I joined the gym! Sound the alarm, ring the bells, queue the confetti drop!
This is a pretty big deal considering I just spent the last year shoveling macarons into my mouth and eating half loaves of bread for dinner.
I’m really excited to be getting back in to some degree of shape, but of course in the process of joining a gym I’ve also had to face some of the things I hate about gym life.
First thing: The Joining Process; see also: Skeezy Guys
Every single gym I’ve ever belonged to has this lengthy joining process wherein they try to pitch to you every fitness related bargain or gimmick under the sun. The whole thing takes about an hour. Luckily, the guy who processed me was pretty nice and overall okay to talk to despite the fact that he was hitting on me. Plus I’d come in with my game face on, ready to deny any of the extra so-called deals that would end up as unwanted monthly payments on my credit card bill.
Harry: So we have a special deal today. The joining fee is normally $79, but today it will be $59. So you earn a $20 credit that you can put towards these amazing supplements that will help you burn fat and gain lean muscle! The pills are normally $33 but with the credit you only pay $13!
Me: Ok, so wait. Do I have to buy the pills? Because they look like the vitamins I already have. Will my joining fee still be $59 if I don’t get the pills?
Harry: Well, technically speaking, yes. You’re funny.
Me: Well, you are a good salesmen but it’s not my first time at the sales rodeo.
Harry: You’re funny, I like funny girls. What you doing Friday night?
While I did not accept his invitation to hang out with Chris Brown’s booth at Supper Club that Friday, I did take the free personal training session. Leading to—
Second thing: Personal Training Sessions
I’ve only ever done personal training once before, and that experience was bittersweet. My trainer back then had started our first session by doing an analysis of my body. He poked, prodded, and measured me—finally assessing that at 5’8 135lbs I was terribly obese. His use of the word “obese” sent me into a self-esteem spiral. I dealt with his assessment by limiting my calories greatly and somewhat obsessively, and while I did lose weight, the emotional toll and long-term prognosis was not encouraging. I finally came to terms with the fact that his use of such strong language was simply a marketing scare-tactic gone wrong. While I was in deed out of shape, I was not obese. I forgave my trainer and continued to work with him since during our actual sessions he turned out to be a quality guy and never used the “O” word again.
I had hoped that that kind of treatment was a one-time thing, but here years later at a new gym, I walked into my free personal training session, unknowing that I was about to experience much, much worse.
First thing, the trainer, John, was extremely late. I walked in at 1:00 ready to go, but John didn’t arrive until 1:10. He told me that he was running late with another client, and that I should hop on the treadmill and he’d be with me in 5. Ok, I thought, no problem.
45 minutes later, John returned. I vocalized to John that I had assumed by that point that he wasn’t even coming back, but stayed on the machines only to finish the workout goal I had set for myself. He demanded that I get off the machine and follow him to the mats where I was to attempt a plank and several reps of pushups and ab crunches. I could hardly complete anything he asked of me, since I was a new return to exercise and worn out from 45 minutes of cardio.
At his desk, John turned on the computer to go through the dreaded poke-prod-measure-weigh process. At final evaluation, John told me that I was carrying too much body fat and was aging like a 37 year old. He illustrated this by pointing to a character on the screen who was supposed to represent me. This twirling animated character had cartoonishly huge hips, much bigger than mine. Nonetheless, the image on the screen made me feel insecure. Was this really what I looked like?
I suppose the stern look on my face was apparent, because a smiling guy came over to our table and interrupted. “John, come on now, fix her up just a little bit!” The guy clicked until the blimpy figure had my haircut and dark skin tone. She did look a little better after all. I thanked the man, laughing at his odd mini-rescue. John, however, was clearly irritated.
John continued to tell me of my declining health, and suggested that he could give me a special one-time rate for personal training: $1,500 for 20 sessions, paid upfront.
“That’s really a lot of money,” I told him, “and I’m not interested today.”
“Come on, I know you’re unemployed but don’t you have any money saved?”
“This is out of my budget right now.”
“You told me you eat out three times a week. Your health should be more important to you. If you just stop eating out with your friends and put the money towards training then you could look a lot better. Isn’t that more important in the long run?”
He continued to push me like this, his implication being that I was currently so unattractive that any and all money in my bank account should be going to personal training sessions. I was feeling both poor and ugly. Clearly this guy John was under the impression that he was a demi-god.
At last we reached a standoff. I was too dizzy from training to stand up and walk out, but it was clear that I was about to either burst into tears or use my last bit of strength to punch this guy in the face. John got up and walked away from me without saying even a forced goodbye. Thankfully, the manager of the gym came over and offered me another free training session with a different trainer. I told him how inappropriate John had been in his approach. I accepted the free training session but left wondering if I’d ever return to this gym.
I called back later to let them know that I was considering canceling. I got put on the phone with Harry who revealed to me that it was only John’s third day but behavior like that certainly wouldn’t be tolerated. “I got you girrrl.”
So, I’ve returned to the gym several times, unafraid now that my worst fears have been faced. I’m even more thankful for my time spent in Australia, where I hardly worried about my weight once. I’ve also resolved to myself that the next time someone calls me fat, I will punch him in the face and say clearly “You just got punched by a fat girl. These hands? Powered by candy.”
Have you ever had a crazy workout/gym experience?