There are some etiquette issues that they just never prepare you for.  Case in point: My trainer needed to go on a diet.  To be honest, I was never fully impressed with her body, but she had toned arms and her butt was very high, so I sort of figured she was fit enough to train the likes of me.  Six weeks into our relationship and I began to see results. I was leaner and stronger and in the right lighting (i.e. dim) comfortable in a bikini.  Okay, so she wasn’t Cindy Crawford, she knew how to work out and she knew how to teach me.  I decided somewhere around week nine that I was in it for the long haul. But then she went on vacation, where I can only presume (based on her visibly distended belly) she ate herself silly while lying in a prone position.  I’m talking four months pregnant belly, and I know whereof I speak;  I’ve had two kids, and the last time my gut was that big I was sporting a fetal sidekick.

But what is the proper etiquette between trainer and trainee?  Was I obliged to facilitate an intervention of sorts?  Because I couldn’t see how she was engendering any confidence in her clients with that tummy hanging out of her adorable OliveU tank.  As we continued our workouts, I gently steered the conversation into this core area.  I would ask about best tips for weight loss, or if a particular exercise could target a specific area. At one point I asked openly what one could do to lose unsightly bulge in the tummy area, to which she sighed, and muttered, “It really all boils down to diet.”

Which isn’t exactly the answer I wanted to hear because if it all boiled down to diet, why the hell was I doing lunges until my glutes exploded?!

In an effort to get a second opinion I asked a few other trainers who were looking rather fit.

“It’s all aerobic,” said one.

“You have to do the weights,” said another.

“It boils down to metabolic burn which can’t be achieved without both aerobic and weight bearing exercise.”

“What about diet? Does it all boil down to diet?” I asked.

“Well, only if you’re eating everything in sight.”

I had my answer.

The next day I returned to my gym prepared to give my trainer a piece of my mind.  I was paying top dollar and for that I expected her to be chiseled perfection.  Her job was to show me the ultimate body that I could only dream of achieving. She was the proverbial dangling carrot in front of the treadmill.  But when I entered the gym she was lying on the sofa eating yogurt covered pretzels out of a feedbag.  I turned and saw my reflection in a nearby mirror and realized all at once, that I had become more fit than my trainer. It was a scary realization. She was no longer a dangling carrot.  She was a cautionary tale.

I considered searching for a new trainer, but the truth was, the more she ate the better I looked. I had to wonder if her weight gain was part of some larger karmic scheme to get me over my last plateau (which occurred right around the time of her vacation). Maybe she got fat in order to inspire me, because as a result of her excess tonnage, I am now weighing my food and training for a 5K.  I’ve also bumped up my sessions to five times a week.  I guess in the end it has been worth it.  I’ve never looked better and she is quiet literally becoming a cash cow.

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KRISTEN BUCKLEY is a screenwriter, memoirist, and novelist. Her produced screenplays include How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days, 102 Dalmatians and the upcoming Shoe Addicts Anonymous. Her first novel, The Parker Grey Show, was published in 2002, and her memoir Tramps Like Us was published in 2005. Her essay, "What I Am Is What I Am" appeared in About Face (2008, Ed. Christina Baker Klein) and her horribly embarrassing personal tale, "Escape from Downtown" was recently included in Larry Doyle's, I Love You Beth Cooper (Larry now owes her). She currently lives in Los Angeles. You can read her daily posts on her website KristenBuckley.com.

11 responses to “There’s No “I” in Fat”

  1. Becky says:

    A close friend of mine teaches some aerobics and spinning classes at the local YMCA. I’ve always considered it odd that she never seems to lose weight. She has a 3 year-old and 8 month-old twins to chase around after AND she teaches these classes three times a week.

    I figure she must eat constantly. I assume she’s not fit. I always think it must not engender much confidence in her students that she is an overweight fitness instructor.

    But here’s the thing:

    In the summer, as I’m sitting on a boat in my bikini drinking beer and smoking and enjoying my relatively maintenance-free slim-ish frame, she’s out there, 4 sizes bigger than me and flabby and all, running marathons.

    All summer she does this. Multiple marathons. And she finishes them.

    If I tried to run a marathon, I would die. Quite literally. Quite quickly. All 130 pounds of me. Dead as a doornail.

    So I’m not sure if it’s the exact same situation with your trainer, but I can definitely say that weight is not necessarily an indicator of fitness.

  2. I think the strangest thing for me was how disheveled she began to look and I do agree with you because I may be thin (ish) but honestly I can get winded walked up stairs which is pathetic considering my significant other is a strength and conditioning specialist!

    • Becky says:

      Yeah, if she’s going downhill in other ways, you might be looking at someone who is losing control. I have to imagine that the ranks of fitness trainers/instructors have their fair share–and then some–of people with food issues.

      Maybe she’s one of them and you caught her on a downswing.

  3. Irene Zion says:

    Ouch, Kristen.
    What if your trainer reads this?

  4. Joe Daly says:

    It’s funny, but even if a trainer knows tons of exercises, can show you how to perform them optimally, and has a great personality, if they don’t look like they walk the walk, it’s hard to get motivated by them.

    I’m inclined to break out an analogy here involving a heroin user instructing an alcoholic on staying sober. Would that be too far afield?

  5. What’s that old saying about doctors? “Physician, heal thyself?” Something like that, maybe?

    I just got re-certified as a personal trainer, after years of not training. A couple months back, I went into a gym for the first time in a solid two years. I’ve not actually lost shape; I’ve probably gained an inch around my formerly 29-inch waist, and I’m not as toned as I used to be, but I’m still pretty fit. Enough I still have tricep definition.

    Point is, part of being a trainer is knowing that physiology is different for everyone. Becky mentioned her friend up above, who doesn’t seem to lose weight, who’s four sizes bigger but can run marathons. From back in school, I remember there being three different body types–endomorph, ectomorph, and mesomorph–with corresponding features and characteristics. I don’t remember what each one means, but I do remember I’m the one for whom it’s really difficult to gain weight; I used to go to the gym three or four times per week for a pretty intense weight regimen, but I never really gained a lot of muscle weight. For a lot of people it’s the opposite; they go to the gym four or five times per week for intense cardio but they can’t seem to lose much.

    It’s not really all diet; it’s an overall combination of exercise and nutrition, and most of the time, making changes to either is a long-term and not short-term endeavor.

    Considering the “unsightly” tummy bulge: she’s right that does boil down to diet. Lunges (and any exercise, really) are going to be good for toning (and building), but shaving down inches often comes mainly down to diet. When professional bodybuilders get ready for a show, the last few weeks consist mainly of maintenance of routine while diet changes drastically enough they aim for ludicrously low percentages of body fat (I’m talking about less than 6% here). Considering that average/normal for a woman is around 15% . . . well, that’s why it’s often such a battle with that tummy.

  6. Judy Prince says:

    “a fetal sidekick”—Kristen, you totally rock! This is a wave-pack of great lines, punch-constructed narrative, and perfectly drawn characters. MORE!

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