Why do we take the "personal" part of "personal trainer" way too literally?

Just a few months out from our wedding and I've noticed that my fiancee, Kate, has been quietly pulling away from our agreed level of attractiveness. 

She's constantly out the door for another expensive and mysterious sounding treatment. Don't wait up, I'm just off to: Laser fat reduction, body contouring, teeth bleaching, deep ocean facials, six hand massage, lymph node draining. It's like she's having an affair with the wellness industry.

My first response was to be supportive-yet-cash-conscious. Good on you for being the best version of yourself, but are we paying for all these appointments? My second response was to panic. With each passing week, her glow shone brighter while mine began to dim in comparison. This sparked a genuine fear that come the wedding we'd have a proper Beauty and the Beast situation. 

Flatlining fitness

To address the growing imbalance, I decided to book in with a personal trainer. By the time you hit your thirties, most men have done this dance before. Your gym routine is in a rut, and whatever exercise you do is merely offsetting the madness that is your diet. You're not fat, but you've plateaued. You've fateaued. 

Speaking with the executive fitness manager at my local gym (one of many made-up jobs in the fitness industry), we went through the motions. Typically this involves asking the same question several times in a slightly different way: What are your goals? What are you hoping to achieve? Where do you see yourself in six months? 

Shredding for wedding

With the wedding only a few months away and Kate presumably off getting drenched in apple cider vinegar as Gwyneth Paltrow personally carries out a colonic, this was no time for vague promises. 

"I need to shred up quickly!" Sensing the alarm in my voice, the fitness manager was swift in pairing me up with Raymond, the man who would save my rig. Because this is 2020 and because I can't help myself, I immediately stalked Raymond on Instagram. It was everything I hoped it would be, and slightly more than I was ready for.

Between the inspirational quotes attributed to the wrong people and chicken-and-broccoli meal prep pictures, were aggressive nude shots of his perfectly sculpted body. There was Raymond in the mirror; shiny, bronzed, wearing nothing but a smile. 

Convinced he was the trainer for me, I headed into my first session full of nervous energy. It's weird to have appreciated someone's buttock before meeting them, but now I felt like I knew Raymond. Like really knew him. We immediately hit it off, his over-the-top optimism the perfect balance for my what-am-I-doing-here pessimism. Plus, Raymond's water bottle was shaped like a dumbbell. If that's not commitment, what is? 


Puttin' the personal in personal trainer

From the get-go, Raymond came on super strong, demanding we set up a WhatsApp chat. "Text me about your bowel movements, and also when your libido is firing. I need to know everything!" 

No, you don't Raymond, no one does. While I appreciated the effort, I relayed to Ray that I was just here in a last-ditch attempt to keep up with a fiancee who was off getting milk baths in Switzerland. 

But Raymond wouldn't take no for an answer, launching into an impassioned speech which included several mixed idioms: Don't add insult to injury when the glass is half empty?! 

To my surprise, and Raymond's credit, with each session, I found myself opening up to my new (paid) friend. I've got a chequered past with client-provider relationships, (read: why I lie to my barber), and yet the one between trainer and trainee is unique. 

Muscle therapy

Presumably, it can be linked back to feeling physically vulnerable, which makes you emotionally available. When Raymond yells at me between sets about my lazy technique, I share secrets from my childhood. As he critiques my deadlifts, I want to debrief about my gruelling workweek. 

Then there is the universal desire to be heard. I don't care how grounded you claim to be; undivided attention is intoxicating. Personal trainers are the best at it, never breaking eye contact as they load your weights. No matter how dull the anecdote, Raymond is blown away. 

He's like a therapist, close friend, personal trainer and endorphin dealer rolled into one (occasionally nude) package. After another solid session, I came home recently with a glow of my own. I was feeling stronger than ever, and Raymond was considering posting me on his Instagram. Life was good. 

Bicep buds for life

At that very moment, Kate entered the room wearing a solar-powered UV face mask and dropped this comment. "Hey, I organised some free PT sessions for us through work so you can cancel that guy at the gym." Cancel Raymond? My life coach, fitness idol and bowel monitor? 

I declined the offer and explained that while my relationship with Raymond may have started as a get-fit-quick scheme for the wedding, it was more than that now, I felt good inside and out.

Kate looked confused and walked away. She had her treatments, potions, lotions, and creams, and that worked for her. 

But sometimes you need someone in your life who will simply listen, tell you to lift more, and charge you $70 bucks an hour for the privilege.

After continually being told to "use his words" as a young boy, Thomas Mitchell took that advice on board and never looked back. Since then his words appeared all over the place, including in the Sydney Morning Herald, Time Out, The Huffington Post and GQ. Thomas spends his days observing the unique behaviour of the Australian male, while trying not to overstay his welcome at the local cafe.

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Illustration courtesy of Another Colour.