A column about personal training

I’ve been going to the gym on and off for a while in attempt to resculpt my body into something ever slightly less reminiscent of Jabba the Hutt, but I haven’t really been getting anywhere. The prospect of staying in bed is generally too appealing in the morning, and I spend the rest of my working hours tirelessly answering my usual avalanche of adoring fan mail from readers of The Glebe. Actually, that part of my story isn’t true. And yes, this is a not-terribly-subtle hint.

Anyway, the last time I worked up a light sweat at my local gymnasium, I saw the light. In the form of a poster. It claimed that only 25% of gym users achieve the results they want, and of them, 90% of them use personal trainers.

Interesting. I generally respond well to being bossed around. Perhaps being bullied into shape by some muscular Amazon or Adonis might be the way to finally get myself into shape? Specifically, a less spherical shape.

I signed up, and found myself bowling up to the gym at the ungodly hour of 9am, ready for my date with the New Me. I don’t have much in the way of fitness gear, and am lazy when it comes to washing as well as exercise, so I was sporting extremely tatty trainers, a George Bush t-shirt that somehow never comes across as ironically as I expect it to, and a pair of what were obviously swimming shorts.

Bad idea. My gym is so depressingly full of buff blokes tirelessly pumping iron so they can get another layer of triceps on their biceps (that may not be anatomically correct, but you know what it looks like) that I felt I’d failed before I even began. I made a note to immediately sprint (well, waddle, to be more accurate) down to my nearest Rebel and stock up on swanky workout gear as soon as my session ended.

My trainer was a lovely bloke. Unfortunately, though, the first session was a fitness test, and not one involving any of the regular gym machines. He took me into a little room and weighed and measured me before making me do a bunch of sit-ups, push-ups. And by a bunch, I mean “less than a dozen”. This was to calculate my ‘fitness age’ – the age for which my physical condition would be considered normal. You may have seen the concept in an ad with Steve Waugh that’s going around where he gets the reassuring that he’s in his mid-30s physically.

Well, I’m only 30, but I’m not in great shape. So I thought I may well be up around Steve Waugh’s actual age of 41. I waited with bated breath while the computer worked it all out for me, and spat out a number.

It was 70. That’s right, seventy. Seven zero. In other words, I have the body of a retiree.

The breakdown was even more damning. I have the flexibility of a 50-year-old (ladies!), the strength of a 62-year-old and the body and cardio performance of an 80-year-old. And since the current Australian life expectancy for men is 78, I should by rights be dead.

I tried to look on the bright side. Of course, we’re talking about a fit 70-year-old. You know, a spritely older gentleman who enjoys long walks and perhaps still plays lawn bowls, when his hips are up to it. That’s not so bad, is it?

But as I moped home, my shoulders slumped and my thoughts of shiny new gym gear forgotten, I began to question the point. If my gym wants me to partake of its products and services, how does insulting me help, exactly?

And then I began to think positive. Not only could I now wear cardigans and use a walking stick, but with an official physical age of 70, perhaps I could qualify for the pension?

It certainly has been a wake-up call, though. I have vowed to persist with the gym, and try harder. With a few month of solid work and my trainer’s encouragement, I might even be able to get that pesky number down below retirement age.

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