Jonny Golan is this Israeli guy in his mid to late 50s who owned a home improvement business. I prospected him the usual way, by giving a free workout and giving some tidbits on how the training would help him. Jonny had a good friend named Mike, a tall white-skinned Israeli with a curly mullet and headband. Mike was very retro. Jonny, by contrast was about 5’5”, tan skinned and had a nose that hooked like a beak, with a wart on his left nostril. His teeth were jagged, almost as if he was one of those Pacific Islanders that sharpened their teeth with tools to resemble a reptile. His head was round and his belly proceded him. He had the appearance of strong forearms and calves, and if you looked at him in a frontal view, he walked with his feet turned outward, like a duck. The muscle from his forearms and calves poked out the sides of his arms and legs like Popeye. Jonny liked to wear black t-shirts, black khaki shorts, black shoes, but peculiar beige socks that looked almost like old 80s styled dress socks that you could get from a department store like Morton’s or Woodward and Lothrop. With the black shirt, Danny’s rotund belly jutted out like a black cauldron turned sideways.
Jonny mostly drove around all day, causing him to have overly tight calves, weak core, stressed lower back, and excessive anterior pelvic tilt. He also had a slightly jutted forward head/neck posture due to driving too much and probably sticking his head forward so he could see. When I looked at his lower back and posture, his lower back seemed indented, as if his belly was trying to pull his spine out of his navel; his core muscles were definitely out of shape. I employed a workout program to address most of his needs. I would usually have him do bouts of plyometrics in between core and balance exercises; then I would spend some time at the end doing strength training and stretching.
Jonny would get here in the next 7 to 8 minutes, so that gave me time to go to the Personal Training office (Wolves’ Den) and check up on my schedule and get any First time Work Outs (FWO) that were delegated to me by the Fitness Director Jacob (who is the boss of all of the Personal Trainers) or some busy, money making, client boning, high profile trainers. I was mostly supplemented by the scraps from their tables.
There were two to three ways a personal trainer could make money at Bailey’s: prospecting, referrals, and FWO. Prospecting, or “hunting” for clients usually occurred on the gym floor, where gym members would either be on the cardio machines (like a treadmill, stairclimber,elliptical or exercise bike), or using different equipment, usually machine weights. Mostly guys used the free weight room where all of the dumbbells and barbells were; they rarely wanted to get personal training. It was assumed that they already either felt they knew it all, or were there to get their workout and/or look at the ladies and not be disturbed by personal trainers (PT); unless the fitness trainer was one of those super ripped guys who all the ladies loved. The only way a guy would listen to a PT is if the trainer appeared bigger, more ripped, and stronger than the guy; especially in the “t-shirt muscles” area (chest, biceps, triceps, and abs). It didn’t matter if the trainer had knowledge that could help him, most guys wouldn’t hear it unless the dude was ripped.
FWO usually came from people who just joined the gym and were getting their orientation. They were introduced by the gym manager or one of the customer service employees to the fitness trainers during their initial tour of the gym. Then the clients were told that they would get a free workout with the personal trainer. Once the FWO were scheduled, it was our job to close them by giving a great workout, overcoming objections (especially with pricing), and getting them to sign for workout sessions. FWO were a great way to get new business, especially because the new member was interviewed and if they wanted a trainer, it was indicated on their workout card. The downside of this process was that either Jake or some other ex-officio high ranking trainer would get the FWO cards to divvy out first, and they usually picked the choices cuts from the client members. Then they gave other choicest pieces to their closer buddies and left the rest for guys who didn’t follow their clique, like me. By the way, the workout cards had client information regarding their occupation. The reason we are supposed to ask about a client’s occupation is to figure out their lifestyle (mostly seated or standing) to address muscle imbalances ( a person who remains mostly seated may have weak glutes, conversely a person who remains mostly standing usually has lower back issues and needs to strengthen their core). The real reason trainers like to know that information is because it hints to how much money the client makes. That way, they can determine how much they would like to commit themselves to giving a great workout. Lastly, referrals usually came from satisfied clients who pass you on to their friends. I built a couple of new clients around referrals, and they are almost sure-fire closes. Referrals are like gold.
As I entered the Wolves’ Den (the PT office) to glance at my schedule, I saw the PT Director Jacob Winters, euphemistically known as “Jake”. Jake was this above-average sized Asian dude with a muscles on top of muscles. He didn’t have a big frame, in other words, his bone structure wasn’t abnormally big, but his musculature encased his bones in dense strands of sarcomeres. He also had pectoral muscles that poked out through his under armour gear. To have big pecs and to be Asian was definitely a feat in itself. Asians usually have big calves so they don’t have to work on them to make them grow, but they might run to get them defined. I have noticed with many Asians they have to put in mad work to grow their chest (pecs) muscles. Not Jake. Maybe because he was an adopted Korean (c’mon, how many Koreans do you know named Jacob Winters in Korea?) and grew up eating burgers, dogs, apple pie and potatoe salad at barbecues, rather than tofu soup and fish and rice (although Koreans do have their form of BBQ that is absolutely magnificent and rivals American BBQ on equal footing). Whatever the reason, he had fully adopted the American swag and customs while keeping his “Zenlike” Appearance. Jake was one of those muscular AZN dudes you would see at a progressive house or trance club; but he was an enjoy-er of all music, including hip-hop and Latin; and he was not scared to go to a club playing hip-hop with predominantly Blacks and Hispanics. His hulking appearance made him look like the Bolo Yeung of some Yakuza gang. He also had long hair that he usually put in a pony tail that went down to his shoulders and a long beard, kind of like a fu-manchu minus the “fu”, without a mustache. You know what they say, never trust a nigga with a beard and no mustache. When he laughed, he looked like some sort of modern day faun.
“What’s up Jake.”
I said as I walked in. Jake seemed entranced by the obsolescent computer that he was looking at and typing on, which made annoying sounds when the buttons were pressed.
“Hey. How are your points looking so far this month?”
He asked. You can never greet a manager without them asking questions regarding production.
“They are looking okay. I got a couple of FWOs coming in after my 6:00, and…(I paused as I flipped through the shared schedule book) I have…two more prospects working out with me tomorrow.”
Jake stroked his beard as he fidgeted in his seat.
“We need to get you better business and put you in front of more people.”
He looked at me in a focused manner. Although his eyes were squinty, they were usually wide, and when he was aware, or making a point, his eyes opened up like a deer facing headlights.
I said as I nodded my head. I just wanted him to shut up about points and all of that idiotic shit. Of course, I knew that making more points=making more money, but personal training is very draining, and I didn’t intend on working more than 20 hours a week. He looked at me as if he was expecting me to say something, but I was on the end of my rope today. I just wanted to train these fuckers and go home. Plus, the company was fucking up on paying me on time. I just focused on a couple of pock marks that he had on his left cheek.
Though Jake’s body was young, his face showed his true age. When raising eyebrows or making a facial expression, the lines would often stay for a few seconds; he also had a case of the “crater-face”. Deep epidermal lesions like pock-marks littered his cheeks and parts of his forehead. People used to think that this type of skin was the result of “crank bugs”, or imaginary bugs that would plague the faces of methamphetamine users. The meth users would subsequently scratch their faces into obliteration. I sereiously doubt that Jake used methamphetamine. One of my clients, this fat horny black woman, said that it looked like he had testosterone problems. Being a man, I have never heard about testosterone problems that resulted in acne (a sign of excess testosterone), but I have heard of testosterone problems that resulted in loss of muscle mass and libido. To me, being swole and having acne would not be a problem at all.
“Welp…”I said, looking at the clock, “ my 6:00 should be here any minute.” Jake realizing that I did not want to continue the conversation returned his focus back to the computer. There are two ways to make a manager shut up: One way is to turn your attention to your work, make yourself look focused. Second is to bring up something that they have no control over and stunts their capacity to do their duty to you, the employee, like bring up something about how payroll was consistently screwing up my paycheck and underpaying me.
The PT room was a small room, and I’ll probably describe it in detail later (like during a team meeting), but for now, know that there is an electrical room behind the pt room where most of the trainers changed and put their belongings. I dropped my backpack down and headed out for the gym floor.
All of the trainers usually did the bulk of their training and reactive work in a place called the “Cage”. The Cage was a rectangular enclosure roughly about 15ft by 10ft and about 10ft high. It was made in the fashion of the Cages one would see in WWF pro wrestling. To me, it was glorified wire meshing, but it was also something that from time to time, I would interlock my fingers in it and look inside as if I was Tony Montana in the Freedomtown camp. I liked to watch the trainers and some of their prissy firm-buttocked, pony tail wearing workout girls. It seemed to me as if it was a dance club more than a gym. The plyometric step-boxes and the *ump-tsz-ump-tsz- ump-tsz* techno music. In the Cage, they had equipment there exclusively (though not always) for use by the personal trainers and their clients. The equipment was brightly colored and usually used for free-standing reactive and balance exercises. One of these pieces of equipment which was a personal favorite of mine, was called the Bosu Ball. It was a inflated rubber hemisphere that had a platform on its underside. It looked like the top half of the earth. With the globe part on the ground, the surface could be stood on and used to train the deep stabilizing muscles in the core and hip complex. With the surface on the ground, round part facing up, it could also be stood on to train knees and ankles, but it could also be used for client to do different workouts on. There were also other equipment, like boxing gloves and mits, and it was not uncommon to see trainers, especially the ones versed in the fighting arts, training their clients to punch and kick the mits. I thought they were cool too.
Right now, I was observing the trainers in the cage training as I waited for Jonny. Finally, I saw Jonny’s waddle down the hallway towards the cage. I set up the plyometric step platforms—the ones used in the step classes, with one “brick” on each side. The “bricks” are the plastic bases under the platform to support it. You can raise the platform up or down a level by removing these bricks, usually two at a time. To warm him up I set it on level one (one brick on each side of the platform), and had him put his right foot up on the platform while his left foot was on the floor. I instructed him to push off the platform with his right foot and switch legs so that when he landed, his left foot would be on the platform and his right foot would be on the floor on the other side of the platform. In addition, handed him two 10 pound dumbbells to shoulder press in each arm. I called this the “up-and-over”.
I looked at Jonny who hunched forward a little.
“You ready? Straighten up your back and pull your navel in to engage your core.”
Danny nodded his head ‘yes’ and followed suit.
“On your mark, get set, go!”
Danny began the routine. When I started to see him lose form and breathe heavily, I changed his routine.
“Drop to the platform in pushup positon!”
Danny put his arms on the platform in an ugly pushup postion that had his bag sagging in the middle.
“Danny! Tuck your tailbone in, squeeze your glutes and pull in your navel slightly– ”
“That’s too much to remember…”
“Just do as I say—“
After he did this, his lower back straightened out, but his upper back was rounded and his head was jutted forward like a gargoyle. I quequed the rest of his posture.
“—Now look at my hand and follow my hand—“
I put my hand in front of his eyes and moved it slowly toward his chest until I saw him looking directly under him.
“—good job—now push the back of your head against my hand—“
I put the back of my hand on the apex of the back of his head when I felt a little pressure I saw his neck straighten out and his cervical flexors engaged. The roundness in his back was gone and now his body looked like a board—hence the name in French planche or what we call a “plank”.
“—good job, now hold.”
As Danny held this posture I saw his stomach area and arms start to shake, his breathing was intensifiying, and a tricklet of sweat dropped on the rubber floor. Looking at my watch, the timer counted down.
“Ten,nine, eight, seven,six… five…”
“Hurry up and finish the count!”
“You only want to make things harder on yourself huh Danny?! Hold! Where was I oh yeah…four…..three…two…..two…..two…twooooo…one and relax.”
Danny collapsed out of the pushup positon.
“Hey! We’ll have none of that! Remember what I said, you go out of an exercise the same way you got in it—with control and purpose and form. Or else you risk injuring yourself and others.”
I said handing Danny his sweat towel and some water.
“There was this guy once, reppin’ out on a dumbbell shoulder press and he had another guy spotting him. The guy got fatiqued and decided ‘oh I’m just going to let the things go’ instead of going the full motion and letting the spotter help him come out of form. Needless to say one of the dumbells landed on the spotter’s foot and a hunge “cruch” could be heard in the weight room. He shattered the spotter’s first metatarsal.”
“He broke his foot Danny. The dude broke the spotter’s foot because he was neglectful in form.”
Danny sipped some water and hunched his shoulders.
“You said that there was risk in injuring ‘yourself and others’ that only qualifies as ‘others’.”
“Shut up Danny and give me 4 more sets of up-and-overs and planks!”
Danny and I shared a brief chuckle, but it’s true, I was concerned for my life and limb. The gym can be a dangerous place for the unaware. And with my clients I stressed awareness, so that when they worked out on their own they would be relatively safe.
Danny had worked himself into a good sweat from the warmup and it was time to take his now pliable muscles to be tenderized to add to his range of motion. The ‘meat tenderizer’ is actually a “foam roller” which looks like a giant rolling pin.
“Put the roller under the side of your leg and prop yourself up on your arm.”
Danny winced under the pressure that the foam roller was making on the side of his leg. I knew that his IT band would be tight because he spent most of the day sitting. The IT band rolling is one of the most dreaded foam rolling moves because most people have tightness on the side of the leg. After the foam rolling, I put Danny through a back, bi-s and abs routine, then I stretched him out. He was my only male client. I hated stretching his legs—or any guy’s legs for that matter, because when you lift their leg up it looks kind of gay. After I sent him on his way, I made my way out of the building.