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The Romano Factor

John Romano
John Romano’s name is synonymous with “no bull-crap,” “candid,” and “hardcore.” He’s worked tirelessly to build up an ironclad reputation in the fitness industry through his work as senior editor of Muscular Development magazine and co-founder of Rx Muscle (see also: Heavy Muscle Radio and Muscle Girls Inc.). He’s been consulted as a steroid expert on HBO, ESPN, and ABC’s 20/20, as well as the movie Bigger, Stronger, Faster. Most recently, John worked as director of Internet media at VPX (and host of Shotgun Radio). In his spare time, he is a contributing author for countless blogs, magazines, and articles, including authoring the Muscle Meals cookbook.
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Training by Yourself

When I train alone, I prefer to be by myself…

Indeed I do, but because I own the gym in which I’m training, my preference is often denied—for example, by the odd member intent on getting a moment of my time to discuss important issues such as how much nicer the steam room would look if there were a row of coloured tiles around the door. While such a thought had never even crossed my mind, it was powerful enough of a thought for this gentleman to interrupt my set. Did you get that? Interrupt my set to tell me about bathroom tiles. I try to combat such interruptions by wearing a stern game face and trying to get my workouts in during off hours. This has proven effective in avoiding pesky members, but it then subjects me to my personal trainers, who also train during off hours—only because I forbid them to train during peak hours or else they would!

Now, a personal trainer in Mexico is not the same as a personal trainer in the US and Canada. Not by a long shot. A trainer here resides on the same economic level as a waiter, gardener, janitor, maid … you get the picture—low on the totem pole. Mainly because they have no idea what they’re doing. Just to give you an idea, the going rate that private personal trainers charge in my gym is 2,500 pesos a month. This gives the client five hour-long sessions a week, for four weeks, at cost of about $150—for the month! My full-time staff trainers get paid about $700 a month! So because it’s so cheap, the competition is fierce. Trainers are working four or five people at a time, and no one is getting results. But the prices are low! People here are perfectly happy paying for less and getting it. I’ve never seen anything like it. This doesn’t deter the trainers, though; they want to get one up on the next guy and try to attract clients, so other than YouTube, guess where they get their new material?

Because I’m covered in veins and striations, the trainers follow me around every day, convinced I’m privy to some kind of top-secret regimen that flies in the face of their five-tortillas-with-every-meal bodies. They constantly ask me what I take, what I eat, what Ronnie Coleman takes, how do I train, do I take diuretics … the questions are endless. And I can only answer them so many times. I had one kid tell me every day the same thing: “I love watching you train, you are so motivating to me, I can’t believe your calves, how do I get calves like yours?” The first time I heard it, I thought it was nice. The second day he said it again, and I was like, okay, you said the same thing yesterday. The third day in a row, it started getting uncomfortable. Now after six months of him saying it, it’s like, okay, this is creepy, don’t come near me anymore. So, at the last trainer meeting we had, I instituted a new rule: No talking to John Romano when he’s training. Now, instead of talking to me, they copy me.

One of my young followers trains like the guy you want to kill. His “work sets” are four minutes longer than they need to be and are peppered with the most plaintive wailing and botched cussing in English that makes you just want to walk over there and shoot him. This is Mexico, and it very well could happen one day. But, alas, he saw me yesterday pushing myself through a four-station circuit done at an excruciating pace, with tense deliberate contractions, to failure, that made me wish I was naturally birthing twins instead. But not with so much as a peep out of me. I could have passed for a monk. Today, while he’d normally be sitting in the preacher machine wailing like a banshee, he was quietly straining away just like the guy who signs his paycheque. And the circuit I was doing the day before? By the end of the day, two trainers were having their clients doing it.

This is how trainers hurt people here. And they do—often. Just because I’m doing something doesn’t mean they understand what I’m doing. Then, blindly having their soccer-mom clients doing it is a recipe for disaster. So, before my next trainers meeting, where I’m instituting the “no copying John Romano” rule, I decided to have some fun. This morning, I wedged a Bosu ball between my back and the post next to the jungle gym. I slid down into a sitting position with one leg sticking straight out in front of me. The opposite arm was also sticking out, static, holding a kettlebell, and I was doing a kind of reverse cable curl with the other hand on the low pulley of the jungle gym. I pushed myself through a killer set of this ludicrous nonsense exercise, grimacing and straining like it was an Olympic event. When I was done, I laid spent on the floor writhing theatrically, like a soccer player who’d stubbed his toe, grasping approvingly at my super-pumped bicep.

Sure enough, before I left this evening, one of the trainers was trying to get his client to do it. He even consulted an iPhone vid I didn’t know he’d taken!

I guess I could go train at a gym other than my own like some of my gym owner buddies do, but then I’d miss all the fun!

For another Romano article about what it takes to be a good training partner, click here!