Getting Ripped with Trainer Dan

The tempting ads for various weight loss systems make it seem as if losing 20 pounds of fat is as easy as eating chocolate fudge cake three times a day.

Sure, I might have taken their easy way out, ordered up pre-measured diet meals, and before you could say dehydrated delight, had my before-and-after shots in the Sunday magazine section. But no, I’m from Nebraska, and when we want to lose weight, we try eating sensibly and exercising more.

That’s why I joined the James (aka the gym). When I wrote about that in a recent Journal column, I had no idea how public my quest for personal fitness would become. I couldn’t have received more attention if I’d shaved my head, given up underwear, and changed my name to Britney Spears.

Back then, my friends smiled knowingly, sure I wouldn’t keep working out. And I wasn’t so sure myself. I thought I might use the personal training sessions that came with gym membership, spend a few more weeks reading magazines while pedaling lazily on a recumbent bike, and then resume my life as a couch potato. But now, instead of being a sofa spud, I check under the cushions for spare change (and slip fifties out of my hubby’s wallet) in order to pay for my two-session-a-week habit with Trainer Dan.

Why? One reason for working out with a trainer is there’s a lot more to getting fit than just walking the dogs to the park every morning. Success requires determination, sweat and receiving ongoing professional advice. But another reason is that hiring a personal trainer is the only way a 50-something woman can pay for the time of a 20-something man without smart-aleck friends whistling the theme to “Midnight Cowboy.”

The first few sessions, I called my personal trainer Satan. Now, I say, “105 pounds on the lat pulls? Yessirree, Trainer Dan!” He has shown me more ways to contort my muscles and grit my teeth than I ever dreamed possible. For payback I give him motherly advice on life, the universe and everything. We make a good team, and I have the biceps to prove it.

Over recent months I’ve talked several friends into joining the same gym and working out with Trainer Dan. In turn, they’ve peer-pressured me into sampling the various classes at our fitness center. We started with yoga and Pilates and then diversified. Check us out in the back row at Hip Hop class. Anyone over 50 gets extra credit for just making it through without falling down. Then, every Monday night is Boxing Boot Camp. Our shuffle might be slow, but our punches are perfect.

It’s all paid off. Not long ago I had a closet of XXLs. I knew it was time to downsize the “tents” the day Trainer Dan said, “Love the Hammer Pants.” He’s not only a trainer, he’s a fashion critic. The Salvation Army got a generous donation, and I got much smaller workout clothes. I pray nobody dies or gets married for a few more months, because there are some places where one can’t get away with wearing stretchy black gym pants. And for now, that’s all I have.

I recently had my half-year anniversary of becoming a gym rat, and that meant it was time to face the calipers again to assess the progress I’d made in the past six months.

Mind you, I’d already been measuring myself all too regularly. I have one of those new-fangled impedance scales that show body composition as well as weight. There are so many numbers coming out of that thing, I had to take a course in statistics just to keep track. To make matters worse, I’m one of those people who will get on the scale five seconds after the last time, just in case the first reading was a big fat mistake. I know the experts tell you not to weigh too often, because a watched butt never shrinks. But they are wrong. After six months of working my booty off, the results are in. Drum roll please…

I’ve lost 20 pounds of fat and gained five pounds of muscle! This may not be a world record. And I’ve still got a long way to go before I get into the weight loss hall of fame. Nevertheless, thanks to the camaraderie of great friends and the help of trainer Daniel VanVoorhis, I’m into a pair of Levi’s I saved from 15 years ago. The “truth jeans” do not lie.