A Stoic, Powerful Lady

I like exercise. A lot. I’m one of those people who goes a little bit crazy if I go two or more days go in a row without exercising. I don’t need to be prompted to do it; if anything, it’s the reverse: I’m usually begging for time (from my husband, while he watches the kids) to do it.

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Me + exercise = happiness

My natural affinity for exercise, coupled with my penchant for thrift, means that I have never splurged on a personal trainer. Until now. (Thanks, year of 40!)

My approach to finding a good personal trainer was one of the least rigorous decision trees I’ve ever faced. Do I belong to a gym? Yes. Does the gym allow outside trainers? No. Which of the gym’s trainers should I choose? The one the YMCA assigns me. Just fill out a questionnaire, along with my preferred training schedule, and the YMCA will find my match. Easy peasy.

First, what am I hoping to accomplish through personal training?

  • Weight loss?
  • Improved cardiovascular fitness?
  • Strength?
  • Better muscle tone?
  • Athletic improvement?
  • Functional training (e.g. for a race)?

I looked in vain for an “all of the above” option. How could I narrow down my goals to just one?  Nearly a year after giving birth to my third child, I’m not where I’d like to be, body-wise or fitness-wise. Still ten pounds over my goal weight; still not running as fast as I used to; muscles a bit flabby compared to years ago. (When I’m feeling uncharitable, I’ll look at my kids and think to myself, “Were you worth it?”) Help me, personal trainer!

Enter Rick. The complex algorithm involved in the above questionnaire had deemed us a match. But in a sign that our relationship was doomed from the start, Rick was hard to get a hold of. I emailed — crickets; I called — he didn’t respond; he texted back; we couldn’t find a time to connect. Finally we chatted on the phone, but we still couldn’t agree on a time to meet. Four weeks (!) after I initially set wheels in motion on finding a personal trainer, we finally had our first session.¹


Rick has thrown almost everything I thought I knew about personal training out the window. To begin, we didn’t start our first session with a weigh-in. How can we measure improvement if we don’t have a baseline? Nor did we write down a series of exercises, number of reps, and what weight I should use for each exercise. When I asked him about that, he said, “Nah. Takes too long. I don’t want to waste any of our time with writing. Next time, bring your phone and I’ll take pictures; then you’ll remember what we did.”


Twice a week we meet, and Rick throws a battery of new exercises at me every time. It makes my head spin. Every now and then he’ll say “let’s do that one we always do,” and then launches into an exercise I’ve never seen before. We go for half an hour, doing a series of drills that he seems to come up with on the spot. He reminds me of a puppy, finding something new that catches his eye, and wanting to play with it. We dart all over the gym; one moment at the kettlebells, then over to the mats, then back up to the free weights, now over to the machines, but only after we grab some ropes and go to the group exercise room.

One of the many exercises Rick throws my way. 

Also like a puppy, he craves feedback, an emotional response to everything he’s giving me. He says he can’t read me- “you’re stoic! I can’t tell what you’re thinking!” I resist giving him feedback, because what I’m usually thinking is, “Oh please get me through this exercise. Only 10 more reps. I hate this one. It’s so painful. Ugh. Just get through it. Why am I doing this again?” Rick, if you’re reading this: it’s not you, it’s me!

To be fair, sometimes I like it. I like being told what exercises to do, and how many of them to do, and having someone else keep count for me. I like being encouraged right when I’m most inclined to stop. But it’s definitely a love/hate.

Rick gives me heavier weights than I ever use on my own. He says I don’t sweat (not true) so he thinks he’s not working me hard enough (also not true).  He has me do far more reps than I want to do. I guess this is the real benefit of personal training: pushing you harder and further than you would choose to push yourself. He may remind me of a puppy, but clearly, I’m the one being trained. He calls me “lady.” (Like Lady and the Tramp?)

“Okay, lady. I want 20 reps. Go! Come on, lady. You got this! You’re powerful!”

I grimace; I push through to the end of the set. Or sometimes, I don’t. I stop, and rest, and Rick modifies his demand: the goal drops to 15 reps, and I can feel his disappointment. I’m letting Rick down.

Stoic on the outside. Inside: 

In the end, I will let Rick down some more, because I will not sign up for another set of sessions. My penny-pinching wins out: I can’t possibly justify spending this kind of dough on twice weekly personal training. Especially when (and Rick, this is not your fault)- I have actually gained weight over the last month.² Sigh.

An aside: I actually did two new things this month. Did you catch the second one? Look at that last photo; see if you can spot what’s new.

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¹A long enough delay that I had to push personal training to June and find something else new to do in May. You remember floating? Yeah, that was just filler.

²I know, I know. “Muscle weighs more than fat.” Blah blah blah. Just get me back to my pre-kids body already!