Personal training: my prize for body fat

My health club's "Body Fat Percentage Chart," slightly out of proportion...
My health club’s “Body Fat Percentage Chart,” slightly out of proportion…

For suffering through a body fat percentage test as I was exiting the health club last week, I received the consolation prize (and the motivation to accept it): an hour of personal training.

It happened like this:

My walking/running partner Robena and I had been on our twice-weekly trek of 3+ miles when we were nearly accosted by a man on a bicycle. By accosted, I mean he was riding his bike on the sidewalk without proper lights or luminescent attire and his brakes squealed as he barely avoided striking us in the 6 a.m. darkness. (Neither Robena nor I were wearing lights or even light clothing as we walked that day either. But we were, appropriately, walking on the sidewalk. Albeit in dark clothing in the dark.) No harm, no foul, as they say. And the three of us merely traded pleasantries and continued on our merry way. Just something to talk about.

Especially when we returned to the health club and saw the offending cycler — apparently a personal trainer at the club.

The receptionist welcomed us back and asked about our run, and we replied: “Fine — except that we almost got run over by him!”

He smiled. We smiled and went on our way.

After showering and getting ready for work, I exited the locker room and saw that same personal trainer standing by a table taking body fat percentages, an attempt to drum up business, no doubt. He asked me if I’d like mine calculated. I didn’t think I would get bad news, but I declined anyway.

“It will only take 10 seconds,” he persisted.

The advertised reward was an hour of free personal training, tempting, but I knew the catch would be a high-pressure sales pitch.

“While I would like a free hour of personal training, I do not want to endure a high-pressure sales talk. I can’t afford personal training,” I stated.

We chatted a few moments, and The Trainer Who Shall Not Be Named promised no pressure and I relented.

The body fat percentage gadget he held looked a bit like a steering wheel — actually more like the game Bop-It Extreme but, obviously, less fun. Much less fun, as it turns out. The Trainer Who Shall Not Be Named asked me my age and my weight — really! Then he had me hold the machine for the allotted 10 seconds.

Then it was the good news/bad news scenario. My body mass index (BMI) was fine. My fat percentage (26 percent), however, put me into the “Overweight” category, according to the chart displayed on the table. Not fine. That designation made me very willing to entertain the idea of personal training.

It also made me willing to share my numbers and my dismay — and I got my reward: complimentary comments from friends salted with “Those machines aren’t accurate,” “You can’t take those measurements after a workout,” and “You were probably dehydrated.” (I regretted telling my husband, however, whose response was “You mean more than a quarter of your body is fat?” He said it to be funny; the funny thing is that it was also true. Not so funny.)

I accepted my prize yesterday morning: a full hour of personal training with The Trainer Who Shall Not Be Named. I met him at 5:45 a.m., completely motivated, and got a great workout plus an education. (I also got the desire for more personal training — until the sales rep showed me the pricing later.) The gifted hour was some consolation to my wounded “Overweight” ego…

At the end of the hour, The Trainer Who Shall Not Be Named asked me how long I’d been a member at the gym.

“Since 1989,”* I told him proudly. “I bought my membership for myself as a graduation present from college.”

“Oh,” he said. “I wouldn’t have put you at more than 37 years old.”

How nice — though I distinctly remember telling him my age when he calculated my body fat percentage last week. Last week, when he could have responded to the test results by exclaiming, “Wow! This must be wrong. I certainly wouldn’t have thought by looking at you that you were 1.5 percent too fat!”

But he didn’t. However, as a gracious woman much wiser than my apparent “37 years,” I could forgive the past. I resumed listening…

“Wow. I was born in 1989,” The Trainer Who Shall Not Be Named then told me.**

Baby. No wonder he has to ride his bike on the sidewalk.***

If he’d been a bit older, he’d have known that he should have squealed his brakes to stop that conversation while he was ahead.


*Seriously. My membership is so old the renewal fee is a mere $99 a year. No wonder the club has to drum up money with personal training opportunities.
**He may or may not have said “Wow” or verbally italicized the word born, but that is how I interpreted his statement.
***Smile. I’m kidding. If I actually rode a bike, I would choose the sidewalk too, probably a reflection of my young years…


As I was composing this post, I decided to peruse the web for the body fat percentage chart my trainer had shown me after giving me my test results last week. I couldn’t remember if the chart said “Over Fat” or “Overweight” for my percentage range. Despite the successful hour of personal training and the new knowledge I could apply to my own workouts, niggling in my mind was the thought that I was “Overweight” despite visiting the gym six days a week and eating a rather careful, healthy diet. What’s a girl to do?

As I searched the web, I discovered this chart, for the most part the same as the one from my health club, but with different names for the categories, most important, a different name for my category:

body fat percentage chart
The chart I found on, attributed to the American Council on Exercise. The ACE chart actually calls the “Average” category “Acceptable.” Still better than “Overweight.”


Do you see what I see? I am not “Over Fat” or “Overweight.” I am “Average” — on the lower end of “Average.” Would I prefer to be in the “Fitness” category? Absolutely! (I do not come to the club on a regular basis to be just average). But would “Average” have sent me over the “personal training reluctance” edge? Not likely.

I returned to the health club this morning to find The Trainer Who Shalt Not Be Named standing by his table with his depressing body fat percentage detector and his standard chart. He smiled and willingly gave me the requested paper. I viewed the category names. Instead of “Average,” the club’s chart listed “Overweight.” A bit out of proportion.

No harm, no foul? After all, I did get a free hour of personal training and just a little sales pitch — and a lot more motivation to be “less” (fat) than “Average.” I also got a bit more cynical.

I'd love to hear from you! Leave a comment.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s