Saturday, June 23, 2012

Exercise, I love you. No I hate you. Now I love you.

Drink it in, folks. What you're seeing over there, that sweat-laden, red-faced, teary-eyed, pathetic, tattered and torn, tired and worn excuse for a human being is the result of an hour-long spinning (cycling on a stationary bike alongside other unwilling victims while a horridly fit instructor wearing a full-Nike spandex suit watches and jeers from her bike, noting your every desperate deep breath as she stays cool with a seemingly level and manageable heartbeat, no matter what resistance she sets her bike at. Damn those beautiful fitness instructors like Jillian Michaels seen below! Note to self: Fitness instructors and gym trainers are the new engineers) session that kicked mine and six other chicks' asses today.
No seriously, the seats hurt my ass.

Note: I'm not saying that only the women suffered. It really was an all-female class. Had there been one man, he would have gotten the shit kicked out of him, too. Spinning does not discriminate by gender. Or age. Trust me when I tell you that I was heaving harder than the fifty-something-year-old woman to my right. Was I embarrassed? No. Good for her. Good. For. Her.

That's fine, Jillian. I didn't want your body anyway.
BTW - heard she actually had plastic
surg. to get those abs? Can anyone please
tell me it's true?
That is not a dress I'm wearing, either! It is indeed a shirt. Believe it or not, the makers intention was not to design a shirt that hangs on my body like my boyfriend's favorite quarterback/pointguard/goalie's jersey and/or my own oversized t-shirt. Because I do not have a boyfriend.  

Had I taken a "before" picture - before the madness and before the borderline insanity - you would have observed that the shirt was a little more form-fitting and all, surprisingly, one shade of blue. My face also didn't resemble that of someone stricken with rosacea. All things to remember and keep in mind so you don't, you know, think I look like that all the time. The resemblance between Jillian  and I is actually striking, bear in mind.

I was only ten - no two - minutes, actually seconds, into this "CycleCraze" session before that familiar exercise anguish struck and my life turned shitty. My legs - quads burning like fire and glutes barely functioning - felt like noodles and that hoarse, helpless shortage of breath was all I could focus on. When Nike woman in spandex cat suit announced that the warm-up was over, my heart, quads, and mind had emotional breakdowns at the thought of what lay beyond this so-called "warm-up." "Warm fucking up?" I thought. "Seriously?" I turned my head slowly toward the clock - as to not attract any sort of attention or give off the indication that I was suffering - and my fears were confirmed: With 57 minutes to go, I knew I was in for a bumpy and probably really shitty ride.

But I couldn't leave. Oh no. Leaving an exercise class, as we should all know by now, whether it be Zumba, yoga, water aerobics or ceramics, is one of the biggest faux-pas in the gym world. If you leave a class early, there's a good chance that you'll get called out by the instructor. "Leaving early!?" they'll say. "Can't stand the heat!? Heheheh. I'm just kidding, have a great one, we'll see you next time!" she'll yell, as I awkwardly shimmy out of the room, murmuring angry words toward her under my breath - or what's left of it - for patronizing me, refusing to admit to myself that she is right: I really can't stand the heat. By that point, every class attendee has already profiled me as the girl who left the spinning class early. No longer do I stand with the elite gym gurus; I am at the bottom of the cardio food chain, known for reading full magazines while walking at a brisk 3 m.p.h. on the treadmill and doing four reps with an eight-pound weight followed by ten sit-ups. My chance at ever being taken seriously in any place with a treadmill, dumbbells, punching bags, or middle-aged men and women jumping up and down to Daddy Yankee and P!nk remixes is gone.

That is, unless I was spinning at Planet Fitness - as seen to the left - which prides itself on being a "judgement free zone." I disagree. It was a nice step in the right direction, PF, but touting your motto in bright purple against a urine-colored backdrop is not enough to dissuade people from taking note of my every rep, set, interval, cooldown and warm-up. But this spinning studio wasn't affiliated with Planet Fitness and I didn't have the comfort of knowing that there was an effort put forth against the aforementioned actions.

So that's where I stood, or sat, at 5:35 p.m.. I was pissed and I had an hour left to be pissed. Mind you, it's difficult to do, well, anything at all when it's 90-fucking-4 degrees (damn you, summer solstice and upstate NY's increased sun exposure!! And global warming, for the fools who believe in that batshit theory). Why, why, there is no air conditioning in an exercise studio - or anywhere that requires more physical activity than thinking or sleeping - boggles my mind to this day. To this day. Like, I sweat enough when I stand up, so you can just imagine, similar to my shirt and face seen above, the bike and its surrounding area drenched with deep puddles of salty and delicious perspiration.

Exercise. Why do I choose to do it, and repeatedly? Why do any of us force ourselves to suffer through the recommended aerobic activity of 30 minutes of intense cardio (cardio is underlined in red. Is it not a word? Is cardio FAKE!? Have I at last debunked the age-old myth that exercise is good for you!? Scratch the whole point of this post, and take the upcoming Olympics off of all of our to-watch lists!!!!! No, I could never do that. I've been waiting four years to watch gymnastics and Michael Phelps from my couch again) at least three to five times a week accompanied by two days of strength training, and don't forget the stretching, or else you're fucked! They (you know, the leaders up there. Whoever regulates everything we do. I just refer to them as "they" and people usually interpret the pronoun as seen fitting) have turned exercise and recreational activity into such a required task and health regulation for some of us that things that used to be fun - like sports and running - have been replaced by a 30-minute block of time every day dedicated to torturous activities, and we only do it all to keep up with the standards of this day and age. 

Like, d'oh! I did my 30 minutes of moderate-to-high heart rate activities, thank god it's over! Ope! I picked up ten pounds and bent my arm repeatedly, looks like I'm quite healthy! Or, I chose to walk up the stairs today instead of taking the elevator and my car is parked an extra 18 feet away, US Dept. of Health & Human Services says I'm A-OK in the healthy standards and I'm taking a step (literally) in the right direction toward a healthy lifestyle! Thanks for the help, Prevention magazine! I couldn't have figured out how to go for a walk without any of your advice. Am I right? It's all turned into a terrible chart that maps statistics to tell us if we're active enough or if we do just a little too much sitting. 
We're fulfilling requirements, but do we enjoy this? Do we enjoy the feeling of a face full of fire accompanied by an urge to vomit and/or pass out? Is picking heavy things up and putting them back down a fun thing, or are we all just complying with what we're told to do? Do we ever think about the fact that we're paying an owner of a building to use his conveyor belt and giant bouncy balls? No. Now I'm just getting too philosophical here.
I do not intend to ponder on the whole gym and workout expenditure thing for very long because it makes me feel guilty knowing that all forms of conventional exercise can be duplicated by simply running outside (which I do, and actually did today. I hope no one saw me because I was lookin' roooooooooooough) but I still, and will always, end up buying all sorts of exercise aides: Pilates videos, Turbo Jam classes..... yoga pants..... sweatbands.... superfluous items.... But we're all victims of that, no? So I shouldn't feel guilty. Yoga pants are too comfortable too burden me with those feelings when I wear them, which is every day. What? They're super stretchy and form fitting, but in a good way. Everyone loves yoga pants.

Personally, exercise and I have a love-hate relationship. It's great, it sucks, it's painful, it's pleasurable (lol). Exercising is the greatest feeling in the world and it's the utmost shitty experience ever. I want to die during a spinning class and it burns like gasoline and flames, and that burn, it's really quite great. I feel so many split emotions during one workout that if you were to ask my how I felt during a workout, the response could totally change every second. Feeling strong accompanied by bouts of hatred and self-loathing, usually, is how it works out for me. Choice of song certainly has an effect on my workout too. Dubstep in real life sucks. But while I'm running, there's nothing better than overpowering industrial shit music filling my ear and causing possible long-term damage to my eardrums to push me through 30 minutes.

But what do I think is the best part about a good/bad-ass workout? Ending. The feeling of being done with an exercise session is one that really can't be duplicated, am I right? It's an end to suffering, that end to pain that makes everything so much more bearable and doable again in the future. It's that release that makes you really love everything in the world as you plop down at your kitchen table after a run and just revel in the fact that you just defeated five miles of turf. When the instructor finally announces that he's starting the cool down and he turns on the chillzone music and tells you to turn off all resistance and just "stretch it out." You're just like, fuck yeah. I did it. And you feel strong and you feel great and you feel reaaaaaaaal uplifted. Real good. You want to tell the world. Or you want to crawl into a bathtub of ice cubes to assuage the imminent muscle aching that lies in your future. Either way, each successive workout session is a milestone for you and they add up and before you know it, you're stronger and you're buying more yoga pants.

I don't know about you guys, but that's why I exercise.

That and the fact that doctors, talk show hosts, and parents claim that exercise has a myriad of benefits including, but not limited to: weight control, muscle strengthening and definition, the ability to combat health conditions and diseases, and a heightened energy. But, like that "global warming" thing I mentioned briefly before, it's probably just a theory that will soon be disbanded.

Until then, I will continue to suffer and release endorphins all over the place.

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