LEOMINSTER, Mass. Kyle Cannon was one of two finalists to be afternoon shift manager at B-Fit Boston’s gym in this town noted, if at all, as the home of John Chapman, better known as “Johnny Appleseed.” “I crushed it,” Cannon says of his resume and his personal physical fitness. “Body fat 8%, excellent quick-twitch muscle response, I do 1,000 sit-ups a day before lunch.”
“Now when I let go, you fall to the floor face-first.”
So confident was Cannon about his prospects that he texted his girlfriend after his interview, saying “Pretty sure I got it competition is big fat slob!” And indeed Mark Vellarina, the other finalist, is a portly smoker who was standing outside the building inhaling a Camel Light cigarette while Cannon was inside showing off his squat-thrust form. So it was with an audible sense of shock that Cannon received the news from Cindi Quarles, the fitness chain’s regional Vice President, that he’d been passed over for Vellarina, who celebrated his good fortune by eating an entire box of Little Debbie “Zebra Cakes.”
“Sorry, Kyle, we’ve decided to go with another candidate,” she said with a look of genuinely inauthentic sadness. “If you abuse and neglect your body for a year or two you’re welcome to apply again,” she told him, while Vellarina was washing down his post-lunch snack with a 250-calorie bottle of Nesquik chocolate milk.
The hiring decision came down to a newly-emerging consensus among health club operators that members don’t want to work out around people who are skinnier than them, a fact that was “hiding in plain sight” according to Jim Tresselmyer, who owns six franchise fitness centers in Pennsylvania. “If you want people to pay the kind of monthly fees we need to make a profit, they need to feel good about themselves when they walk out the door after looking at their phones on a treadmill for half an hour,” he says with a hard-nosed air that comes of his focus on the bottom line. “Nothing puts a smile on a member’s face like seeing the gut of a personal trainer hanging over his belt.”
“If you feel faint take a break and go to the candy machine.”
Employees like the new policy as well, since it frees them from unrealistic expectations customers sometimes have for them, as well as allowing them to feign umbrage when others express surprise that they are physical trainers. “You know something,” says Kandi Urquart to this reporter when he asks her how she can teach a spinning classes without having a heart attack given her plus-size frame, “you don’t have to be able to lay an egg to make an omelette.”