By: Amber Leventry
I love to exercise. I always have. Physical exertion, challenging reps, endorphins, and sweat are so good for my mental well-being. Enter parenthood. I am not the biological mama of our three kids, and it has been two years since our boys were born, but I am still carrying a little baby weight. A more insightful me would blame the endless cups of coffee or the indulgence in nightly desserts. An easy out would be to blame the kids. My partner suggests my love of beer may have something to do with it.
But if I am completely honest with myself, am I really going to give up any of these things? No. No, I am not. You read the part about having kids, right? I run on coffee, chocolate, and beer. I could give up chocolate, but long Vermont winters and gorgeous Vermont summers are made better with our state’s abundance of locally roasted coffee and craft brewed beer that pair well with any season.
My pre-kid workout schedule has been replaced by post-kid desires to find time to exercise. I am still moving and sweating, but chasing toddlers isn’t really the workout I need to improve my mental health. I have been making solid efforts to sneak in a couple of 20 minute yoga sessions each week. I also use the C25K app as a personal coach while I jog with a double stroller loaded with twin boys eating their morning snack. But what I really need is Jillian Michaels.
Recently, I worked up the determination to increase the intensity of my workout. I dusted off the collection of DVDs and video tapes—yes, we still have tapes and a working VCR—with exercise routines my partner used before she found Zumba. I bypassed the Billy Blanks’ Tae Bo and Carmen Electra’s Strip Your Way to Fitness videos and selected one of the Jillian Michael’s Complete Body Workout DVDs.
I’m not a fan of The Biggest Loser, but I have seen enough commercials and interviews to know Jillian Michaels is a passionate, take-no-prisoners, personal trainer. I decided she was who I needed to get me back in shape. Also, there was no way in hell I was going to strip my way to anything.
I procrastinated a bit, then went to the basement and set up the mats, step, and weights I needed to get started. To fully appreciate the workout, I decided to watch the four minute introduction narrated by Jillian herself. I was not prepared for the uncomfortable eye contact and slight lip curl she made while talking about her reasons for becoming a personal trainer. I started to sweat.
The warm-up began and in addition to feeling overwhelmed by the number of jumping jacks Jillian demanded, I realized something much more intense: Jillian Michaels makes me uncomfortable.
She is not afraid to show any of her muscles, her capris dipping low enough to see the perfect V of her stomach. She does not wear her hair in a ponytail, but lets it fall around her shoulders, as if working out is not a good reason to ruin a perfectly good hair day. I decided this move is clearly one of confidence, but I found it attractive and annoying at the same time. Pull back your hair, woman! No, don’t. You’re perfect.
Then she had the nerve to talk to me in only two ways: a half-growl, half-whisper or a mock yelling tone that tends to get raspy in a way I find sexy.
She pushed me through sets of plyometric exercises, but I spent the 30 minute workout feeling self-conscious. I speculated that it’s because she is with a woman, she just might know I’m gay, and if we weren’t in very happily committed relationships and if she weren’t hugely famous then who knows…but it was probably just because I hadn’t pushed myself that hard in a long time. I was a bit off my game. Jillian’s energy and coolness made me feel good, yet nervous about my body in a way new couples might feel the first time they get naked in front of one another.
The workout ended, and I felt great. I, beer drinking, tired, no time to herself, mom of three did it. I made the time. I did it for me and that will certainly bleed positivity into other aspects of my life. Then the stretching began and my mind wandered. Jillian’s lip curl and bedroom eyes, the cheesy music and the way the camera faded from one image of her to another makes me think of porn. Not helping this is the fact that her DVDs are called Back In Action and Full Frontal.
“It hurts so good,” she told me. Easy Jillian, it’s been a long time.