I met my first client of the day at seven in the morning.
Angela was a thirty-five-year-old married woman living in Manhattan. I reached her building thirty minutes early, and waited for her for another ten. When she arrived in the lobby to greet me, I remember wondering why she’d hired me. She was petite, young, and in great shape.
We walked to the gym, which was empty. She turned on the air conditioning and the lights. Our session began and we went through the initial protocol, a dynamic warm-up.
She looked down the entire time. I asked her unimportant questions to break the silence, but her answers were brief, accompanied by a shy smile. I felt my presence was enough for her. Throughout the workout, Angela only spoke a few words, moved in a slow, controlled way, and never looked straight at me. I felt like I was at a funeral and I didn’t know who the dead person was. I felt awkward, trying to cheer her up or at least alleviate the silence. I pretended I was participating in a comfortable and normal situation between two people.
When the workout ended, we planned our weekly schedule and said goodbye to each other under the same gloomy cloud. This was a client whom the best exercise and diet in the world would never help to feel joyful. It was never about fitness for Angela. She was looking for a friend.
I left her building feeling very down. I couldn’t pretend to be her warm friend while also being a trainer. Her sadness was my sadness.
There was no time to be unhappy, though. My next client was James, and he needed me downtown at ten. I crossed the street and entered the subway station.