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Randy had brought various and sundry young ladies to the gym on several occasions to 'train (or should I say watch him work out and wonder at his amazing physique in action),' but he had never brought a guest with him when he was meeting me to work out. Today I was surprised to see with him a short, fairly overweight teenager with a sullen demeanor and raging acne. He wore jeans that looked like they were meant for a man with roughly a 40-inch inseam and a fifty-inch waist; the baggy, saggy look that these youngsters are into these days.
Funny, when I was in high school we actually rolled and cuffed our pant legs so they would never hit the ground. This kid's pants were filthy and frayed at the bottom, as if he had been intentionally dragging them over the Appalachian Trail. His shirt was equally oversized, black and emblazoned with the logo and image of the band Slipknot.
For the uninitiated, Slipknot is a 'death metal' band that performs while wearing scary masks, and had an album titled "666." I am not completely sure that Satan has a CD player in his car, but if he does, Slipknot's Greatest Hits is probably in it.
"Uh, Ron, I hope you don't mind, I brought my brother with me. You know I train before the dealership opens most days and..." I waved him off.
"No, it's fine." I was more surprised because Randy never talked about his brother. I had only a vague recollection that he had ever even mentioned having a younger sibling. Later he would lay out the whole scenario for me. Mark was fourteen, and nothing like Randy. Whereas Randy had played sports since early childhood, Mark wasn't athletic in the least.
Apparently the only exercise he got was his thumbs manipulating the controls on his Playstation 2 during most waking hours when he wasn't in school, and his hands and arms got their workout stuffing junk food and soda down his gullet. The kid was a loner and didn't have any real friends, and he had been steadily gaining weight over the past two years.
At 5-6 he was now up to 210 pounds with a prominent belly and a wide butt. The reason Randy brought him to the gym was that he had recently been to the family doctor for an annual physical exam, and his cholesterol had been high. The doctor had cautioned their mom about the various health risks associated with obesity, such as diabetes and heart disease. Concerned, she had demanded that her older son the health and fitness nut do something fast before it was too late. So here they were.
"Ron, this is Mark, Mark, this is Ron." I stuck out my hand and smiled, wondering if he was going to shake my hand or spit in my face. I could sense that he was either threatened or intimidated by me, simply because I was 220 pounds and muscular. No doubt he assumed I was judging him by his slovenly appearance and the fact that he was out of shape. To my relief, he shook my hand and muttered "what's up" so low I almost couldn't hear him.
"You mind if he tags along and I show him a couple things today?" Randy asked nervously. He knew I was getting ready for a show and all of my workouts were crucial at this stage. And the selfish part of me wanted to tell him to go ahead and work out with his brother while I trained alone, as the kid would slow us down. But then the angel sitting on my other shoulder immediately realized that this was an opportunity to connect with someone who desperately needed to start exercising.
I decided to take over, seeing as how I had been a personal trainer for a couple years back in LA and had a lot more experience working with beginners and those who weren't exactly super-motivated to work out in the first place. Besides which, seeing as how they were brothers, Mark was a lot more likely to listen to me and accept my authority than he was Randy's. The last thing I wanted was for this to erupt into a "shut up, you're not the boss of me!" shout-fest.
"You're that guy with the web site Randy's always looking at, right?" Mark asked.
"Yeah, that's right," I said.
"Your wife's hot."
"Oh, uh, thanks." I looked at Randy. "Well, at least we know he's got normal testosterone levels for a guy his age. Let's all warm up with a few minutes of fast walking on the treadmill, okay?"
Mark found a treadmill far from us so he could watch Jerry Springer on TV. Some women was taking off her top and either her husband or boyfriend leaped across the stage in a vain attempt to stop her. The volume was off on all the TV's, but you could read the close-captioning at the bottom of the screen. It read, "AUDIENCE: JERRY! JERRY!"
"So, how much is your mom paying you to do this?" I asked Randy.
"I'm going to pay Mark twenty bucks every time he comes to the gym with me," he answered.
"Wow - I used to joke to the hotties in the gym when I was a trainer that I would train them for seventy-five bucks an hour because that's all I could afford."
"That line ever work?"
"It sure did. I used it in front of my wife one time and she stayed mad at me for three days, a record that stood for almost another year before being broken."
It happened to be back day for me and Randy, but I managed to have Mark do a full-body workout with light dumbbells and machines between our sets. The poor kid was in horrible condition, sucking air like a fish out of water from seemingly minimal effort, and so weak it was tough to watch.
On the leg press, for example, I started him off with just a quarter on each side to be on the safe side, but he struggled with that. I made sure I kept his pace just fast enough to keep his heart rate up, and I wasn't having him work to failure on anything. I knew that if he woke up sore all over tomorrow morning, he would probably form an instant negative opinion about weight training, which was exactly the opposite of what we wanted.
I encouraged and praised him, and even joked around and had him laughing a little bit. I can be charming and funny when I want to be, even though it's a lot harder on a contest diet. I'm a lot friendlier when I can have the occasional few slices of pizza or Chinese food to put a sparkle in my eye. All in all, I thought it went well.
I explained to Mark that nobody was expecting him to try and be a bodybuilder like us. Just exercising on a regular basis, and having a strong and healthy body was the most important thing. If he ever decided he wanted to take it to another level, I assured him that Randy and I would both be willing to help him. But for now, just getting started on a regular gym regimen and eating healthier food was all anyone asked.
We all cooled down with a few minutes on the treadmill. Randy seemed pleased at how everything had transpired.
"Think he'll be back?" I inquired.
"Yeah, he wants a new Mustang when he turns sixteen, which is just over a year away, and he's saving up now. So at twenty bucks a workout, he should be able to pay cash for it by then, seeing as I'll get it to him for dealer's invoice," he sighed.
"You're a good brother," I told him.
"Yeah, Mark is a little punk sometimes, but he's still my brother. I don't want to see him get really fat and then get sick or something."
"It felt good helping someone who really needed to start living a more fit life for a better quality life, not just because they wanted big muscles to win a bodybuilding contest or a ripped six-pack to have the girls drooling." I nudged him in the elbow. "Sound like anyone you know?" Randy just grinned sheepishly.
"Yeah, I would feel really good if I could help him drop the weight and start looking and feeling better," Randy agreed.
"All of us who are in great shape need to consider it a sort of missionary work to convert the people around us to some sort of exercise and nutrition regimen. It's the least we can do to give a little something back for what we have been blessed with, don't you think?'
"Huh, I never really thought about it that way," he said pensively.
"Oh, one other thing," I said casually.
"When Mark gets into really good shape eventually, and his acne clears up and he gets that Mustang,"
"You keep him the hell away from my wife!"
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