opportunities Chautauquans take advantage of on the grounds every summer.

“Chautauquans spend 80 percent of their day exercising their minds and spirits,” he said. “The other 20 percent is supposed to be leisure time. At Chautauqua, leisure and recreation go hand in hand because the people enjoy being active and competitive. Many times, the reason Chautauquans are so successful in their careers and personal life is that they have that competitive edge.”

The enthusiastic and vigorous lifestyle is one of two major reasons Long began working at Chautauqua in 2006.

“There’s a certain energy here,” he said. “Chautauqua is this collective community of perpetual excitement, always looking toward the future and bettering oneself.”

The primary reason Long returns every summer, though, is his wife Melissa’s strong connection to the area. Having grown up coming to Mayville, Melissa Long, beaches director for the Institution’s waterfront, has deep Chautauquan roots.

Together, the Longs are an active power couple and consistently push each other.

“Melissa is into cardio more, whereas I favor resistance training,” Josh said. “We have particular fitness desires, but we also keep each other honest.”

Even on their days off, the Longs can’t help but get out for a hike or walk the dog near the waterfront. They are both ambitious, energetic individuals and “tend to feel fidgety,” Long said, if they don’t do something active during their day.

That attitude and energetic spirit, however, are not exclusive to the Longs or the younger Chautauquan demographic. Long said that many — if not most — of his clients are 50 years old or older, and he stresses nobody “is ever too old to start working out.”

“I do a lot of rehabilitation-type workout routines, especially for people who want to get back on the golf course, or back on their bike or back in the pool,” Long said. “People are amazed to find that the most simplistic exercises can alleviate knee pain they’ve had for years. Seeing people have that ‘a-ha moment’ is one of the most rewarding parts of the job.”

To Long, health and fitness should be both enjoyable and habitual in everyday life. Getting in shape does not equate starvation or hours of backbreaking exercise.

“People complain that they can’t eat this or that if they want to get in shape,” he said. “Well, you can. I love beer and I can eat everything in the fridge, but I’m also active throughout the day. That’s all it takes.”

Long also wants to dispel the notion that exercise is limited to the gym. He said that there “activities of daily living” that can lead to a life of fitness.

“You do not have to come to a gym to be active,” Long said. “And if you do go to the gym, that should only be part of your daily workout. All you really need to be fit and healthy is the willpower. You have to be willing to make the firm decision to do it. That’s the hardest part.”

As a fitness mentor, coach and ally to his clients, it all comes back to relationships for Long.

“Working out is just another way for people to get together,” he said. “When you have someone with the same willpower supporting you and pushing you to do better, the seemingly impossible task of getting in shape becomes much more manageable. That’s something I strive to do every day.”