03/14/2013 12:05 pm ET Updated May 14, 2013

Training Day

On one very ordinary Tuesday, I temporarily forgot everything I stand for and signed up for the free personal training session at my gym. In my defense, I was seduced.

A little background: I am often approached by trainers, as I suspect many slightly lumpy people on elliptical machines are. I want to stress that I do not mean hit on. If there's one thing I know, I will never be hit on at the gym. I don't look good at the gym. I look good when I go out to dinner. But my idea of gym clothes is an operable sports bra plus whatever clothes are too crappy to wear out in the world. I love things like black Lululemon pants that make your butt look amazing, but I cannot bring myself to spend that kind of money on items you sweat in. I feel the same way about parkas. I wear mine everyday in the winter, and it is essential, but it is just too ugly as a category of clothes to spend big on.

In any case... I was approached.

Normally, trainers chat me up and I just try to end the conversation as quickly as possible. Training is expensive and also requires people knowing things about you, like your weight and whether or not you actually worked out. Not for me. But then her amazing Art of War maneuver happened. Cool Girl Trainer looked at me and said:

"I noticed your left hip is compressed."


Now that observation may not sound seductive to you -- or even that appealing -- but I felt the same rush of love for her that I usually reserve for doctors. I love medical attention. Tell me more about what you see! I WAS feeling a little tight! Differential diagnosis!

So that's how it happened. A little anatomical flattery and years of resistance -- gone. I was in.

I arrived the next day confident that my session would go fine. I expected to be a decent exerciser, but an excellent learner. To show interest but not neediness. To hear more about my hip.

Let's just say it did not go as planned.

It began with the History & Physical:

My current exercise regimen is basically useless.
My Body Mass Index is normal, but terrible.

Every time I eat a California roll I am poisoning myself (white rice).

Thus, with my self-esteem in my sneakers, Cool Girl Trainer took me on to the gym floor.

Now, I accept my less-than-favorable qualities. I admit that I am not drawn towards physical activities than push me to the limit. Isn't that going to happen in old age, anyway? I am drawn to emotional and intellectual activities that push me to the limit, but they were not part of this appointment.

It is hard to describe what happened next. I will try:

Run forward. Squats. Jump ten times. Run backwards. Squats. Up and down up and down up and down. Tighten, hips in. Run backwards. Jumping jacks. Side run (what?) Squats. Legs kick to the side. Legs kick back down. Legs go in another direction entirely. Run in circles.

Pump arms. Jumping jacks. Hands on face.

Can't breathe!






No sitting!!!! said CGT who had no idea who she was dealing with. I don't respond well to ultimatums or lack of oxygen. NO SITTING! No break! We keep going!!!!!

I SAT DOWN, and I tried to communicate (since I could not speak): Lady, I am 39 and I have an advanced degree. I will be sitting.

It got a little better after that, meaning that I recovered my breath, and made it through the rest of the session without having a heart attack. By the end of it, I was wobbly but full of gratitude for having survived, and I awaited my review. Surely CGT had recognized my potential and just gone extra hard on me.

First, your strengths:

Your flexibility isn't bad and you have good balance.

Then there was a long pause.

And now your problems...

It turns out I have many problems. In muscles I have never heard of. She talked about imbalances. She mentioned my other hip. She recommended 60 sessions to move me from deconditioned (the technical term for what happened after the 74th jumping jack) to AHMAZING.

She closed, with the relaxed confidence of someone who has broken her captive a la Homeland: This is what real change feels like. Do you want real change?

At that point, I forgot my plan, my hip, and even my manners:

I don't think so, I said. And I left.

I want to make it clear; CGT was perfectly good at her job. I'm sure that she could, indeed, have made me AHMAZING. And I am genuinely impressed by people who have the drive to feel the burn. It turns out I have the drive to feel a slight warming sensation.

But I will go back to the gym, because, as inconsequential as my workout apparently is, it makes me feel good and strong. And because there is something about the whirring of the machines and bad lighting of the TV soaps and even my invisibility that effectively turns off my brain -- at least for the length of my fat burning cardio sequence. So, as soon as I can walk without holding on to my thighs, I will march proudly back into that gym and I will ride that machine to nowhere wearing a purple give away T-shirt that says Coolio and weird shorts. Working out my way.