Fix me

Based on a cursory review of my blog posts filed under the ‘Exercise’ category, I’d venture to say it’s been well over two years since my last exercise-related post. This has less to do with the fact that I don’t want to bore J is for Jenerous readers by rewriting the same stories, and more with the fact that I probably haven’t exercised all that much in those two years.

But time – and the numbers on the scale – marches on. And metabolisms slow down. And clothes are constantly being shrunk in the dryer – even the ones that aren’t tumble-dried. And peanut butter and chocolate only seem to taste better the older you get, so you stalk another friend’s Facebook crowdsourcing about at-home exercise options and, yada yada yada, hop on the 21 day fix bandwagon.

Because what else were you going to do? Besides make another batch of peanut butter rice krispie treats with chocolate on top. [All organic, of course.]

It had been a long while since I last dabbled in exercise dvds, with one very pouty, demanding Tracy Anderson; forfeiting exorbitant amounts of time each day to access ‘cross vectors of force’ in an effort to whittle myself into a slightly larger version of a human lollipop.

Hence I was more than a little apprehensive when I loaded the 21 Day Fix DVD into the player for the first time. What was I getting myself into? How many hours a day was this going to cost me?

An overly tanned, ponytail-wearing woman named Autumn (whose name I frequently forget and refer to as April or Amber, or Ambril instead) appeared on screen with half a dozen enthusiastic proteges. Having done Jillian Michaels’ 30-day Shred a time or fifteen, I was well-versed in the concept: tough-but-motivating brunette at the front, who demonstrates the exercises and barks at you to do more, while she runs around and ‘checks’ on her proteges and makes them work harder. Conveniently skipping the bulk of the very exercises that make you want to hurl your 2-lb handweights at the screen. Jumping back in formation when there are 10 seconds left on the invisible clock, urging you not to quit, not to give up on yourself and ‘that body you always wannit.’

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, etcetera.

Jillian and Ambril differ in a couple of respects. Jillian, likely having spent too much time on the Biggest Loser making people cry, spews motivation the way snakes spew venom. To the point where the professor refuses to do her exercise video with the sound on.

‘This doesn’t come for free! These abs don’t come for free! If you eat pizza you will be fat and slovenly and a complete failure in all aspects of your life forever.’ Actually I think the latter statement is more along the lines of ‘you can’t work out for 30 minutes a day and eat what you want.’

But, same message, really. Potato. Potahto.

[If you can’t eat half a pan of peanut butter rice krispie treats* after working out, then what is the point of working out?]

Ambril is aiming for a more likeable, former cheerleader-turned-guidance counselor approach. ‘Be better than you were yesterday. You can do anything for 60 seconds [but modify if you need to.]’

Ambril also has serious, bordering-on-pyramid-scheme product placement. She wants us to take our nutrition seriously and this can really only be achieved by using a miracle protein powder called Shakeology. The workout space (set) features shelves that hold blenders and fruit and packs of every flavor of Shakeology known to man. And, just in case you missed it, at least one of her proteges is also wearing a shirt with Shakeology emblazoned on the front.

[How did people maintain fitness in the dark ages, without the glut of protein powders that beckon promisingly from every shelf in every grocery store these days?]

In addition to the authoritative-but-nice voice, and the serious nutrition, Ambril also has Kat.

Kat is, for lack of a better term, Ambril’s designated modifier-of-exercises. As in ‘if you need to modify any of the exercises, follow Kat.’ She stands to Ambril’s left and has the most beatific smile I’ve seen on anyone since Mother Theresa. Actually now that I think about it, did Mother Theresa smile all that much, or did she just have a closed mouth, possibly trying to hide the fact that Calcuttan dentistry is not what one might expect?

Anyway, Kat does smile, and seems to have great teeth. And she has this sweet little habit of agreeing with whatever Ambril is saying. ‘We got this!’ yells Ambril and ever encouraging, self-affirming Kat pipes up ‘yes we do.’ Sometimes loudly and sometimes, right as the camera is closing in on her face, quietly to herself.

It’s a very ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ moment. I’m just a girl. Standing in front of a camera. Trying my best….to become my best.

Ambril has the slightly annoying habit of continually pointing out that Kat is modifying the exercises. As in ‘Kat is not working as hard [as the rest of us] but she’s still working.’ And then Kat pipes up on cue ‘yes I am.’ If I were Kat, I would purse my lips together in a smeer (smile+sneer) and mentally berate Ambril: ‘I’m supposed to be modifying these exercises! It’s why I’m here! Why do you have to keep bringing it up like I’m slacking!’

This actually happened to me in real life. I was at an exercise class with a friend a few weeks ago, when my arms nearly buckled under the strain of my 3lb hand weights. My thoughts turned to Kat, who inspired me to modify the exercise by tossing aside the six pounds of lead. ‘If you want, you can drop your weights, like Nicola,’ the instructor singled me out. Albeit in a humorous, uncondescending way.

A younger version of myself would have been profoundly humiliated at being singled out in such a public manner. But not fortysomething Nicola. I cheerfully waved at my fellow exercisers, so they’d know exactly who slacker Nicola was, as if to say: So what? My arms are puny. I don’t feel like doing any more reps. Pass the rice krispie bars.


*I’m slightly peanut butter obsessed as of late and may need a peanut butter intervention. It might explain the fact that I have lost an astonishing three-fourths of a pound since I started exercising 1.5 months ago. Perhaps it’s time to buy some Shakeology. 


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