My Life as Liz’s Guinea Pig: The Alec Brinn Fitness Story
Part 1: Why I decided to get a personal trainer:
I have always struggled to be fit. I am the stereotypical yo-yo dieting, fitness DVD-buying, fast-food loving, red-blooded American (can I get a hell yeah?!?). I have been as heavy as 280 pounds and as light as 190 pounds (and everywhere in between a couple times) as an adult. As soon as school or work gets stressful, I pack on the pounds as meal time becomes the only social event of my day. Unfortunately, this only encourages the mass consumption of beer, chips, and queso dip, followed by the hangover breakfast of champions at BoJangle’s. Sure enough, as the workload dies down and weather gets warmer, I become motivated, buy the latest fitness DVD (yes I own Power90, P90X, and Insanity), re-join a tennis team, renew a subscription to Men’s Health, load the grocery cart up with nonfat Greek yogurt, and try to knock off everything I put on. It’s a vicious cycle of poorly managed weight control that I have been on for as long as I can remember.
But all of these ups and downs, and short periods of extreme fitness routines are exhausting. If I’m ever going to truly make that “lifestyle change” every magazine, doctor, and gym rat has recommended to me, it is time to hold myself accountable. But I know myself well enough that I am held more accountable to others than I am to myself. And by others, I mean real people this time; it’s just too easy to put Tony Horton and Shaun T back in their respective DVD boxes. So, I contacted my good friend Paul Piracci at Empower Personal Training for some help. He put me in touch with my very own, brand-spankin’ new, personal trainer, Liz. Liz is a senior Exercise and Sports Science major at UNC and an intern at Empower. She was looking for some personal training experience, and I was looking for a personal trainer. The timing could not have worked out better! We scheduled our first training session for the next week, and I could not wait to get started.
I have never been opposed to taking off my shirt in applicable situations – you know, the pool, the beach, etc. Clearly, being on the heavier side growing up, I always hoped to get picked for the “shirts” team rather than the “skins” team in pickup basketball – but it’s not something that kept me from playing. Nonetheless, being shirtless exposes your flaws, and that can be uncomfortable. Or at least I thought so…until I learned what being uncomfortable is really about today: an initial fitness assessment with my new personal trainer, Liz.
It was time to get weighed, measured all over, photographed shirtless, and put through some fitness tests with a heart monitor wrapped around me feeding data to the trainers’ watch and iPad. To be honest, I was quite impressed with the technology used by Liz and Paul for my initial assessment, but also worried that some loud “FAT ASS” alarm would go off letting them know I had a double cheeseburger for lunch that day. Thankfully, no such alarm sounded. Paul and Liz have clearly seen all sizes and shapes of people, so while I was expecting their jaws to drop in disgust at certain numbers and measurements, they were perfectly calm and professional. Even though I was feeling a bit uncomfortable, Liz made a simple statement that stuck with me. She said, “You’ve got to start somewhere and all we’re doing today is seeing where that is.” With my discomfort subsiding upon hearing that, the assessment was over. And just when I thought we were wrapping things up on a lovely initial meeting, they asked, “Okay, so you ready to get started?” It was time to officially become Liz’s training guinea pig.
Now, I am not new to working out, but I have not worked out like this before. In my own workouts, I would pick 5-10 exercises to do, one at a time – or maybe in a circuit if I was feeling particularly jazzy that day. For the sake of vanity, they’d have a more manly focus: arms, chest, back, and shoulders. But, the workout Liz and Paul put me through was a bit more intense and comprehensive. It seemed like every move had some kind of combination move to go with it. If we were doing squats, we were doing rows with a kettle bell simultaneously. If we were doing bicep curls, we were doing reverse lunges. It was a pretty solid workout for the whole body and I was drenched in sweat from the get-go. I could not do everything as fast or for as long as they probably wanted me to, but I guess that means there is substantial room for improvement. I’m pretty excited for the next workout (but not excited about how sore I’ll be tomorrow).
If there’s one thing I learned from this initial assessment and workout it’s that being uncomfortable at a gym is completely self-induced. Everyone there is working to improve themselves; we’re all just at different points along the journey.
Remember how I said my old workouts had a more manly focus? Well, we’re throwing manly-looking exercises to the curb as Liz became certified in TRX over the weekend and had all sorts of things to try out on me. I think we must have tried 20 exercises with the TRX ropes. If you’re unfamiliar with TRX (as I was until today), it’s basically some heavy duty rock-climbing rope type thing with handles so that you can suspend your own body weight in all sorts of ways and use that to get an intense workout. And given that I’ve got a lot of weight to suspend, this was quite the workout. Liz put my heels in the TRX handles for some hamstring work (which I call, “air humps”), and then would have me flip over, put my toes in the handles and do all kinds of abdominal exercises while I held myself up in plank position (these must be good for me because they are miserable). Liz was salivating over this new book of TRX workouts to show off so much, you would have thought it was a dessert menu. Nonetheless, it was a great workout, and now we’re moving up to twice a week. I guess I’ll find out what Liz learns each week as I’ll be put to the test in another episode of, “My Life as Liz’s Guinea Pig.”