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i don't want to be a little teapot
exercising my demons
by adam kraemer (@DryWryBred)

I'm told that I have abs.

More to the point, I'm told that everyone, assuming they weren't born with some rare condition, has abs. As in abdominal muscles. However, you couldn't prove it by me. I've never seen them. I assume I have them, of course, because I have the physical ability to sit up in bed. But there's no photographic proof, per se: no six pack, none of those lines by a man's hips that women seem to appreciate. Contrary to what you might be thinking, this is not usually a successful pickup line.

I am not saying this in hopes that some of my more attractive single readers have a thing for the Pillsbury Doughboy. (Because, let's be fair here, who doesn't?) I say this because I recently started going to the gym, with the plan of seeing my abs before I die.

This plan also requires that I don't die in the next few months, obviously, but currently the only person who seems to not be on board with that part of the plan is my personal trainer.

That's right. I have a personal trainer. He seems to dislike me a lot. Even his "cool-down" stretching at the end of the sessions is painful. Honestly, I think he's trying to stretch my bones. It actually hurts more when he stretches me than it does when he makes me lift heavy things. As an illustration, stand up right now and cross your right foot over your left. Now bend down and touch your right foot with your left hand. Now hold that pose until June.

The thing is, I used to belong to a gym. About three years ago, I would be able to leave my day job, get in an hour at the gym, and then head to my night job. Apparently, I didn't sleep three years ago. No, it was a fine gym, the New York Sports Club, with the added bonus that wherever you are in Manhattan, you're always within two blocks of a location. Seriously, they're like the health club version of Ray's Pizza.

Anyway, in 2007 I changed jobs and found that my gym payments were cutting into my ability to pay for other things like rent and utilities. And, since gyms don't like it when you continue using their facilities after your membership is canceled, I stopped going. However, when I took my current job last September, one of the perks was a very friendly rate on a new gym membership at a -- get this -- new gym. Even better, the payment is taken right out of my paycheck, so as long as I have this job (fingers crossed), I remain current on my membership. (As a side note, some of the locations have racquetball courts, if anyone's interested in playing me. I can even provide a spare racquet.)

Which brings me to last Wednesday. I get a call from the gym. I'm thinking, "Uh, oh. They found out that I'm not an alpha male and I've been shunned from the entire physical training world." Not so. They just wanted to schedule my free workout with a personal trainer. The last time I'd worked out with a personal trainer was probably three years earlier (and 30 lbs. lighter) at NYSC. The guy was nice and showed me some free-weight work that I could do and suggested that I try to avoid doing too much high-impact stuff until I felt ready. It was a very constructive session.

I'd actually already planned to go to the gym last Wednesday, anyway, so a free personal session sounded like a great idea. I'm sure invading Russia sounded like a great idea to Napoleon.

I'm going to call the trainer assigned to me "Kevin," in large part because that's what he told me his name was. Kevin seemed like a nice guy. Oh, boy, do I hate Kevin.

No, in all seriousness, Kevin really knew what he was doing. He identified muscle groups that seriously needed work (my abs, go figure), he worked with me to strengthen my upper body, my core, and my legs, and he enabled me to face a very important truth about myself: I'm in terrible shape.

So, against my worse nature, I allowed myself to be signed up for a second session, at what I can only refer to as pre-recession rates. It was a focused sell, I have to say: "Well, Adam. Here's the thing. You need to come back. A lot. And you shouldn't do it on your own. How's Saturday at noon?" It was basically just an Austrian accent away from, "Work out with me if you want to live." Thank you, T101. "You'll be back."

My second session was worse. Much, much worse. It started off on a bad note as Kevin showed no real indication of a sense of humor, though maybe that's because apparently Skynet sent him back in time to torture me for information. "How'd you feel two days after our last session?" he asked. "Well, I was a little sore when I woke up," I responded, "but after I stopped crying, I was okay."

Not even a hint of a smile.

Anyway, he put me through the paces, including having me push something that, had I been on a farm, would have been attached to a plow. I have no idea what it was, but it hurt. Given, everything he had me do hurt.

"Okay, put this on your shoulders. Now lift. Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift!"

"I'm going to throw up on your shoes."

"Okay, two more. Lift! Lift!"

"Uhh...onnnnnne. Uhh...twwwwwwwo."

"Okay, one more. Lift!"

"My right lung just collapsed."

"Okay. Next machine. Hold onto this. Lift!"

I just lost half a pound thinking about it.

Anyway, after an hour, including the fantastically painful post-workout stretching referenced above (at one point, I think he touched my knee to my back), the Kevinator says to me, "So, you said you can come back, like, twice a week?" Turns out he did have a sense of humor.

I explained to him that unless I wanted to start living on the street, once a month was maybe the best I could do. He explained to me that he meant how often I could come on my own, and we agreed that every other day was pretty much necessary in my case (as of this writing, I have held up my end of that agreement). In retrospect, I think he might have actually been relieved that I couldn't pay to see him more often, as he probably spent the entire second session calculating how much my parents could collect in a wrongful death suit. "Our son ... cut down in the obvious non-prime of his life..."

But I'm gonna keep going regularly and I'm gonna get fit. I want to hang out on the beach this summer without a T-shirt on (for the first time in years), showing off my physique, the sun bronzing my muscles, the wind whistling through the hair on my back (I might need a "step two"). In the meantime, I'm trying to learn to, as one guy at the front desk said yesterday, "enjoy the workout." And I'm thinking, "I know what each of those words means, but when they're put together in that order, it makes no sense to me."

But that's what I have to do. Seeing results obviously helps. I've lost nearly 5 lbs. since I joined, so if that continues, there's my motivation. Though I can't help but blame my parents just a little: I can only feel that if they had hit me more when I was a child, I might already equate pain with love, instead of having to condition myself to it. Thanks a lot, mom and dad. (My dad suggests that it might not be too late to remedy this oversight.)

As for the rest of you, here's hoping that the by the next time you see me, I'll be well on my way to Charles Atlas status (mmmm...dynamic tension). Just think how much nicer it'll be when you can say to me, "Wow, you -- wow -- you lost so much weight!" as opposed to just poking me in the stomach and hoping I giggle.

Or maybe I should just stop wearing an ascot and chef's hat.


A native of Elkins Park, PA, Adam Kraemer spends way too much of his time repeating "K-R-A-E..." He moved to New York City in 1998 and earned Master's in Journalism at NYU; don't let his writing fool you. He feels he is best known for saying the things no one is thinking, but afterwards wish they had been. He spends his free time wondering where all his free time goes and why he can never come up with a decent kicker for the ends of his articles.

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tracey kelley
3.11.09 @ 7:15a

(pokes tummy) tee hee!

My last personal trainer was always more interested in her nail polish, would forget to count reps, and talked about things that would bore a poodle.

But that hour committment a week was helpful. I don't have a trainer now, simply because I don't feel like paying for one, but I believe the right one can be helpful, and may hire one again next fall.

adam kraemer
3.11.09 @ 9:48a

Oh, no. He definitely pushed me much harder than I would normally push myself. The paramedics totally agreed.

lucy lediaev
3.11.09 @ 11:14a

At my advanced age, I'm afraid to go near a personal trainer. I'm sure one would drive me into heart failure on my first workout. I go to Curves, and it does stretch and tone, as well as improve my sleep.


adam kraemer
3.11.09 @ 11:16a

I tried to go to curves. They said I was both over- and under-qualified.

brett kraemer
3.11.09 @ 11:18a

You should NEVER stop wearing your ascot.

dan zwillenberg
3.11.09 @ 12:00p

Someone should open up a Ray's Pizza directly next to a NYSC. Sort of a self perpetuating cycle of gluttony and guilt.

robert melos
3.12.09 @ 7:04p

I've had several personal trainers. Famous Amos, Betty Crocker, and now my new favorite personal trainer, Paula Dean. I'm learning to cook with butter, sugar, and every fattening thing I can find. I've seen the light. I may go to L. A. Fitness, but study the Food Network religiously.

adam kraemer
3.13.09 @ 10:44a

Actually, I ran into Kevin at the gym yesterday. I felt kind of like a tool, though; he walked over just as I was starting to warm up on the treadmill, so I was walking at, like, 1.6 mph. That must have looked great.

sandra thompson
3.13.09 @ 11:07a

P T s, physical therapists and personal trainers (both PTs!) are natural born sadists. I used to call mine my personal terrorist. I go to cardiac rehab three days a week, and the ladies in charge of us there are really kind, and don't push us very hard, just a LITTLE here and there, and I've decided they're not saidsts or terrorists, but they COULD be if given half a chance, or maybe a bunch of people who haven't already had heart attacks. I have ten more sessions before Medicare stops paying for it, and by then I hope I'm self-motivated enough to do a half hour of walking on my own every day. My cardiologist assures me I'll have another heart attack if I don't, so that ought to be motivating enough, right? My advice to all my young friends: 1) floss, 2) don't eat a lot of fat and 3) exercise. That ought to do it, except for "shower the people you love with love."

adam kraemer
3.13.09 @ 11:11a

Not smoking, I hear, is pretty good for you, too.

Also, speaking of that James Taylor quote, can anyone tell me why he pronounced "the" as "thee" throughout that whole song?


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