Three days into my May fitness challenge, I commit to working out with trainer extraordinaire Ashley Wilkerson. Three weeks later, I mentally prepare myself enough to brave the first session.
Ashley trains at Evolution and I know her through Sam (remember him?). She’s a no-nonsense, get-on-the-ground-and-give-me-50 kinda gal. I like her because she manages Sam’s life so I don’t have to (and he’s a boy, so obviously someone needs to manage it). I dislike her because her legs don’t jiggle when she walks. Not even a millimeter.
It’s with mixed emotions that I show up ready to sweat.
Ashley immediately pulls me into her office and gets down to business. I climb on the scale. She measures me. A machine calculates my percentage of body fat. Ashley tells me that I should get buff quickly, as I don’t have too much fat to burn off to reveal my muscles. I instantly forgive her for the non-jiggly thighs.
Evolution is a fairly small gym, especially for those of us used to doing the bargain workout at the Y. But it’s set up to cover all of the bases. In one corner my friend Rachael, who swears by the place and has the physique to show it, is wearing pink boxing gloves and swinging at a trainer. Oddly, it seems like she’s the one getting her butt kicked. A few people chug along on cardio machines, but most are being guided through weight and resistance training. It’s a trainers’ gym; approximately 90 percent of the people there on any given day are there with someone who knows the art of sculpting bodies. And these aren’t people who mess around.
Ashley spent four years studying this art at Georgia Southwestern State University and has the routine down. She only works with clients who are actually committed to getting in shape. Like the elite prep schools of the world, she doesn’t want schleppy students pulling down her success rate. She has no problem training a person for a week or two and then telling them to hit the bricks. Her philosophy is simple: If you pay her to get you in shape, she’s going to get you in shape. If you interfere with that process, you can put your money away because she won’t accept payment for a service that’s not being rendered. It’s exactly what I need. I’m lazy and lack discipline, but my dislike of rejection far outweighs my dislike of exertion.
I ask Ashley how she got into the field and get a different answer than I’m expecting. She started lifting weights because she was too skinny. One too many high school peers asked her if she was anorexic, and she took to the gym to show them who’s boss. Sam has confessed to me that he listens to what she says because she could beat him up. He returns to this point any time he chooses her suggestions over mine. I don’t correct him because it’s cute that he thinks a few bruises could be more painful than the misery I could introduce to his life.
Boys. Yet another example of why they need to be managed.
Through a series of menacing squats, odd-looking ice skaters and painful shoulder raises, I start to get a grasp on Ashley’s world viewpoint. She doesn’t have to tell me that boys need management; that part is already clear. But she does suggest that women who don’t lift weights because they’re afraid of bulking up may be missing a few brain cells. She knows from personal experience. She’s done the fitness competition circuit and knows how to make a body chiseled—pictures make it obvious that “bulk” is the last word that would come to mind.
Part of my three-week mental preparation prior to actually working with her involved the diet battles I suspected we’d have. Ashley likes protein. She likes eating clean, balanced meals (or at least she does it; I suspect she’s human like the rest of us and likes eating cookies). I like eating fruit and raw foods. And I love cookies. Our first meeting made it clear that we’d disagree on nutrition. But Ashley lets me slide. She asks me to add an occasional protein shake to my diet and insists on it on days when I work out and then go home to go right to bed. Other than that, she agrees not to touch it. Smart girl that she is, she knows to pick her battles. Probably because Sam told her that I’d nod my head and say I’d do whatever she told me to do and then just go out and do whatever I had planned.
What the results of this training will be, I know not. I do know that I’m two sessions in and happy. My summer work uniform includes a sleeveless shirt that shows off my transforming arms. I’ve already been mistaken for a bouncer.
I made that last part up, but I am seeing results. Namely in shaking up my habits. My eating habits have changed, including more substantial food and less sugar. My sleep is better. I work out on the days between sessions because Ashley tells me to and I don’t want her to dump me as a client. And I feel myself growing stronger. Although I’ve lost the five arm wrestling contests I’ve challenged people to (focusing mainly on the over-six-foot-tall possible ‘roid user crowd), I’m sure I’m on the fast track to winning one. And if not, I’ll at least gain enough muscle mass to be too heavy for them to pick me up and toss me aside in the glee of victory. Being thrown in a dumpster is only funny the first four times …