Last week, I was at the gym, cranking out a run on the treadmill. I’ve got my headphones in because I am doing a guided run using the Aaptiv app (I’m obsessed, try a month free), and I’m in the zone. Over walks a guy who motions for me to pull my headphones out. I remove one earbud, so he’ll get the message I’m not exactly in a talking mood. But he introduces himself as the head of personal training in the gym. He wants to know my name and how long I’ve been working out and what kind of workouts I do and if I’ve ever tried personal training, on and on…. I finally have to pull both headphones out and slow the treadmill down to a walk because he is not walking away.
He asks about my fitness goals and I tell him – I’m running the 2018 Chicago Marathon and I’d like to run it in 4 hours and 30 minutes. That’s my goal. He looks me over and asks if I had any weight loss goals. When I respond ‘not really’ he seems surprised and suddenly I feel uncomfortable. To get back to my workout, I agree to come back on Wednesday for a complimentary personal training session.
On Wednesday, he doesn’t seem to remember much of our conversation from Monday, asking me all the same questions again. When we get to the part about the fitness goals, and I reiterate that kicking ass in the Chicago Marathon is my goal, he asks again about weight loss goals. I tell him, that could be a nice side effect of my marathon training, but it is not my main goal or focus. He responds that it should be and asks if I am comfortable with my weight and BMI now. At this point I’m flustered and give a half-hearted shrug, because up to this point I have been good with my body – what it can do, how I’ve gotten healthier and more fit than I used to be years ago, or even what I was when suffering with health issues earlier this year.
He tests my BMI, points to the number on the chart, which is in the lower numbers of the average range, and then proceeds to tell me that if I really want to be healthy I need to lose almost 30 pounds! I blink at him, and my heart sinks a little. Suddenly, I feel like I’m being guilted into signing up for a personal trainer, like I’m less than I was when I walked into the gym 30 minutes ago – Don’t I want to be healthy? Don’t I want to look like the image of the woman in a bikini on the brochure in front of me? Don’t I want a six pack? Don’t I know cardio isn’t going to do anything to help me lose weight?
All his questions, the way they are posed, the leading way in which they are delivered, left me feeling like I was an overweight, useless, unattractive, and unhealthy woman. Which is just not so – Dang it!
The one shining moment comes as we are actually in the training portion and he mentions I’m a lot stronger than he thought – gee thanks.
This whole experience made me realize a few things:
- I still don’t give a hoot what the number on the scale says, and I shouldn’t care just because he thinks I should lose 30 pounds. That number says very little about a person’s overall health and well being. And while I am ‘average’ when it comes to BMI, I am in the healthy weight range for my height.
- Making a female client feel bad might be a way to get a lot of women to commit to buying the crazy expensive personal training sessions, but it is no way to help those women understand their value and worth. It’s also really sad that it is probably a really effective tool to get women to sign-up. Personally, I would have been so much more likely to sign-up if he had heard what I said about marathon training and then made the very valid claim that core work would help me reach those goals faster.
- I’m still happy with my body the way it is now. It can run 9 minute miles – not super impressive for some, but pretty amazing to me who couldn’t even run 12 minute miles when I first started running. I eat really healthy 95% of the time – skipping processed foods, sugars, dairy, grains, etc… And while I won’t mind the slimming down that comes with marathon training, I’m more focused on my body as a machine rather than the number on the scale or where I fall on the BMI range.
- Words can hurt. He didn’t call me fat, but the words he used said that without using those specific words. By pushing the weight loss and constantly asking if I was okay with the way I looked now, he was basically saying, the way you look now is not okay. And those words – the ones he used and the ones he implied – have been running in my head all week. And while they tick me off more than anything, they also hurt in the beginning before I remembered I don’t care about those things and they certainly don’t define me.
To the woman jumping on the treadmill for the first time and trying to run for 5 minutes at 4.5 mph – you go, girl! You’re beautiful.
To the buff chick showing the guys how to lift with proper form – you go, girl! You’re beautiful.
To the girl who managed to talk herself into getting out of her car and walking into the gym – you go, girl! You’re beautiful.
To the babe who is taking a spin class for the first time or the 100th time – you go, girl! You’re beautiful.
To the beauty who has weight loss goals she’s pursuing – you go, girl! You’re beautiful.