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September 5, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

An Unexpected Lesson from a Personal Trainer

By Jeany Miller More Blogs by This Author


My friend owns a nice gym with temperature-controlled locker rooms, men with bulging muscles, and women with bouncy ponytails in spandex shorts. As part of his persistent effort to persuade me to join, he scheduled a free one-hour appointment for me with one of his professional trainers. “Even if you decide not to join, the information you’ll learn from Melissa will be invaluable,” he said coaxingly.

I agreed to meet Melissa under the assumption that she would write me a foolproof workout plan, discuss with me the pros and cons of certain machines, and go over a few moves to help me lose weight and gain muscle. None of these scenarios occurred.

Melissa was kind and attentive, but she also had an ulterior motive. After I explained that I'd given up exercising since breaking my left leg 10 years ago, she instructed me to grab my water bottle and follow her. I didn’t really think I would need that bottle; I’d brought it along simply to have something in my hands when I met Melissa. It was a more of a safety blanket than a functioning portable hydration station. 


It turns out I did need that bottle and much more. In one hour, Melissa ordered me to do more than 100 squats, and each time I stood, I had to raise two weights above my head. In between squat sets, I stepped vigorously on an aerobic stepper. By the time I finished, sweat pouring down my face and lungs heaving, my legs felt like they were made of water. I was certain my muscles had turned to liquid.


I left the gym and went home, noticing that, as time passed, my legs began to hurt more and more. That night, I traded pain for sleep. I was afraid to roll over or even shift because every minute motion brought another twinge. On Saturday morning, I couldn’t rise from bed without hoisting myself with the bedside table. I couldn’t walk up and down steps, and even getting out of the car took superhuman effort.

On Saturday night, my left leg locked and gave out on me. I almost fell. The same happened twice more on Sunday, which marked the second day of unbearable agony. Sitting didn’t offer much relief. The pain was so intense I couldn’t escape it. Neither Motrin nor Advil helped.

My quad muscles felt shredded. I didn’t have the strength to lift my legs straight out in front of me, and I didn’t have the mobility to squat or sit cross-legged. Going to the bathroom was horrible; I had to use the disability handlebar.

The Lesson

I knew that the workout was too much – not because I’m lazy, but because I know my own body. Aside from walking my dog, I lead a sedentary lifestyle. I’m not proud of this, but it is a fact that cannot be ignored. I knew I couldn’t go from zero to full-out activity in just one hour, and I should have had the sense to say something to Melissa. 

The lesson is this: A person doesn’t have to blindly follow the lead of a trainer. Certainly that person is knowledgeable in, and experienced with, exercise, but he or she can only make recommendations based on previous experiences. Each individual person is unique and needs personalized attention. 

Surprisingly enough, I look forward to returning to the gym. I won’t sign up for another training session, but I liked the overall vibe that people were there to take care of themselves. My next trip will be on my own terms, not those of a person whose teachings might land me in the hospital.

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