Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Disaster That Was My Attempt to Enlist the Expertise of a Personal Trainer

If you're a friend of mine, or a coworker, or someone who has come within 3 feet of me in the past week, I've no doubt regaled you with the story of how my gym ripped me off and made me super pissed. I know how much everyone delights in hearing my every thought, dream, and complaint, conveyed with too loud a voice and accompanied with ill-fitting hand gestures. And so, you're welcome.

But for everyone else, let me share with you my saga. I hope you've got about 2 hours to kill.

It all started last Monday, when the boyfriend and I, inspired by the promise of a New Year, decided to sign up at the new-ish giant gym that opened nearby. The gym was beautiful. The lockers in the locker room were wooden! They looked so elegant. All of the machines were shiney! And our tour guide/sales rep was a bit of a twirp, but seemed like a nice enough guy. I was impressed and so we signed up. All was well with the world.

And then, staying true to myself, I simply HAD to go effing it all up.

I went back to the gym the next day to work out. After spending 30 mins on the elliptical machine, watching an episode of Malcolm in the Middle on close caption on the TV in front of me, I wandered over the the weight machine area.

And then I wandered some more.

And then I sort of leaned on something that looked like it was maybe meant to build up your shoulder muscles?

Ok, I have no clue what to do in this area. I mean, I get how the machines work because they all have little diagrams of hairless, faceless people demonstrating proper usage. But I don't know what ones are best for me or how many reps to do, etc. "Oh, woe is me," I thought to myself, now leaning on some other piece of equipment. "If only someone could tell me what to do..."

Ding! I remembered every new member gets a free consultation with a personal trainer. And I know that the whole point is for the trainer to push you into signing up for overpriced individual sessions, but it's FREE! And I love me some free stuff.

I made my appointment with someone named Jason for the following night. I showed up for the session, my third night at the gym in a row!, and gave myself 15 minutes to warm up before my 7pm appointment. Then I went to the trainer's desk, only to be told that Jason was occupied with someone else and that I would have to wait until they could find someone else to help me. How dare they! In hindsight, this was the first clue that everything was going to go terribly wrong.

So the head trainer guy told me, as if he'd thought of a brilliant idea, to go warm up for 15 mins. But, but, but. Oh, all right. Fine. Then he found me about 25 minutes later, now thoroughly sick of the blasted treadmill and the whole freaking gym. He introduced me to my replacement trainer, Gia, who was very skinny and very pretty and I immediately felt like an ugly sweaty cow. (This is how they begin manipulating you, you see.)

For the next 10 minutes, Gia talked at about 400 words per second, reviewing the basics of fitness and nutrition and about why, now that I am 25, I will start getting fat really easily and so I need to build up muscle and how everything I am doing is wrong wrong wrong, all while drawing confusing sketches that looked sort of like this:
Wait, what?

No time to explain! Let's go work out! Weeee!

She darted off and ran upstairs and I tried to keep up. When I got to the top of the stairs she was standing near one of the walls, and though she wasn't actually holding a clipboard and blowing into a whistle, that's how she looks now in my memory of this moment. And then she was like, "Ok now do some squats. Lower! Hold it! 50 more! Now staying in the squat, jump and land in a squat!" What? "Go! Do it! Now 25 more!" Are you kidding?

And so it went for like 20 minutes. Afterwards, she brought out this little machine with 2 handles, and told me to hold it out straight in front of me. Turns out, this gadget sends little electrowaves through your body and tells you how much body fat you have. Also, turns out I'm a hippo.

26%! I started to do the math in my head. 26% body fat + the average person is 65% water, hmmm...

Then she showed me on her diagram how I fit into the "fair" range on the Body Mass Index scale, just at the borderline of "poor" territory. And that, I think, was what pushed me into wanting to sign up for personal training sessions. So Gia went over all of my options, which were all ridiculously expensive and I was ready to throw in the towel (though not literally because I always forget to bring a towel to the gym with me).

Now here's a piece of info about me: I can be sold ANYTHING no matter how much I don't need or want it. It's awful. It's the reason my car has an absurdly high tech alarm system worthy of a ferrari. It's why I can't watch infomercials because they've caused me to order the ab roller, the ab crunch, and the tae-bo extreme complete work out dvd set. It's why I have almost ordered Proactiv about 60 times, even though my skin is fine, just because Jennifer Love Hewitt says so. And it's why I ended up agreeing to a year's worth of training sessions, after Gia agreed to give me the student discount.

But I didn't know I had to pay for my first 2 sessions, plus some bullshit sign up fee, right then and there that very second. But Gia pulled the old bait and switch because as she had me talking about where I grew up and blah blah, she was billing my debit card that the gym had on file. Suddenly she was like, ok, just sign the touch screen. Woah woah, wha? $200! What's all this? No thank you, I can't pay this now, so nevermind. "Oh but it's already been charged to your account." But, I need that money! Give it back! "I can process the refund in the morning, but it won't go back into your account for a week." Buh, buh, but...

And then all at once I was shaking hands, given some info packet and escorted out the door with a reassuring pat on the shoulder. It reminded me of when you are blindfolded and spun in circles before playing pin the tail on the donkey. That whole night I was just repeating "shit shit shit shit" in my head. How had I gotten myself into this?

The next day, Thursday, I went back to the gym during my lunch hour to cancel out of the plan and demand a refund. The whole drive over there I was muttering to myself, practicing the speech. I've been robbed! This is not how you do business! Unacceptable! But then when I actually got to the gym and approached the enemy, I came down with "wanting the cool girl to like me" syndrome, and I just wanted to seem like someone who could handle, and pay for, training sessions. So I left the gym that day with a reduced number of sessions, but still with the program. And I felt pretty good about it.

My official first session with Gia was scheduled for 12:30 on Sunday. At about 11:55 on Sunday, when I was buried in blankets on the couch and watching romantic comedies on HBO On-Demand, I debated canceling my appointment and ordering a thai food feast instead. But, no, I am determined to be fit!

So I went to my training session. But Gia did not. And after waiting around for 5 minutes at the training desk, I asked where she might be. "Oh, she isn't gonna make it in today. Didn't she call you?"
"Um, no."
"Oh, well she should have called you."
"I see."
"Were you here for a fitness assessment?"
"No, we already did that."
"But you were supposed to meet with Gia? Are you sure she didn't assign you over to someone else?"
"Yes I'm sure."
And that was about as helpful as anyone was that day. I was too annoyed to work out and so I went home. The following day, I called the gym to give Gia a piece of my mind. "Oh, Gia is no longer with us."
"Did she die?"
"No, she quit."
"Well that would explain why she didn't make it to our training session yesterday."
"Did you have a fitness assessment scheduled?"
"Why does everyone keep asking me that?"
"Because Gia isn't a trainer. She does assessments and signs people up." Puzzled, I rescheduled with a new person and then hung up.

And then 5 minutes later I had a manic twitch and was like, "NO! THIS IS FUCKED UP!" So I called back and left a message for the manager to call me. Of course, he did not call me, and after 6 hours of stewing over this whole catastrophe, I think I finally cracked. That night, I went to the gym after work, explained pretty much this entire big huge story to the manager, and he felt bad and gave me my money back.


Ok, I know the payoff wasn't so great after all that blahblahblah. But at least I stood up for myself.

The End.


Inono said...

This is why I avoid the gym in the first place. I may be fat, but at least I can still afford to eat my yummy fattening food!

Peter said...

That is a hell of a story.

Gia reminds me of a used car salesman. Or Mitt Romney.

I loved the sad face in the first picture, and the "hotness" factor in the second.

mindy said...

Are you....ME?

I think you might be me.

But then who am I???


A Lover and a Fighter said...

That was wonderful. Just wonderful. Oh, and if you are worried about what became of Gia, fear not. She moved to new york, changed her name to Heathyr, and is now bullying people at my local sephora ("I mean, you COULD walk away with just that mascara, but if I were you I just wouldn't be happy with bags like that under my eyes. I mean you're young! You deserve to look pretty and fresh. PSIhateyourhair.")

Hollywood Sucker said...

inono- Yes you're right. I often debate what I'm giving up for the cost of my gym membership. I think it averages out to about 6 margaritas.

peter- Thank you. And maybe auto sales is precisely the career G. left for when she up and quit the gym. Or politics. Maybe she left to work on Mitt Romney's campaign. I'll keep an eye out for her in the background when he makes television appearances.

mindy - If I'm you then you get to pick whoever you want to be. It's like identity tag. Refreshing, huh?

lover/fighter- Oh good for her. Well next time you see Gia/Heathyr tell her I said "bite me."

mindy said...

I pick Gisele Bundchen....because she's smart.