Get to Know Our Coaches: Jesse Bethke
When and how did you get your start in fitness? What drew you to working in fitness?
My dad used to take my brother and me to the high school weight room when I was around 6 or 7. We’d mess around in the gym while our dad lifted, which was my first introduction to lifting weights. When I was 12 my dad and I started lifting together at our home gym, teaching me the fundamentals of lifting. From then on I would either workout at home or at the high school when I had the chance to do so. I started coaching back in 2017 at The University of Texas at Austin, instructing weight lifting classes to a variety of adults or students. From those early days in the weight room and pursuing athletics, I’ve always had a passion for lifting and movement and I wanted to help others improve their movement as well. My philosophy has always been this: without movement there is no way to live. The better you can move, the better life is.
What drew you to HCI? What were you doing before teaching at HCI?
A friend who later became the basketball director here at HCI told me about this place when we were lifting together back in grad school at UT. Before the facility had opened, HCI hosted a job fair where I went to talk to Matt, the Director of AIM. Our philosophy in movement matched very well, and shortly after I finished grad school I reached back out to Matt and was able to start in the Summer of 2018.
What was the first class you taught? What do you teach now?
My focus, while much more refined than when I started, has always been to improve movement and work towards a goal with the people I work with. While I’m coaching, I want each session to be enjoyable, fun, challenging and/or restorative. My methodology of reaching those goals is what has been refined as I try different methods and coaching styles to see what works well with each person or group.
Have you learned any important lessons as an instructor?
Elasticity is the first thing that comes to mind. The difference between flexibility and elasticity is that the former is the ability to allow change, and the latter is the ability to change and then return back to the original position. The ability to swap out an exercise with another similar exercise that allows practice of the same pattern but is more suited for the person at that time is important. Everyone goes through this; each day can be a wild card when it comes to working out. Poor preparation from lack of sleep, not enough food, too much unanticipated activity the day before, sudden injury, or time availability all drastically change how a workout can go. The challenge with any of the possibilities mentioned above is adapting a training session so it is effective and can still obtain a sense of accomplishment. This means changing out exercises on the fly, modifying body positions or equipment to find a safe movement pattern that is pain free, lessening the workload, completely changing the workout to be more rehabilitative, or even pushing your client when you know they can handle more.
Any memorable moments in one of your classes?
One of my favorite memories was when one of my clients was able to run for the first time in over a decade. This client was constantly plagued by different injuries; she couldn’t squat without twisting and rolling over on the ground would usually strain a muscle in her abdomen. We focused initially on mobility and positioning so she could safely handle movement, then we transitioned to training movement patterns for better intermuscular coordination. Pain in her knees and back went away, rolling over didn’t cause any straining, she could lift things like carry-on baggage overhead, she saved hours doing regular cleaning and gardening by having a greater work capacity and strength, and the best part was being able to run again.
What is your typical weekly fitness routine?
I will lift anywhere from 3-5 times a week depending on what phase I am in (Strength/Power/Speed/Recovery) and typically will be here at HCI or at my apartment gym. Once or twice a week I’ll play sand volleyball or basketball. Around 1-3 times a week I’ll practice for the highland games (9 throwing events) and throw discus once a week. I stretch or foam roll nearly every day during the week, usually with clients.
What are your fitness goals at the moment?
I’ve entered into an off-season phase for the highland games, so I’m currently trying to improve on strength, size, and work capacity while still maintaining power. I’ll be competing at Worlds and Nationals this summer so I’m currently prepping for those games.
What are your fitness goals for the future?
Pro-Highland Game athlete and maybe an Olympian in Discus. If those fail, at least I’ll still have activities I love to do and train for. I’ve always loved strength and power and those will remain important to me throughout my whole life. While top end strength won’t be the priority at a certain point, the ability to perform proficient, loaded, and unloaded fundamental movement patterns throughout my whole life is the goal.