Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Greetings, Comrades! Hope everyone is having a good week . . . or at least, a survivable week. According to the weatherman, Boston is supposed to hit 50 degrees on Friday! There's something to keep living for!

So, remember how I got bamboozled into signing up for free personal training? Betcha thought I blew that off, huh? Not so! I've been taking a few days to digest my latest gym adventure. Also, I was unable to lift my arms to the keyboard. Until now!

Gather 'round, kids -- Tea's got a tale for you! With a surprise ending, no less!

Monday, 4pm -- I scurried into the rat-hole that is Golds Gym Somerville. I mean that in the most loving way possible. But seriously, this is the actual gym entrance:

It's located in the basement of a strip mall. Enough said.

Ron, the young man who initially approached me about signing up for a free training session, was literally waiting for me at the door.

Ron: "Heeeeey! You ready?"

Me: "Honestly, I'm kinda scared."

Ron did not seem particularly moved by my apprehension. He laughed and told me to go suit up. I was already wearing sweatpants and a baggy t-shirt -- was I supposed to bring a spandex leotard? Weight lifting belt? I played along and huddled in the locker room for a few moments, and then returned with my water bottle and my last remaining shreds of dignity.

Ron was waiting for me with a guy who is best described as a 'budget-Guido.' He introduced himself as Carlos, the General Manager. He was going to be my trainer for the evening.

"Are you ready to do this?" Carlos asked, with a genuine enthusiasm I'd not seen in Ron. Or anyone else at Golds Gym Somerville.

"Um -- sure?"

"That's right you are!"

Before we got down to sweatin', Carlos had me fill out a survey covering my medical history and fitness goals.

Carlos: "Have you ever had a stroke?"

Me: "I don't think so."

Carlos: "Are you currently pregnant?"

Me: "No sir."

Carlos: "Have you ever been on a diet before?"

Me: "[laughing] Oooooh yeh."

Carlos: "Is your spouse or partner supportive of your fitness goals?"

Me: "Uhhhh . . . sure?"

And so it went. I told Carlos my weight. He said some stuff about cardio, nutrition and free weights - the Holy Trinity of physical fitness. There was talk of ripping apart muscle, and muscle eating fat, and body fat ratios . . .

This was all starting to sound like an anatomy lecture. Taught by a Guido.

Then, Carlos sent me off to the elliptical machine, saying, "Don't go crazy, just get a little warmed up."

After 10 minutes, I was feeling sufficiently warm. I've been a member of Golds Gym for 4 years, and my usual workout sessions consist of 20 minutes on the elliptical, followed by 40 minutes of power-incline walking on the treadmill. Usually listening to some sort of talk-radio podcast. Not exactly heart-pounding.

After 20 minutes, Carlos deemed me sufficiently prepared for the next phase of the workout. And it wasn't going to involve The Hater podcast.

We wandered over to a corner of the gym with several dubious-looking machines. Carlos instructed me to lie down on what looked like some sort of torturous operating table, put my feet up on a bar, and reach back over my head to grab the handles behind me. Then, sit up. He helped to lift the machine with me the first time, so my completely uncoordinated body could figure out what was going on.

Well hi there, stomach muscles! Where the hell have you guys been?!

After a few reps on the crunch machine, Carlos led me over to the . . . "pull up machine"? I don't know the technical terms for the equipment, but basically, I was suspended from my arms and lifting my legs straight out in front of me.

Now things were getting tricky.

Me: "Oh, wow! Um -- yeh . . . I don't know how many more of these I can do."

Carlos: "Just 2 more! You got it! You got it!"

And, much to my surprise -- I got it. I completed the set. And I didn't fall / cry / collapse! A gym class miracle!

While I took a water break, Carlos asked me, "So who are you paying attention to in the gym right now?"

"You," I answered.

"Who else?"

"Uhhh . . . me?"

"Who else?"

"Uhhh . . . "

"No one, right? Because you're busy doing your own thing. And guess what? No one else is paying attention to you right now either. Everyone's concentrating on their own workouts, no one's watching to see if you're going to mess up."

This might sound like fairly obvious advice -- but in the moment, in all my sweaty, awkward glory -- it kind of blew my mind. Carlos was right -- no one gave a rat's ass what I was doing over here in the pull up corner. They were all busy sweating away on their own torture machines, or jogging along reading US Weekly.

And this was the turning point right here, people. This was when I started getting into it.

Carlos took me into the stretching area and had me lay down on my back, legs hovering inches above the floor. Every time he said "Up!" I lifted my legs straight up in the air. When he said "Down!" I lowered them. He put me through a rapid-fire series of "Up! Down! Up! Hold it! Hold it! Down! Up! Down! Up!" -- and I kept up with him. Through two whole sets, with barely a break.

Carlos: "Your lower abs are strong."

Me: "Seriously?"

Carlos: "Sure. I'm putting you through a slightly more advanced beginner series, and you're keeping up with me."

This was perhaps the first time anyone has ever commented on my physical strength. In a positive manner. I was sweaty, and starting to feel a little jello-y . . . but it was a good feeling. I was pumped! When Carlos challenged me to do some planks, I was determined to hold the pose all the way through his 30 second countdown -- no flopping to my belly with 10 seconds to go.

And I did it!

By the time we made it over to the final ab machine, Carlos and I were chatting like old friends. When I referred to the machine as a medieval torture device, he laughed appreciatively. I have no doubt that flirting with the young, female, non-athletic potential clients is a big part of Carlos' job description. But I was feelin' so pumped by the emergence of my previously hidden ab-muscles, I didn't even care that he was buttering me up for the Big Sell.

When Carlos led me away from the machines and back towards the office -- I was actually surprised. Our workout hour had flown! And . . . I liked it. I liked feeling strong -- like every machine was a new little physical challenge. I liked pushing myself right to the "oh-my-god-I-can't-do-4-more-reps!" edge -- and then doing 4 more reps. I'd walked into the gym certain that I would crumple in the face of weights and scary machines -- but I didn't! In fact, I did the whole routine without copping out on a single thing!

When Carlos shut the office door, I said -- "I need to be really honest with you. I came here tonite mostly for a laugh, definitely not planning on signing up for anything. But I really liked this. And I wanna keep doing it. But my financial situation right now is a huge joke. Seriously. Funds are . . . nonexistent. Almost."

And Carlos, in true Guido fashion, said, "Talk to me. What can you afford? If this is something you really want to do, we can make this work."

I sat there and thought about it for awhile. Was this something I really wanted to do? God knows, I've never been a gym bunny, or a fitness fanatic. Hell, I'm usually the first person in line to scoff at those people who get up at 5am to do spin class, go running in the snow, can't miss a workout. And yet . . . I've struggled with my body image and my weight for most of my life. I've tried every diet plan you could think of -- and a few I've invented myself. I've had some successes -- but I have never really reached a point where I've felt truly comfortable and confident in my own body.

But strangely enough -- I felt confident out on the floor doing leg-lifts with Carlos. I felt strong, I felt determined. So . . . maybe its time for me to start focusing on what my body can actually do, instead of just what it looks like.

"Ok, Carlos -- let's talk," I said.

I bet you can all guess where this is going, right?

Tea Guarie, sucker of the century, now has her very own personal trainer!! I'll be meeting with him once a week for a one-on-one session, and then he'll give me two other workouts I can do on my own for the rest of the time. Financially, I think I'll be able to swing it. If not, I can cancel it without too much trouble. And really -- people have made worse investment decisions, right?

I won't lie -- I'm really excited! Is that weird? To get excited over exercising? God knows, my muscles have been making their displeasure known over the past few days. My ab muscles seem to be particularly resentful - I had to roll out of bed onto the floor this morning. But this is just the beginning -- even though it hurts like hell now, I can't wait to see where I'll be three months from now. Maybe Carlos will be able to put some actual weights on the machines! Maybe I'll be able to do more that 5 pull ups!

The possibilities are endless!

So between my library hook-up and my gym escapades, I feel like I've been more productive this week than I was in all of 2009! And if there's one thing I learned from my "workout", its to take it all slow and steady. One movement, one step at a time.

Piece o' cake.


  1. "Is your spouse or partner supportive of your fitness goals?" - Sounds like a pick up line to me... a very good pick up line.

  2. Wow Tea!

    I'm kinda jealous. I don't spend nearly enough time at the gym. It's a hurt - But, it's a good hurt.

    - J.R.

  3. where is the "like" button for this post?

  4. After reading this I'm feeling pumped!! We will be fit librarians who take over the world, miss lovely lady!!