Adventures in Personal Training

I recently joined a new gym, and in joining, signed up for personal training sessions. I’ve had four so far, and mostly, I’m amazed at the variety of fist bumps that greet me.

There are horizontal bumps and vertical bumps and hand slaps, hand shakes, hand slaps that turn into hand shakes, and in one instance, a very sad, solitary exploding fist bump. After the first seven today, I lost track of the grand total. But of the dozen or so that connected, I’d say only a fourth of mine weren’t embarrassing.

Also embarrassing is the same problem that plagues me with everyone I pay to make me look better, like barbers and dentists: How much do they expect me to talk? I thought it would be easier with a personal trainer, what with being sweaty and panting the whole time, but it is not. So much conversation! Made even more difficult by the fact that he is a very sweet Greek boxer who doesn’t have much in the way of overlap in terms of our conversational Venn diagram.

There’s also me. I’ve never had an easy rapport with men; on my way out, I saw two guys talking on their way to the showers, and I was a little envious of that easy masculinity. When I picture gym classes from my childhood, I see me sitting on the bleachers above a bunch of sweaty straight boys talking about sports, while I wear a matching knit scarf and hat, horn rimmed glasses, and am reading a dogeared paperback Of Human Bondage. I also have a tendency to dress for the gym in a manner that may best be described by “Charles Nelson Reilly castoffs.”

And much like at the dentist’s office, I have to put my vanity in check while discussing our goals. My first instinct is to shut down while the man I’m paying is telling me all the ways we need to improve my appearance, but I fight it. Mostly by muttering, “Oh god, oh god, oh god” under my breath while he removes weight after weight after weight from the dumbbell as other men hoist my body weight over their heads, but I deal.

Hell, I even dealt with the Incident from my second day, when my trainer clambered onto a machine that simulates rowing and told me to put my hand on his back between his shoulder blades. Unable to understand through his accent, I asked him to repeat himself. He did, this time extending his arm as if he were singing “Stop in the Name of Love.” Shrugging, I sidled up behind him, extended my hand over his shoulder, and began to put my head—that’s what I thought he said, okay?—between his shoulder blades before he stopped me. If I can recover from that, I can handle almost any humiliation.

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