I recently joined World Gym, which I'm very excited about. Unlike my previous gym, it offers classes for me to not attend, as well as a steam room. For me, a steam room is an imperative part of the gym experience. How else am I going to work up a sweat?
As with many other gyms, World offers all new members a free "fitness evaluation" that is really meant to sell their personal training. A form asked me, "At what time of day are you interested in scheduling personal training sessions?" I checked the box that said "Not Interested."
Why do I sign up for the fitness evaluations? I like to know just how quickly my physical decline is progressing. Usually, I get a nice little fitness snapshot, they describe the training rates, I say thanks and resume the same serviceable but unchallenging routine I've done for 10 years.
The form I originally filled out saying that I wasn't interested in personal training sessions had somehow disappeared when I arrived for my evaluation, so I filled it out again with the same answer. The evaluation went like this: cardio test, flexibility test, abs/core test, weights.
For the core test, I nearly developed a spinal injury attempting to stabilize myself on a huge ball -- an activity that, when you think about it, really has no true-life application. For the weights part, I was asked to show what weight exercises I would "normally" do. This was fun because I don't normally do any weight exercises, but I showed the ones that I would do if I ever bothered.
We retired to the office and I got my results. "On cardio, you did pretty well. You exceeded your target heart rate, and your recovery rate was good," said the trainer. "Were you surprised at anything?"
"No," I said. "I pretty much knew that the abs stuff was going to be bad, and anything involving the ball is going to be a disaster."
She nodded. "Your core needs work. You had trouble balancing on the ball, and also could not raise yourself on the ball."
I nodded. I can take the bad news, I thought.
"Also, your abs are pretty weak. The crunches were difficult for you, and you had trouble with the reverse crunches even raising your tail off the floor by a few inches. You need to get much more height than you were getting."
Hokay, I thought. Thanks for the detailed refresher, but I can remember five minutes ago, friend.
The litany went on: my "normal" arm exercises were ineffective, my form was poor, my legs were surprisingly weak on weight machines given my good cardio performance.
"Do you believe in pinch tests?" she said.
What does this even mean? "I... I don't know."
After pinching my leg, she determined that my thighs had "some extra."
"You mean extra fat?" I said.
"Yes," she said.
Then her boss came into the room, and the takedown got serious. I had marked that I was an "advanced" gym user on my form (after 15 years of belonging to gyms, I wasn't sure what else to put), and they disabused me of this notion. The Boss sized me up. "She looks like she holds her breath," he guessed. "Did she hold her breath?" The trainer confirmed that I had, while doing weight reps.
He did some pinching of his own. "See, this is your problem right here," he said while grasping the back of my upper arm. "And this," he said, poking my back, "This is soft. You want some muscle tone."
I took this all with serious nods and a few laughs: Hey, they were telling it like it was. But a little part of me knew that later I would need a long steam to sweat out all of the mortification.
The good news was that I "didn't have far to go" to get in shape, they said, and would "only" need 10 training sessions, to the tune of around $600. I declined, fidgeting under their stares while I explained that I don't have the money right now (a half-truth). The Boss turned his back and began filing papers while the trainer ushered me out politely. Had I gotten the good-cop, bad-cop routine?
"They're just trying to do their jobs and make their money," I told myself, trying not to feel too ashamed as I took myself right back to the StairMaster routine that they had lobbied to shake me out of. The Boss passed me as I huffed away. I gave him a tight smile; he gave me an extra second of unsmiling eye contact before drifting past.
I now have two fantasies: In fantasy 1, I transform myself into Terminator 2-era Linda Hamilton, walk up to The Boss, flex and say, "Feel this? Hard as a rock. And I did it without any personal trainers, sporto," and walk away while he shakes his head in wonder.
In fantasy 2, I go totally anorexic out of spite and tell them it's their fault.