I had the funniest experience last week at Club Lime, the gym I've just joined with my boyfriend. Hey, as a total aside, how hardcore am I? I'm a member of, count them, not one but two gyms. My Fernwood membership runs out in May however I have a zillion and one personal training sessions to go (ok, about 20) so at renewal time I'm going to drop my membership level down to basics and finish off the PT sessions. In the meantime, TB (the boyfriend) asked me if I'd go to the gym with him. I'm meant to be his motivator. I'd been a little concerned that my new lifestyle (I've recently moved in with TB) would mean that I'd end up cutting back on my activity level. As you can imagine, I was absolutely delighted by his suggestion. I had him down the gym and signing up before he could change his mind!
Anyway, back on topic. Gyms like to do 'fitness assessments' on new members, so I dutifully signed up for one at 6:30 am on Monday morning. I then had to promptly cancel it, as I had to go to Melbourne for work. Fortunately, this gym seems to be open all hours, so I rescheduled for lunchtime on the following Sunday. I was keen to go, however a dinner invitation on Saturday night resulted in some missing brain cells and a minor headache the following day. I wasn't at my most energetic when I showed up for my 12:30 appointment. On top of that, a particularly energetic game of hockey on Saturday afternoon had me feeling rather stiff and sore.
A young gentleman, Brent, showed up to assess me. He was unfailingly polite. He also looked perfect for his job - tanned, fit, muscular, cheerful and goodlooking. As for the initial impression I was giving - let's not go there.
I was handed the obligatory forms to fill out - had I ever had any of a zillion things (muscle strain .. what sort of stupid question is that? broken bones .. yeah, when I was four I broke my collarbone, I'm sure that's important .. flesh-eating virus .. ok, they didn't ask that one .. just as well really as I probably would have ticked yes). Along with the "are you too unhealthy to be here" questions there was the "what are you hoping to get out of this" question and the "what physical activity do you currently do" question.
I circled a few goals - being fit, losing weight, social fun, strength training - and I listed my current activities - gym 2-3 times a week, running 1-3 times a week, cycling 2-3 times a week (just to work), hockey once a week, squash once a week. Brent was clearly able to read, as he picked up the social goal and promptly suggested classes to me. I told him I wasn't really into classes, but he enthused about body pump and body attack, got the timetable out, and circled all the suitable times for me. In conversation I'd mentioned that I'd joined the gym with my partner so he quickly dobbed TB in for pump classes too. I had a quiet internal chuckle, imagining TB's face when I dragged him along to pump.
Brent then got into designing a program for me. This is where it got really amusing. Now, remember that I was feeling slightly hungover, so I was in the sort of mood where I just wanted the fitness assessment over and done with. I could see that Brent had decided that I'd misinterpreted the question about my current activity level. He was sure that I'd put down what I'd LIKE to be able to do, rather than what I was doing. I had mentioned that I was currently a gym member but he skipped over that. I never got a chance to tell him that I did PT twice a week, or that I considered myself a runner.
Having established, through his careful attention to our conversation along with his keen understanding of the information I provided on the form, that I was a complete novice, Brent patiently explained each item to me as he added it to my card. He also kindly wrote extra notes to help me out later and gave me pictures of the stretches he wanted me to do.
Here's the program, along with snippets of conversation.
B: "Have you ever used a rowing machine?"
K: "Yes. I don't like them."
B: "Why not?"
K: "They are hard work."
B: "Ok, we'll put you down for 5 minutes - just take it really slowly - they are a great warm up."
B: "Now it's important to stretch after you've warmed up." Brent draws circles around a number of stretches and promises to show me how to do them later. Kathy wishes her headache would go away. All the stretches are basic.
B: "Have you seen the cardio equipment in the gym?"
B: "Well, I think we'll start you off on the manual program so that you get used to the equipment. We'll pick a few different machines so you can work out what you like. Don't put yourself at a level you find too hard. You want to be able to exercise for the full ten minutes. Have a two minute break between each machine. When you get used to them you can start on some of the other programs." Brent writes down treadmill, crosstrainer and bicycle. Kathy thinks it's a shame Brent didn't pay attention to her earlier. Kathy also thinks it's a shame that Brent didn't ask her if she'd used the cardio equipment before. Kathy contemplates telling Brent that she can run for an hour at a time. Kathy also thinks about mentioning that she's not a novice but the brain cells that survived Saturday night decide that it's all incredibly amusing.
B: "We'll give you some strength work to do too. Now, you only have to do this once a week, along with your two pump classes. We'll start you off on the machines as you need to have really good balance to use free weights. Once you get used to the machines we can do you another fitness assessment and show you how to use the free weights." Brent writes down shoulder press, leg press and overhead lateral pulldown.
B: "We'll do three sets of reps, 12/12/10. You won't get too muscly with this program." Kathy thinks about telling him that she already does two free weight sessions a week with her personal trainers. Kathy remembers that the leg press machines in the gym looked different to the ones she's used to, so decides to get shown how to use the machines. Kathy realises that she's going to have a lot of fun telling Krissi and Julia that she needs to work up to using free weights.
B: "Now for your abs work." Brent writes down crunches and back extensions, 4 - 5 sets of 20 - 25 reps. Kathy thinks that sounds like a lot for a beginner, then remembers she isn't a beginner, even if she's being treated like one. Kathy still thinks it sounds like a lot. After a moment of panic, Kathy remembers that she will probably run out of time before she gets to the 3rd set.
B: "You'll need to do a warm down. 5 minutes on your favourite piece of cardio equipment." Kathy thinks "ha, bloody ha, as if that's likely".
B: "Then you'll have to stretch again." Kathy thinks "ok, stretching I can manage".
B: "Let's weigh you." Kathy jumps on the scale. Weight pretty much as expected, with shoes on. Kathy expects to be measured because TB was measured. Obviously Brent is of the "don't measure fat people" school of training. Kathy is a little peeved, as TB didn't do the flexibility test because he expected to fail. Kathy was looking forward to telling him her result. (Ok, I'm a little competitive!)
B: "Let's show you how to do these exercises." Kathy levers herself out of the chair, adding to the overall impression of unfit person that Brent already has. The moving slowly to avoid rattling brain cells doesn't help.
B: "Here's the cardio machine. Here's how to push the buttons. Got that. Ok." Kathy's sore legs are glad that she doesn't have to demonstrate that she won't fall off the crosstrainer. Kathy also notes that the rowing machine was skipped entirely. Kathy doesn't complain as she doesn't think she'll be able to get up again if she gets down onto the rower.
B: "Here's the shoulder press. Here's how you do it. Here, have a go." Kathy suggests that 30 kg might be too heavy for her. (Doh!) Brent adjusts it to 10 kg. Kathy starts to do the shoulder press and Brent immediately starts spotting her.
B: "Your partner will be able to help you with this." Kathy isn't sure whether to be insulted (at least let me try the 10 kg before you help me) or amused (imagining TB being asked to help her with 10 kg). Kathy does three shoulder presses then stops. Brent looks around the area, isn't able to find a leg press, so demonstrates leg curls and leg extensions. Kathy thinks about calling him on it, then decides she really wants to know how to set the incremental weights just in case she ever does use any of the machines at Club Lime (remember the Fernwood membership people) and does a few assisted leg curls and leg extensions.
B: "Here's the lat pull down machine." Brent demonstrates. Kathy reaches up forever, just manages to grab the bar, does a few pull downs (assisted of course - but why assist her with reaching the bar?) then just manages to let the bar up without letting it go. Maybe TB will help her with this one - clearly the machine is meant for tall people.
B: "Here's how you do a crunch. Here, you try." Kathy does eight crunches. Brent makes sure that she thinks she'll be able to do them. Kathy wonders Brent doesn't notice that it's the first time she's done more than three of anything. Oh well.
B: "Here's how you do a back extension." Kathy does them, remembering that Krissi would tell her about hyperextending her back. Kathy makes a mental note to check the technique with Krissi. (Lock your abs on and you can't lift up as high. Thanks Krissi.)
B: "Here's how you do the basic stretches."
At least now I have a program. Apart from making an assumption about me based on my age and size, and not listening to me when we were talking, Brent actually didn't do too bad a job. Mind you, if I really was a novice, I'd think leg curls/extensions were leg presses.
Oh, and I'm feeling much better now than I did last Sunday. :-)