Iron man

Iron man

Best Personal Trainer: Justin Tooley of ACAC (pictured with John Ruscher).

"It’s very important that you eat breakfast, or else the workout could turn into a very bad experience. Do you usually eat breakfast?"

"Well…" I wasn’t sure if it was worth mentioning the strawberry Nutri-Grain bar that I usually nibble once I get to the office, but he already had things planned out for me.

"O.K., here’s what I want you to eat. Ready to write this down?"

"Yep." I grabbed a notepad.

"A half cup of oatmeal, a quarter cup of pineapples, a quarter cup of chopped English walnuts, at least one egg and two more egg whites."

"All right," I said.

"Try to eat this around 7:30, so you have some time to digest it before we start. And drink plenty of water."

This was my first conversation with Justin Tooley, winner of our Best Personal Trainer category. "Wow," I thought, "this will be interesting." My typical exercise routine is a stroll on the Downtown Mall and maybe (if I’m feeling particularly ambitious) a bike ride to the Corner.

My next interaction with Tooley started with the stair-climb machine. A few steps and I was already past my usual exercise quota. But it didn’t feel so bad, and I quickly saw why his clients voted for him. With a winning combination of encouragement, distraction and explanation, the guy does an amazing job of keeping one’s mind off of physical exertion. Even though my legs were getting tired (I think I prefer escalators), Tooley directed my thoughts toward a future goal.

"Next time you can put it on a little higher setting, and then after that, go for a little longer. And once you get used to it you won’t have to look down. You can just get in the rhythm and look ahead."

Then came the stability ball. I never imagined that a blow-up rubber ball could be such a vital exercise tool, but Tooley emphasized how the simple sphere can be just as effective as all of the gleaming gears of stainless steel.

"Some people come to the gym and they are intimidated by all of the machines. But there is a lot you can do without that." As he led me through an intense series of crunches, squats and leg lifts using the ball, I discovered muscles that I never knew existed (these muscles would soon become extremely sore).

From the ball we moved on to the machines. I was eager to work with some real weights, but apparently my body was not. After a turn on the leg squat machine, I started to feel dizzy and lightheaded. It was disappointing not to make it through the entire workout, but Tooley was reassuring and positive.

"We shouldn’t go any further today. Your body is telling you that it’s out of energy. I want you to come back next week, and this time you should probably eat an even bigger breakfast, probably twice as much, and we’ll try this again. If you make this a regular thing, you can really do anything you want."

I seriously considered giving it another shot. Ultimately, though, I think I’m just not the type for serious physical training. But, if I ever have the urge to get abs of steel, run a marathon or, God forbid, train for the World’s Strongest Man competition, I know where to turn.