‘Survival’ should not be your workout goal

Since I was having trouble finding a job in the Philippines and had too much time on my hands when we first moved here, I decided to try going to the gym to keep myself from wallowing in self-pity.

My passion for the gym was unbelievable, and I felt like I was ready to work out every day –until I found out how much trainers and gym memberships cost here. I was so motivated, but not motivated enough to pay 330 EUROS a month. Still, my mood and feelings were so seriously bad – I couldn’t help crying a lot and blaming Robertas for taking me to the Philippines – so he eventually offered to save me from my truly unfortunate plight. 

So on my very first day at the gym, they introduce me to a very boyish-looking Mr. Trainer (that’s how he looked to me, but most Filipinos do look young for their age – you can never tell if they’re 25 or 50). This particular gym, Anytime Fitness, only allows you to work with their trainers and, before too long, we agree on a time for sessions for the following week.

On what should have been my second day, however, Mr. Trainer decides to stand me up. I arrive at the gym, all ready to sweat my sadness away,  but instead, all I get is an apology for the inconvenience and instructions to come back the next day because they have a staff meeting. This really ticks me off for two reasons: first of all, I had to give him my number when we first spoke, so he could easily have told me to not come in; I also originally asked for a different day, but he insisted on this particular day. So finally I try to hide my annoyance, since this kind of misunderstanding does happen sometimes, and I eventually forget about it. I do cardio for an hour on my own and, after convincing myself that I had an excellent session today, I go home. The next day Mr. Trainer gives me a list of exercises to do with what I thought was a disproportionate number of reps for a beginner and with weights that look entirely too heavy for me. He also asks me to do one-minute planks three times. “I needed to test what you’re capable of,” – says Mr. trainer while I am literally foaming at the mouth. One second, my face reminds a beetroot, and the next, it suddenly turns white as a sheet. I also feel my breakfast trying to find its way back up. I run to the locker room to grab a bottle of water and, on the way back, I wonder if it’s reasonable to require this kind of regimen of a person who hasn’t done any sports at all for over two years. Mr. Trainer tries to calm me down by telling a story about a client who vomited after his ‘testing’. Hmm, I don’t recall puking yet, so everything is great… probably.

“I needed to test what you’re capable of,” – says Mr. trainer while I am literally foaming at the mouth.

I finish without getting a second look at my breakfast, so I get the highest marks, and Mr. Trainer asks about my goals. I tell him I want to strengthen my body, and I would like to pay special attention to the lower half. I don‘t think I’m suffering from too much cellulitis at the moment, but I can already see there is something that I hadn’t thought possible four years ago. So, as I asked, Mr. Trainer prepares an absolutely fantastic program. 

The results of a few weeks of that regimen, unfortunately, are far from fantastic and are only noticeable on my extremely huge biceps. Even Robertas’s eyes get huge when he first sees (though I think it is partly jealousy because my arms are totally jacked now). The saddest thing is that the wrinkles on my butt are still there.

Sometimes, Mr. Trainer comes up with what I feel are weak reasons to write me messages. He asks about my plans for the day, what I had for lunch, and even whether I would like to go to grab a bite to eat. Eventually, however, he asks me if I have a nice friend and suggests we go to Siargao together with Robertas. As strange as I think it is, I run the idea by Robertas anyway. My love doesn’t think it’s a lovely suggestion at all, and that was that.

Sometimes, Mr. Trainer comes up with what I feel are weak reasons to write me messages. He asks about my plans for the day, what I had for lunch, and even whether I would like to go to grab a bite to eat.

Mr. Trainer doesn’t show up for our sixth and seventh sessions, apparently completely forgetting about them. I end up waiting for him for two hours twice and finally get really mad. I ask for another trainer even though Robertas has already been advising me to stop going altogether. At first, I am happy to meet another trainer and ask him for the same thing – to strengthen my body in general and focus on my buttocks. He emphatically nods his head… and leads the way to the same biceps and triceps workout machines. At least he doesn’t ask for my phone number.

Mr. Trainer No. 2 does eventually decide to dedicate the twelfth and last session to my lower body. He asks me to do squats with 20–40-kilogram weights. I obediently squat and stand up, squat and stand up, and keep going until he raises a satisfied thumb and smiles. Meanwhile, I start to feel a massive pain in the small of my back. I tell him about the pain, and he just continues to smile, assuring me it is fine and should be painful.

The following day and the day after that – and every day for the next week, I  am in too much pain to get out of my bed. Every day, I call my mom to complain, always with a suffering expression on my face and also write about it to my sister, who is going to be a doctor soon. Every evening, I whine about all the aching and soreness to Robertas and finally end up going to the hospital. The good news is that nothing too serious has happened. The bad news is I need to take some pretty strong drugs for a week… and that the trainer is still asking me to come back. Thankfully, the aching is gone after a week, along with any intention of seeing that trainer again. 

All this happened before our Christmas trip to Lithuania. I’d pretty much forgotten about everything until I unexpectedly met Mr. Trainer No. 2 at the supermarket after coming back to the Philippines. Almost like magic, he was suddenly walking beside me with a huge smile on his face: “When you are coming back?” – he asked obtusely. I felt my right eye starting to twitch: “Never.” – I said through gritted teeth without looking and rushed away.

Even after all that, I still want to go to the gym (not just for my buttocks, I swear). I do promise myself, however, to be more wary of trainers in the Philippines.

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