I Like Your Form: Confessions of a Personal Trainer

Baltimore Post-Examiner is proud to present an excerpt from ‘I Like Your Form: Confessions of a Personal Trainer’ by JD Holmes available at Amazon

After graduating from high school and working several dead-end jobs, JD landed a job as a personal trainer at a newly opened gym. It puzzled him just how much money people were willing to spend to train with him despite the fact he was so inexperienced. He then started learning the ropes of the business and carved a niche for himself training well-to-do housewives and successful older women.  As time goes on, he finds that not only can he help with their physical demands, he can also help them out with their erotic ones.

JD starts to fight an internal struggle between making money satisfying his clients and knowing what he is doing is wrong. All it would take is his girlfriend or any one of his clients’ spouses to find out about their sultry affairs, and everything could blow up in his face causing him to lose his career. However, it’s very difficult to turn away from the attention of many attractive and sexy women.

I Like Your Form is a hilarious and honest collection of stories giving advice for personal trainers and clients. Based on a true story, JD’s real-life confessions provide a look at the lesser-known aspects of personal training.

What It Takes

 As a personal trainer, you can have a flexible schedule, make good money, and work in a laid-back atmosphere with beautiful people. Sounds like a great deal, right? Not to mention, you are pretty much always guaranteed to have work. As long as beautiful celebrities grace the covers of magazines, people will always be willing to pay for personal trainers to help them “get in shape.” The beauty of this generalized goal is that most people have nothing to shoot for other than the person with the great body who happened to be on the cover of Us Weekly. Much to their dismay, they will spend the rest of their lives trying to attain the physique of the hottest A-list celebrity and never become satisfied with the goals they do attain. With all the airbrushing and camera tricks these days, the asses of some of these celebrities will always be unattainable to the average person.

So what does it take to put together a workout plan for people and be good at it? This is a question that I asked myself when I first got the idea to apply for a personal training job. I happened to get extremely lucky by landing my first personal training job in a nurturing environment that taught me how to become a good trainer and encouraged continuing education. I know it sounds crazy. Here is a job that requires little formal training, and I find a company that is willing to pay my dumb ass to learn how to do my job better.

One might think that becoming a personal trainer takes about as much skill as becoming a high school guidance counselor. What exactly do these “guidance” counselors do? I remember my high school guidance counselor. She looked a little like Yoda but was nowhere near as insightful. She told me that, at the rate I was going, I wasn’t going to be successful in life. Thanks a fuckin’ lot, lady. I’m glad to see taxpayers’ money going toward your salary and pension just so that you can take a wild guess on how I might fare in life. What the fuck is it that these people do when they aren’t making some kid feel like shit? Needless to say, I’m still shocked I even made it out of high school with that type of encouragement. If anything, I still blame her for my inability to say no when a joint passed my way for the first time. Way to guide me down the path of success, but I digress.

To be a personal trainer, I initially thought you just had to look the part and have some experience working out so that you could throw together a program for a client. If you have participated in some kind of sport as a kid and didn’t take a liking to Twinkies at a young age, you probably meet the physical requirements of the job. If you know how to operate a treadmill for your own use, then you have the ability to pass that knowledge on to a client. If you have picked up a weight at some point in your life, then you have some knowledge to share with a client, no matter how horrible your technique may be. These are the exact skills I possessed when I first started as a trainer, but I quickly discovered that they weren’t going to cut it. I would say close to 90 percent of training isn’t about your technical knowledge or creativity with designing a workout program but rather how well you get along with your clients and how you manage to keep them interested for that hour or so. If you’re not the most talkative person, you may have some trouble holding on to clients. Sure, it helps if you look like someone who can grace the cover of a magazine, but if you are a tool, then it’s only a matter of time before your clients move on to someone who is not a tool. But over the years, I’ve seen firsthand that even if you’re the biggest jerk-off in the world, there is someone out there who, for whatever reason, will pay good money to work out with you. And there are quite a few jerk-offs out there today, aren’t there?

book coverPersonal trainers might not realize at first that the business side of keeping clients happy is more important than the fancy moves they know on the TRX Suspension Trainer. It’s not about wowing people with a ridiculous number of exercises that push them to the brink of vomiting. I’ve witnessed hundreds of trainers over the years, and in all honestly, most personal trainers take their jobs for granted and do the bare minimum to get by. They take a lackadaisical approach to training and don’t even attempt to prepare beforehand what type of routine they are going to put their clients through. I remember some of the lazier trainers playing “repeater” with me on some occasions. If you are not familiar with that one, it’s when you do exactly what the other person does. In the training world, this means just replicating the exact exercise you see another trainer doing and continuing to do so for the entire session. If you are a client, here’s a warning for you: if your trainer isn’t at least writing shit down during your session or doesn’t have something written up prior to training with you, that is a red flag. With the going rate for a personal trainer these days at well over fifty dollars an hour, clients should expect some type of work from their trainer other than blurting out exercise after exercise. Of course, cutting corners is common in many jobs these days. Look around your office. How many people are doing honest work throughout the day? In a job where there is literally no accountability other than client retention, it’s difficult to keep tabs on trainers. Most sales managers are only concerned about the bottom line; they don’t really care if that fifty-year-old obese guy loses a single pound. As long as that guy continues to throw down his money each month for more training, no one is going to question what it is you’re doing with him during his training sessions.

It sometimes takes a very long time for people to get tired of your bullshit before they ultimately fire you as their trainer. Unfortunately, so many clients fall through the cracks. If every personal trainer did their job from the get-go, there wouldn’t be so many “my personal trainer sucked, and I didn’t lose any weight” stories. The simple truth is that it’s all about compatibility and your ability to be like a chameleon with each and every client. If your clients feel you are meeting their needs, even if their physical goals are not even close to being met, you will be training them for as long as you intend on being a personal trainer. If you can at least make your clients feel like they are progressing, even if they can’t see any kind of objective proof, they will be more inclined to stick it out with you. I have found that it’s all in the delivery and how you go about explaining to them what you are trying to help them accomplish. That being said, if you get caught up spending more time bullshitting with them, you can be certain that eventually they will find someone else to bullshit with who doesn’t cost as much as you. As long as they continue to exercise regularly for the long haul, they are at least doing something healthy and will eventually see some type of progress. That is the bottom line when it comes to retaining clients.

Next up is the mind-boggling question of what certification to get. What’s even more confusing to trainers than it is to clients is the large number of personal training certifications available today, for example, AFAA, NASM, ACE, and ISSA, to name a few. Each certification program has its own spin on what is the best approach to training. For example, when I was starting out, the whole “super slow” thing was all the rage. A medical doctor, who I’m sure had to be a pretty bright guy, once told me the super slow method was the best way to train, period. This method required you to spend ten seconds lifting a weight and four seconds bringing it back down, and then repeat the process four to six times. I may not have been lucky enough to receive an Ivy League education, but something tells me there is usually more than one way to get results when it comes to working out.

Nowadays, it seems you can’t turn a corner without seeing a place that specializes in CrossFit. It’s quite fun to flip large tires and throw shit around and have it count as a workout. To become a certified CrossFit trainer, you are required to attend not just the level 1 trainer course but also the level 2 and level 3 courses. These courses combined can cost you several thousands of dollars. You can go ahead and get whatever certification makes you feel better about yourself, but if you have no experience with sales and don’t know how to work with clients, the going is sure to be rough. The fact that you can get an online certification today and begin your personal training career tomorrow is somewhat suspect. Although it’s not as shady as backroom plastic surgeons performing illegal surgeries, it’s not too reassuring knowing the guy or girl training you was able to answer fifty questions with an open book after spending a couple of hours online. How safe are you going to feel with a couple hundred pounds on your back and a trainer who was peddling carpet cleaning door-to-door just last week? Come on, what good does a certification really do for anyone? I think it’s important to get some formal education on what you are doing so that you at least have some clue how the body works. Once you get some college-level classes in anatomy and biomechanics under your belt, then go ahead and go certification crazy if you have the extra dough to throw around. Unfortunately, just because you are certified in something doesn’t mean you know what the fuck you are doing.

There are some schools of thought that argue most of what you need to learn about personal training you will learn on the job, not in college. I agree with this, but personally I would hate to be the guinea pig first client in that experiment. Without cracking open a single book on human anatomy, trainers are rolling the dice every time they train someone. Not knowing what the fuck is connected to what is pretty risky, especially when you throw in potentially heavy amounts of weight. With today’s overly litigious society, I’m glad I was working back in a day before people would sue you for just about anything. One former client who was very overweight comes to mind. During one of our sessions, she told me she was going to try rock climbing. This woman had trouble walking at a slow speed on the treadmill with a very slight incline for more than five minutes. At this point in my life, I had never even studied physics, but I knew bad things would happen if she tried hanging onto anything that would require both of her feet to be off the ground. She wasn’t talking about one of those fancy rock-climbing walls you see in some gyms. This was a real fucking mountain. I politely, without a hint of sarcasm, suggested that she should perhaps build up her endurance before attempting something like this heavy-duty challenge. Somehow, this got twisted into me calling her fat, and that is never good for business, as that marked the last time I ever saw that client. If McDonald’s can get sued for making someone fat, I’m afraid I would be liable for somehow implying this woman was larger than life.

When I started working as a trainer, there were only a few avenues for formal education in the field. I had the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certification, courtesy of my new employer. In addition to having this weekend certification, I also knew I needed to learn what this job was all about, but there wasn’t a college-level program available. So I did the next best thing and started taking courses in anatomy and nutrition at the community college, which at least forced me to learn something about what I was doing every day at work. A fair share of my training came from other trainers I worked with and managers who spent a ton of time with me when I was starting out. There is also shadowing; some trainers are more than happy to show future trainers the ins and outs of the business. You’d be surprised by how much you can learn after watching an experienced trainer at work for a couple of days. Besides, it beats the standard internship that is attached to many careers these days. There’s nothing worse than interning for months and months just to be given the great news that you finally can’t show up for free anymore: “Sorry, we don’t have any positions right now, but you’ll be the first to know when one opens up.”

Among some of the important pieces of advice I got when I was starting out was to relate to the client as much as possible. This is easier said than done, especially if you’re a nonpracticing Catholic from the not-so-great part of town and one of your clients is a wealthy Asian who has a difficult time with the English language. This took some time for me to figure out. After all, I was a barely educated kid having to essentially tell these people who were much older and smarter than me how to do something. I remember the first time I trained a physical therapist. I almost shit my pants thinking that she was going to question me about what I was going to have her do and that she was not going to fall for my usual bullshit lines. Oddly enough, I was in the clear. Turns out, she had never touched a weight in her life yet somehow instructed patients how to exercise.

Something you will find yourself doing when you are a trainer is saying unbelievably cheesy lines, such as “Great set!” “Pull your shoulders back!” and “Engage your core!” The list goes on and on. These lines will unconsciously come out of your mouth during training sessions. Next time you are at the gym, try listening in on some of the finer motivational lines a trainer will bark at his or her clients. “Two more!” “No, make that THREE more!” “PUSH!” “PULL!” You’ll notice that this is always spoken by some overambitious trainer whose enthusiasm seems to match that of a Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes winner. I always get a kick out of the fired-up trainer who is giving his all to motivate a disinterested client. I really get a kick out of the simple yet complex line “On three,” which has always screwed me up since the Lethal Weapon movies. In every gym across America, there is at least one incident of a bad liftoff thanks to the confusion this line gives to the simple task of starting an exercise. There is a whole lot more that comes out of a trainer than counting the number of reps.

I was a big posture freak, always advising my clients in between sets to sit up straight: “Sit up with your ears, shoulders, and hips in a straight line!” At the time, I had no idea what the fuck any of this meant, but it sounded great, especially when I followed it up with a few words about how important posture was. Many of my clients who were older than me and dead tired from the workday—and equally exhausted from the last set of box step-ups I made them do—would give me that “fuck off” look as they pretended to listen to what I was saying. I also had some choice lines that I reserved for some of my special clients. My personal favorite, which I only gave to the females who ironically would end up in bed with me at some point, was “I like your form.” It doesn’t sound like much, but in the heat of an hour-long workout, when they were dripping with sweat, I would slip this one in. I never said anything along the lines of “I like you,” since that would be wrong, but somehow this line got lost in translation, and more than a few clients thought this was my way of inviting them to the pants party.

Once I got over my fear of training people who were older and wiser than myself, I began to find my training mojo. All I had to do was keep them stimulated and interested during that hour, and my sales guys would close even the cheapest of cheapskates. A package of training for $400 is too expensive? Not a problem. The sales guys would somehow upsell these clients on the $700 package but split the payment up.

If one client liked sports, I could talk about sports for the entire session without hesitation. If another liked weird shit on the Internet, I would ask about it with what seemed like genuine interest. Whatever it was my clients felt like talking about, I would shut up, listen, and occasionally interject to let them know I gave somewhat of a shit. After all, they were paying good money and the least I could do for them was entertain them with some type of conversation, like those strippers tend to do while making their rounds. No, they don’t really like you. They are just trying to make you feel better about yourself and get paid in the process. Over the years, I have found that people love to talk to anyone who is remotely interested in listening. It really doesn’t matter if you don’t give two shits about the PGA Tour or upcoming election. Actively listening to clients talk about anything is the key to keeping them coming back for more.

There is a downside to this, however. Just like everyone loves to talk, I’ve seen trainers talk their clients’ fucking ears off about things that really could have been left unsaid. This usually occurs when overaggressive trainers take the reins and hijack a client’s hour to talk about whatever it is that they want to talk about. These types of trainers are usually larger, more muscular guys or gals. They somehow feel the need to talk about whatever is going on in their lives in an effort to impress their clients. They tend to attract clients who are very insecure and just want to be around someone they admire. I quickly learned it’s best to leave my personal life out of conversations with clients. Only with a select few did I somehow feel compelled to let them in on whatever was going on in my life, and even then maybe I shouldn’t have. I was not the type of trainer who would boast about my prominent features, my latest conquest over the weekend, or how hard I worked out earlier that day, as I have witnessed other trainers do firsthand. I could never figure out why people would pay very good money to listen to their trainer’s shit and not even have a minute to get anything off their own chest. I’m sorry, but a job that pays better than most jobs available today and requires absolutely no higher education should entitle the customer to complete fucking silence if warranted. Not to say trainers can’t converse with their clients, but it gets to be overkill when a one-hour session becomes happy hour and the topic of discussion is all about the trainer.

I’ve met and worked with personal trainers of all traits: boring, annoying, bitchy, cocky, dumb, and pretty fucking weird. You need to have a niche when it comes to training, whether it’s training athletes, the obese, or middle-aged housewives. A trainer’s unique character traits help attract a large number of clients from the gym floor. I happened to have carved out my own niche, but it wasn’t by my own doing. I had been semi-successful with getting most clients to sign up with just a single free session, but I had a particularly high percentage of closing the deal (in more than one way) with females in their thirties and early forties. Being young and naïve about the whole situation, I did not discover until much later that I was set up by the management. They would prescreen all potential clients, and I always ended up with this demographic. There was one other male trainer close to my age who seemed to have a bunch of MILFs as well, but he had a concentration in well-off women in their twenties.

I didn’t think much of it at the time. How was I to know I was thought of as the Dirk Diggler of the gym even though I wasn’t hung as well? Sure, I was given the occasional guy or college student, but that was only a small portion of my clientele. It seemed the managers had a perfect client fit for all the trainers. Just like you wouldn’t go into the ninth inning without Mariano, you wouldn’t send your rookie trainer to close a CEO who is looking for a permanent training schedule.

I’ve been around long enough to notice that women want a good-looking, preferably younger male trainer and guys want a nicely toned, hot female trainer. Now, why do you suppose this is? These days, I have to laugh at what I witness in gyms: women literally throwing themselves at young trainers and men just as guilty as their female counterparts. Does this get to be somewhat problematic when it comes to running a successful personal training business? Of course it does. You cannot fuck around with your clientele if you intend on keeping them for the long term. That’s pretty much where I fucked up, and you’re about to hear about the unexpected pitfalls that you will encounter when you have nearly half a dozen horny women who are willing to give you anything you want for what seems to be nothing in return. I had no idea how easy getting laid would be. It was almost as if I was a celebrity or famous athlete and all I had to do was wink at some chick and she would end up in bed with me.

For most of my time in the business, I lacked self-control. Most of the thinking I did back in those days was definitely done by the other head. I found it to be extremely difficult to say no to an attractive older woman who not only told me what she was going to do to me but also went into great detail about how she was going to do it. How many times does a guy get to hear “I want to suck your dick” from a woman he barely knows and who happens to be paying him? This was no oriental spa where you have to pay before you play; this was the complete opposite. Call me what you will, but I think I’m speaking for the majority. If you asked a bunch of guys between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five what they would have done in my place, I bet that close to 99 percent would probably make the same decisions I did. Those who didn’t were maybe either still trying to discover themselves or a little confused.

Do female trainers have it any different? If anything, they have it even worse. I remember the great Chris Rock once said that every guy a girl meets after she turns thirteen is trying to fuck her. You have to consider that female trainers usually have a better-than-average body and are dealing with the testosterone-laden atmosphere of the gym where endorphins are flowing and hormones are being secreted, making just the thought of sex even better than what it already is. The biggest difference between male and female trainers is that most females are used to having guys throw themselves at them in every way possible just to get a little bit of sugar. Guys spend most of their youth trying to stick their member into anything that is willing, whereas girls are trying to deflect as many of these members away as possible. Women are usually more selective than males when it comes to picking a partner for sex. It’s bad enough that women have to deal with the incessant catcalls of men every time they leave the house, and inside the gym it doesn’t get much better. The whole scene is probably the equivalent of going into a club on a Friday night. So how do female trainers deal with this at work? I’ve seen several types of approaches.

My personal favorite is the thick-skinned bitch attitude. This type of girl lets guys know immediately where they stand. If she’s not single, she usually runs the show at home. She is bossy and doesn’t take shit. If her man wants steak for dinner, guess what? Too fuckin’ bad because the chicken is already defrosted. I have worked with quite a few of these girls, and for some reason, they always seem to be dating a very skinny, usually soft-spoken guy. I have seen these girls with their hardened exterior, but this is sometimes a nonreliable deterrent, as males for some unknown reason seem to like the constant rejection and push their efforts into overdrive to achieve the outcome they desire. I have no idea how some guys deal with and even enjoy this type of chase. I was never one for persistence. When shit hits the fan, I choose to step out of the way rather than take it in the face. No means no in my opinion, and I don’t think persistence ever pays off when trying to scoring with girls. It’s funny to watch a man’s determination to make something happen when clearly there is no chance. Just look at the guy who is trying to work his magic with the ladies he meets in bars. He truly deserves an A for effort for still trying after a girl tells him to fuck off. These thick-skinned chicks aren’t always cool and understanding—they can be straight up bitches when it comes down to it, but for some reason, there is always an abundance of dudes who like the attitude and will put up with it for, well, sometimes forever.

Next we have the cool chick who attempts to be one of the guys by talking about guy stuff: sex, sports, and movies. I’m not talking about Titanic; I’m talking about guy flicks starring Stallone or Van Damme. These chicks can act like your best buddy, and I’ve seen them rope clients into believing they have an inside track to their snatch. But don’t be fooled, as these types of female trainers are very business oriented. They know exactly what they are doing, similar to those girls who spin around poles on the weekends and sometimes end up on your lap and begin to tell you their life story. Just remember, no matter how cool they may present themselves to you, they still sit down to pee. These female trainers are very well versed in playing the game, and as long as the checks are clearing, they will put on this show for as long as it takes. They are flirtatious and seem to make any poor schmo feel that, if he hangs in there just long enough, he might get lucky. Unfortunately, this girl is never going to give the client more than a hug, which is just the right affectionate signal to keep him on the roster for years to come. The male clientele who are usually assigned to these female trainers are your insecure, haven’t-been-laid-in-years types. They are probably still living at home with mom and dad, and it just so happens that these are the same guys who go to strip clubs and actually think the girls like them.

Last but not least, we have the female trainer who makes the same mistake I did. She ends up sleeping with one or maybe a few of her clients. This usually ends in disaster quicker than it does for male trainers. Why? Well, feelings are usually a little more complex in this situation. Either the guy or girl gets a little too into it, and that’s the end of it. Not to say it always happens, but female trainers tend to wear their feelings on their sleeve. You can tell immediately when something is bothering them, and when it comes to sex, there is always something that can cause hurt feelings. Unlike my situation, it’s the female trainer who ends up getting attached to her client quickly. I never had the kinds of feelings for my clients that would lead to scenes of jealous rage, which I have seen happen to a coworker of mine. I know it sounds like quite the double standard, but it really is a man’s world. Sorry, girls. You can have a lot in life, but it’s hard for you to get away with the type of shit your male counterparts do when you travel down the often-twisted road of personal training.

I’m not trying to sound sexist, so I will say that guys do run into all kinds of bullshit when this type of juvenile behavior occurs and clothes come off. It may not show its ugly head for some time, but it will almost certainly end badly. I can say that I personally dealt with whatever came my way in a manner that wasn’t discernible to the outside world unless of course it all came to a head at the gym, which was the case for me once. Don’t be mistaken, however. The possible scenario of sex with a client is like a mirage. It may look good from a distance, but as you get closer, you might be surprised. It will come back to bite you in the ass when you least expect it, no matter how sly you think you may be. However, today there seems to be more and more people who appear to have no conscience at all. For all I know, they may not lose a second thought on fucking multiple people and never looking back. You can watch The Secret a million times and think all the positive shit possible no matter what’s going on in your life, but when you’re dabbling in someone else’s property, it will take more than the right attitude and positive attraction to bail you out. You can fuck up a million times and get away with it, but your luck will run out at some point. I’ve done it quite a few times and am lucky enough to have walked away with minimal scarring, but I can tell you, I know many others who have not been as lucky. I’ve seen it bring a man to his knees begging his wife for forgiveness after getting caught balls deep in a client.

At the end of the day, a successful personal trainer is someone who takes the job seriously, even if it is a very laid-back and personable profession. I’m sure that these types of trainers exist, although I personally do not know any of them. The best advice I can give to anyone is to run the other way when a scenario that resembles any one of the escapades you are about to read begins to unfold in front of your own eyes. And yes, even something as innocent as a hummer in the backseat of your client’s car is more than enough to get you in trouble. Aside from having to meet the monthly quota or occasional demand from your manager, personal training is a job that doesn’t have many boundaries but takes a motivated individual to be successful. I had a great run and got paid top dollar to have fun every day at work. It was the best job I ever had, but unfortunately, I fucked it up to where it would be impossible to make it a career. Maybe it’s true that if you really enjoy what you do on a daily basis you will be successful no matter what. Be yourself, but if you’re an asshole, you might find the going a little tough. Just be cool, and don’t try too hard. If you find yourself trying too hard, maybe you should look into being a guidance counselor.

Oh, Cheryl

About a year after moving out to California, things seemed to be falling into place. I was training in a great gym, I had built up a steady list of clients, and I had referrals coming in left and right. I thought I had it all, and I was finally free of all the fucked-up things I was guilty of in the past.

I began training Cheryl, a new client whom Jason had passed on to me. She was a semi-cute gymnastic studio owner. By semi-cute, I mean she had a nice body, but I’m not gonna lie to you—she was a bona fide butterface. In my own defense, Cheryl did not fall down the ugly tree and hit every branch. She missed a few branches, or maybe it was just a small tree. Let’s call her a solid 6, but her body was easily a 9 and a half. She was thirty-three and ran her own successful business in addition to being a decorated former gymnast. After getting to know her and the disaster that was otherwise known as her life, I wondered how she ever became successful. Other than some plastic surgery and one of the tightest backsides I’ve seen on a woman over thirty, I really didn’t find much else attractive about Cheryl. Despite being from the Midwest, Cheryl had the personality of a spoiled Long Island teenager who was pissed because the BMW her parents gave her for her sweet sixteen was white instead of silver. She was a cunt with a capital C. Her attitude toward most people was like that of the upper class in   I  the movie Titanic, but unfortunately, she wasn’t on a boat going down. To her, people who washed cars for a living or, God forbid, did landscaping were trash, and she avoided making eye contact with them. I hate to admit it, but the more I think about it, the lone bright spot was her disposable income, which probably made her the way she was in the first place.

Cheryl had no problem throwing down $500 a month for personal training, which was the cost for three training sessions a week. Things on the West Coast were even better than they were back home. It was a nice score for me. She would talk about her shopping ventures, which included purchases at nothing but high-end stores like Gucci and Prada. Thanks to my gay clients, I knew these designer stores were no joke and of course well out of my price range. When I think of my time spent with Cheryl, one thing is certain: if she wasn’t paying me so well, I never would have put up with her for as long as I did, but I was a true glutton for punishment. I would soon discover how far a guy would go for the almighty dollar.

On the other hand, I was a bona fide blue-collar guy with a blue-collar upbringing. As a kid, I was given only those items that were considered completely necessary for survival, including the seasonal hand-me-downs from my older brother. My time spent with Cheryl gave me the chance to experience something that was very foreign to me—that is, getting whatever the hell you wanted whenever you wanted it. I had always been intrigued with this type of lifestyle, and this was well before the days of being able to look up celebrity homes on the Internet. This was back when most information was gathered from watching MTV. Who hasn’t seen an episode of Cribs and looked at all the unnecessary shit those people have at their disposal? I know I’m not alone when I say that I wanted to at least have a taste of that at one time or another. Turns out, Cheryl was my ticket to the highlife.

As I trained Cheryl three times a week, I began to realize that, for the first time in a long time, I was adhering to the strict guidelines of professionalism in the workplace. Sure, some time was spent joking around with Cheryl for the sake of entertainment, but no boundaries were broken. When Cheryl left the gym, we put our chatter on hold until the next session. I was occasionally sleeping with Nicole (who, I must reiterate, was not my client) when I first started training Cheryl, but other than that, I was keeping it real for the first time in a long time.

Several months went by with nothing but friendly banter back and forth when all of a sudden it happened like a crash of lightning that startles you when you’re lying on the couch.

“So when are we going to hang out?” Cheryl asked me.

I felt that uneasy feeling in the base of my stomach when I realized it was more than just a hunch. It had been nearly a year since I had moved, but the memories of those former clients were still fresh in my mind. I could go in one direction or another: I could make the right choice and cancel out all that was wrong in my past, or I could opt for the wrong choice and once again punch my ticket on the highway to hell. I can proudly say for once I made the right choice—at first. I managed to brush off Cheryl’s attempt to hang out, but she persisted. As bad as this may sound, if Cheryl was more attractive, I can say the wrong choice would have happened without a second of hesitation. I guess there was still some growing up to do on my part.

I had a full roster of clients, but losing $500 a month would hurt if I upset Cheryl by not hanging out with her. I had come up with excuses for several weeks as to why I couldn’t go out, but Cheryl persisted like a drunken sorority chick at a frat party who wasn’t used to hearing the word no. She was getting annoying with her requests, which seemed to be coming at least two of the three times I saw her each week. I was all about satisfying the customer, but I wanted to keep it clean when it came to clients. Since moving, I had been able to keep all my relations with my clients at a very businesslike level. After a month of dodging the question, I began to wonder what would happen if I said yes to Cheryl. I felt a somewhat new sense of confidence in keeping a friendly relationship with the opposite sex. Besides, would it really be that bad if we just hung out?

I decided to round up my roommates and a group of friends so that the night wouldn’t seem like some intimate event. Yet I once again showed my immaturity and asked Jada, whom I really was interested in, to also come along. Jada was a friend of a friend. She was smart, employed, and hot—the perfect trifecta. Pursuing a relationship with her was something that had been on my mind ever since meeting her shortly after I moved out west. This is where I created a potential hazardous situation well before the night even began. Even though I was going out with friends, I was going headfirst into the danger zone without my wingman, Pete, which was a bad move. Pete was more than capable of helping me out on many a night. Whenever we hung out, if I ever found myself in a precarious situation with a girl whom I wanted nothing to do with, Pete could step in and take control. Somehow, his dissertation on animal rights or student loans would captivate even the toughest listener. With his usually stoned demeanor, he was able to take anyone’s attention off me for enough time to allow me to slip out the back door of the bar and make a clean getaway.

This night had doom written all over it from the start. A group of about eight of us went out one Friday night to some god-awful club that, for some unknown reason, I would actually set foot in again on another night after this whole shitstorm occurred. We drove in two cars. I rode with Cheryl and a couple of friends, and my roommate Craig drove with Jada. I thought I would have this whole situation taken care of with little to no effort, but I was wrong in so many ways. Cheryl knew no one in the group other than me, and she wasn’t exactly the most socially equipped individual.

When we arrived at the club, Cheryl was hanging all over me, so Jada discovered my shenanigans early on and quickly tuned me out. I was pissed off immediately because I knew I blew it with her. Jada was my age but mature enough to see a true asshole when she saw one. Cheryl, who was petite at maybe five feet tall and barely 102 pounds after hitting the Chinese buffet hard, then decided to put on her drinking shoes. Holy shit. I have never to this day seen anything like it in my life. I’ve seen some girls drink way more than they should, but not like this. For example, whenever a new song came on—and I mean every time a new song came on—no matter what it was, Cheryl felt the need to welcome it with an obnoxiously loud “Woooooo!” Her sense of entitlement was magnified. She would throw a shit fit if, God forbid, she had to wait for a few minutes to get a drink at a crowded bar.

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say one of the worst nights of my life involved someone drinking way too much, and this night would make the top of that list for me. Not only were my friends, who were occasional weekend binge drinkers themselves, turned off by this demonstration, but it also appeared that the general public was none too pleased either. Cheryl managed to piss off the already annoying people who were at the club, if that was even possible. I was under the assumption that most people at these places were immune to getting pissed off at sloppy drunks, since they themselves were probably inebriated as well and had no idea what they were doing, let alone what anyone else was doing.

For someone like Cheryl who was a quiet and reserved business owner, alcohol seemed to unleash the beast. Again, if she were a little better looking, there might have been a perfectly reasonable excuse for this type of behavior but, unfortunately, she was not. Was I just as pissed off as every poor soul in that horrible club and turned off by this inappropriate behavior? Absolutely. I could go on forever with this one, but to make a long story short, things didn’t go as planned that evening. I gave in to the powers of fake breasts and a tight ass. A few shots of tequila and, of course, a purple hooter or two didn’t help either.

It was closing time, as the song goes. Jada was long gone. Now that I’m looking back at this night, Jada might have actually became the girlfriend who could have ended this lurid behavior of mine for good if I hadn’t screwed things up. The rest of my friends who came to the club were also nowhere to be found, thanks to this annoying girl I brought. She really was a buzz kill. She was slurring her words as we were leaving and gave me the keys to her brand-new Lexus SUV. I had never sat in a brand-new car, let alone driven one. She talked about how I was the first person to drive her new car other than herself and joked about not getting into an accident on the way home. If only I could have gotten into an accident to possibly avoid the bullshit that I was about to fall into.

We ended up driving almost a half hour back to her place, which was no easy feat, not because I was impaired but because she put on a display worthy of someone in the back of one of those short buses you see in the neighborhood. She was cranking up some terrible fucking country music, which I still hate to this day, and writhing around in the front seat like a moron. Ugh, fuck my life. I squinted as I studied this odd behavior and mouthed the words What the fuck? while gripping the steering wheel as tightly as I could. A smart guy would have dropped her off and called a cab for a ride back to his own place. Not this guy; instead, I ended up accepting her invitation to go into her apartment.

Inside her apartment, Cheryl popped open a bottle of Bud Light. Classy, I thought. If this scene happened today, there is no doubt in my mind Cheryl would have cracked open a Bud Light Lime. I passed on more alcohol and opted for water. After sitting on her couch for just a couple of minutes listening to her slur her words with her eyes half closed, I was beginning to get tired. It’s funny how too much alcohol can make an already unattractive person even more unattractive. I then realized there was nothing to talk about. I was about to get up after a thankful moment of silence, but Cheryl suddenly straddled me and began making out with me. Did some sick part of me want to see those funbags in real time? Yes, a part of me did, so I dealt with her breath, which was an odd combination of fish and beer, as she continued to suck my face. Lucky for me, Cheryl had enough after several minutes and decided she wanted a little more than just kissy face. She got up and led me to her huge bedroom, which had one of those gigantic California King–sized beds. I wished I had access to some mouthwash to kill whatever it was that seemed to linger in my mouth.

Cheryl was giddy like a little kid as she jumped onto the bed and aggressively undressed me like a dog in heat. I returned the favor and took off her top to set those mounds free. To those who have not had the pleasure of experiencing artificial boobs, I can say they are something else when installed properly. That being said, I have seen my fair share of good fake ones and bad fake ones. As I grabbed Cheryl’s left breast, my face probably spoke volumes. These things were definitely not built for speed. They were solid as rocks. In fact, they were so solid it was quite the turnoff as I continued to play with them. Whatever. They looked a lot better than they felt.

Cheryl soon had enough of my very nonsensual and probably very probe-like hands. She removed what was left of my undergarments and went right down on me as I stood at the edge of the bed. As I disappeared in her mouth, my head turned upward as if to thank someone up there for yet again sending me this gift. I truly am a sucker for blow jobs, as I’ve rarely turned away a willing participant.

Standing at the foot of Cheryl’s bed, I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on down there. If there were such a thing as a bad blow job, Cheryl would be the culprit. I think at one point she was actually blowing instead of sucking. Aside from getting my first blow job in high school by an obviously untrained teenager, this had to rate as one of the worst. I couldn’t finish with this type of tomfoolery going on down there. I took a step back to prevent further emotional and possibly physical damage to my wiener.

Cheryl then took off her lace panties and tried to be as sexy as a hammered woman can be as she rolled over onto her back. This also was a sign of things to come. Cheryl was very vanilla when it came to fucking. If I wasn’t doing the work, there would be no work at all, since Cheryl didn’t like to move much while having sex. So much for the theory that gymnasts are great in the sack. I went all in, literally. Aside from her groans, which amplified her breath, there really wasn’t much going on. I actually had to go back into the Rolodex to assist with finishing off. Maybe it was her demeanor throughout the night that lessened the experience. Maybe I was truly just a complete asshole at this point in my life. Whatever the case may be, the highlight was finishing on those attractive yet rubbery boobs.

A few days later at work, I spoke with my manager, Jason. He wasn’t your typical gym manager. Everyone wondered what he was all about, since he was about thirty and seemed to show the same affection for both men and women alike. He wore those string bracelets, and I believe he wore a thumb ring on a few occasions. Who the fuck wears a thumb ring? Whatever his deal was, he was at least a little more tolerable than the sales-driven guys who are usually in charge. He sat down with me on one of the couches in the front lounge of the gym to talk about Cheryl. Unlike my last place of employment where there were some skeletons that never found their way out into the limelight, news traveled fast in this small studio. Luckily, Jason wasn’t too pissed about the ordeal. I told him I had unfortunately been down this road a time or two before. He then proceeded to tell me some words of advice that I should have heeded.

“So, I hear you’re dating Cheryl,” Jason said.

What? I had literally fucked her a few days ago and somehow this guy heard we were “dating”?

“More or less,” I responded reluctantly. For the first time since I started working at Body Masters, I got the hint that Jason was more concerned about keeping Cheryl around as a client.

“I hope it goes well for you,” he said, as if he somehow knew I was going to be in for a rough ride. I was relieved that he wasn’t pissed at me for sleeping with a client. I was used to getting high fives from my old management team. I was then given the “honeymoon period” lecture.

“You know, after the first six months or so of being with someone, things usually get a little dicey,” Jason said.

I tried to play cool. “Yes, sir. I’m not really thinking about that right now,” I said. Even though this was not my first rodeo, I had been with enough women to realize the honeymoon period exists in every relationship. Aside from Danielle, I never made it through this supposed six-month period, and at this point, I really didn’t think Cheryl and I would ever amount to anything more than a few dates. Once again, I thought I was above all this. No way was I going to let this little slipup cost me my finally budding business. But did I think that getting involved with this woman was going to have me worrying about honeymoon periods or any of that shit that goes along with relationships? Hell no. I really had no interest in her as a person other than the silicon 34 Cs on a petite frame and, from what I had seen so far, a lot of coin in the bank.

Our next scheduled appointment was odd to say the least. It was about four days after our night out, and I hadn’t talked to Cheryl since then. I didn’t know how she would react after that first night even though I had been in this same position more times than I could count.

“You haven’t called me,” Cheryl said.

“I’ve been very busy the past few days,” I said.

She quickly followed up with the line that many guys love to hear when they’re horny and would rather share the experience with someone rather than take care of things themselves: “What are you doing tonight?” she asked.

So what did I do? You guessed it. I gave her the go-ahead to come on by. This time around, it was a weeknight, so I didn’t think things could get too out of hand, but I realized I was wrong when she showed up in what looked like a Catwoman outfit, along with what would be her trusty six-pack of Bud Light. She knew very well I wasn’t a Bud guy, and if she really gave a shit about anyone but herself, she could have shown up with a bottle of Grey Goose. I was still living with roommates at the time, and thankfully, they were not home when she showed up. I really couldn’t imagine having to explain this one to them.

We sat on my couch, and I watched SportsCenter while Cheryl helped herself to her Bud Light. It was as if I was the hideous chud and she needed to get annihilated before sleeping with me. Meanwhile, I just wanted to fuck her and get her out of the house before my roommates got back. About twenty minutes later, I had Cheryl naked on the couch and I was on top of her. It was disappointing knowing that her body was mostly just for show, but it was more than enough to get me worked up. I slipped my dick out of my underwear, grabbed her legs, and tried to work my way into her. Cheryl was very tight, almost virgin-like tight—not that I’ve ever experienced that, but this was what I imagined it to feel like. After I worked it around and partially in and out for a couple of minutes, Cheryl loosened up just enough to let me in. Once again, I was doing all the work, but I couldn’t help but think how good this felt, even if there were several things I didn’t care for much. Hey, I was getting laid and not having to pay for it, so I would call it a win-win.

Something different happened as I worked my hips into and out of Cheryl. For the first time, I felt a sense of guilt well before I shot off. Usually, my head was completely clear no matter whom I was fucking—married, separated, MILF, you name it. But now I was feeling bad while I was doing it. After about fifteen minutes of noneventful screwing, which was on the longer side for me, I let loose inside her. Nope, the condom didn’t make it on this time. Just when I thought I was growing up, I managed to regress in more than one way. Not only was I being irresponsible sexually, but I was also tapping into the well that I was drinking from. I thought I left all this type of bullshit behind me. I lasted over a year doing it the right way, but now I was getting myself involved in dirty deeds again.

This time it was Cheryl who left shortly afterward. I sat back on my couch after she left and watched the end of SportsCenter. I had no idea what was in store for me after this encounter. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I should have just taken care of myself, but somehow things weren’t that simple for me back then. Knowing what I know now, I could have avoided this mess and what turned out to be almost eight miserable months of my life. A small part of me thought that everything was just fine and that I may be in the clear, just as I had been every other time since I started working in this field.

A few days after our second “date,” I had the chance to do the right thing but managed to blow it. Cheryl and I began our training as usual with a warm-up followed by some circuit training. Between sets of walking lunges, Cheryl said, “So what is going on with us? Other guys have been asking me out, and I don’t know what to tell them.”

Could I have gotten out at this point with a “get out of jail free” card? Absolutely, as there is always an out. It’s just a question of whether you have the balls to use it. Even though my twenty-three-year-old balls had gotten plenty of work, I didn’t quite understand how to use them in a situation like this. Shit, I was certain a lower body circuit with walking lunges, step-ups, and squats was more than enough to keep her somewhat out of breath. And come on, she was not much of a looker, so who the hell else was trying to get in her pants? Of course, I totally discounted that she was a petite female with a nice body and a large fake chest. What normal guy wasn’t going to take a shot at her? Shit, I was buttonhooked.

I’m somewhat of a sensitive guy, and around this time, I was growing more sensitive for some unknown reason. I could have saved myself future anguish and possibly gotten away with another month or two of training sessions from Cheryl without any commitment on my part. Instead, I made perhaps the biggest blunder of my training and dating career. Somehow, someway, the words that then came out of my mouth that day were misconstrued into “I want to be your boyfriend.” As a good friend of mine once said, “You got yourself a girlfriend.”

Did I want to have a relationship with Cheryl? Absolutely not. Did she have a nice body? Yep. Did the prospect of sleeping with her on occasion sound good? Yes, because what guy doesn’t like getting laid? I don’t have to explain how things get weird after sleeping with someone, especially if it’s not a planned deal and it’s spontaneous. Let’s just say that you can safely multiply the weirdness factor by ten when you’re training a person who is also your girlfriend. The old me would have thrown her a shot every now and then and continued to pursue other attractive young California girls, but I guess I was feeling the need to “grow up” a little bit. Should I have thought twice about getting involved with her before things got out of hand? Yep, but I obviously had a lot to learn.

Then things quickly went south. Cheryl proceeded to drop the hammer exactly the way some girls do. Not even a month after we officially started dating, she decided not to renew her training sessions. Bummer, there goes $500 a month. Who could blame her? Why pay the piper when you’re already getting the pipe for free? Not only was I not getting paid each month for spending time with this girl, but her uncontrollable drinking was also getting out of hand. Most people stop by 7-Eleven for a lotto ticket and a Slurpee after a long day at the office, but Cheryl was good for a six-pack and whatever wine whose label appealed to her. This wasn’t a habit just a couple of days a week but rather a daily occurrence, and weekends were usually much worse, thanks to bars staying open until the wee hours.

So why did I decide to stick around someone I really despised as a person? I will tell you exactly why, and I’m sure just about every guy or girl is guilty of this at least once. Did I like wearing new duds from Armani? It was an easy question to answer when the nicest piece of attire I owned at the time was a shirt from Abercrombie and Fitch that was gifted to me about five years ago. How about going to restaurants that don’t have coupons and the average dinner plate goes for fifty dollars? Seeing how I thought Olive Garden was classy, this was something I was more than happy to be a part of. And did the occasional all-expenses-paid trip to Vegas or South Beach make up for the constant shit I had to eat along the way? In my mind, during the early part of our courtship, it did.

Since I never had extra cash to throw around to the degree that Cheryl did, being with someone who did not have to care about money was a sight to see, but being with her made me feel less of a person. She just sucked at life. I didn’t see the signs or more than likely just turned a blind eye when we were first training. Our initial conversations were not too in-depth, and I didn’t train her for more than a couple of months before the cat was out of the bag. And yes, she had cats, and I fucking hate the entire species to this day thanks to her. I had made a rookie mistake even though at this point in my career I was far from being a rookie. Shame on me. I did, however, find some solace in that I was with a wealthy woman who lived a lifestyle beyond anything that I had ever seen. I also want to pull the “guy” card on this one, which calls for you to be removed from any responsibility in situations when an older woman seduces you and that older woman also happens to have a lot of cash in the bank.

Of course, everyone around me saw the signs of Cheryl’s troubled personality well before I did. If she wasn’t rolling her eyes at the front desk girl for no apparent reason, she was a loud cell phone talker. No matter where she was—in the gym, at a restaurant, or even at a funeral—Cheryl was that important that she not only would answer the phone but also have a lengthy conversation with whoever called. My coworkers and friends were polite enough to tell me that they didn’t want her around when we went out. Like a true jackass, I ignored all the warning signs. I stayed with Cheryl for what felt like forever even though it was less than a year. Turns out, Cheryl became the equivalent of Danielle. I continued to date her but cheated on her without remorse. In Danielle’s defense, she wasn’t half the bitch that Cheryl was, even on her worse day. Cheryl was about to feel the wrath of what happens when you go through life as a stuck-up bitch. I was going to treat her exactly like she treated everyone else in her life—like shit.

Cheryl sealed her fate one night while we were at a concert. I had somehow gotten tickets to see Pearl Jam. These were the guys I grew up listening to. Their Ten album was on repeat throughout my high school days. Whenever we traveled for a football game, that was the tape of choice (and yes, it was a tape). It was also the soundtrack for many drunken Saturday nights—you could hear it blaring out of someone’s Camaro while parked at the back of a dead-end road.

The band was just passing through town, so the show was at a small club that held barely a thousand people. Having seen them at a huge arena a few years prior, I couldn’t wait to see them in a small venue. So who does one take to a concert when you have two tickets? Of course you take your fucking girlfriend. Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue, but Cheryl had no fucking idea who Pearl Jam was and preferred country music. Yeah, I know—of all the girls I could have dated, I chose to date the absolutely worst one.

When we got to the small club where the concert was to be held, the line was out the door because they weren’t letting anyone in until eight o’clock. Some brilliant manager decided to sell drinks to us poor folks standing in line. I didn’t buy a drink for myself because the only options were Bud and Bud Light. It just so happens that those two choices sent Cheryl into a frenzy, being the beer chick she was. I was always amazed at her steady diet of Budweiser and shitty takeout food; she had anything but a gunt downstairs. After close to forty-five minutes of waiting in line and about five Buds for Cheryl, we finally made it in. I should have known that when she opted for the Bud over her usual choice of Bud Light she was on a mission to get hammered. We found a place on the second floor near the railing overlooking the stage and main floor.

I wanted to enjoy every moment of the concert, so I was determined to stay sober and refrained from alcohol altogether. However, I kept feeding Cheryl bottles of Bud just to shut her the fuck up. It was like that scene in Back to School when the great Thornton Mellon gives the waitress instructions to bring a pitcher of beer every fifteen minutes until someone passes out and then to bring one every thirty minutes.

Once the band was doing their thing and sounding unbelievable at the one-hour mark, Cheryl was shit-faced. I was sick of having to get up to get her a fucking beer every fifteen minutes, so I finally stopped her flow of alcohol. This did not go over well with Cheryl, and she began to pout like a toddler. Cheryl then took a big swig of some stranger’s drink. TTTThis very large and obviously angry individual noticed this petite woman slurping down his Jack and Coke, or whatever the fuck it was, like water.

“What the fuck!” he yelled.

Cheryl took this as a challenge and started slurring some type of babbling bullshit at this guy, who was at least six foot five and built like a truck. I put my head into my hands and then tried to diffuse the situation by taking the guy to the bar and buying him a drink. He happened to be cool enough about it all and could see the writing all over my face when I had to explain my “girlfriend” to him.

When we got back to the spot by the railing where we had been standing, something was missing. Cheryl had wandered away like a kid who loses her parents while shopping at Kmart. I don’t even know why I bothered to look for her. The band was still playing as I tried to put an end to this monkey business. I decided to go downstairs to visit the bathroom and then search for Cheryl.

Of course, the bathroom attendant was trying to guilt me into dropping a buck into the jar for a squirt of soap and paper towels. I gave him a dollar and surveyed the table filled with breath mints and cologne. Fuck it, I thought. Even though my dollar entitled me to grab a mint and spray of whatever cologne I wanted, I didn’t give a shit what I smelled like or how bad my breath reeked. As I walked out of the bathroom, a large bouncer walked toward me. I looked around to see if he had mistaken me for someone else and hoped he was making his way into the shitter to take of business. No such luck. He approached me and asked me to come with him.

I followed him to the entrance of the club and immediately recognized Cheryl’s small frame. She was sitting against the wall like a kid who missed the school bus. Her hands held her legs close to her body, and her head was buried in her knees. She looked pathetic. What the fuck? I had no idea I would end up babysitting a woman in her thirties who had a shitload of money.

“We had a complaint that she tried to take some lady’s drink, so she’s gotta go because it looks like she’s had enough,” the bouncer said to me.

I stood there observing this mess of a woman whom I had fucked several times but really didn’t care much about. As this was going on, I heard the crowd go crazy as Pearl Jam started playing “Alive.” You have got to be kidding me. I guess this was payback in some way.

The bouncer then said, “I didn’t say you gotta go, but she does.” He seemed to have a smile on his face as he said this, as if he could sense my pain and wanted to help. Once again, I was presented with an out. Call her a cab and go back in to the concert and hang out with Eddie and the guys. But since she was my girlfriend of several months, I ended up carrying her limp body out of there and heading home.

That night, I vowed to not give a shit whatsoever about her from then on and to collect all the cash and prizes I could. As sorry as she was when she sobered up the next day, I didn’t give a shit. I had made up my mind: she would remain my girlfriend as long as I was getting something out of it other than sex because the sex wasn’t that great with her anyway. A couple of weeks later, Cheryl referred a massage therapist to me. If I thought my time with Cheryl was turbulent, I was in for a big surprise.

One thought on “I Like Your Form: Confessions of a Personal Trainer

  • Claire Bolden
    August 26, 2013 at 7:54 PM

    This is a bloody great read! Love it!

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