Personal training (or WTF just happened?!)

I just got my arse kicked. Seriously.

Back story (for context!)

I’ve been working out for about 10 months now.

10 months ago: I started with 3 days of weights (pyramid sets) that had 48 reps with 3 failure points for each muscle group, plus 3 days of cardio a week. I was also doing two days of pilates per week. Pushing hard. For months. Religiously.

6 months ago: I cut out one of the cardio days, so was still doing weights 3 times, cardio twice a week, pilates twice. Experimented with slow reps to increase strength.

2 months ago: I started doing drop sets, 120 reps with 12 failure points per muscle group. I dropped cardio because I didn’t want to lose any weight. Still doing pilates.

1 month ago: I changed my diet to be all super healthy. Continued with the drop sets and pilates.

I was consistently getting stronger (that is, lifting heavier weights), I was pushing myself to failure (multiple times) with every workout, I worked hard and didn’t just ‘phone it in’.

I tell you all that to essentially summarise my feeling of “I’m fit, I’m strong, I’m in good shape…” as a precursor to my sad tale of arse kicking…

Today, I had my first session with a personal trainer (from this point referred to as ‘That Fucking Bastard’ (‘TFB’ for short)).

What I expected: To be pushed hard, to struggle to run/bike/row/lift/whatever he threw at me in an asthmatic-breathed, red-faced, “OMFG, I can’t do any more” kind of way. I’ve been there before.

What I got: A massive struggle not to throw up and pass out.

Total and utter shocker!

TFB talked me through what we were going to do. He emphasised ‘intensity’. I was (smugly) fine with that.

Five minutes of hard cardio (rowing), followed by deadlifts, shoulder presses, and burpees. Five sets, with each set having fewer reps (15, 12, 9, 6, 3). Eh. No biggie.

I finished the cardio and first set of 15. I stood up from the last burpee and felt dizzy. I waited for it to pass. It got worse. TFB got me water. My instinct was to double over, but he wanted me standing, encouraged me to breath deeply. I waited for it to pass. I was covered in sweat. I thought I was okay and we started walking back to the rowing machine for more cardio.

But I wasn’t okay. I thought I was going to vomit.

I thought, “Oh my fucking god, I’m like those people you see on shows like ‘The Biggest Loser’ where they throw up from their workout! THOSE PEOPLE HAVE NEVER DONE ANY EXERCISE EVER!! WHAT. THE. FUCK. IS. THIS?!!”

I must have gone really pale. He walked me over to one of the machines and I leaned up against it while he tried to stop me from fainting with chit chat interspersed with “Keep your eyes open, look at me…” I couldn’t talk, I felt my eyelids fluttering, eyeballs rolling back in my head, my vision was blurry and I felt really nauseous. I was going to hurl and then pass out. What. The. Fuck??!

I just couldn’t get my head to signal my body that I was fine. I am not sure how long it took before he realised I wasn’t recovering, maybe five minutes (it felt longer). He led me over to one of the mats, had me lie on my back, feet up on a bench. I immediately started to feel better, and came back from it quite quickly then.

I finished the workout without doing any more cardio, just doing the remaining sets of the other exercises. I felt a little more dizziness, but nothing like that happened again.

We talked about it, and he said it’s pretty common. He handled me well, but I felt a scepticism from him about how hard I had been working so far (I HAVE been working hard! Fuck you!!). Primarily I felt cheated. As if all of the work I had been doing up to then didn’t count for anything. That’s not true, of course, but it seemed horribly unfair to have that kind of reaction to a workout THAT DIDN’T EVEN SEEM ALL THAT HARD (that’s the kicker, that when he told me about it, the workout seemed just ‘eh, whatevs, it’s fine’)!

Ugh. Hideous!

I’ve since asked Mr Google about it and realised that this is much more common than I thought, and happens for various reasons; high intensity (and burpees *are* intense, I’ve not done them before), not enough food beforehand (possible), not enough water (don’t think so), less blood circulation to the brain from rapid body position changes (um… burpees!!)…

So what now?

I’m planning to work with That Fucking Bastard for 5 weeks, and see if I can get some big gains. I’m intending to try the same workout again on Wednesday (without TFB) to see how it goes. Obviously it’s stressing my body and despite this shaky (nauseating, faint-making) start, stress is exactly what I need to kick this body into the shape I want.

TL;DR Worked out with That Fucking Bastard, nearly puked, nearly passed out. I will do better next time.

Edited to add: I did the same workout two days later (on my own this time). I had the same breakfast, but had a protein shake about an hour before I went. The workout was hard (burpees!), but IT WENT FINE!! So I do think my reaction was at least partly related to a lack of food. Onwards and upwards!

Loves: 11
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  1. I thought everyone knew that when that happens you must take an 8 count. When you took an 8 count you:ⁿ “…immediately started to feel better…” Oh what a fucking surprise. I’m very worried so I’ll examine you here. On my slab.

    Dr Satan

      1. Ahoy there Captain!

        Ferns did the best thing if you get dizzy. The best thing as a rule is to touch the floor with any part of her body apart from her feet. Go down onto one knee or put her head between her knees. The whole idea is to help blood flow to her brain. Ferns was just in the gym – not the ring itself. But there the Refferee will allow you up to a 10 second count in which to get up.

        Dr Satan

  2. I’m thinking that your body will get used to the new routine fairly quickly, and that you’ll feel a marked difference soon.

    It will be interesting to follow up on your progress… and pictures! You know, for scientific purposes.

    1. *smile* As one of the venerated workout crew, you will get progress pictures, of course!

      I just updated the post to say that I did the same workout a couple of days later, and it went fine.


  3. Hang in there, Ferns!

    Once you get the hang of this, you’ll be stronger than ever – maybe even strong enough to give TFB something to think about!

    *send you good vibes through the force*

    1. Thanks for the encouragement. I had BETTER be stronger than ever after this!

      I have already warned TFB that I will probably swear at him. He seemed to be okay wih it. Heh.


  4. Low blood pressure? Exercises that involve rapid changes in position (like burpees) can cause orthostatic hypotension. If your blood pressure is generally low to begin with, this can last longer and be more severe. When I get severely hypotensive, the signs are dizziness, nausea, pallor, blurry vision, inexplicable feeling of weakness, and a sound like rushing water.

    Given that you are capable of heavy workouts and diligent in maintaining your gym schedule, it seems safe to say that you are not secretly bad at exercise or any such nonsense. Something happened. You’ll figure out what it was and how to manage it. Sorry you had to deal with this though–it’s a seriously scary feeling.

    1. Thanks so much for that!. And yes, the lack of control over my reactions WAS scary.

      I’ve had something that felt similar with that mind-body disconnect once before when I came off my scooter in traffic. I was fine, I *knew* that, I was telling myself that, but my body disagreed and just went into shock: sweats, trembling, nauseous etc. Ugh.


  5. This just goes to show that change is good. Changing up your workout this drastically while painful, forces your body to get stronger to compensate.

    My old football coach has a similar philosophy and last I checked is currently a Men’s Health magazine contributor.

    Keep it up Ferns, we’re all waiting for even more new pics of those awesome guns of yours. ;)

    1. *smile* Thanks for the encouragement.

      I think that the change *will* be good. It’s more ‘multiple muscle groups’ or ‘whole body exercises’ along with ‘elevated heart rate’ versus what I have been doing which is more ‘isolated muscle work’. Body shock!


  6. It’s summer where you are no?

    The fact that you’re fit but that you nearly threw up suggests dehydration. Did you hydrate yourself sufficiently BEFORE going to the gym?

    Even at my age, as a regular long-distance road-biker I know what I’m talking about, having got so badly dehydrated through inexperience and overheating on one occasion, that I threw up AFTER I eventually drank.

    1. Good point.

      It was hot, I have to say. Muggy. And I have mentioned on twitter (to the point of being really really annoying) that my gym is not air conditioned. I’m sure that didn’t help.

      I had probably had half a litre of water before I went to the gym (mid morning), but I was much more *mindful* to make sure the second time.

      “I threw up AFTER I eventually drank.”

      Ugh, throwing up is bad enough. Throwing up when you are giving your body something it wants and needs seems totally unfair!


      1. “Throwing up when you are giving your body something it wants and needs seems totally unfair!”

        It’s actually a classic symptom of severe dehydration.

        You get past the point where you can absorb fluid through the gut.

        Which is why you can’t just give severely dehydrated patients a drink, You have to put them on a drip.

        I was lucky and got away with it.

  7. Glad you got through it a second time with much less distress. May I quote you to you though:

    “In watching what he has his clients do (OMG, really?!), I am also really concerned about injuries, and while we had a brief chat about that, I get the impression that he will struggle to draw the line between ‘No, that’s hurting me in a bad way’ and ‘No, I don’t want to do that because I don’t want to push myself’.”

    I’m a little worried it took him that long to realize that you weren’t simply out of breath. He should be more attuned to a vasovagal response or whatever you were having. You were worried he couldn’t draw that line so well. So be careful and follow your instincts if it’s feeling wrong (cuz he isn’t!)

    1. “I’m a little worried it took him that long to realize that you weren’t simply out of breath.”

      To be clear, he recognised what was happening. While I could still talk and before the ‘oh hell I’m going to pass out’ inarticulate phase, I told him I was dizzy and nauseous, and he has had that before with clients, so he had me rest and breath. I assume that’s normally enough.

      What took him time to realise was that after some minutes of rest and focussed breathing, I was not recovering. So that was the slow dawning ‘this is not getting better’ realisation.

      “So be careful and follow your instincts if it’s feeling wrong (cuz he isn’t!)”

      Thank you for the concern, I appreciate it. And I will.


      1. Yes you are right DC.

        Of course It is normal to sweat, throw up and shut down, if you are over heating too much.

        Ferns please ask that fucking bastard, and please tell us all why he still wanted to keep you standing when you felt ill

        Dr Satan.

  8. *slips TBF another brown envelope* Just a little more and it’s puke city me old china *taps nose*


    1. Good for you!!! Crossfit looks hard core!

      I looked into that a little, but it all looks like it would be way too easy to hurt myself (I’m terribly uncoordinated!), but I guess that’s what a good trainer is for.

      Best of luck with it!


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