COVID-19 has brought about unprecedented times, which has required the world to adapt to norms of social distancing and mask wearing. March in particular was filled with adjustments as the world figured out how to function from home, remain social but distant, and how to remain active within it all. As the University of Delaware moved to close campus indefinitely back in March, Kiersten McCartney, a current 3rd year Doctor of Physical Therapy Student, felt the need to provide help to her classmates, professors, staff members and clinicians within the Department of Physical Therapy. McCartney recruited Dan Chapman, an Orthopedic Physical Therapy Resident at the time (and 2018 UDPT grad) for some help. From here, the idea of developing and sharing workouts, as well as some laughter, was born and affectionately named “W.E.G.”. Together, they started sending out 3 workouts a week, which focus on strength and endurance. The workouts which utilize common items found at home – making them easy to execute – alone are incredible, and what makes them even better are the GIFs, or short animation videos, that accompany their messages. The messages are usually filled with humorous taglines which help those in the department laugh about and cope with the new daily routines, uncertainties, and stressors. To date, McCartney and Chapman have created over 60 W.E.G.s and continue sharing them with the department to this day. As two young Physical Therapy professionals, they value the benefits of physical activity, its impact on all aspects of life, and sharing those tools with others – with a few laughs along the way.

Below is a Q&A with McCartney and Chapman about the W.E.G.s, and their inspirations behind it.

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What does W.E.G. stand for?

Kiersten: Workout of the Day. Endorphins. Gifs. Whether you’re laughing, working out or doing both, I played off the traditional WOD acronym to make this.

How did W.E.G. start? Why workouts?

Kiersten:   It came to me when I was helping in the clinic the last week it was open (before it closed in March). I was trying to think of a way that I could help amidst all that was going on and knowing closure was seeming inevitable. Working out for me is a stress and anxiety release and I love to laugh and bring laughter to others, so it was kinda a compilation of all these factors, and the WEGs were born. The E in WEGs was 100% inspired by this clip in Legally Blonde.

Dan: Yeah it was totally Kiersten from the start – not sure about the looking up to part, I think I just happened to be around when the idea struck her 🙂 but I thought it was a great idea and was happy to be supportive…mostly in the form of gifs.

What do you enjoy the most about doing W.E.G.?

Kiersten: It’s been great to hear from people throughout – whether they’re responding to a workout kicking their butt or laughing to a GIF or sending one back via email – that’s what brightens my day. My goal with WEGs was to provide workouts during a very uncertain time that would allow people to recognize – yes, these workouts are hard AND they can complete them – demonstrating just how strong they are. I fully believe the lessons learned through working out in any capacity overflow into other areas of life (school, work, research, personal), and so if people could see how strong they were physically, maybe it would get them through a tough day of class or clinic or life in these wild times – because they have proven how mentally and physically strong they are.

Dan:  Definitely the best part has been funny responses from people. Sometimes we’re not sure if we’re just sending workouts into space (wondering, “are people reading the emails or doing the workouts?”), so receiving photos of people absolutely wrecked post-workout or receiving some funny gifs in response brighten up our days.

The question we are all wondering… how do you have that many incredible gifs? What has been your favorite one(s) that you have used thus far in the W.E.G.?   

Kiersten: The limit truly does not exist to the GIFs that we can and/or will create. The Titanic build was one of my favorite emails to co-write with Dan!

Dan:  Yeah, the Titanic one was really fun. My wife has also noticed that I also tend to put Will Ferrel gifs into ~90% of the emails but I don’t see anything wrong with that.

An example of a message sent with the workouts.

Dan! Many of us haven’t seen you since pre-quarantine, where are you now that you have finished residency?

Dan:  So, it turns out that trying to start practicing and building a caseload in a new city during a pandemic isn’t easy. I’ve mostly been spending my time working on a new project with JOSPT that is coming out soon so that is exciting. It’s been a great outlet for keeping my brain occupied during this time (besides the WEGs, of course.) I miss all y’all at UD! Please keep in touch!!

Where do you get the inspiration for all these workouts?

Kiersten: I worked as an exercise physiologist, personal trainer, and running coach for a few years before I came to Delaware and have continued coaching athletes through PT school, so I’ve always had fun designing workouts for others and myself. Inspiration certainly comes from several different places – workouts friends will send me, ones we’ll talk about that kicked our butts, old logs, etc.

Dan: I also worked as a trainer prior to PT school. I try to make sure I’m writing workouts that are difficult but engaging and I get motivation from different worlds e.g. Crossfit, Nike Training, my own experience, workouts that friends send me etc. We try our best to strike a balance so that people with a lot of equipment can do these and people without equipment can do them as well and I think that’s where a fair amount of the challenge can come in. 

What is the difference between planning these workouts compared to the exercise programming you do for patients?

Kiersten:  In some ways programming for WEG’s and programming for pt’s are similar – you want to get a good warm up, you want to progress their exercises, you want variety, you’re looking for some DOMS[delayed onset muscle soreness], you know you have to strengthen the quad and load the tendon, and you need repetition and intensity. However, in programming for a patient, it’s very specific to an individual- “What are their impairments? What are their goals? What do we need to do to get them from where they are to where they want to be?” While I’d argue the same questions apply to prescribing exercises for people outside of a PT setting, for the WEGs, we’re programming for over 100 people with a wide variety of abilities. We know we’ve got some serious CrossFit’ers and we know we have people coming back from TKA [total knee arthroplasty] – so it challenges us to be creative with the added challenge of knowing people are at home and most probably have minimal to no equipment. A good lesson I’ve learned is you don’t have to reinvent the wheel or go crazy with exercises – sticking to the basics and playing around with different types of workout schemes can challenge anyone!!

Dan:  KMac nailed it. Our programming for WEGs aim to help a wide variety of people (with a wide variety of access to equipment) exercise and get some stress relief/wellness during this trying time. In PT, our exercises (typically) revolve around a specific injury/disability, are supported by consistent education, informed by their goals/desires/past history and are typically progressive and ever-widening in transferability related to whatever their final full outcome/sport/activity/goal is. While from the outset exercise may look like exercise may look like exercise….PT programming is far more specific yet comprehensive, patient-centric and progressive than what meets the eye.