Mr. Meathead I don’t wanna be you

10 Jun

Spent an hour with a personal trainer for whom the idea that I don’t want his biceps did not compute. I kept thinking “F***, he’s not listening” and he finally finished by asking in a heavy Slavic accent “So why you take a gym membership”. That’s success on my part, the gym questioning why I’m paying it money.

He was a true meathead, described down to the smallest detail here. And he didn’t appreciate it when I kept saying, “I don’t want to do that”.

I had done some Internet research before going to the gym. It turns out that maximal strength training can have some benefits for long-distance athletes. I found a great web page, Strength training for distance runners, that summarizes a number of studies that I repeatedly came across. The conclusion of those studies was that strength training is useful when it’s specifically targeted and not helpful when it’s not.

The most frequently cited study supporting this conclusion comes from Norway. It finds that “maximal strength training in the upper-body improve[s…] double-poling performance by improved work economy.”  In the experiment the test group engaged in a highly targeted activity as it “spent nine weeks performing a strength-training exercise designed to simulate the double-poling technique”.

But Mister Meathead wanted me to do squats and bar curls. In his defence he did show me some abdominal and triceps stuff that I will use. However that was amidst a lot of pointless and embarrassing things he made me do to fulfil his mandate to give me a personal training hour. In a perverse role reversal I was working for him to meet his professional obligations instead of him working to help me devise a plan to meet my training goals.

I should have pantomimed skiing actions for him in order to try to get him to focus on the muscles I need to strengthen. But no, my pleas only made Mister Meathead decide my pansy ass needed a slightly more brutal than usual form push-ups using a ball under one hand. I sucked at this because I have relatively weak pectorals. Had I had more presence of mind, I would have told him that since I’m already a relatively fast skier, the fact that any muscle group is weak probably means I don’t use it much. I proved this point when he had me do another body weight exercise where you lift yourself upright at the waist using your back muscles alone. His response was “if it’s too easy, then you should use weights”.

I did not start going to the gym to become one of those ridiculous guys who grunt, flex and strut. As the article from the Internet nicely states, “strength training and endurance training teach your muscles to do very different things. The former requires them to exert very high forces for very brief periods of time, whereas the latter demands more modest forces for much longer periods.” I’m much more into that long period modest force stuff.

But when dealing with people you have to temper your expectations. Mister Meathead’s advice probably satisfies the majority of his male customers. The fact though he started by repeatedly saying “I’m here to listen to you” and then proceeded to ignore my every request leads me to think he gets regular negative feedback from women and anyone else not looking to become a giant pile of beef.

So I rollerskied home in the rain with the sensation of being particularly scrawny and weak all while being angry with myself for feeling that way. To nevertheless assert my bruised virility, I took a detour up Grefsenkollen hill. I climbed faster than some other rollerskiers on that route. They were using classic roller skis and not skate like me, which I haven’t tried yet. But then I realized they were going multiple laps up and down. So I guess I’ll have to start doing that myself. Meatheads are irrelevant but strong skiers are fair–and indeed the only–competition.


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