Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Exercise for Success by J P Bowie

Exercise - not something I'm particularly keen on . Oh, it's nice to fantasize about having a beauteous, bodacious body like so many men and women who grace the covers of fitness magazines...but the reality of getting to that place is not one that fills me with ambition.

Years ago I attended a gym or two, signed up for 2 years to get the 'special low price' then never went back after approximately two weeks. I read somewhere that the fitness centre franchises count on that happening. Imagine if all the people who signed up actually showed up on the same day. Talk about a mass of heaving, sweaty bodies!

Of course all my heroic characters have bodies to die for - but not the overly muscular monstrosities with veins popping out all over and a facial expression like they're about to take a giant dump. No, my guys have  lithe, limber hard bodies and go in more for the cardio workouts, maintaining lean muscle. Like Nick Fallon, my ace PI. He's a runner, pounding along the shoreline of Laguna Beach and finishing up with a hard climb up the steps from beach to cliff top. There he stands, manly chest heaving from his exertions, smooth skin glistening under the California sun...

And pause for effect.

Anyway, I've written a couple of stories involving exercise, hoping that my less than 'hands on' research isn't too obvious:

Personal Trainers

I have never been a gym bunny—actually I’m too old to be any kind of bunny really. Thirty-one last birthday. Middle aged, over-the-hill, and all those other cruel and nasty things people like to put on your birthday card when you pass the thirty mark.
Fortunately, I’d been blessed with a fairly trim and athletic body, but standing in front of the mirror one day after stepping out of the shower, I noticed bulges where there ought to be none—namely around my waist. Yikes...love handles! Double yikes as I stood sideways...the beginnings of a potbelly! Oh no, this would not do, I thought, slapping at the bulges as though I could beat them into oblivion. I frowned at my reflection as I combed my dark brown hair. Nothing for it, Robin, I thought. Gotta sign up at a health club, before you start to look like Jabba the Hutt!
All the way to work on the subway I fretted. Every time a guy looked my way I’d think he was staring at my thickening middle and mentally crossing me off his list of potential boyfriends. Man, talk about paranoid! At the coffee shop outside the building where I work, I ordered coffee, black, no sugar—and definitely no cheese Danish!
My office is on the third floor, but that morning I ignored the line at the elevator, and took the stairs two at a time, arriving at my desk thoroughly winded and even more determined to start some kind of exercise regimen. I sighed as I read over a memo from the boss stating that the company’s figures were way down for the year, and although he didn’t actually say it, he more or less blamed the employees for this regrettable state of affairs. I looked around the office and almost felt the blanket of gloom that had settled over my fellow workers.
The depressing start to the day became even worse as I watched Dan Waters, the office jock, preening in front of the water cooler. Dan was hot, and boy, did he know it. Twenty-six years old, and already the office supervisor, he was tall, built, hunky—and a total asshole, always ready with the put-down, and smart-aleck remark. Seeing him put the make on the office girls was enough to turn my stomach. The guy had never mastered the art of the cool approach. He was all swagger and pretension, with no subtlety whatsoever.
I hated him. I’d have jumped his bones, but I hated him, and there was definitely no love lost between us. He smirked, catching my eye, as he scanned his domain and we lesser mortals arranged therein.
“Hey, Carter...” He sauntered to my desk, giving me the fish-eye. “You get the memo?”
“We all got the memo, Dan.”
“So, you going to do better this week? Your figures are way down, you know.”
“I know,” I mumbled. “It’s the time of year.”
“You mean it’s your time of the month, doncha?” he sniggered. “Well, let’s see some improvement...”
Or you’re outta here was the implication, left unsaid.
I flushed crimson with anger and embarrassment. I had been with Barclays Financial for seven years and had been their top producer since day one. I should have been Dan’s boss, not the other way round, but his Daddy being the CEO had definitely swung the odds in his favour. As far as Dan was concerned, the memo I’d just read hadn’t been enough of a warning for me. He just had to rub it as a special treat for me. It galled me when I thought about the times I’d brought clients to Barclays after cold-calling on my own time and on my own dime.
A couple of the other guys sent me looks of sympathy after Dan had strutted back to his office, but I was already over it. The money at Barclays was good—too good to let an oaf like Dan Waters goad me into quitting. An oaf with a great butt—but one that I would have gladly kicked at that moment.
So Robin sees an ad for a personal trainer in a fitness magazine and decides to give him a call...exciting isn't it?

 * * * *
During my coffee break I picked up a Men of Iron magazine someone had left lying around, and started flipping through the pages. Muscle magazines generally bored me. I’ve never been into steroidal-looking guys, flexing massive muscles and looking like they needed to take a good dump. I was about to throw it down, when a smiling face caught my eye.
What a cutie, I thought, studying the image of an attractive blond young man, his open, friendly expression an instant turn-on. A great smile will do it for me every time, and this guy had one of the best. “Jack Kelly, personal trainer,” I murmured, reading the blurb under this photograph.
“He your type?”
I looked up, flustered, to see Dan sneering down at me.
“Excuse me?”
“You heard me, Carter. The blond himbo there with the muscles. That what you go for?”
“What I go for is none of your business, Dan,” I snapped, bristling. “And your question is a little inappropriate, wouldn’t you say?”
He rolled his eyes and snickered. “So, you gonna sue for sexual harassment? You need witnesses for that, in case you didn’t know.”
He strutted out of the break room, leaving me seething with pent-up rage. Man, but I would have loved to plant my fist on that smug face. I had a wild vision of me doing just that and watching with a deal of satisfaction while his nose flattened under my punch, forever spoiling his cover boy looks.
That would certainly be the end of my days at Barclay Financial, as well. My downcast eyes fell upon the personal trainer’s ad again.
Let Jack Kelly give you back the physique of your youth. No matter what your age or present physical condition, I can coach and encourage you to good health and high self-esteem. Call today for an appointment…
I made a note of the phone number, not really knowing what I’d do with it. A personal trainer? Please… I’d never even dreamed of such a thing. Yet, maybe he could help me get rid of those extra inches round my waist…pump up my arms a little.
Couldn’t hurt.
Being thirty-one and single, I needed all the help I could get. High self-esteem, huh? Maybe I would get the nerve to plug Dan one!
Flipping through the pages, my interest turned to a rather pretty girl advertising an ab machine. I’m gay and haven’t been into women—excuse the bad pun—since high school, but there was just something about her smile that got me. Plus, she had a cute boyish figure, and I found myself smiling back.
At lunchtime, I called Jack Kelly’s number and got his voice mail. His voice was just like you’d expect him to sound. Warm, deep and sexy.
“This is Jack Kelly. Sorry I can’t take your call right now. Leave a message and I’ll get right back with you, soon as I can.”
“Oh hi,” I mumbled. “I saw your ad in a magazine and…uh…wondered if you could let me know your fees and…uh…stuff…uh…my name is Robin Carter.” I left my cell phone number and hung up with a sense of excited anticipation.
About mid-afternoon, he returned my call.
“Mr. Carter? This is Jack Kelly. You called earlier…”
“Oh yeah, hi. Just a moment.”
I rose from my desk and headed for the break room. We weren’t supposed to take personal calls at our desks unless it was an emergency, and I knew good ole Dan would be ready with an admonishment if he heard me making an appointment with a personal trainer. He’d probably have something ass-holey to say as well. I could just about hear his sneering voice. “Oh, Carter’s gonna come back all pumped up and muscley—yeah, fat chance!”
“Yeah, I’m here,” I whispered into the mouthpiece.
“You sound very far away, Mr. Carter. Do we have a bad connection?”
“No,” I said, raising my voice and feeling dumb. “Um, I saw your advertisement and was wondering if I could make an appointment with you. I’m a bit out of shape and could use some professional advice.”
“I’d be happy to help.” His voice was deep and relaxed, with a hint of that smile I’d seen in the magazine.
“What do you charge?” I asked, without much grace.
“Fifty dollars per session, plus one hundred dollars for your first visit. I’d like to sit with you, give you an evaluation, and an approximation of the kind of results you can expect. I would also like to schedule at least three sessions per week to get you off to a good start.”
I gulped. This guy was not cheap! But, what the hey? “Um…okay. Can I see you later today?”“Let’s see… My last appointment today is at three-thirty, so yeah, I can see you at five, if that’s convenient?”
“That’s good. Where are you?”
He gave me the name of the gym and directions on how to get there.
“Better make it five-thirty,” I said, after he’d finished.
“Fine. I’ll see you then, Mr. Carter. Thanks for answering my ad.”
“Oh, you’re welcome.”
For the rest of the afternoon, I found myself in a state of quiet excitement. I made several calls to clients asking if they’d like to upgrade their portfolios. Maybe the new dynamic in my voice made my usual sales pitch more interesting, as three of the four people I called increased their investments, thanking me profusely for my time and help. I turned in my reports at the end of the day, watching rather smugly, as Dan’s eyes widened on seeing the new figures.
“Looks like my little pep-talk netted results, eh, Carter?” He threw me a shit-eating grin that made me want to pop him one. And there was that vision again of Dan holding his broken and bloody nose…
I smiled benignly and headed for my appointment with Jack Kelly, personal trainer.
And of course the moral of this story is exercise for success! 


  1. That ad reminded me of the ones in back of the old pulp magazines, with some bully kicking sand in a skinny guy's face. Usually, right in front of the guy's girlfriend. I always wondered why the girl would go out with the bully; or that the bully, in his own mind, would think that behavior would get him any action. Then I grew up.

    But the workplace attitude was particularly disturbing. My brother-in-law works at a high-tech place that has a 'Firing day" every month. Their policy is to fire the two people at the bottom of the profit scale, for no other reason. And, oh, did I mention that a worker can also be fired at any other time as well. The company says they'll end up with only the best performers that way. Now what's wrong with that picture?

  2. Corporate America has become the bane of individuality. I have never worked in that kind of environment but I have friends who do and their stories are sometimes quite sickening. If they do a quarter million in sales one month the company expects a million next month. Stress is a way of life for these people. At least in fiction you can give the guys a happy ending!

  3. The office atmosphere in your excerpt definitely seems stressful, JP. It's easy to see how working out aggressively (maybe punching something inanimate) could relieve stress. I have a stepson in his 30s who was bullied as a child who was small for his age. Now he's a drummer who goes to the gym every day. He says he likes to "beat the shit out of things," but wants to avoid becoming an ass toward other people. When he goes shirtless in summer, I am always amazed. He looks like a Greek statue. Persistence clearly pays off.

  4. What I liked about this post was the trainer's smile. I agree with Robin (and presumably with you) that an individual's expression and overall attitude have a lot more to do with their attractiveness than how buff they might be.

  5. While I disagree w Jack Kelly's views on how sexual harassment suits work, these excerpts are sizzling!


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