Posture And Privilege: On Six Months Of Personal Training

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 1.206% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Working with a personal trainer for six months requires a whole lot of privilege: the spare cash to hire one. The surplus time to spend a couple of hours a week in the gym. Enough health to be able to get to the gym and work out effectively.

Yet that said, there’s plenty of people who have the levels of financial and physical privilege that I do who didn’t put in the work. So I take a lot of pride in what my wife and I have accomplished in the last six months, even as acknowledging the privilege that lets it happen.

One does not diminish the other.

And damn if it ain’t providing results.

Taller, Straighter Me

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People keep asking me: “Do you feel healthier?” And the answer is, “I didn’t feel unhealthy to begin with.” I had enough energy to walk the dog about two miles a day and climb flights of stairs when I needed to – as far as I was concerned, I was healthy enough.

As far as my cardiologist was concerned, however, I needed more work.

Actually, I feel less healthy now that I’m working out. Before, I sat in a chair all day long and stared at screens in perfect bliss. Now, I ache about five days a week, the strain from having augmented my lower back or my biceps having become more-or-less a constant in my life. Gini and I have taken to hot baths in the evening because our muscles are both swole and swollen.

If you were to drop me, unexplained, into my pre-training body and my post-training body, I’d think the pre-training body was healthier because it didn’t twinge all the time.

That’s mostly a result of my sedentary lifestyle, but I find it amusing.

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Taller, Straighter Me: Side View

My posture is a huge difference, though. I stand about two inches taller, which is ridiculously obvious in these before-and-after photos.

I always thought that “getting better posture” was just “remember to stand straighter, you klutz” – but as it turns out, the body is all connected. The reason I was slouching is because the muscles under my shoulderblades and my ass were weak, and not pulling me properly into position. My quadriceps had become freakishly oversized to compensate, but I stood like an ape.

You’d think that personal training would be a burly guy screaming at you to lift until you vomit, but that’s not this place. It’s a lot of fine correctives. They’ve been guiding my muscles into position until my shoulderblades pull me up into the proper stance, which is weird; now, when I slump, I feel that rubberband counterpresence tugging me back.

Posture isn’t what I thought it was. My body isn’t, either.

I wonder what’ll happen if I keep with this.

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The weight loss has been accelerated thanks to Gini’s discovering she’s allergic to wheat.

She really doesn’t want to be allergic to wheat, mind you. She keeps sneaking bread and then feeling her face get all blotchy. Which she thought was just “her skin” until she stopped eating wheat.

So we’ve been on a modified paleo diet for the last month – no sugar, minimal carbs, cauliflower rice and zucchini noodles for everyone. (Gini has done all the cooking in an attempt to learn paleo, which is another privilege – I’ve been desperately trying to do more of the housework to make up for her added load, and desperately failing even as she appreciates the effort.)

I don’t know how long we have to do this before (or if) it becomes an actual life change. I still crave sugar, desperately. I want bread. If we go out, I sneak little portions.

But still. I drove cross-country to see my sweetie in New Jersey, and since I was sleepy I went, “YES! I CAN EAT ALL THE SUGAR AND CARBS I WANT TO STAY AWAKE!” And I grabbed a bagful of Hostess, and…

I wanted one Hostess cake. And even that was pretty meh.

Weeks later, there’s still a bag of Hostess in my drawer. (They’ll keep forever.)

So maybe my tastes will change. Or maybe they’ll move away from bad processed sugar – I had a homemade cake and ice cream at a diner that was delicious, and I gobbled it down.

Or maybe I’ll slip back to processed sugar the minute I’m off this diet, like has happened every time before. Addiction’s a bitch, yo, and sugar is an addiction – one that’s hard to break, because unlike smoking or heroin you can’t just quit food. Food’s always around, you always have to have some, and it’s a constant temptation in ways that even alcoholics (who get a LOT of asshole “Why aren’t you drinking?”s) don’t face.

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I hope to have abs before I die. I’ve already got baby lats. I took these photos with my shirt off because I’ve still got flab, but there are muscles peeking up around the edges.

I thought I’d go to my grave without ever having had a six-pack. Now, I might.

It’s an exciting time.

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Still, I do feel weird about posting these pictures because I’ve seen this happen time and time again – people lose weight and everyone goes “WOW YOU LOOK TERRIFIC” because society has taught us that “thin == fit and good and lovely,” even if they’re losing weight because they’re too sick to keep anything down.

(I’ve seen comments of “You look soooooo sexy” when someone’s become emaciated enough to need a feeding tube. Our society’s the one that’s sick, man.)

So in a way, posting these photos contributes to a bit of fat hatred. My sweetie Fox has noted that they adored my body before and adore it now, even as it’s in a different shape. I’d like to think I was sexy before, even if I never feel it.

But now I feel sexier because society says I’m sexier. I’m trying not to buy too much into that. But I am excited by things in my body I’ve never had before, like lats and traps and all sorts of other things that sound like they belong in some AD&D map. My body is doing things it patently couldn’t before, because I see the exercises I did six months ago and they’re now trivial compared to the ones I do now.

It’s a form of change, and I love change, and it is healthier so I stick to it. I worry that some day we’ll stop the trainer due to budget or time or some other form of lost privilege, and then we’ll slide back into the unhealthy habits because man, it is so much easier to sit on the couch and not need hot baths in the evening because whoah did you see those squats?

But for now, like all things, this is transitory. And transitional. And if my body happens to converge with being traditionally, Hollywood-style sexy, then that too will be interesting. I haven’t been skinny since I was 22, when skinny was comparatively easy because my metabolism was a furnace that devoured all calories. Ever since then it’s been a slog and an accumulation.

What’ll happen if I’m genuinely muscular at 50? What’ll that be like? It’s an exciting goal to see what I can do, and maybe it won’t last but I wanna at least max this out like a videogame to see what happens.

Please, Lord, let me have abs just once so I can walk around a public space gratuitously shirtless and not have people give me the side-eye.

I feel that’s a worthy goal.

2 Comments

  1. Zelda
    Feb 16, 2018

    You look HAPPIER…which when you think about it, is actually a good thing….healthy helps, but happy is important.

  2. Dawn
    Feb 19, 2018

    What’s sexier is the posture, honestly. And as someone who is 55 and has most definitely become well-muscled, welcome to the club!! I *love* being able to life 30 lb bags of cat litter like they’re pillows, for example. I still have body fat to lose (my doc wants me at or under 30%), but I, too, am looking at seeing how far I can go and what my hard limits turn out to be. (I can bench press 65lbs pretty easily now)

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