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I finally completed my six-month personal training program at my gym. I’m glad I did it; I’m unsure if I will repeat the experience.

I contemplated for two years before deciding. Part of my reluctance was the cost; $75 for a twenty-five-minute session is steep by all standards. Part of it was the commitment. The biggest reason was I’m hesitant giving anyone any kind of control over me. I don’t do well when I’m told what to do.

Years ago when I thought of changing gyms, the sales guy tried to sell me a one-year personal training contract. He even offered fifty-minute free session then and there. He got up from his chair and gesticulated towards the training area. He was at least three hundred pounds with a big belly, long greasy hair, sweaty forehead, and long dirty fingernails. I made an excuse and hightailed out of there.

Eventually, I joined the City Sports Club. I received one complimentary personal training session. I took months to schedule. One hot summer noon, I showed up for my complimentary session. I was met with Nicole somebody.

She wasn’t athletic or muscular. She wore humungous gold hoops and a sparkly Giants sweatshirt. She stood outside the gym door, talking to a bald guy straddling a motorcycle. As she saw me approach, she fluttered her false eyelashes full of mascara goop at the guy and yelled that I might be her appointment. She followed me inside. After I checked-in, she chomped on her chewing gum and shouted at me, “GO, RUN, and give me 15 on the treadmill.”

I looked at her, flipped her my middle finger, and walked back to my car. No one, absolutely nobody tells me what to do. And no human has any right to talk to me like that. Seriously, as if shouting at me was supposed to motivate me. As if she was trying to establish dominance. My reaction could be because to my past abuse at my parents’ hands. Or that I’m simply built not to follow orders. (Here goes my dream of working for CIA or FBI.)

I don’t know of Nicole somebody’s reaction. I never utilized my one complimentary personal training session. Even though I worked out at that location for years, I never encountered her again. Had I seen her again, I’m unsure of my reaction. But from that day onwards, I swore off ever getting a personal trainer.

A couple of years ago I moved to San Jose and started working out at the airport location. Soon I was bored with my routine. I tried hot-yoga in a yoga studio. I detested driving to another location. And I hated the concept of hot-yoga. It isn’t natural to sweat in a 90+plus-degree studio and walk back to your car in the 50-degree cold. It messed up my body.

I tried gym-classes; they were engaging. But I needed more than cardio and weight machines. I recruited my husband to teach me cables and free weights. But I was still dissatisfied. I browsed YouTube and Pinterest and blogs. Often they taught opposing techniques.

I needed someone to teach me the correct form when I swung a kettlebell or squatted with a dumbbell. I wanted to know how to exercises with cables and TRX. I yearned to do all the cool things others were doing in the training area. Mostly I wanted to do more, to get even stronger. I wasn’t looking for motivation. I just needed new routines.

I contemplated personal trainers. Okay, if I let my past bad experiences dictate my life, I wouldn’t be what I’m today. Experiences are just that—experiences, good or bad. The good ones give me warm and fuzzy memories. The bad ones teach me what not to do. So, I formed a plan. I started observing personal trainers at my gym. I approached strangers at my gym and inquired about their experiences with personal trainers.

Everyone I spoke to complained about the high turnover of personal trainers. You need to sign a minimum six-month contact. Of course, they try to sell you two/three sessions a week and a year contract. Even at the discounted rate, it is still $55/$65 per session of 25 minutes. A session with a master trainer, who is more experienced, cost $10 extra per session. You do the math.

BTW to become a personal trainer at the gym costs only $700. But I just wasn’t keen on studying another thing. And I’m sure there must be some fine print in the damn contract demanding you work exclusively for them for umpteen years.

As I’m regular at the gym, I’m recognized by most of the staff. To the sales staff, I wasn’t a “beginner.” So, last year when I signed the six-month master trainer contract, they didn’t try to upsell me. I went through the contract line-by-line.

I’d certain advantages over most newcomers who sign up for personal trainers. I’m habitual to working out. I knew what I wanted out of the training session. And I’d already suffered Nicole somebody.

I’d only one criterion—I didn’t want a male personal trainer. It is like I don’t want a male gynecologist. I’m not uncomfortable or less of a feminist for my preference. It is just that in some situations, I rather not deal with the opposite sex.

At the time I started my six-month contract, at my gym, there were one female and two male master trainers. I was happy with my female trainer, Kristen. She has been at the gym since I’d moved to San Jose location. We knew each other by sight. We got along. She understood my game-plan.

As I was in the second month of my contract, Kristen found a job at Google. Who knew Google hires personal trainers for its employees! I’d no option but to start working out with one of the male trainers. One of them came highly recommended. Johann has been also at the gym since before I moved to San Jose location.

And within the first thirty seconds of meeting, Johann asked me out for drinks. (I don’t wear my wedding ring to the gym.) See, that is the reason sometimes you have to avoid men. Working out with him was interesting for few sessions. Afterward, every session was the same dog-and-pony show. Worst, throughout the session he would be on his mobile or fist bumping or chatting with others. During my session, he would train others. He would often make me stay longer than 25 minutes, sometimes almost for an hour. I looked at that as his way of making up.

Surprising, for all my confidence and smartness, I never voiced my irritation to him. I never complained to the gym manager. Partly I wasn’t absolutely sure if his behavior was wrong. Partially I didn’t want to make a contentious atmosphere. That is the gym I work out at.

I blasted when I found Johann was overbilling me. When he would ask me to stay longer, when I thought he was making up for his inattentiveness, he was charging me one-hour for a half-hour session. Worst, I found out that other trainers and the sales staff knew of his cheating habits. And no one did anything.

Due to zero female master trainers, the gym promoted one of their regular trainers who had around one year of experience.

Initially, I was most apprehensive training with Emily. After all, I barely saw her around. And I judged her for her inexperience. But I found that I learned more from her than others. That during our sessions she focused on only me. Because of her background in Pilates, she invented exercises to fit my needs.

Of course, there was some fine-invisible print in my damn contract. Even though I went through it line-by-line, I was still taken in. You can never outsmart a corporation.

One of the most interesting things was neither Kristen or Emily shout and bully their clients. Once, Johann told me that he as my trainer he knows what’s best for me. That he knows my body better than me. I retorted that ONLY I know what’s best for me and my body.

Since I completed my six-month personal training, I’ve been debating if it was worth it. Every time I complain about Johann, my husband makes an I-told-you-so face. On the other hand, every time I work out with the new exercises I learned, I feel exhilarated. My body pains in the places it never pained earlier. I’m developing new muscles, seriously.

Today, I have a hundred-page pdf with the names and pictures of the new exercises. Most can be found for free on the internet. But the six-month training gave me super confidence in the gym. Which I wouldn’t get from blogs etc. I debate if I will do it again. Probably in five/ten years, when my memories are jaded and I am bored.

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