A Trainer? Or The BEST Trainer?

It’s been an incredibly stressful couple of weeks, weeks that have left me emotionally exhausted. And when I am emotionally exhausted, I tend to not work out. Especially when said workout assigned by a trainer makes me want to die just thinking about it. So I did what comes naturally.

I did not work out for two and a half weeks.

Not once.

Well, kind of. Tuesday, knowing I had made an appointment with my trainer for Thursday, I went for a 40 minute walk on a favorite trail and thought about why I hadn’t been working out. I hated the workout he gave me, and I didn’t feel like I was making any progress.

I really just have two fitness goals:

1. Make exercise a habit. Or even better, make it so I crave it, need it like oxygen.

2. Run a 5K in less than 40 minutes.

And I realized that I needed to tell my trainer what I was feeling, and take whatever consequence followed. Because in this situation, I see myself as an epic failure, and see him as a wielder of power. Thanks, Patriarchy. You’re swell.


Today I practiced in my head all day what I wanted to say to him. I ran it by two friends–one of whom is in the fitness industry. Both friends did not seem to think I was out of line at all. So when it was time for my appointment, I was 60% confident I would be able to have an honest conversation with my trainer about how things were going.

Our session started, and he asked how I was.

“Well, it’s been a crazy day, and I haven’t had dinner yet (it was 7:30 p.m.),” I said.

“I’m glad you told me, because that will change up what we do. What else?” he asked.

And I gave him some vague details of the emotional exhaustion I’d been feeling.

“When I’m that spent, emotionally, getting myself here to do a workout I’m so uncomfortable with and don’t feel like I’m progressing at all just was too much,” I started.

“Oh! So we need to ratchet it back and work up to it?” he asked.

“Is that okay?” I squeaked out.

“OH MY GOSH, absolutely!” he said.

And we talked for a bit about how I was feeling and what I really wanted, and then he kicked my ass (actually he kicked my arms and shoulders…I anticipate I will not be able to lift anything tomorrow) for 25 minutes.

When our session was over, I asked him what I should do before our next appointment, and he said he would just send me a new workout. I thanked him for taking the time to do it.

“No, thank YOU for telling me you needed something different! It’s supposed to be hard enough to challenge you, but not so awful that you start ignoring me and never come in,” he said.

I needed that today–I was feeling very down on humanity in general for a variety of reasons, but he restored a little of my faith. And as I drove home from the gym, telling my sister all about what happened, I really felt excited about going back. The dread I’d been feeling the past three weeks was gone.

Trainer Update.

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about my trainer…heck, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged. Anyway.

When I left for vacation on Memorial Day, I had all the intentions to Hell and back that I would keep up with my workouts. Deanne is a certified torturer spin instructor and certified super torturer personal trainer, so I assured my trainer I was in good hands and would not lose much ground.

Then I got to Utah and remembered I was on vacation.

And then I got to Japan and I had incredible joint pain for the first ten days. I did go to the gym with my sister a couple of times, but I just flat out didn’t care that I wasn’t working out.

So when I came back to Omaha, I knew I’d have to face the music eventually, so I logged on to the scheduling site to make an appointment with my doom.

My trainer’s name was not there.

I thought maybe the software switch was to blame, so of course rather than actually going in to the gym and asking what was going on, I just kept checking the online scheduler.

For a week.

I’m paying for this trainer (well, not this specific trainer–the company that employed him), so I finally went into the gym and explained that I had tried to make an appointment online.

“Oh yeah, Sam doesn’t work here anymore,” a friendly, tall, bald man said.

“So what should I do for training?” I asked.

“Well, we’ve just been reassigning, so let’s see…how about we put you with Jack?”

I don’t know who Jack is at all, but at this point, I was actually relieved–a fresh start! Someone who didn’t really know what I’d been doing!

Two weeks later, I had my first appointment with Jack. His personality is much bigger than Sam’s, and I immediately felt at ease with him. Jack has a great laugh and a huge smile, but I was worried when he showed me his workout for me, because it looked a lot like the evil that is high intensity interval training.

On paper, it looks simple: 1 minute of this, 1 minute of that, lather, rinse, repeat. But in reality, those 1 minute exercises make me want to die. I barely made it through the first session. I wear a heart rate monitor, and during those 1 minute stints, my monitor beeps at me–I think because it’s warning me that if I don’t stop I’m going to have a heart attack. (Some Internet research tells me it’s just telling me I’m not in a fat-burning zone, which makes me wonder why exactly I’m working that hard in the first place.)


Potential heart attack aside, I really do like Jack as a trainer. He is encouraging, and he can tell when I’m about to give up–because that’s when he starts to give me more time updates. (“20 seconds…15 seconds…10 seconds…keep going…5 seconds…”) He talks to me while he’s trying to kill me, asks me questions about my life, and doesn’t judge me (at least to my face). So I’m feeling a little more motivated to stick with everything he asking me to do…which is a post for another time.

I Didn’t Pass Out.

If you remember my first personal training session, you should be oh so very impressed that I ever went back to the gym, and more impressed that I showed up for my 2nd session. 

I fretted all day about this session, worried that I had practiced all the exercises wrong and that I’d pass out for real and that Sam would treat me like a complete loser waste of his time, given how my body responded to the first workout. 
But he didn’t.
And he still really pushed me.
For example: during our first session, he had me use 5 lb kettlebells for a curl/press combo move. In the workout room, there are no kettlebells, and there are no 5 lb free weights, only 10 lb weights.  When it came time for that exercise tonight, he handed me two 10 lb dumbbells. 
“Um, you had me use 5 lb kettlebells, so I’ve just been using one 10 lb weight and holding each end with my hands.”
“Well, let’s just go for reps and see how you do with a 10 lb weight in each hand.”
I don’t think Sam is a stupid man, and I surmise his intent was to force me into 10 lb weights this whole time. I sighed and picked them up, started the exercise, and it wasn’t too bad.
Until I got to rep #7. And 8. And by #10 I wanted this to happen.
He must have read my mind, because he said, “Let’s go for 12.” and I eked out 2 more.
The practicing I did last week must have helped a little, because I also did 15 toe pushups (granted only 1/4 of the way down, but still–during the 1st session I only made it to 12) without stopping. I was fairly impressed with myself, and even Sam said I did a good job.
When we finished the evil, heinous, torturous core workout, I sat up and did not see spots. We chatted a little about my upcoming vacation and he sent me on my way to do 15 minutes of cardio (which I did, with full vision in both eyes), and that was that.
All in all, a much better outing than the first time.

Julie vs. The Personal Trainer: A New Series.

Two weeks ago, I joined a gym.

It’s a new gym in town, and they had a special: one year for $100. I toured the facility and liked the low-key feel to the place, not to mention the women’s-only workout room, and figured $100 for an entire year was completely reasonable.
I’ve belonged to gyms before, and I’ve even gone to those gyms fairly regularly, you know, until fairly regularly turns into occasionally and occasionally turns into once every six weeks and then I just cancel the membership out of sheer embarrassment.
As is the case with most gyms, this one offered a free personal training consult. Usually I would turn those down, as I’m convinced that personal training is just a boondoggle designed to swindle money from desperate people. But the head personal trainer at this new gym is a former student, so I accepted the free session, in the name of “lifelong learner” and “always a teacher” and “helping my students in perpetuity.”
He took me through a series of exercises and then back to his desk for the hard sell. Initially, I had set my mind to not make any commitments until I came back from Japan. But he “made a call” and “got me a great deal” (I’m not an idiot–I know these types of tactics are for the sole purpose of people who, like me, are clearly on the fence about a product. Business world 1, Julie 0). 
He assigned me a trainer (I’ll call him Sam) who he was sure would be wonderful for me, set up my first official appointment for two days later, and sent me on my way. After taking all of my money, that is.
I’m not going to go through the specifics of that first appointment, other than to say three things:
1. For the first time in my life, I did regular pushups, kind of. I only went 1/4 of the way down, but they were “toe” pushups like regular people do. Not the pansy push-ups I’ve been doing my whole life.
2. I worked with 5 lb kettlebells and didn’t die immediately. In the past, I’ve stuck with 3 lb weights.
3. After the circuit was over, I almost passed out.
Yes, after Sam put me through various exercises–which I completed in full and didn’t feel extraordinarily ill whilst doing them–we walked over to the treadmills and that is when I started seeing spots.
I climbed on a treadmill, told Sam I was seeing spots, and he told me to just stand and breathe. He asked me to get a read on my heart rate, using the, I’m sure, totally accurate heart rate monitor on the treadmill. 
It read my heart rate at 108, but at this point, I couldn’t catch my breath and I had lost vision out of my right eye. NO VISION IN MY RIGHT EYE. Ever experience partial blindness? It’s terrifying. And there’s no way my heart rate was only 108. If I had been thinking clearly, I would have taken my pulse and calculated my heart rate the old-fashioned way. (I just did that. 80 beats per minute, and I’ve been on the couch for two hours, asleep for one of those hours).
When Sam realized cardio was not happening, he walked me over to a chair and told me to drink and breathe, and asked me if I ate before coming to the gym. 
“I had greek yogurt with some muesli,” I said. “Is that not enough?”
“Probably not,” he said.
After close to 5 minutes, my vision returned and he sent me on my way with instructions to complete the same circuit we had just done, three times a week, and we would reassess at our next appointment.
I drove home feeling an embarrassment I’ve not felt in a very long time, and half-convinced myself to quit. After all, the contract I signed said I have until Monday to rescind my agreement to services.
But I talked to my friend Nikki and I talked to my sister Deanne (who is a personal trainer) and the two of them seemed to think that my near-fainting was not that big of a deal and I shouldn’t give up. 
And then I thought, if I actually am tied into this for a year (which I am, which is proof personal trainers are a bit of a boondoggle), I might as well mine it for writing material. And maybe if I approach each session as fodder for the blog, I will be more relaxed, able to find humor in my vast physical weakness. 
Plus, there’s always the possibility that by this time next year, I’ll be able to do at least one full real-person pushup.
At least I have a goal.