The Trainer Thing

Alternate title for this post:
How to Turn a $40 Deal into a Stupidly Pricey Endeavor

(Or: Why I am not allowed to buy any more daily deals — or, frankly, buy anything — for a very long time.)

I’ve belonged to 24-Hour Fitness for almost eight years now, but I’ve always not-so-secretly wanted to bail for a fancy gym — one with fun classes and towel service and machines that get fixed, equipment possibly purchased this millennium, and maybe even showers that have been recently cleaned. When I was looking for jobs last summer, I spent some of my downtime cashing in all the free 3- and 5- and 7-day guest passes I could at some of the city’s swankier gyms. My logic was that when I got a job, I’d finally say farewell to the serviceable but unimpressive 24 and hop to a sweet gym where I’d look forward to sweating.

I learned quickly that none of the swanky gyms met my needs. They were either too far from my probable work locations or too far from home or otherwise inconvenient in a way that I knew meant my membership fees would be going down the drain every month; they had strange class reservation policies that were even more frustrating than 24’s first-come, first-served; and — worst of all — very few of them had swimming pools and/or lap swim schedules that fit into my life. I’m destined to be a member of 24 for life (or, at least, for as long as I live where I do and work where I do and swim; there’s, sadly, nothing better).

But in the fall, LivingSocial posted a deal for $40 for a one-month membership to Crunch, and I barely took a breath before I bought it. Crunch was the first gym I had to cross off my list — no pools anywhere in the city — but its multiple locations and crazy classes had made it the one where I most wanted to go, my gym spirit animal. So $40 for a month of upside-down yoga and spin with a disco ball seemed like a no-brainer.

The deal also came with a free personal training session — which someone on their membership staff (erroneously?) decided actually meant two free personal training sessions when I finally cashed in the deal at the start of February.

I’ve worked out with trainers twice before. Once was at 24, and it was terrible, and I actually stopped going to that location of the gym altogether for a while because I didn’t want to run into the trainer who I felt had completely ignored my requests for what I wanted to learn and do in favor of pushing some general weight loss curriculum. The second time was with an independent trainer I worked with for a few months, and she was amazing, but she now has a kid and a Stroller Strides franchise and the gym where she used to train is on the far opposite side of the city from where I live now, so we parted ways in 2008.

Since then, I’ve been curious from time to time what it would be like to have a trainer again. There are things I like about the experience and things I don’t; I’m very particular about what motivates me and what, frankly, makes me want to quit, and that’s something not all trainers get. I also like being in control of my own schedule and not feeling beholden to what someone else thinks I should be doing (yes, even if they’re right). So I went into the Crunch sessions with a moderately open mind — but also with full intention of getting the hell out of there once my free sessions were done.

At this point, it’s clear where the story is going.

I met my trainer a couple of weeks ago. Our intro session started with a bunch of basic exercises (squats, mostly) so he could see how I moved. I’ve done this kind of thing before; I know this is where trainers tell you all of the things that are horribly wrong with you before you’ve even dared try to exercise. That’s exactly what happened here — but the weird thing is, he was right. Within 50 squats, he’d managed to diagnose nearly every problem my physical therapist had spotted last fall. Granted, it was a little discouraging that those things I’d worked hard to fix were still so obvious; at the same time, I was like, “yes, the right side of my body is ‘very interesting.’ You think you can help? I’m all ears.”

The rest of that first session continued to exceed my expectations, particularly in how he handled most of the moments that had ever made me cringe with another trainer. (“Well, based on the three minutes I’ve known you, I think you could lose X pounds.” “Yeah, um, I’ve done that before, and that was not good for me. I’m interested in core and upper body strength, not getting injured running or triathlon training, and — if it comes along with that — I suppose I wouldn’t mind also losing x pounds, but that’s not my priority.” “Oh. Sure. I think that sounds awesome.” “Wait, you’re not going to tell me I have to lose X pounds or I’m not trying hard enough?” “No. You’re training for a triathlon? Losing X pounds would be stupid.” “… I like you.”)

Over the two free sessions, we had a few false starts on the motivational cues. (Don’t tell me I’m “looking good,” cause honestly, I’m sweaty and gross, and if I’m not, I better be soon; don’t tell me I’m “doing awesome!!!!!” when I’m just doing what you know I’m capable of doing; don’t tell me most of the women you train can’t hit that number, because I think you probably say that to most of the women you train.) But he quickly figured out the only real way to motivate me, which is to pit me against me. Tell me to get 225 meters rowing, and I’ll get 250. Tell me you think I can do 12 reps of something, I’ll do 15. Tell me you think I can do 17 the next time, and I’ll do 20. Underestimate me, and I’ll show you what I can do. And after that, the workouts were great.

So yeah. I could have walked away after two sessions. And I almost did. I really did. And then I found myself pointing at the 10-session package on the rate card and reciting my credit card number.

Our first official workout was this morning, and I can already tell that integrating this with everything else I’m doing going to be tough. But he knows that the triathlon training group is my priority, and he respects that, and if that means I’m not running 400 intervals on the treadmill because, oh hey, I just did that on the track last night, that’s cool. I think he’s happy just to have a client to whom he doesn’t need to give “cardio homework.”

If he’s as good as he claims to be, he’ll be able to correct some of the stupid nonsense with my silly overcompensating body that’s contributed to so many of my injuries — or at least set me on a path that I can continue following on my own. I’ve tried other things. I’ve tried physical therapy, cross-training, time off, you name it. I haven’t tried concentrated personal training dedicated to strengthening those weaknesses, and at this point, I’m willing to try anything.

If he’s not as good as he claims, at least he got me access to another month of upside-down yoga.

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5 thoughts on “The Trainer Thing

  1. katie says:

    you know what, I think it’s awesome and worth it! good for you, and i hope you enjoy it!

  2. Linda says:

    He sounds like he knows what he’s doing. I have a love/hate relationship with training; as soon as I walk into the gym, my trainer can detect my attitude and adjusts accordingly. He’s a keeper and your trainer sounds like he is as well. Good for you!

  3. Hope it works out! At least he seems to be on the same page…

  4. Naomi says:

    I am a big proponent of working with trainers, mostly because I’ve had such success with mine for the past 8 years. I’m so glad you found one that knows what he’s doing AND that you also like (often times a rarity).

  5. Beth says:

    My friends have had a lot of success in dealing with imbalances and injuries by working with trainers who really get it. It sounds like you are on the right track!

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