The Warrior and Grace
Personal Trainer Profile: Clay and Elizabeth Burwell blend unique talents to offer high-quality personal training.
Subject: Clay and Elizabeth Burwell
Company: High Performance
His Story. At the age of 16, Clay Burwell was introduced to the world of boxing, which he believes laid the groundwork for what would eventually become a rewarding personal training career.
After graduating from high school, he enlisted with the elite paratroopers division of the U.S. Army and quickly became known for his physical prowess. Impressed with his skills and leadership abilities, Clay’s superiors charged him with leading his company’s physical fitness program. After leaving the army, Clay wasted no time following his passion. “I had a friend get me a job interview in New York City 2 days after I got out of the army,” he recalls. “I walked in sporting a flattop and strict military-style gait and posture, and the guy hired me right away.” But even though Clay knew he was meant to train, he remembers that his transition into the career was difficult. “It was rough going at first, and I had to work as a doorman 4 nights a week to support myself while building my business.”
Her Story. Elizabeth Burwell, who has studied classic and contemporary dance for more than 23 years, also found fitness at a young age. “I have always loved pushing my physical limits and the study of movement,” she says. Like Clay, Elizabeth was a born leader; at age 15, she began assisting and teaching dance classes. After graduating from college, she moved to New York to pursue dancing. To support herself, Elizabeth worked part-time as a personal trainer. “I fell in love with almost all aspects of the career,” she enthuses. “From the social aspect of motivating people to the scientific aspect of getting people in shape, I love being a personal trainer.”
High Quality. Elizabeth and Clay firmly believe that they offer more than weights and measurements. “We use a wide variety of means to satisfy the clients’ goals, thus ensuring success,” says Elizabeth. “Our trainers are knowledgeable and talented, and we offer programs from kettlebells to Pilates to boxing to Olympic powerlifting.” Clay believes the business is also successful due to top-notch training and paying attention to details. “We don’t charge our clients any membership dues. We also don’t charge for water and towels. I’ve always felt that a lot of larger corporate businesses were always penny smart and pound stupid. It is ludicrous to charge a guy a dollar for an off-brand bottle of spring water when he spends $20,000 a year on training. I vow never to do this.”
Fitness for Life. “Overall, I like showing people that they are so much more capable in their physical selves than they know,” Clay says. “I like to tell my clients that it is not about the scale or the jeans or the movie role.” Elizabeth agrees that one of the most motivating aspects of her career is helping others push past physical limitations. “I am always inspired by the ability of the human body to overcome physical or mental limitations.” She cites one client in particular who has inspired her to continue with her passion. “One of my favorite clients came to me at age 71. She had extremely limited range of motion throughout her body. I’ve worked with Joan for a year now, and she has improved her posture and balance; carries heavy grocery bags; is able to get up and down from the floor to play with her granddaughter; and completes difficult household chores that she could not do before.”
Opposites Attract. Despite having vastly different backgrounds in fitness, Clay and Elizabeth have created a cohesive and successful fitness facility. “My wife specializes in Pilates and is a professional dancer,” says Clay. “I have a military background and have boxed since I was 16. Talk about opposites!” Sought after by a diverse range of people, from high-profile celebrities to business executives to 71-year-old “Mrs. Joan,” High Performance caters to just about everyone. “High Performance has a youthful feel to it,” adds Clay. “Many of our older clients seek and enjoy the energy and friendly, relaxed vibe.”
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