Am I Cheating on My Boyfriend With My Personal Trainer?

by Hallie Haglund

Before you judge me, let me be clear: I tried to make it work at home. I showed my boyfriend the pictures from high school where I hid my chunk beneath slimming black leggings and an oversized t-shirt of whatever musical was big on Broadway that month. I told him, “This is what happens to my body when it doesn’t get a workout! And I’m lazy. So unless you want to get to know the old lady with braces at the Mamma Mia! merch table, you’ve got to help me exercise!” We went running a few times, we even tried to train for the New York Marathon together, but it always ended with me tearful, flushed, and begging for him to slow down, while he patiently explained, “Sweets, there are lots of things you’re better at than me. Can’t you just admit that I’m a better athlete?” No. I couldn’t. Because he’s not. I’m the best at everything, and in cases where I don’t appear to be, I’m probably just playing down my excellence so I don’t make anyone feel bad.

The point is, the same week I’d “outgrown” my favorite pair of jeans, I wound up shopping for a bridesmaid dress with another friend of the bride I hadn’t seen in a while. She looked HOT. Like so hot that had she looked this way when I first met her, I would have never agreed to go dress shopping with her (I get a little PTSD in dressing rooms, generally start mumbling jibberish about my mother, Cinnabon, and culottes). She happily divulged the source of her transformation: a personal trainer. In our neighborhood. And there was no way this bitch was going to look better than me at that wedding, so I did it. I got the name, I called the guy, and I went looking for exercise outside the relationship.

When I started training with Jimmy, I expected it to be all business. This guy is going to be like a dentist for my saddlebags! I thought. How naïve I was. How could I not see the intimacy right around the bend? And wasn’t just the stretching. But yeah, part of it was the stretching.

Admit it, ladies, I know you’ve cried to a man who wasn’t your dad or your brother or your other dad (Staci Keanan) or your boyfriend. And it felt … confusing, didn’t it? Like you were rubbing sunscreen on the back of some “really good guy-friend.” Your head is saying, “it’s cool, I’m just helping someone I care about in the fight against the leading cause of death in men ages 20–65,” but your heart is saying, “Is he picturing us banging? Am I?” (Of course you are! Stop lying to yourself!)

The first time I cried in front of Jimmy, he was making me do pull-ups. I was already a mess when I showed up to the session, after an instant messenger brawl with my boyfriend over exactly how much time he’d set aside for me that weekend. My strategy for IM combat is this: I type out the nastiest thing that comes into my head, thinking “I won’t send this, it’s just good to get it out.” And then I send it. I find that by saying things that make you hate yourself, you’re far more capable of empathizing with the person you’re insulting over IM. The point is, by the time Jimmy asked me to do five pull-ups, it was like someone gently brushing up against a third-degree burn.

Me: I can’t do it! Don’t make me! (whimper) I have no upper body strength. My arms are like twigs and my body is the snowman!

Jimmy: I wouldn’t ask you to do this if I didn’t think you could. Come on, I’ll spot you.

Me: But I can’t! And now I’m going to fall on you and crush you. (incoherent, blubbering sobs)

Jimmy: Hallie, you’re stronger than you think. You can do this! You’ve got to believe in yourself.

That’s my thing! I need people to “believe in me” for me! He saw into my soul! And he said I was strong, which doesn’t sound like the girl who tried to break up with her boyfriend because he wanted to play frisbee golf instead of going to brunch with her, but I’ll take it! So despite the weird choking that was making it hard to maintain a steady air flow, I pulled myself up, five times, and no one was crushed to death. At the end of the session, Jimmy told me he was “proud” of me. Proud of me? Who says that?!! Certainly Marcia Gay Harden in her countless Lifetime roles, but who in real life? The message was clear: he was already challenging me to be a better woman. How could I not march right home and apologize to my boyfriend for being such a reckless, shrieking Internet wench? Of course, Jimmy had to stretch me out first.

And what about the time my landlord wouldn’t turn my heat on? It was Jimmy I told about having to sleep in my ski hat, wrapped in towels, and Jimmy who offered to gather up a bunch of his biggest friends to send my landlord a message. “They can’t be taking advantage of a girl just because she seems all sweet and innocent.” (Hyperventilate when someone asks you to run a mile on the treadmill and then still calls you “sweet and innocent”!) Or what about the day he noticed my haircut? Or the time he told me I didn’t need to lose a pound? Or when he mentioned looking me up on the Internet and finding that video where I’m wearing goth makeup and a Slipknot t-shirt? The point is, after all these incidents, he stretched me out.

But here’s the kicker. Ladies, I’ve never asked anyone this question — I’ve just assumed my body is miswired from the time an ex gave me “uterus massages” to keep me from getting pregnant (!?) — but have you ever experienced during, say, Pilates or other abdominal exercises, after a number of repetitions a “climax” of sorts? That certain core strengthening can inspire a particular “release”? And if it happens in front of your trainer (hopefully undetected) and then he stretches you out, does that make you a … cheater?

When I showed up to my first session of the new year, Jimmy’s smile was huge. “How was your New Year’s?” he asked.

“Fine, how was yours?”

“I got engaged!” Together we watched the Flip video, not once, but twice, of heckling relatives, happy tears, and a dramatic fiancee-shoulder-hoisting when his pretty girlfriend accepted his proposal. That’s the thing about personal trainers, it’s their JOB to be able to throw you over their shoulders. I was touched that he shared his news with me, and nostalgic too for my own New Year’s, spent mastering The Michael Jackson Experience video game with my own sweets (who could probably throw me over his shoulders, if he really had to.) My only complaint? I was a little tight. Jimmy took care of that.

Hallie Haglund is a writer at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. But she writes other stuff too.