Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bulge - Part 2

Rich had to bring in his friend Joe, who was a little older than Rich, meaning he was close to twenty-five. Joe had his head shaved and looked like a bouncer. He wore a tight black shirt that said STAFF. Whenever I see these shirts my mind can't help but do a word association sort of thing and the word "Infection" always pops right into my head.

Joe was excited. He was effing pumped man. Joe just wanted us to know how much fitness means to him. So much so that he's got his Nana in Jersey City, who's 89 by the way, working out on a Nordic Track he bought for her on eBay. She's never felt better.

It was time to get down to serious business. We had to be weighed and measured. They needed to calculate our body fat with some strange machine that you hold out in front of you. It then does nothing. You do nothing. Your arms start to hurt and then the machine beeps out a percentage that only personal trainers can read.

I am going to be one hundred percent honest with you about my size. I am exactly 5'6 1/2" tall and I weigh about 132 pounds right now. I am a nice, average, healthy size. I am not skin and bones, but I'm not fat. My husband would kill me if I gave out his measurements, but I will tell you that he is pretty average sized and he believes he could lose a couple pounds. His weight is at an all time high, but nothing emergency level. I thought they were going to tell me that I was fine and my husband needed to lose weight.

But no. Oh no.

My husband doesn't weigh enough apparently and I need to lose forty pounds.

In gym world it seems that men need to pack on as much weight in muscle as they can possibly hold, while women need to just waste away until they weigh as much as birds or air.

I think the only thing that could get my body to lose forty pounds is terminal illness and that is not funny and I didn't mean it to be. I am far too tall for it to ever be ok to weight ninety pounds. The last time I weighed ninety pounds I was in the seventh grade and four inches shorter and the school was sending notes home to my mother about eating disorders and malnutrition. The only ninety pound grown woman I know right now is under five feet tall and she's still skinny.

Rich and Joe began devising a plan to get Husband to swell while I withered. It wasn't fair and I was truly offended. When I protested, Joe showed me a chart with weights and heights and something that looked like emergency threat levels. There were about five levels, one being famine victim and five being person who needs to be lifted out of bed with a crane and on the Discovery Channel. I was at four, which was HIGH RISK!!! Threat level Creamsicle. At my gargantuan weight I am apparently at risk for cancer, heart attacks, diabetes, kidney failure, psoriasis, gall stones, cankles, seven chins and being ostracized from society, yet strangely there was no mention of the illness I actually have, so I guess that was from all that agricultural waste I grew up near after all.

Joe looked at me as if he were about to tell me I had three months left to live and I had better get my affairs in order right now.

"You're seriously at risk. You need to lose this forty pounds," he said, "and I want you to know, I don't do this for the money. I do this because I just like to help people. You know I need to help people like you be healthy."

I was speechless. Someone asked me if I put myself through this in order to write about it and this is the point in the story where the answer to that question became yes. It hadn't been. I wanted to know how to use the machines, but it became apparent that I was part of some bizarrely scripted piece of fitness performance art, so I figured I'd just go with it and eventually maybe they'd show me how to use the machines and either way, I was going to write about this.

While Joe was crying over my health crisis, Rich apologized for having to eat his dinner in front of us.

"But this is a good time to talk about nutrition," he added.

"I know all about nutrition. I have a near perfect diet and when I'm not eating properly I know it. I'm not one of those people who comes in here thinking KFC is healthy because it's chicken, ok?" I said.

Joe and Rich exchanged looks and laughed at me sarcastically.

"You eat dairy?"

"Some," I admit.

They laugh.

"Perfect diet huh?" Rich chuckled.

Meanwhile, Rich, and I am not making this up, was heating up a pile of yellow rice, black beans, fried plantains and carnitas AFTER he had already heated up and was eating in front of us while telling us that dairy was not ok, a pile of cheese smothered nachos. For real. And yes I pointed this out. He mumbled some kind of excuse about a fourteen hour workday and not having time and blah blah. Rich lost all credibility, especially when he downed a bottle of corn syrup and chemical filled red Gatorade. I also pointed this out. His answer was electrolytes, blah blah blah.

"So you should drink coconut water. It's all natural, has no coloring, no sugar and more electrolytes than sports drinks." Touche.

"What did you eat before you came?" Joe asked, diverting attention from Rich's 14,599 calorie fat dripping dinner.

"Smoked turkey on a rice cake," I said.

"That's it??"

Then they told me something that is actually true - that it's good to eat six little meals per day. I already knew this. And yes, they were also probably right about dairy. I should cut back on dairy, being that I'm not a baby cow. I've often said that the only thing standing between me and a size four is a wheel of brie. But I have a thing for dairy and I think it's because I can't eat wheat, so I feel like I have to have something, you know? Still, they were right, but then they were very much not right to tell me this while eating it right in front of me.

"You need to start in with protein shakes. Whey protein."

"It's DAIRY!!" I said.

"Make it with water or soy milk."

"NO, whey is dairy."

"No it isn't it's whey."

"Um, whey is dairy. It's the water separated from the curds during the cheese making process."

They didn't understand this. One more point for me.

Finally they turned to Husband and asked if we were ready to make a committment to our health and sign up for $1700.00 worth of personal training sessions.

"We need to discuss it, but how about giving us a session so we can see what it's like."

This is when Rich and Joe, seeing that we were cheapskate, yuppie assholes who just wanted a free session with no intent to buy personal training packages, decided to kill us.

First they separated us. Rich took me and Husband went with Joe.

Rich made me first run on the treadmill. This was ok, but he kept turning it up. I remembered the Beavis and Butthead episode where they went to the gym and went flying off the treadmill and into a wall. I imagined myself plastered to the mirror behind me, the mirror splintered around my flattened body. But it wasn't that bad.

Really, I think it was the squats that broke my spirit. He kept making me do them. In front of other people who were definitely laughing. Thinking I was a coordinated person, he tried to make me do squats against the wall with a ball behing my back, but I fell over and over and over because I am not a normal person. I am a spazz. And of course I found it all hysterically funny and Rich didn't. He tried to get me to do Sumo Squats, and the name of these alone had me cracking up. Then Sumo Squats with weights. Then something with the ball again. After that he put me on some kind of leg pressing machine with so much weight on it that I felt some part of my knee literally unhinge. After about twenty minutes I thought I might need to call 911. I felt nauseous. The bathroom at Bulge always smells like barf, and now I knew why. Personal trainers were making people throw up.

Can this be healthy though? I mean, why is it necessary to vomit to get a good workout? Is it because you shed a few extra calories in the process?

Finally, Rich had me on my back, which was somewhat of a relief, but then he was making me do something terrible, which I can't even describe, but it involved him putting my leg over my head and a crunch. By then the only crunch I ever wanted to experience again was in a fresh bag of black pepper kettle chips.

"You're getting red," Rich said, "Great."

He said this while he had me doing something called "fire hydrants" where one imitates a dog peeing. I was red because I was utterly mortified. I was red because I was so weak at this point that Rich had to help me lift my leg and was all up in my crotchal area in an obscenely intimate fashion, while I felt like a sixteen year old, arthritic hound who can no longer cock its leg to mark its territory and must be helped by its owner. People, it wasn't pretty. Did I add that my ass was covered with sweat and my cute little yoga pants were stained so it looked like I wet myself? Because they were.

Forty-five minutes and only one machine later, Husband reappeared looking like he'd gone through a week of enhanced interrogation.

He literally had to help me down the stairs and into the car, while stumbling himself.

"I think I might die," I said.

He groaned.

"Please tell me Joe showed you how to use the machines," I said, "Because Rich only had me on some leg thing and I'm so delirious now that I don't know what it was. It was medieval. That's what it was."

"I was going to ask you the same thing."

"No machines?"


"They did this on purpose."

I couldn't walk for four days. I began to think maybe I had severely damaged something and might be seriously injured. I literally couldn't get up and down from the toilet without shuddering in cold sweat agony. Husband wasn't much better. I couldn't bend any joint on my body and so began walking in a manner I called "Robot Frankenstein."

If our session with a personal trainer was designed to make us want to buy expensive packages for more of the same torture, humiliation and general spirit-breaking, it was counter-productive. The hard sell tactics made us mad. The trainers had no credibility and then hurt us so badly that I would never want to give someone money to do that to me. I'd have to be a masochist. I know the whole "no pain no gain" mantra and I know that to get results one must feel some discomfort, but really, I'd prefer to just move and have fun in the spirit of being healthy and not by being motivated by shame and self loathing, where I feel I have to suffer to the point of dry heaving and not being able to sit down to pee, in order to meet some kind of arbitrary fitness goal. The funny thing was, before the "session" we had been going almost every day and felt great. Afterwards, it took us a week to go back to the gym because it took us that long to recover. It didn't make logical sense to me.

Husband I have gone back to our trusty circuit, which Joe and Rich poo-pooed, saying it wouldn't get results. Of course the other patrons still can't read the signs and we still get aggravated with them, but this is working for us and I don't see myself wanting a personal trainer any time soon. At least not one who eats carnitas and doesn't know whey comes from milk.


Albany Jane said...

Ugh, man, that sucks, but at least it provided some great material!

I always like using the machines at gyms, and thankfully at the last gym I went to the guys working out were really nice and would show me how to do them properly. This was more of a ‘girls-take-classes-guys-use-everything-else’ kind of a gym, so I think it was partially out of interest that someone who looked vaguely female had any interest whatsoever in the rest of the gym.

Nicole said...

Some guy recruiting for a new LA Fitness flagged me down yesterday. I'm your height but I only weigh 100lbs (yeah, I know, you must think I look like a plague victim.. but it's just my natural state) and this guy's trying to convince me I need to join his gym. I was in scrubs because I'm a medical assisting student so he automatically assumed I was a nurse and launched into soem spiel about how I must know the value of taking care of my body.. I politely told him I have a Wii Fit I use for yoga and that's all I need. This didn't stop him, so because I just wanted to get my groceries in the car and leave I took his damn coupon. Then I threw it out.

Anonymous said...

Congrats for not letting them break your spirit! It's sad when people who are supposed to help others in fitness and diet are so uneducated themselves.

At the university I work at we have a wellness program which gives us 3 hrs paid time off each week to work out but to qualify for that we have to have a wellness assessment once a year.

One of my co-workers is a marathoner. He runs 5 miles every day and more when he's training for an upcoming marathon. He's in his 40s and there isn't an ounce of body fat on the man. After his assessment he was told that he needs to work out more often and his BMI was to high.

Just messing with the trainer who was going over the assessment with him, he said, What if I trained to run a marathon? Trainer says, Oh yeah, that's pretty ambitious but it would be really good for you. He said, Well, I already ran one last week. Trainer was speachless.

Gina said...

Are you fucking kidding me??? These douchebags want you to be 5'6" and weigh 92 pounds? How you managed to not stab anyone is beyond me.

Anonymous said...

They are completely hilarious. I've had that same exact body weight test, we're the same height and I'm at least a couple years older than you (however I am fat). They told ME that my "ideal body weight" was 180 pounds... double what they told you. That's hilarious to me. We're both 5'6" and your ideal weight is 90 and mine is 180.... that's why I don't buy any of this workout crap. I know an inordinant number of people who've died recently and most of them were workout junkies... us fat slob couch potatoes are still kicking.

Erica said...

People need a class, starting in kindegarten, that tells people where their food comes from. Seriously, not knowing where whey comes from...that's really sad. Also, I firmly believe you should enjoy your dairy, especially with the other diet restrictions you have. Who needs to be a size 4 if you can't have brie in your life??

A said...

OMG...I so had this same experience, almost to a "T". Only difference was they didn't eat in front of me. And I too couldn't even go up and down steps for the next 3 or 4 days. Did they do the "your body age is..." thing with you? Apparently my just-over-normal-weight 34 year old body is actually 57. I started laughing hysterically and asked them if they actually thought people were meant to believe this crap. They weren't amused. I learned how to do the machines, but not with the help from anyone there even though they said any of the staff would be happy to show me (conveniently, whenever I looked for someone, there was nobody free). My "Bulge" location has a women-only room with several machines and these machines have diagrams that show you how to use the equipment - score!

Anonymous said...

I thought the comments would be full of comments that of course it's not healthy. Yes, one should get a little bit of muscle pain (almost not even a pain, just a stronger tiredness) if one wants to improve one's muscles, but by no means should it be painful to walk. Thank you for going through it for the sake of the story and I admire you finding humour in the situation on the spot. But don't ever do anything like that again. It's not healthy.

Anonymous said...

haha I love it! I'm about the same size as you (5'6" and 130 lbs) and this psycho trainer told me that I was borderline obese. She was trying to convince me that sushi was evil too, after I ran into her at a restaurant where she was pounding back liquor drinks and beer.

oldfashioned said...

I cannot believe the nerve of these trainers! Seriously, they expect you to be 92 lbs, I'm 2 inches shorter than you and I weigh 140 lbs, which puts me on the chubby side of the scale to be honest, I believe these trainer types only see numbers, they do not asses a persons body structure or bone density, in fact I can almost assure you these stupid machines they used are probably altered to spew out these results so they can get vulnerable people, unlike you and your hubby, to give them their money. I do have a suggestion though, try to see if you can spot someone that looks like they know what they are doing and observe the way she/he uses the equipment and maybe learn that way.

Jean_Phx said...

In the spirit of being healthy - is a very funny thing, that I will use many times in the years to come. I had this exact experience with Gold's Gym and had to pull myself with my elbows across the floor to the bathroom for two days. Very mean spirited of that person.

rockygrace said...

"Threat level Creamsicle" cracked me right up - thanks!

Oh, and I have to wonder how many eating disorders those asshats have inspired ......

Aleta said...

Ok, I have to admit, the dog peeing stance made me laugh. The rest of it, damn, that's pretty sick that they put ya'll through that.

KT said...

1) Black pepper kettle chips are amazing :)

2) Yay for correcting stupid physical trainers! It boggles my mind how so many people don't know where most food comes from.

3) Isn't 92 pounds pretty much hospitalization weight? By which I mean that if you were anorexic, 92 pounds is about the point someone would step in and check you into a facility and slap an IV on you. Not MY fitness goal, but whatever. :P

Butlers R Us said...

I dont know what to say. That guy is a piece of crap. I will start there. Those meat heads give personal trainers and gyms a bad name. So glad you guys didnt sign up for the $$$ sessions.

Hope this post was theraputic for you :) Sounds too awful to be true and only glad it wasnt me. I probably would have been on the ground wimpering, from the pain and from the verbal abuse.

TK said...

I am so sorry you and hubby went through this hell, which is just bullshit by little power mongering demi-god wannabes.

Don't let anyone pull that crap with you again, it's all ego BS.

Maybe because I'm older now and have some little bit of hard won wisdom, and because I have so many old injuries and I have chronic pain already, I would have just said "What?! Are you a fucking IDIOT?!!" When they told me what my body weight should be, plus I think I would have had them demonstrate the exercises they wanted me to do over and over just to fuck with them, and then said "Are you fucking KIDDING me??!!" after they'd shown me the same move 4-5 times because I couldn't ahem "get" it, LOL!

I have done stuff that has injured me because some asshole said I "had" to. Any more of that, I just say bullSHIT now. I'm really suspicious.

Maybe this is why so many older people are so cranky. ;)

Ayda said...

psh. i'm 5'5 and 154 and men use to pay to see me naked!

ultimately, it has everything to do with the distribution of your fat, how much muscle you have and your bone size. but i think trainers are usually former insecurity ridden fat people so they like to make other people feel bad about themselves.

Amy said...

Jesus, no wonder there are so many sad, anorexic-looking girls at the gym - they listen to trainers who tell them to weight 92 pounds at 5'6! That is INSANE. Don't you have to get a licence or something to be a personal trainer?

Jenny said...

What ***holes. I'm an athletic training student and you aren't supposed to hurt the day after. It's called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Basically, you put a million micro-tears into your muscles and that's why you hurt without moving and worse when you do.

I can't believe they are actually certified. Being healthy is more important than being thin. I am 5' 5 1/2" and if I ever weigh 132 I would be shocked.

I would go in and kick their butts if I were you. Leave them partially hydrogenated cheese in one of those rope traps like in the jungle that catches you by the ankle and hangs you from a tree.

staticwarp said...

the vomiting and redness arent necessary for a good workout. they happen when you take people who are extremely unprepared for intense exercise and make them do way more than they can handle. if you work out to this point once, and then go through it again after 24 hours rest, then repeat the process again including the rest, the nausea will go away. if you then continue these routines for another week you'll have little to no soreness or stiffness and will start to notice significant superficial improvements in your physique. i've been through a college weight training course that did this to us and over half of the people dropped out before two weeks were up. luckily for me it was run by a coach with a phd in kinesiology and not some gatorade swilling juiceheads with martyr complexes. these programs have their place and can get you results.

that is, if you dont severely injure yourself because you were so unprepared for this type of strenuous workout in the first place.

these guys ought to be ashamed. there is merit to vomit inducing workouts if you really need to bulk up (they wont help you lose weight) or if you're in, say, BOOT CAMP. but if your clients are telling you they just want to exercise and have fun, why on earth would you try and injure them?

no pain no gain is a ridiculous statement. if you dont have plans to be a world famous triathlete or pro wrestler, you should stop when it starts to hurt. you shouldnt even get to that point.

i was thinking about joining that gym, because one just opened up near me. thanks for letting me know to stay away from the trainers!

alissa said...

oh my goodness, this story is SO funny that I almost peed my pants! way to go you guys for wanting to be healthier!

Anonymous said...

I used to go to a "bulge"-type gym and was pressured via numerous phone calls to take a free personal training session and fitness assessment. I told them flat out that I was not interested in personal training that was set up not only in front of all of the cardio machines (so, everyone on the treadmill would get a free show) but also in front of the large glass windows facing outside (it was in a strip mall). Plus, it always amazed me the number of times I noted the personal trainers running into the back office with their Burger King bags or pizza boxes. I ended up leaving the chain gym for the local YMCA, which, while not very glamorous, is run by honest people who don't judge you.

Anonymous said...

I had a great experience during my free trainer session. Yes, we did the squat thing with the ball against the wall, but he was trying to teach me proper technique. I had to modify a bit, because my center of gravity is strange. Then he showed me how to use the machines. He stressed that repetition of movement was more important than the weight.

For a while he taught a Muay Thai class (kickboxing) and I loved that. Twice a week. Plus, he taught several classes a day and was a triathlete. After he left, I cancelled my membership.

Living in Muddy Waters said...

I am not an expert, but I was told Pilates are just as good for women as weights. I thought you were doing pilates.

Melanie said...

Every time I think you've hit your "peak hilarity" you write another story that's funnier than all the rest!

I believed every part of your adventure (I've had similar experiences), except I had a hard time accepting the part about the doggie style exercise. I can't picture you going along with something that degrading......

Reiven said...

"This is when Rich and Joe, seeing that we were cheapskate, yuppie assholes who just wanted a free session with no intent to buy personal training packages, decided to kill us." I literally laughed out loud when I read that!
I had a friend in high school who was 5'4" and weighed 90lbs. She was hospitalized for anorexia. She was almost dead and was being fed intravenously. The doctors told her that a skeleton her height weighed 86lbs. She did eat 6 small meals a day--she cut up one peanut into 6 pieces.
That these "trainers" told you that you were overweight and had to lose 40lbs makes me furious.

Anonymous said...

Those "trainers" are a bunch of scammers! Just on the free BMI calculators online, your current weight is fully NORMAL and 90 lb is seriously UNDERweight. I've been working out for 3 years at 2 different gyms, and can recommend you invest in a simple weight training book. We have weight training for dummies bought for cheap on eBay, it's written by 2 women and explains the types of machines very easily. Be careful about the lunges/squats/leg weight press if you have bad knees, you can really hurt yourself. But otherwise they are good exercises, you just need to learn them properly. YouTube has a good range of how-to videos as well. Lots of ways to educate yourself for free or cheap, including the library! And I will sing the praises of Pilates for ever and a day.


kerry said...

Report those trainers to the club. That's incompetant, bordering on abusive. The problem is that they couldn't find anything genuinely wrong with you and husband, so they had to make stuff up. Nor should they have pushed you that far past your natural limits. Push you, yes, but not to the point of inability to move.

And the nutrition conversation was just asinine.

I've suffered through the hard-sell thing but they've never tried to push me that hard on the actual workout. It wouldn't fly; I'm in touch with my inner bitch these days.

As far as the machines go- watch what other people do. Look at the machines- a lot of them come with at least minimal instructions.

Nicole- are there LA Workouts in lots of places, or only the one in Ventura County that I know about?

Anonymous said...

This whole article reminded me of my youth spent in South Florida. I was surrounded by ultra skinny women with fake boobs and nails so long they could scratch their ass without reaching much.

5'6" and 92 lbs is dangerously underweight. This is beauty? This is what we should strive for? Also, some of the before / after shots of female bodies look much better in the *before* shot.

No wonder young women have eating disorders.



Marcie said...

That happened to me a few years ago. I did the workout from hell like a pro. Then I couldn't get up and down the stairs at work to get to my office. I could barely get up and down off the toilet without falling over from the pain. I don't think I'll ever join a conventional gym ever again!

JTN said...

I recommend posting up your experience and opinions on Yelp in your area if it is an active forum there. Also, citysearch is pretty good too, but I use Yelp alot. Many business owners follow their businesses on Yelp and you ultimately get a wider audience and better response by writing about it there.

Red said...

Oy. That is awful. (And awfully hilarious.) I've never used a trainer at my gym, but had a few sessions with one at a private facility. I might report those jokers to Bulge Corporate Management after what happened to you both. Ugh.

A few years ago I lost just over 30% of my body weight. Weight training was a big part of that. I loved it because I love quantifiable results and could see in hard numbers how much stronger I was getting (as well as seeing actual changes in my body). After about a year of doing my own thing, I decided I needed a plan and found the book The New Rules of Lifting for Women. I had my bf at the time, who was familiar with lifting, show me proper technique and then I went off on my own. I am NOT a group exercise person, and I like schedules and routines, so this was perfect for me. There is and there's a big community of women online also using the plan, so it is easy to find modifications, advice, etc. when I needed it.

If you get tired of the machines, check it out. There's also a similar book for men.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you could keep your sense of humor through this... I was mad just reading it!

Of course, my reaction during the "body fat" discussion would have resulted in me leaving, so maybe that's good. Hurting yourself for your art is not necessary, really! We all enjoy your blog quite enough without you having to almost kill yourself for it!

Anonymous said...

Ridiculous! 90 lbs? You should post this on Yelp to discourage future users.

TK said...

I give you your trainer(s):


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