The Trainer


I’m the fattest person at the gym I just joined. Thankfully I am not the oldest as well. I saw an Ethel or a Margaret or whatever plodding on the treadmill who had maybe 20 years on me. Bad news is I had about 20 stone on her.

Thoroughness is an adjective one could easily apply to the staff dotted about the gym. All are extremely well-toned and wear the same matching purple and black polo shirt. Their thoroughness manifests itself in the form of long and thoughtful consultation around the simplest of questions.

“Excuse me mate, is this a good machine for abs?”

“Sit down sir, let me show you via this interactive screen just how the machine works. It is a 15 minute presentation and afterwards we can discuss protein supplements.”

Gyms are a business. I get it. But I specified in the welcome interview that I didn’t want to be hassled, I didn’t want to join in any social activities. I didn’t want somebody standing behind me in a black and purple polo shirt shouting, “Feel the burn.”

The gym had to be refuge, a bolt-hole, otherwise we were going to fall out and I would lose interest. I chose this specific gym for a reason; it is 100 meters from our front door, nestled in the basement of a posh hotel. To enter the door is to enter a subterranean world of darkness and blue water and pin points of artificial starlight in the ceiling. I want to exercise for an hour, sit in the sauna to relax, have a shower and go home. Hopefully I can lose some weight while I do it. That’s it. I don’t care how the muscle systems in my abs are having an impact on my hip. I don’t care.

Today I had the obligatory hour with one of the purple and black polo clad staff so they could show me how to safely use the equipment and best attain my goals. The premise sounded very Californian to me but I went along if only so I didn’t look a dick pushing various buttons with no effect as I encountered each piece of equipment.

Lawrence had an unidentifiable accent which suggested he had had like most Londoners, come to this city rather than having been born here. His purple and black polo is painted onto his muscled body. His face has pointed, bird-like features mounted on a thick neck. I automatically make the assumption he has overdeveloped his body to draw attention from his avian qualities.

Granted, Lawrence is friendly and funny as he asks me about my lifestyle. I describe my recent move to the non-smoker part of town (without being sanctimonious dear readers. I will not be sanctimonious). He nods attentively but in my mind’s eye he is pecking at sunflower seeds stuck to a pine cone with peanut butter.

He describes my body as an old car and he is going to gun the engines.

I wonder if Lawrence uses that same line on girls he meets in nightclubs.

Arthritis has been claiming an ever increasing stake in my joints over the past few years. After sitting for a period my bones crack and pop as I stand, much to the amusement of my wife and children.  Lawrence and I agreed that a more flexible as well as a leaner body would be a welcome outcome of my time at the gym.

In reality, dear readers, the conversation was more New Age than that. The trainer talked about Personal Motivation Scenarios or some other pretentious bullshit. I pretended to listen but by now I had made the connection that Lawrence was short for Larry and I began to think of nothing else but the ex-Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird.

He looked like a bird too.

Lawrence spent the hour putting me through a series of tests to ascertain how much strength and flexibility was still left in my body after years of abuse. I can do exactly 4 push/press-ups, I can bench press the bar without any weights attached. I can ride the bike so that the second bar is lit up. “It is going to be a long road, especially at your age,” Lawrence confides, “but you will notice the difference in 2 or 3 weeks.”

We finish with mat work- crunches and stretches. Lawrence challenges me to strain my sagging abdominal muscles just enough to lift my head from the mat and make eye contact with him. He bobs and nods as I rise bringing to mind yet another avian character. Suddenly I wanted a drink of water. And a top hat for Lawrence.

We finish the session and Lawrence, the great muscled bird man asks me, “Where do we go from here?”

I am working from the assumption that Lawrence meant as far him being a regular personal trainer of mine.

But I did think of the imaginary girls in the nightclub toilet mirror.

I stopped myself before I could blurt, “You have a nice body but you look a bit like a bird.”

Keep the Faith,

The Head

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