As a female becoming a personal trainer, I was afraid I would be pigeon-holed as only working with women, and being too easy on my clients. There is a stereotype (that I myself bought into for years, until I become a trainer) that no female trainer is going to work someone as hard as a male trainer. Therefore, in order to see real results, a male trainer would be needed. Female trainers are easier on their clients and are not strong enough to push their clients’ limits. Though this may be true of some female trainers, it is also true of some male trainers. Luckily, within six months of becoming a trainer, I was acquiring male clients. My biggest success was when I acquired Brian as a client.

On February 18, I was working with one of my favorite clients when I received a page from the club manager. “Hey, are you with a client?” she asked.

“Yes, what’s up?” No one ever called back to inquire as to my schedule without a motive.

“I have a new member up here who has some questions for the trainers.”

“Go ahead and send him back, my 10:30 cancelled. I can say hi and chat with him then.”

“OK, he goes by Big Basterd.”

“I’m not calling him that.”

My client, in his early sixties, is cranking out quick, low box jumps, when he trips and completely eats it, just as Brian arrives to say hello. He’s never tripped before, so Brian’s timing could not have been better. Like a true Bostonian, Brian rolls in with an extra large Dunkin Donuts iced coffee. After our introductions we have a quick interaction where he mocks me for my client’s tumble and I give kudos to his Boston hat. “A man after my own heart” I proclaim.

“You from Boston?”

“I am. I’m going to finish up here, but my 10:30 cancelled. I will come grab you when we are done, and we can discuss any questions you have about training. I’ll give you a free training session during that time, to give you an idea about training with me. Then I’ll set you up for a training session with the other trainers so you can decide who will work best for you.”

When I finish up with my client, I fetch Brian and bring him to the training area to ask a few questions. We walk while we discuss his goals and accomplishments, when I fall over a bench. “You’re a klutz,” he informs me.

Brian tells me that before moving to North Carolina to open a restaurant, he worked as a personal trainer at the Bally’s that was in Brighton, MA. While there, he was benching 475 pounds for sets, and weighed 265 pounds at 4% body fat. Then, he switched his training to power-lifting, raising his weight to 280 pounds and 11% body fat.

His achievements outside the gym include: 4 black belts, he studied Aikido and Krav Maga, and he was an instructor in MMA with his own school in New Bern, North Carolina. He also told me he was a starting, walk-on, left side Defensive Tackle for the New Bern Grizzlies, a semi-pro football team. Furthermore, he is a survivor of rape who has used the psychological scars to begin a program in New Bern to help children of mental, physical, and sexual abuse. This guy is no joke.

Prior to our meeting, Brian had been recovering from two surgeries on his knees, involving removal of cartilage and a micro-fracture surgery. When I first train a client, even if it’s a free trial training, I typically weigh them and take, at a minimum, a measurement of their waist. Our scales maxed out at 400 pounds, and our tape measurer was 60 inches long. That first day, Brian could not wrap the measuring tape around his mid-section, nor could we get an accurate weight. Our best estimate, based on his doctor’s appointment two months prior, is that he was between 440-450 pounds. We started that first day with abdominal work and no mercy. Brian was an athlete, competitor, and hardhead – there was no reason to go easy on him. He would never respond to coddling.

He acknowledged that he loved the weight room and was completely comfortable in there, but wanted nothing to do with the cardio room, or isolated abdominal exercises. When asked what his least favorite part of training with me: “ABS and let me think . . . ABS!” We trained twice per week, which began with abdominal exercises and cardio, then progressed to the weight room and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) to compliment his workouts. Up until the day I stopped training him, he worked his face off every single day, never made excuses, and (even though he fought me) did everything I told him to. When I introduced him to doing stairs again, I saw him out there the next day running those stairs for 45 minutes! People in the gym stopped him, high-fiving, or complimenting him for being such an animal.

Athletes of his nature typically have a difficult time changing their eating habits, but not Brian. If he had a question about nutrition, we would discuss it, I would give him my input, and remind him to do research. He always did what was best for his body, cutting calories down without crash diets, and making sure to have a lot of nutrients in each meal. Since both of us are competitive, we butt heads more than once. I pushed him outside of his comfort zone, making him try squats, modified mountain climbers, and other exercises that his body was capable of in a modified form. He thrived on the challenge, and listened (sometimes) when I told him to stop for his safety.

Now, a mere eight months after his first training session, Brian is down into the 340s and measuring at 49 inches in his waist, allowing him to comfortably wear a pair of 42 jeans. Working with Brian allowed both of us to grow and learn. He reiterated that stereotypes do not always hold true: I am a female trainer who can kick the butt of any client, male or female, non-athlete or terrifyingly successful athlete. Brian learned that he remains as badass as ever, and still a competitor – he was just hiding for a while. When I asked Brian why he ever chose to train with me after one session, without ever meeting the other trainers he stated “the source of information you had was very refreshing, it told me that this truly was a passion not just a hobby that you thought you would try. And also how you in some ways ignored my prior experience and were still stubborn on your way of doing this.”

About The Author

Kristen Gard is a Blast Magazine correspondent and Certified Personal Trainer. She is the founder of Ace Boot Camp in Jacksonville, N.C.

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