Personal Training: A Blessing and a Curse

Many of you may know that I have recently joined a gym. Touted by Oprah as the best gym for women in the country, it gets absolute rave reviews on Yelp for all locations and it’s easy to see why. I have only been a member for a mere two weeks, and I have already taken one class, come three times to work out independently, and attended two personal training sessions. And while the classes are great, the atmosphere is wonderful, and all the equipment is brand new, this was my first experience with a personal trainer and it was, shall we say, somewhat interesting.

With every new membership, you are offered two complimentary personal training sessions with one of their many congenial staff. The idea of course, is to convince you that the sessions are worth it and you should pay additional money for the service, but the fees are outrageous on top of the mildly expensive base gym membership fee. I decided to try the personal training sessions anyway, since they were free, and spent some time with a peppy trainer last week, as she assessed my strength, BMI, percent body fat, and problem areas. I found out, with some special machine that sends a pulse through your body, that I could stand to replace some of that fat with muscle. The second session she promised to deliver a personalized workout to help me target specific areas in ways customized to my body’s needs. It sounded awesome, and I showed up the next week ready for a workout, or so I thought.

That Monday started less than ideal, as I was low on sleep and high on stress, drinking two cups of coffee by 9am. Halfway through the day I realized I had forgotten my gym clothes but brought my gym bag, when I had gone to all the trouble to buy new gym clothes the day before. I decided to rush home on my lunch hour, grabbing a less than satisfactory bite and leaving my full fledged lunch sitting undisturbed in the conference room refrigerator.  Working frantically until it was time to leave for the gym, I ignored the mild hunger and showed up ready to go. Some small voice in the back of my head told me I was ill-prepared and should re-schedule but I shrugged it off with a how-hard-could-it-be attitude.

My peppy trainer informed me that she had a total body workout prepared, and I got excited, starting out with vigor and pushing myself to do everything as hard as I could. I had only completed half an hour’s worth of push-ups, step-ups, bicep curls, and lunges, when the first wave of nausea hit me. I started the second round of reps, increasing the weight, and the nausea intensified, until I felt dizzy and had to stop. I sat for a few minutes until the nausea passed, and began resuming my bicep curls. Up until this point my trainer had been really supportive, encouraging, and helping me power through. All of a sudden her smile just dropped, and I felt a cold tingly sweat forming on the back of my neck. She told me to lay down and asked me when was the last time I ate. It had been a while, I admitted, and she said I just turned white as a sheet and she was afraid I was going to pass out. After munching on the granola bar I felt as if nothing had happened, but my training session was over.

How did I let this happen? I had dropped the ball on my health, failing to make my needs a priority. I pushed myself to do things I thought would be in my best interest, without stopping to really take care of essentials. It’s easy to let the ball drop on small things, and hard not to let it snowball. I was thinking too simplistically, believing that joining a gym was the answer to a healthier lifestyle. And while exercise was definitely an area I was lacking, I jumped into it without looking at the whole picture. The keys to a healthy lifestyle aren’t simply eat well and exercise. Eating well and eating smart are two different things, and balancing sleep, work, and extracurriculars is just as important. I sleep too little, work too much, and eat a few big meals a day, rather than eating small portions more often. I decided I need to have more snacks and less at lunch and dinner, especially with a job like mine where I am constantly on my feet, walking all over. This experience sort of shocked into action and helped me realize that sometimes going and going and going will catch up to you with a less than happy experience, and such a little engine that could determination is not always admirable. So in the future I resolve to take better care of myself, and be more conscious of my personal limits. As someone wise once told me, sometimes it’s better to admit to your vulnerabilities, as a means to grow and learn, rather than be hit in the face by them later.

And while I nearly passed out during my one personal training session involving any working out, I was suitably impressed by how much more I do when there is someone standing there, giving you some encouragement. I also realized how little I push myself on my own, and how easy it is to fall into thinking that what you do yourself is the best thing, or all that you can do. I have become convince that for me at least, I do my best workouts when I’m following another’s instruction, rather than trying to power through myself. The personal session also helped me identify moves to do on my own in addition to my regular cardio, rather than cutting my workout short because I don’t know what else I should be doing.  In short, my brief experience with a gym has empowered me step outside of my workout comfort zone, and be less afraid to push myself to do new things. I’m on a roll now, let’s I hope I last a year as a regular!

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