24 Hour Fitness, 12/29/2009

Come on, fatty. Hit the deck. Move those saddlebags. One more pull-up.

It’s the litany of the personal trainer—the mean one, the ex-military drill sergeant who bullies clients through the exercises. It’s the kind of training popularized on The Biggest Loser, or in Jillian Michaels’ workout DVDs. It seems like Americans want to believe that exercise is transformative, and not just in the physical sense. Do enough crunches, and your heartache will melt away with the pounds. A good trainer will beat you down, build you up into something better. Stronger. A person who can cope with their problems without a donut in each hand.

January is the month of self-loathing, following the holiday season of familial self-indulgence. I sweated through a high-intensity aerobics class on Saturday. It was packed—twenty women, three or four men, doing their best not to kick each other during the leg lift segments. The instructor, a very fit blond, panted between jump-kicks: I know you don’t want to be here. But it’s the only way to get the calories off. And the students moaned in unison, as though universally regretting that last piece of fudge, the extra nibble of pecan pie.

It’s the season of resolutions, too. The most popular New Year’s resolution, across the board is weight loss. Weight loss beats out debt management, getting married, and quitting smoking. So it’s no surprise that 24 Hour Fitness is hiring personal trainers. Undoubtedly they’re anticipating the influx of slightly guilty new members, eager to drop pounds. The premise of 24 Hour Fitness is simple: the gym never closes. Members can go to an aerobic dance class one day, tone up for bikini season the next. They can lift weights at 3AM, if they wish, or sit in the sauna in the late afternoon. The 24-hour format is perfect for exercise bulimics, or people who like to get stoned and pump iron. And, of course, there are personal trainers available to make everyone’s fitness dreams come true.

However, it takes more than a military demeanor to become a personal trainer. (Actually, I don’t know if motivating clients through fear is a 24 Hour Fitness policy; I’m willing to bet it’s not.) Potential hires have either a Personal Trainer certificate, a Bachelor’s degree or Master’s degree in fitness. Also, they should be able to lift 50 pounds. Compare that to the Membership/Sales Counselor, who only needs a high school diploma or GED, and should be able to lift 45 pounds. Hmm. (CRF)

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