I’m not an avid gym enthusiast. I do go to the gym, but with the enthusiasm of a tenured DMV employee. I have somehow made it a part of my daily routine in order to offset my rockstar lifestyle. So when I relocated to Seattle from Boston, I was forced to find a new gym. A gym that I would have to pay real human money for, unlike the one in Boston where all I had to pay was a measly year’s college tuition. After six minutes of back-breaking internet research, I found a gym that was both close in proximity and less than a million dollars a month to use.
When I signed up at Platinum* Gym using my employer’s negotiated discount, I was provided with two free personal training sessions. I requested if I could pay less money and get rid of those two sessions, but this was unfortunately not an option. So I bought the whole package, figuring I would never use the sessions. After all, I would need to contact the gym in order to set up one of these sessions. I never gave them a call.
*As a courtesy, I’ve changed the title of this international gym franchise also named after a precious metal.
Two months after joining Platinum gym, I get a phone call, and in a rare instance, someone besides my mom left me a voicemail. It’s Matt, the Personal Trainer™, and he wants to know when I can get into the gym to “discuss my fitness goals.” I let this voicemail marinate in my phone for another week before Matt follows up with another. Perhaps my fitness goals were important to Matt. Maybe Matt wanted me to succeed. Every day I let pass without this consultation, I was letting Matt down. I had to call back.
Finally, I call Matt back and enthusiastically set up a “consultation.” I bike on over to the gym, and he sits me down, and we discuss my fitness goals. As he assesses things like my weight, body fat percentage, height, flexibility, etc, he tried to delve into my reason for this consultation. “So, what are we trying to do? You’ve got a pretty good frame on you, it won’t be hard to get you jacked.” First of all, let me say if you are sensitive about your physical appearance, you should meet a personal trainer. They will say very nice things about you, because if they call you a fat idiot you may not return. This is bad for business. Anyways, I explain to him that I had to buy two personal training sessions due to the deal I signed up for. Still, Matt asked what I would like to change about my physical appearance, which was very reminiscent of the same question the plastic surgeons from the TV show Nip/Tuck ask in every episode. I refrained from saying “bigger breasts and a smaller nose”, like they do in the show, and rather said “I don’t know.” For inspiration, Matt pulls out a laminated sheet that shows pictures of shirtless men’s torsos, with the associated body fat percentage given below. I just looked at it, then looked at him, and hesitantly pointed to one of the not fat guys. I said, “this guy seems to be healthy.” Matt goes, “Oh yeah. 12% body fat. We can totally get you there.” This part of the session was probably only 5 minutes, but it felt as long as Avatar (178 minutes). Finally, we head to the weight room and begin the workout.
There was one point during the consultation where he said, “Is it OK if I touch you?” as he identified weaknesses in my posture. I said, “Yeah.” What I should have said was, “Holy shit, there must be a better way to ask that question.” Especially since he was just rotating my arm to highlight the inflexibility I had in my shoulder. I’ve never had someone ask me, “is it OK if I touch you,” but it kind of freaked me out. I guess it wouldn’t be any better to say “I am going to touch you now.” I don’t know, it’s weird to say. It’s also weird to not ask. BUT I definitely think it is necessary to ask someone for permission before touching them in this scenario. For that, Matt, I must commend you.
A part of the session was a Squat Assessment, where Matt identified the weaknesses in my body while I did squats. He was oddly quick to note, “Yeah, you have weak glutes.” I wanted to shoot back, “YOU have weak glutes dude.” and run out of there. Instead, I just said, “Yeah.” This was a humbling experience. He mentioned exercises I could begin implementing to target my weak glutes. Since then I have forgotten them. My weak glutes are a part of my identity.
After going through a quick 20 minute workout, we begin discussing diet. He asks me how many calories I consume a day, on average. I do not track the amount of food that I put into my mouth hole, let alone document the nutritional value associated with it. Doing so seems like obsessive-compulsive behavior to me. Anyway, I tell him I eat around 2500 to 3000 calories a day, since I know nutrition facts are based on a 2,000 daily caloric intake, and I eat a lot. That’s when Matt drops some serious, PhD-level nutritionist data on my head: “Dude, you just gotta eat chicken, lots of vegetables, fuckin’ avocados and shit, and you’re golden.” At this point, I wondered what Matt was doing working at a Platinum Gym instead of the International Space Station, where he could be conducting ground-breaking, industry-leading research.
Matt insisted that I take a multivitamin. I was given this urgent medical advice in the typical professional way: “Dude, we gotta get you on a multivitamin.” It just so happened that Platinum Gym had partnered with some supplement company, that made multivitamins. I was pitched on these bad boys, but I politely refused purchase as I needed to conduct my own research before buying pills from a guy at a gym. He also mentions this company sells whey protein, and it’s way better than what you buy in other places. Apparently, the FDA doesn’t inspect those places, and you are basically having protein shakes made in rat-infested basement meth factories (these are also not favorable conditions for cooking meth by the way) and will make you an impotent weak little baby-man. As much as that frightened me, I still insisted that I would first conduct my own research before making a purchase.
I should also mention, the personal trainer, Matt, has a permanent limp due to an ACL tear that he never had repaired. You would think that someone who’s literally making a living off promoting health and wellness would get that taken care of. I guess not. Maybe an ACL surgery costs a lot of money. I bet it does. (A quick google search will later show that the average knee surgery costs 11 Gs.) Imagine seeing your mechanic driving away and one of his wheels fall off. Or your dentist only having two teeth. Or your librarian being illiterate. I think you get the point. Maybe this is not an accurate or fair depiction, since many football and basketball coaches are fat.
Anyway, my personal trainer ends our session with the part I was fearing — the pitch for regular sessions. For the first time, I got to hear phrases like “We’re gonna get you jacked” and “results in no time” in real life. It was amazing. However, instead of saying “for one small payment of $19.95″ he said each session would costs 90 dollars. The rest of the conversation went something like this:
Matt: So here’s the workout plan I’ve created.
*points to piece of paper that literally just has $90 x 12 scrawled on it*
Me: I’ll have to think about i-
Matt: WHAT’S THERE TO THINK ABOUT
Me: Well I am a 23 year old out of college who is healthy in relative terms. I can’t justify spending this much money for someone to coach me at the gym. (I bet he’s going to say something about investing in my future.)
Matt: Yeah, but think about it as investing in your future. (I KNEW IT) We can set up some type of payment plan if you can’t pay that all at once. Plus, dude, if you’re cool- I’ll hook you up. Only d-bags pay full price.
This last part was the most incredible to me. A man who just minutes ago was giving me serious medical advice, is now using phrases like “hook you up” and “d-bag.” What a seamless transition.
Through this experience, I learned a lot about Matt, personal training, and nutrition. But most importantly, I learned about myself. I learned that I have the assertion to say no in the face of personal trainer pressure. I said no to drugs (vitamins are drugs, guys), did not give him my money, and lived to see another day.
I still go to this gym, and sometimes I see Matt there, always taking on new clients. He gives me a look that says, “I’m disappointed in you. Imagine what you could have been. So. Jacked. But also, good for you for not succumbing to my sales pitch. You are a cool dude.” I usually just nod.
A personal trainer may be exactly what you need. If you’re looking for someone to identify your fitness goals, help build a fitness plan, and see pictures of people with different body fat percentages, I cannot imagine a better person to meet. Actually, if you know someone who has pictures of people with varying body fat percentages that is not a personal trainer, I’d stop hanging out with them. My point: This is a story of my experience with a personal trainer. Or maybe my personal experience with a trainer. Either way, I think we can all use the zen-like advice I received from Matt: just eat fuckin’ avocados and shit, and you’re golden.