A personal trainer, floor-brow humor, and musings on porn vs romance

pelvic thrusts
bicep and back workout

Working the bicep and back on my first day with a personal trainer

Today’s content is crass. I’ll forgive you if you want to skip this and come back tomorrow.

And, as usual, don’t worry if you’re laughing at these photos. Laughing’s healthful. And let’s face it—I make crazy faces when I workout. And it’s not just me.

Even at 24Hour Fitness, hot bodies are sometimes contradicted by faces contorted in both pain and pleasure. If you focus on the bodies, you might be intimidated, but if you really pay attention, you see that most people just can’t sustain sexy when they’re really pushing themselves. There’s a variety of duck-face, constipation face and borderline stroke-face. (Of course, maybe that’s what all the mirrors are for.)

pelvic thrust prep

This is the same look my dog, Baxter, gets when the vet is sticking a thermometer up his butt. If you read the text, you’ll understand why it’s very important for me to disappear into my head. Talk about discomfort!

I signed up for a month’s membership in a desperate attempt to find a lap pool nearby, and was coaxed into personal training sessions by Heidi, a sweet and charming customer service representative.

Still, it wasn’t without reservations. I was worried about working out anywhere is in the vicinity of what I’ve always called the “meat market” and “mirror-fixated narcissists.” So I set up the appointment with a trainer named Gary. Heidi picked him for me. I told her I didn’t care if my trainer was male or female.

This is because I didn’t really understand what a personal trainer actually does. After yesterday’s workout, I now understand why it would be more comfortable to stay with one of the same sex, but I also get the motivation of going with a guy instead.

Exercise 1: The Squat

Squat

Doing the squat against the wall kept me from being able to use my knees to do the work. It forces you to focus on your hips and butt.

I’ve been told I have the mentality of a teenage boy. That’s probably true. I think about sex probably almost as much as they say guys think about sex. I don’t know why that’s the case.

Maybe it’s that sexual prime thing that occurs in women “of a certain age” or maybe I’m just wired a little differently. Whatever the reason, I have a difficult time not letting my mind slip toward the crass.

Now don’t worry. I’m one of those mate-for-life people, happily monogamous with Kurt. But my brain never stops thinking about sex or attraction or random low-brow thoughts.

Kurt surfing

My awesome husband, Kurt.

Let’s take, for example, my first exercise—the squat. My trainer was kind enough to alter my squatting for my bad knee, since it can’t fully bend.

Sit on this

Um, sit on this?

To alter the height of the stool I was practicing on, Gary grabbed an item generally used on the floor for ankle work. It happens to be pink with little nubblies all over it. It immediately reminded me of, er, let’s just call it a “share toy.” Some of you already have the picture in your mind. Others, well, you may not have the variety of “toys” some of us do, if any at all. In which case, Skip to Exercise 2.

“You want me to sit on that?” I was surprised when it appeared on the seat below me. I was about to do a wide-stance (because of the knee) squat onto pink nubblies. I now had an image in my head of my own history with pink nubblies and I couldn’t think of anything else.

Still, I did my best to pay attention as Gary, who for his part was always professional and focused in on his job training me. Focus! I kept telling myself. Hips and butt, not knee. The strain of coming back out of the squat was enough to switch my brain back into exercise mode. I did as many reps as he instructed and we moved on.

Exercise 2: The Pelvic Thrust

personal trainer demonstration

Gary, my personal trainer, discussing the floor work I’ll be doing.

Gary the trainer is hot, but physically not my type. There’s no need to explain why, because attraction is just a chemical charge which either exists or not. Attraction can grow, of course, but I’m only talking about that immediate reaction. I’m pretty sure I’m not his type either, and my point is that it helps remove discomfort from the training.

But then you add exercise. It’s difficult not to think of sex when someone is doing pelvic thrusts on the floor below you. I actually forgot to get a picture of Gary doing the thrust itself because I was, well, distracted by my thoughts.

I forgot those, however, when it was my turn on the floor. The first part of learning this exercise (correctly) would be better with a female. Girls, let me tell you how it goes and I think you’ll know where I’m going. You lie flat on your back, with your knees bent. You are told to scooch your butt down closer to the edge of the mat (you get it yet?) and there is someone standing near the base of your legs, adjusting the width of your knees.

If you weren’t seeing that, you maybe haven’t spent much time at the gynecologist or maybe, truly, I just have a terribly overactive imagination. Thankfully in this case, my trainer was actively trying to get me to hold my knees together. Apparently my inner thighs are weak and my knees tend not to stay together well. It’s ironic, since it’s difficult to get them to open at the gynecologist’s office.

The knee-together part is actually essential for the exercise. This, like squatting without putting the work on my knees, was also new to me. But I was confident in thrusting. While this is an exercise probably better done with a female, it can be oddly motivating when done in front of a male. It’s like you suddenly have something to prove.

pelvic thrust

If I had remembered I was wearing Eeyore shorts, I don’t think my mind would have been quite so, er, fruitful.

You want to scream I know how to please my husband. I don’t need training on this! You think, c’mon, this is an easy exercise. And it is…if you’re doing it wrong, which I was.

Thrusting is easy if you don’t think about form, but when Gary added a pillow that I had to hold between my knees, I forgot about sex and concentrated on keeping the pillow from falling. That is, I forgot until (to test if I was doing it correctly) he began to pull the pillow from between my knees. You’re supposed to squeeze tightly enough that he can’t get the pillow, but there is, once again, the aspect of an unknown male, of absolute fitness, tugging at a pillow between your legs while you arch upward in a thrust. Um…

I was relieved when the arches were over and I could change up my adolescent brain again. Gary is surprisingly excellent at creating memorable analogies for the exercises. I say “surprisingly” because he’s completely unreadable in facial composure, so you don’t know how much intelligence is or isn’t lurking behind it.

His wonderful analogy was about shifting the back from posterior to anterior or something like that (see, I already can’t remember those descriptions) and the way he made it memorable was to think about trying to break an egg by pushing my back into the mat beneath me, or alternately trying to roll the egg gently with a slight arch of the back.

Once I learned to smash that imaginary egg into the mat beneath me, we went on to crunches. These were awesomely painful on my abdomen, and I want to do them every day. Gary advises me to just do 3 days a week on all the muscle work-out, so I guess I’ll stick to my two daily walks and a midday swim every day while I’m here.

abdominal crunch

What did you first notice in picture of me doing an abdominal crunch? I think the way we train our eyes can help us learn if we might be a negative thinker. Did you notice the Michelin tires on my middle first? I didn’t. My eye went: legs, pony tail, Michelin tires, form, watch. I’ve been working so hard to focus on the positive aspects of my body that those were the first things I looked for. It takes time, but it’s actually more pleasant to start looking for the pleasing things on yourself or another person than to zero in on what you want to change or improve. Wanting to improve is good, but finding flaws before strengths is detrimental. Think about it…really.

“Reach for the ceiling and hold for four” Gary instructs me, as my mind wanders again. Unreadability can be a dangerous quality for women to relate to, because you can project any thought you want onto a silent and/or blank-faced person. I married a man with unreadability. It can be frustrating, unless you learn to pay attention a little more to read subtlety, and unless you can adapt to understand that it’s not healthy to expect to read the mind of your partner or expect him to read yours. Sometimes I think it’s the product of all those trashy (and even literary) romance novels.

I don’t believe the direct/indirect difference between typical males and females is hard-wired. I think it starts in early childhood, where girls learn to be more polite and boys learn to be more direct. It’s reinforced as teenagers when girls read romance novels filled with men whose attraction lay in their minds and attitudes, and can “figure out” what we want and need; boys read westerns or action, where the women are physically desirable and vulnerable, and challenge is usually overcome with a good, hard kiss.

As I moved from thrusts to crunches, and thinking about the differences between male and female, I started thinking about porn. Our family has the phrase “once as a philosopher”—meaning you can experience something one time because you are trying to understand it from an intellectual point of view. Not that this applies to everything. We don’t run around trying everything out there. But let’s just say that’show I know about watching porn.

pelvic thrusts

“This is easy” are famous last words when you realize you’re not using the right muscles.

My point is that in a lot of mainstream pornography (which I’m not promoting, just informing) women make it clear that they want, and enjoy all action taking place. This was a strange and new concept the first (and, um, only?) time I watched one of these movies. When you grow up with the culture of puritan inheritance, you learn sex and sexuality is a bad thing. Boys are driven by it but women are somehow supposed to not think of themselves as sexual beings, and certainly not in ways similar to a man.

I know it’s a strange leap from porn to empowerment, and depending on what you think about porn, you will or won’t take this the right way, but I like to think that times have changed in terms of how women see themselves. I like to believe that more younger women are feeling strong and independent enough to state what, when and how they want anything in life (not just in the bedroom). And I also like to think understanding the mentality behind both porn and romance can be healthy for the male-female relationship dynamic.

“C’mon. You can get higher than that.” I’m brought out of my head again to realize my reverie has been inhibiting my work-out. Gary counts down each set. I get no pause in between. As soon as my shoulders hit the mat, I’m to reach upward again. I love it. I feel my abs working in places they haven’t worked in a long time. There’s a certain amount of S&M involved in exercise if done hard and correctly. I wonder how much study has been done between sexual addiction and exercise addiction. I finish the floor work and we move on.

Trainer Gary

Trainer Gary is ripped. These bicep and back exercises seemed pretty easy for him.

We do a couple other exercises. I don’t catch the names, because I’m too stuck in analyzing the male-female dynamic, whether pornography can be healthful in certain relationships, if and how all the young women in the world can find their own power, sexual or not, and the relationship between exercise and sex.

There is an exercise with a step that I have difficulty balancing on, and all I hear is “Fire up your butt.” This was all I caught of his sentence, or what I understood his sentence to be. It definitely included something about a rear-end and fire, and all I could think about were the refried beans I was to prepare for the dog I’m sitting. And just like that I was stuck in terror that at any moment I might fart. I didn’t have to fart, but the idea was planted and I couldn’t think of anything else for awhile.

It shook me out of my mind enough so that I was becoming very self-conscious again, thinking I was probably making some pretty ridiculous faces during exercise. But when I looked around, I saw other people were too, and only one or two of them were looking my way.

bicep and back exercise

It might surprise you to learn that I am not ripped. But I sure did love this exercise. It’s kind of awesome, actually. The overarm was more difficult, hence my usual “I have to poop” face.

And that’s when I realized…if you aren’t so focused on what other people are thinking about you and look around, you realize there are a lot of duck-faces, constipation faces and borderline stroke faces when people are really working hard.

And for once, living inside my head actually took me away from that self-consciousness, where I forgot about the “meat market” and testosterone, the mirrors and faces. Granted, it wasn’t ideal for focusing on exercise itself, but maybe for my first gymrat experience, it was healthiest to insulate and live in my bubble for a bit.

I might have to instruct Gary to tell me to “Pay attention!” more to snap me out of my mind, but I don’t know which is better: risking self-consciousness by focusing on the exercise (and potentially all the people around me); or stay in my head and do a less-than-stellar workout but one that will probably motivate me more to keep coming back.

Squat

Never, ever, be afraid of looking foolish. I promise there will always be another Marla around, looking even more strange than you 😉

So that was my first day of “gym” training. Today I’m onto pure cardio: two hikes and a swim. Tomorrow I go for training again. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m actually looking forward to it. I like this feeling of awareness in my muscles and this next-day energy. And if achieving it comes with a side of discomfort, awkward sexual thoughts and low-brow humor, I’ll just have another overshare blog.

Love, Marla

5 Comments on “A personal trainer, floor-brow humor, and musings on porn vs romance

  1. Pingback: Going hungry, sticking a fork in my trainer, and exercising the willpower muscle | travelingmarla

  2. Gotta admit, sis, kinda irked by this fitness kick you’ve been on. I’ve really liked having the company these past years that I’ve let myself get so soft!
    Kudos, kiddo!
    Luv u

    • Hahaha. Well brother, I hope it’s a lifestyle change and not a kick, but only time will tell on that. And it’s tougher for you because you don’t have a lot of time to commit. I have the time right now to be in a completely different environment, perfect weather, a house with no sweets and the mentality of just being somewhere else. We’ll see how well it keeps up when I’m back east.

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