As you all probably know already, I don’t consider myself to be a very vain person. I don’t want to look like a bum, but at the same time I don’t really care about the brand of clothes I wear. I ride a scooter that gets me from A to B, and our family car is a solid but otherwise inconspicuous Toyota Corolla. We focus on efficiency and functionality in our family, not on what is cool or hip.
So it may surprise you that I signed up for a membership at Gold’s Gym. I can appreciate that some people use the gym to get in shape and stay healthy. I think it is great, but I’ve usually been one for natural activity as opposed to pumping iron. But after getting married, my participation in sports and such dropped as my weight started to go right on up. I’m not really overweight for my height, but I went from the lower end of a healthy weight to the edge of being at an unhealthy weight. Add on top of all this the fact that Omniture is covering my monthly membership fee, and I really had a good reason to sign up. My main motivation in this case was to play a lot more racquetball, go swimming, and just keep up my personal regimen to maintain a healthy lifestyle. What’s even better is that I have two co-workers who go to the gym with me after our shifts end. Exercise partners are a great motivation, and it’s been really good for me to get good exercise in every weeknight.
That’s the good side of things. On the other hand, the feeling I get around many of the staff and trainers is an obsession to look good and be stronger than everybody else. It goes into building personal pride and ego in something so superficial as body image. Becoming healthy and looking good go hand in hand to a certain degree, but when it becomes an obsession to look good, it’s no good anymore.
Take for example my free session with a personal trainer that came with signing the contract. I decided to try it out because it’s free (and free is the Hansen family’s favorite four-letter word), even though I knew they were going to try and sell me personal training sessions. I walk into the gym, and the trainer I am to meet with starts sizing me up (it’s not hard to see). We start talking about goals and what I hope to be doing with my gym membership, and during the course of our conversation we discussed how I worked the Chinese shift at Omniture and so I wanted to work out after my shift, late at night. He was somewhat taken of guard that I spoke Mandarin (he was of Chinese decent), and it somehow became his mission then to establish his “superiority” over me. He proceeded to tell me how my plans to get healthy (play racquetball, balance some cardio with regular lifting) was all wrong. He asserted that cardiovascular workouts don’t burn fat, but muscle. Okay Mr. Trainer, I can respect that you know more about working out than I do, it’s your job. But Advanced Biology in High School taught me enough to know that cardiovascular exercises do in fact burn fat. I can believe they might burn muscle, too, but really? Really, Mr. Trainer? Don’t over-exaggerate how much better your plan is over mine. You start to lose credibility then.
So we started working out, and he pushed me harder than I had done in a long, long time. That was great, because I knew I needed to jump into the deep end of the pool and start going. We did Bench presses, suicides, bear crawls, push-ups, supine dumbbell presses. By the end, I was thoroughly pooped, but in a good sort of way. However, during this whole time, he would speak down to me as if I had no idea what I was talking about, especially when we would do certain types of exercises. Again, Mr. Trainer, I concede the point that you are more experienced and knowledgeable about working out. But I took strength training classes in high school and college, and while it wasn’t anything intense, I did in fact learn about exercising. Even if I did things wrong, it is no excuse to treat me with disrespect. I soon discerned how he was trying to put me down in order to build himself up and “help” me realize how much I “needed” his help and advice…all for a lovely $120 a month. Please. This goes right back to this idea and obsession these (not all, mind you) people were so caught up in being “better” than the other guy. That’s why you see the area manager for Gold’s Gym driving a big fat hummer around. Clearly they are trying to compensate for something else that is lacking ;)
In the end, I am still having a great experience because (as you may have already guessed) I did not sign up with that personal trainer. Instead, I’m consistently working out with coworkers so we can encourage each other. And the racquetball is really fun!
Okay, so this post was probably more than any of you really care to know about, but the main take-away from this story is to make sure your priorities are correctly aligned.