Training Day: Getting serious about getting in shape

By Chris Sherman

I signed up with a trainer for all the wrong reasons. To be brutally honest, I did it to show off to my friends. I want to be one who says, “My trainer recommends I take the stairs,” or “I can’t go for a drink after work, I have to meet with my trainer,” or my absolute favorite fantasy phrase, “Man, my trainer whipped my butt yesterday. I can hardly walk.”

It really is time to get serious and get in shape now that summer is here. Countless magazine stands herald the dreaded news: “Bathing Suit Season 2011 — Are You Ready?”

No, I’m not. I haven’t been ready since 1986.

A week before my assigned start date, I go to the gym to meet my trainer. By the time I leave the locker room, I am getting cold feet. What business do I have exercising with a trainer? I’m a middle-aged, perimenopausal woman who considers getting out of bed a sit-up. It is ridiculous. And I am ridiculous in my JC Penney housewife-at-the-supermarket jogging suit.

But before I could turn tail and run, I am spotted. A big, muscular smile approaches.

“Chris? I’m Jon, and I’ll be your trainer.” Like Patty Hearst, who shocked a nation by sympathizing with her captor, I decide to like him right away.

He tells me he had to fill out some preliminary paperwork on me. This is code for — I have to:

Weigh you to see how fat you are

Measure you to see how fat you are

Ask you what you eat to see how you got this fat

I measure 5 feet 5 inches tall as I step on the scale…159. Thank you, God! It could be 160. No comment from Jon. I see this as a sign of our mutual embarrassment.

Next, the body fat test. The apparatus for this test looks like a video game controller. You hold it out in front of you and in seconds it calculates your percentage of body fat. Mine is 26. Thank you, God! It could be 27.

Then comes the measuring. Jon uses a tape measure to measure the circumference of my arms, thighs, hips, etc. I murmur nonconvincing disclaimers throughout this process: “This bra has a lot of padding. These sweats are rather thick. I lost my waist in the war… .”

“Let’s talk a little about what you’ve been eating lately.”

Damn! Why does it always come down to food? Aren’t I allowed to eat? Don’t skinny people get hungry?

“I do eat pretty well, and Jon, really, that’s what’s rather frustrating.”

“Well, let’s see. What would be a typical dinner for you?”

“Dinner. Well, dinner. Let’s see now, a glass of wine while cooking, shards of cheese to pick on, the extremities of some unsuspecting rotisserie chicken, a wing here, a drumstick there, another wing, crispy skin, more wine, more cheese, the other drumstick and then, finally, I sit down to a full dinner of whatever is remaining of the chicken I’ve been picking on. But I like to keep it balanced, you know, protein, vegetable and starch — but it’s always brown rice or whole wheat bread or whole wheat pasta.” Somehow, there is hope that this final whole-grain statement will exonerate me from the few other dietary offences. It does not.

His eyes fly open. “You are eating the calorie equivalent of two to three dinners a night! And forget the wine. We are putting an end to that right now!”

Now it is my eyes flying open. “No wine?” I am incredulous. “Are you going to tell me that Madonna never has a glass of wine? Or Gwyneth either?”

“Sorry, Chris. No wine if you want to lose. When you start to look like Madonna, then we’ll introduce a glass of wine back into your diet on weekends.”

One glass of wine for the entire weekend? Is this how the stars diet? Should I switch to cocaine?

He proceeds to lay down the law:

No eating after 6:30 p.m.

No carbs with dinner.

No sugar.

No salt.

No white flour.

No white rice.

No white pasta.

And stop me if you heard this one: No alcohol.

I’m thinking this is an awfully negative way to start off. I’m thinking my life is over. But then I smile and think of how jealous my friends will be when I’m in shape. I become completely compliant. After all, my trainer knows best.