Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The First Time I . . . Tried Jillian Michaels BodyShred Class

As most of you know from that one other time when I mentioned exercise on here, I enjoy group fitness classes. This is for the following reasons:

1.) I am seemingly incapable of achieving a good workout by myself and prefer to be guided through every step of my workout. Left to my own devices, my personal workouts usually consist of the following, in no particular order:

  • 12-14 minutes on the treadmill in a brisk walk/slow jog. This is immediately followed by a sense of immense pride for really giving 'er this time.
  • 5 minutes of debate re: obligatory bicep curlsto do or not to do? before glancing into the weight room area and deciding it's just way too crowded today and it probably smells in there, anyway.
  • 10 minutes spent adjusting socks/re-tying shoes. (Note: this can be stretched to 12 minutes if necessary.)
  • 4 minutes of sit-ups/any assorted ab exercises that pop into mind (usually sit-ups)
  • 6 minutes spent drinking/refilling water bottle  
  • 30 minutes of stretching/people watching/lying on a gym mat. This is usually multitasked with some deep introspection (why are there so many advertisements for chocolate milk here-I wish I had some chocolate milk-when did everyone get those cool neon gym shoes and why are my shoes so extremely white-just what exactly am I going to do with my life I have no plan-I wonder what I'm going to eat after this . . . )
  • 3 minutes of cool down before calling it a day

All of these minutes of deep introspection have a way of making you take a cold, hard look at your life and be truly honest with yourself.

I mean, if I feel self-conscious wearing colored jeans, maybe I'm just not meant for neon gym shoes. I don't like it, it's hard to accept, but hey, that's just the way it is.

I hate it. 

2.) I like situations that throw all different kinds of people together who would never normally meet and giving them a common goal: finishing the workout. I like looking around the group fitness classroom and seeing teenagers, middle-aged moms and dads, the elderly, sometimes a few dogs, the fit, the unfit, the coordinated, the less-than-coordinatedeveryone's there and working towards the same thing: getting through cardio boot camp class without throwing up or falling down in front of people. I find the fear of public vomiting provides a real sense of community, you know? 

A real sense of community.

(While I've never actually thrown up in a fitness class, I am in a constant state of extreme worry that my pants will split at any moment. This has never happened to me before, my pants are made of a reasonably durable material, there is no logical reason for me to think this will happen, yet I know it will. And when it does, I will be ready with my gym towel sarong.) 

3.) I like feeling very connected to all of these different people in the class, or what I call, the "we're all in this together, guys!" vibe. The way you can give lots of knowing looks to everyone in the room because you know they feel the exact same way that you do. It's just understood. You can give a long, knowing stare to your fellow class participants for any number of thoughts, including:

"Hey manyou gonna pass out? Me, too!" 
"Your shoe is untied."
"If that instructor thinks I'm going to give her 20 more push-ups, she's got another thing coming, sister."
"It is too goddamn hot in here and I am very, very hungry."  

 . . . and it's just a given that they'll get it. Whenever I give a knowing look for something like this, I usually add an eyebrow raise and snap my fingers so my point really gets across. 

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(source: kmarbon from Photobucket)

4.) Also, I like the idea that I can make friends with all of these different people based on our shared interest, even when I have only made two friends total in my ten years of taking fitness classes. Maybe this is because I am forever giving sassy looks and snapping my fingers at people I don't know and also shouting out, "We're all in this together, guys!" even when the instructor has asked me not to shout out things anymore.  

My fitness classes are mostly like this, except usually not outside and no one ever smiles at me.

Please be my friend.

I take these multitude of fitness classes at GoodLife Fitness and will often schedule my day around a class that I want to take. A few months ago, I noticed an excited buzz sweeping through the Group Exercise room. It didn't seem to be the usual excitement that comes the 2 times a year when a wet fruit platter is placed on a table at the back of the room, or the wild craze that occurs when a GoodLife employee comes into the class and tries to give away a t-shirt. No, it was something different . . . something big. As my many fitness pals and I bounced around on large exercise balls and took turns smiling at each other, they confirmed it for me: a new fitness class was coming our way.

And man, were my fitness friends and I happy.

(just kidding I actually found out from a poster in the locker room)

And as I am currently on a hiatus between consistent daytime engagements (this means pretty much unemployed) and spend the vast majority of my time watching Criminal Minds and talking to my cat about Criminal Minds, a new fitness class was big news. 

The new class was called the not-at-all-intimidating "BODYSHRED" and was designed by Jillian Michaels. 

And certainly, I was intrigued. What I knew of Jillian Michaels was mostly that she was a trainer on The Biggest Loser and is one of those people who always looks kind of angry even when she's smiling. What I knew of The Biggest Loser was that I saw an episode once where the weight loss contestants began their battle by spending an hour in a magical room full of every single delicious treat you could imagine for one final binge, a completely no-holds-barred gorge fest. I thought that room of temptation was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen.

If this BodyShred thing was anything like that majestic buffet room, I was pretty sure I'd like it.

(Also, when I spent 40 minutes on Google trying to figure out if that magical treat room had an official name [Gluttonous Galaxy? Galaxy of Gorge? I feel like it should have the word galaxy in it?], I found the synopsis for The Biggest Loser Season 1 which had intriguing highlights as this:

-The Blue Team wins the first challenge and receives five pounds of lard to use against the losing team at the weigh in.
-The Red Team wins the challenge by building the tallest food pyramid. They win $5,000 of computer equipment and video messages from home. The prize for the weekly challenge is a $7,000 treadmill. There is no immunity. The contestants had to stand on bales of hay holding a bouquet of balloons. Ryan wins the treadmill.
-Everyone at the ranch resists the temptation to eat a cinnamon bun to get a telephone call. As a reward, they all win a 5 minute phone call.
-Dave gives in to the temptation to eat a cupcake and have dinner with a loved one.

Seriously, what have I been doing wasting my time on Criminal Minds? I NEED to start watching The Biggest Loser.)


(I'm just kidding Hotch I will never leave you ever.)

So I started asking around town what the hell BodyShred was all about.

"It's pretty hard," warned my friend Christina (you remember Christina, don't you?)

"It's like a boot camp, but not," said my other one friend from fitness class.

"What in the world is a body shred? And did you find a job yet?" answered my mother over Skype.

Feeling somewhat dissatisfied with what my research had dug up, I realized I had to go right to the source. JILLIAN MICHAELS HERSELF.


"It's state of the art training . . . it is a high intensity & endurance based 30 minute workout utilizing Jillian's 3-2-1 interval approach," says Jillian Michaels' BodyShred website. ". . . modalities used by top athletes worldwide for accelerated conditioning and premium performance."

Ah, yes. I see. The ol' 3-2-1 interval approach, eh? Modalities and accelerated conditioning for the top athletes in the world and also myself? Well, that certainly clears things right up.

There was also a picture on her site of a man doing this:

Would I be doing this in BodyShred? Could this be achieved in 30 minutes? And where did his clothes go? I began to suspect that Jillian Michaels may have unconventional ways in her training . . .

. . . unconventional/terrifying ways.

After another hour or so of reading about The Biggest Loser, I decided enough of this nonsense. The top athletes in the world like myself don't waste their time on the internet. They get into that class and they GO TO THE GYM and also MAYBE DO A HANDSTAND.

So off I went to shred my body. Upon walking into the Group Exercise room, I did a quick scan and noted that the room was full of participants of varying ages and fitness abilities. This is always an encouraging sign. Often I find you can gauge how hardcore the participants of a class are going to be by the amount of people doing ab work on their own before the class has started. When I arrive early, I usually sit in a corner and read my book while wondering things like, "why oh why did I eat two bowls of expired Great Grains and a cookie for breakfast?"

(yes, it's true; I am still working on finishing my free year's supply of Great Grains. The love affair is still going strong but sometimes it's harder than I thought to finish 24 boxes of cereal in a year.)

My room scan also revealed that there was no extremely large food buffet for participants to binge themselves on pre-workout. I took this as a very bad sign.

The instructor gave us a quick run-down on how the class would work: she would demonstrate a move for us, which we would then do for the next 30 seconds. With 10 seconds left, she would preview the next move we would do. A bell would ring to signal that it was time to begin the next move. We would do 3 minutes of strength training, 2 minutes of cardio and 1 minute of abs (so THAT'S the ol' 3-2-1 interval approach Jillian's always yabbering on about!). And then we'd do it all over again. And again. And again, until the 30 minute class was complete.

I nodded, unfazed. Thirty minutes is nothing, I thought. Not even a full episode of Criminal Minds. They'd barely even have found the unsub in thirty minutes. 

Except for Reid who finds the unsub in 10.  

And my love for fan-art just keeps growing (source). 

And so began the BodyShred warm-up. Some vigorous marching in place, a few jumping jacks. I felt good. No longer concerned about the amount of possibly rancid cereal I'd consumed pre-class. Not quite fancy-free, but certainly jaunty enough. Wildly swinging arm circles for 30 seconds? Bring it on, man.

I could totally win The Biggest Loser, I thought.

And just as if the instructor could sense my growing confidence, the warm-up was over. The Shred had begun.

The instructor dropped to the ground to preview our first move. It was some kind of squat-lunge-plank combo. I don't know. I have no clue what it was, only that we were all expected to do it in rapid succession in a matter of seconds. A bell rang. Chaos began. I knelt and began to try to arrange my body in a similar way to the instructor's, which was hard because she was moving so fast. The room was a sea of flailing limbs, people heaving their bodies to and fro while trying to stay on some sort of beat with the blasting techno music. As soon as I felt like I was beginning to get the hang of this squat-lunge-plank combo thing, the instructor was previewing the next move. Which I also had no clue how to do.

An alarm bell went off in my head. Or maybe it was the actual bell; I'm not sure. Things were getting real weird here, and FAST. To paraphrase Taylor Swift, who I'm fairly sure was singing about BodyShred here: "I knew you were trouble when I walked in . . ."

"Especially when there was no food buffet . . . "

As each interval went by, the moves became more and more complex and also increasingly bizarrely named. We went from push-ups to burpees to mountain climbers to something called the Dancing Bear. Then the Inchworm. Then the Walking Crab.  I began to suspect that the instructor was just calling out random words at us. "Shrieking Housecat coming up in 10 seconds, guys!" "Eyes up for the Tortured Emu, everyone!"

the office gifs photo: ryanwtfgif ryanwtf.gif

Each one baffled me more than the next.

As my eyes grew wide and I began to pant heavier with each dinging bell, I had a moment of realization: there would be no breaks. Not a single one. This is a nonstop workout and I will never stop moving. I stared at my full water bottle in the corner, lying on a clean towel/emergency sarong along with my unused food buffet fork. It had been at least seven minutes since I had water. It looked so delicious, so refreshing. 

I can't remember what water tastes like anymore, I realized. I bet it was good.

Can't I have but one water break, Ms. Michaels?


Though there were technically no breaks in the class, I did end up taking a few. They weren't planned. They were more spur-of-the-moment, casual-type things, whereupon my left leg would suddenly decide that it didn't want to do wandering side planks anymore and down to the mat I would go. Or the multiple times I would catch myself standing dazed, red-faced and mouth agape trying to remember a time when "30 more seconds of Squatting Cow!" wasn't a feasible command in my life. I tried to holler out my usual, "We're all in this together, guys!" but quickly realized I needed to preserve my oxygen. 

At one point I felt like I had travelled outside of my body and watched the chaos of the class. It seemed like I had entered a strange room of contortions and madness. Gone were the (nonexistent) days of bouncing around on my blue exercise ball with my fitness friends, laughing gaily and high-fiving one another. This was BodyShred. This was real. This was sweat running down my face. This was truly hoping I would not vomit in class. I braced myself for the instructor to call out, "One-handed handstand!" at any moment. 

This was how people lost 400 pounds in 2 weeks on The Biggest Loser, I realized. It was also at that exact moment when I realized that I would never have what it takes to win The Biggest Loser

(I do, however, think I would be EXCELLENT at Supermarket Sweep.)

Amidst the seventh circle of hell, I must admit that I did have a few nice moments, including the special moment that I cherish most in group exercise classes. It came at a time when the rest of the class seemed to be in a synchronized jam of Crying Monkeys while I stood in a wide-legged stance gulping air, having long conceded that I was no longer in control of the limbs attached to my body. It came at the moment when I started to really think about things, bad things, things like, "If I can't even manage four Distended Ducks, how the hell will I manage a career?" (It's a valid question.)

Just when I was about to really lose it, I caught a glimpse of someone struggling just as much as I was. And I gazed at my new scarlet-faced friend and looked deeply into her perplexed eyes. And I sent a message to her, a message right to her rapidly beating heart. And it said, "Can you believe this shit?! What exactly in the hell is going on right now?" And in return, she gently wiped the sheet of sweat from her brow and replied sweetly, "I know, man. I know." This is what her glassy eyes said in return, I mean. Or I'm pretty sure they seemed to say, at least. 

I had a new forever fitness friend. 

For most people, that one moment is special enough, just the tiniest reminder of basic human things like humility, empathy, the power of perseverance. These are very special and very real things. But, as is my problem with Criminal Minds and anything in the cookie family, when I find something I like, I tend to ruin it by taking it to the absolute limit. I lose all restraint. 

If I let them, these could easily ruin my life. 

And so as quickly as I had made a new forever fitness friend, I had lost my forever fitness friend. I used every possible moment to send more knowing glances her way, shaking my head in a wry fashion, sassy snapping fingers abound. I watched in dismay as her glances turned from enthusiastic to wary to pretending not to see me anymore. I learned an important lesson in BodyShredone can only send a limited number of knowing glances to a stranger, especially in a group fitness, spandex-clad setting. You can send like three, maybe four, at well-timed moments. And if you actually do speak to this person, you shouldn't refer to them as your new special fitness friend. "Hey special fitness friend, we both sure suck, huh?!" "We're all in this together, RIGHT GUYS?!? I CAN'T HEAR YOU!"

But alas, BodyShred waits for no budding friendship or someone dry heaving in the corner. The bells keep dinging and the planks keep planking. I began to get the hang of the rhythm about halfway through, but man, it's hard to keep up. It feels next to impossible to check out the instructor previewing the next move when you're still struggling just to keep your balance on the current one. My class was 30 minutes, but the internet informs me that other BodyShred classes are 45, which includes a 15 minute preview of every move that you'll encounter in the class so that you have some idea of what you're heading into. I'd definitely recommend this, at least for the first few Shreds you attend.

We did a few moves with light hand weights and then ended with a quick cool-down. And suddenly, the whirlwind was done. I staggered to the locker room and left drenched in sweat, with my face so red that I prayed I wouldn't run into anyone I knew on the subway ride home. 

"Oh, you did the 26 mile marathon downtown! Good for you! How was it?!" 
"Nope . . . just squeezed in a workout . . . for a good, solid 30 minutes . . . "

It's 30 minutes, yes, but also one of the most intense workouts I'd had in a long time. After this, I have major, major respect for anyone who can teach BodyShred. It's fast-paced, nonstop and makes you sweat like you have a problem. 

Many people (/no one) have asked me if I'd do BodyShred again. It's strange. I know it's a great workout. It's fast and easy to fit into your schedule. I was sore for days afterwards. It kicked my ass, which I usually really like in a workout, and like all things, I know it would become easier with time. But I have a strong urge that I could also never do BodyShred again in my life and be okay with it, unlike all of my other classes that I look forward to attending. On the plus side, I HAVE been seriously considering checking out some seasons of The Biggest Loser

And I think that means that Jillian Michaels has done her job.

You go, girl.

Let's talk BodyShred: has anyone out there done it? Did you like it? Were you as lost as I was? What did you like better, the Lamenting Goose or the Prancing Hobbit? Can you do a one-handed handstand? Has anyone's pants actually split at the gym? But seriously, the only question I really want to ask is what treats would you want to have in your buffet room of temptation? Hit me back, just to chat.




  1. Omg... You still got it.. Even after a debilitating workout. I managed to laugh out loud several times while using the washroom..... Ya I still read your blog in the washroom. Love Leslie

    1. That's the reason that all of my posts are so long, you know--I never want you (or ANYONE) to be without suitable entertainment for any of life's special moments, especially those situated in the WR. I do it for you, Leslie von B. Now bring your blog back, too!

    2. 1. You are amazing and made my day.
      2. I love BodyShred, but so often I'm like "what the absolute hell Jillian!" Because I don't have an advanced degree in acrobats,clowning, or group fitness, I can't do half of the exercises. There is this weird push up with a back flip and this sit through and basically they are impossible unless your a witch.

  2. So glad you're back! This made my day!

    1. I'm so happy to hear that, Ma! I realized that this was probably one of the few posts that I didn't finish with you sitting directly across from me, hearing my every thought--so weird! Don't like it. But I'm glad we got to Shred together...that one time...

  3. Replies
    1. Also: thanks for following the blog, gurl! I knew leaving copies of all of my writing on your computer and hoping you read them out of boredom would eventually work in my favor!

  4. Hotch is hot. I've missed your musings!

    1. Poor Hotch, man. He just worries way too much. I mean, I know being the head of the BAU comes with a great amount of responsibility, but he's hiding his demons somewhere...and they're bound to get out soon...(I'm really hoping you've seen Criminal Minds before...but if not I am prepared to give you my season by season analysis. Just say the word. (And the word is HOTCH.)

      Also, I miss your own blog & musings! Make it come back!

  5. I'd fill my buffet room of temptation with Nutella. You?

    1. Oh man, I am SO HAPPY someone answered that question! I really did want to know. Mine would definitely have several kinds of cookies (all of the soft and chewy variety), peanut butter M&Ms, more ice cream than I'd care to admit, probably a ton of cheese and of course, Publix subs. OH AND PIGS IN A BLANKET! I love those things.

  6. I like my workouts fun, even if they aren't effective. This class sounds too scary for me! I'll just do the fantasy food room and skip the class, i think :)

    1. How about this proposal: 15 minutes of Zumba followed by 3 hours in the fantasy food galaxy, with a 6 hour Felicity marathon cool-down. Can we fit it in 3x a week, preferably?

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