Not long ago, I hired a personal trainer. If you’re not familiar with personal training, it is an advanced stage of Stockholm syndrome in which the hostage pays his or her captor to supervise his or her own torture.
I am, of course, kidding: my trainer is exemplary and has more patience than a mildly sedated Tibetan monk. You know those cooking shows where teams are challenged to produce ten courses of gourmet bliss using only Bisquick, four shallots, and an overripe flounder? My trainer would eat all of these teams for breakfast. Partly because contestants are valuable sources of protein, and partly because, in working with me, she’s had to make the best of mediocre raw materials.
The thing with trainers is that as soon as you can manage an activity with only minor discomfort, they either make it harder or make you do more of it. Something about “progressing,” they say. My personal nemeses in this regard are burpees. These sound quite innocent, like the wee belch of an infant who has just finished a bottle of malt liquor. But they are actually named for their inventor, Lucifer Burpee. One is executed (ha!) in the following manner:
- Stretch for a couple minutes as this delays the inevitable.
- Jump in the air.
- Upon landing, drop to a squat and put your hands on the ground.
- Throw your feet back behind you so you end up in a plank position.
- Do a push up.
- Spring your feet forward so you’re once again squatting.
- Pause for a moment to puke.
- Go back to step 2.
- Repeat until you beg for Death to brandish his scythe of mercy. This usually happens after approximately one burpee.
Amusing aside: I initially wrote “Seth” instead of “Death.” Don’t you think the specter of one’s own mortality would seem much less ominous were it named Seth?
When you see burpees demonstrated, you think to yourself, “Okay, I can jump. I can squat. I can do a push up. Shouldn’t be too bad.” And then five seconds later you are at step 9.
Despite this, I wholeheartedly endorse hiring a personal trainer. They design a program just for you, they make sure you actually show up, and you can casually bring them up in conversation the way other people mention their therapists, yoga instructors, and Ph.D.s.
I would recommend mine, but I don’t know her real name. She simply goes by Seth.