Things I Think While Wearing Lycra

Let’s talk about horrible gym group classes. Are you itching to read another set of paragraphs listing things I think while wearing Lycra? Likely, no. But this little ditty has nothing to do with politics, or even how the minds of (some) boys are filthy, violent sex fantasy containers that can be punctured by narcissism and ooze misogynistic slime. Nah, this is about competitive spin class.

By the end of summer, I had become a bit of a regular at the Dracula Studio of Cycling Nowhere. My ass was tighter. My arms were ropier. I mean, I still hated it and refused to whoo hoo, or turn the knob very far, but I couldn’t argue with its effects. Then September happened. How do you have time to exercise in September? In addition to all of the back-to-school nonsense, Bernie and I needed to binge watch Stranger Things. I chose The Upside Down over Equinox. Here’s why.

Equinox sucks. And it’s not Equinox, exactly. Equinox is pretty and clean and all the right stuff is there. But the problem is… well… there are other people there. And they might be delightful. But at Equinox they seem so fit, or they are exercising so earnestly just watching them makes me feel like an alien on Planet Cardio. Group exercise, I suppose, is meant to motivate us to a higher level. Not for me. I’m not “pushing past the pain” for sweaty strangers. I’m truly not stronger than I think. What is the opposite of endorphins? I get those.

But last week I put a brisket in the oven, settled my boys into homework, squeezed into Lycra, and went to spin class. I arrived early, adjusted my bike, put my hair in a ponytail, and waited for the chipper instructor to solve her IT issues. I wasn’t sure why spin class needed a PowerPoint presentation, but a big white screen was soon replaced with spinning orbs corresponding to our numbered bikes and listing our very names beneath. Britt L. Bike 4. My orb wasn’t nearly as glow-y as the other orbs. You can probably write the rest of this post.

Five “challenges” pitted us against each other or assigned us to fake teams that I helped lose. Exercise is already awful, so to heap real time shame onto the experience was a new low as far as Equinox experiences go. Which is saying something: the first time I went, they told me I was fat. Probably the most annoying aspect of the class was that there was so much “down time” in between these stupid competitions that I didn’t leave with the sweat-soaked certainty that it was worth the trouble.

I really should have hauled ass out of there the minute I realized the instructor was going to make us interact. My only other experience with this was an ill-fated afternoon of yoga. A few years ago, I dropped into a noon class on a whim. I normally took the early power hour with the cute Asian guy, and had never been to this class with this instructor. There were only four of us: two moms trading my-shitty-teenager stories, shirtless Hairy Dad, and me. The skinny yogi arrived, clasped her always grateful for everything on earth hands, and told us what a wonderful opportunity a class of four would be to do Couples Yoga!!!! (Exclamation points represent her puppy dog enthusiasm for this wildly great idea.) Moms with crap kids immediately paired up, leaving me with the bare breasted bro. I will always and forever regret that I let myself be peer pressured into couples hot yoga. And aren’t yogis supposed to be intuitive and able to feel the energy in the room and other ridiculous things associated with their beatific smiles? Well, this skinny bitch was clueless.

The class began with stretching. We sat, straddled, feet touching, and were instructed to clasp hands and pull our partner over the chaste diamond of space between us. Hairy Dad wasn’t very flexible. Pulling with all my might, he hardly entered my personal space. But when it was my turn for assisted stretching, I felt the full power of a man who attends regular yoga classes. Dude was strong. The trouble though, my friends, is that I’m still-do-splits flexible. His forceful yank on my outstretched hands pulled my pelvis into the diamond and my head right into his junk.

“Oh my God oh my God oh my God, sorry sorry sorry,” we both said to each other.

I called Bernie afterwards to report my infidelity. I still recoil physically when I recall that moment I unwittingly dove into a stranger’s crotch—an experience I actually paid for.

Time to find another class. Stories and complaints to follow.

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Probiotics!

At the beginning of the summer, new research revealed what all of us in the Shitty Sorority already knew: Cancer makes you fat. It was a relief to read it in peer-reviewed writing instead of hearing my oncologist tell me that I’m just “menopausal” or “can never, ever eat bread again” or I should “exercise more.” Doctors and CrossFitters and SoulCyclers will also go on and on and on about this “exercise” fad, but I’ve found most everything that elevates my resting heart rate is unpleasant and sweaty. And I’m a lady. Sadly, my go-to weight management plan that included an evening bottle of Prosecco and magical thinking wasn’t working. But I maintained great faith that persistent fatness could certainly be fixed by doing something from the couch.

All of us have at least one Facebook friend posting before-and-after midriff miracle work, and attributing it to the probiotics they are peddling. These earnest salespeople promise the shedding of pounds as their power pills button up leaky intestines and soothe fat-inspiring inflammation. During graduate school, I spent four years dissecting Peyer’s Patches from mouse guts and have a fundamental understanding of microbiology. So, I stopped mocking the pseudo-medical speak long enough to wonder if maybe all of those poisons and steroids I took during treatment repopulated my innards with an eviler blend of bacteria that never want me to wear skinny jeans. I went to the Organic Market to ask Chad which probiotic would allow me to squeeze back into my size 2s the quickest.

Chad was very helpful and steered me to the packets of pills that don’t require refrigeration or put a significant dent in my fancy shoe budget. There are as many probiotic formulations as there are vague symptoms to thwart. I decided on a daily dose to promote “digestive balance,” but it was nice of Chad to steer me away from the geriatric blends and to inquire about my vaginal health. Right there. Next to the frozen edamame and organic EVOO. I washed my first capsule down with a cold-pressed kale juice and Chinese character tattoos appeared at all of my pulse points. I’m your life coach now. Namaste.

With a profound sense of self worth and calm gratitude, I twirled out of the Organic Market and embarked on an entire month of poo improvement. I was sure I already felt amazing, and immediately began shopping for a toe ring. With a swig of cold water each morning, I came closer and closer to complete insufferability and the real chance of posting an ab selfie.

But it must be cold water, friends.

Attempting to swallow the vegan capsule with hot coffee leaves you with a mouth full of sticky pus and a sudden awareness of how sad and deluded one is to voluntarily purchase and ingest shit’s main ingredient in the pursuit of Chloe’s Revenge Body. And after my 30-day trial, I can tell you this: I’ve gained 5 pounds. I’ve also endured some rather alarming moments that a lady would never put in writing. Respectable cancer research reports an extra 11 pounds is my reward for three months of chemotherapy, but no suggestions about how to get rid of them. An extra 50 billion bacteria a day doesn’t seem to work for this girl, so it’s time for a different approach that can be initiated from the couch.

Sober September. Results to follow.

Prosecco with berries might be the source of my 11 pounds, and also might be worth it.

Prosecco with berries might be the source of my 11 pounds… and also might be worth it.

The Gym: Part II

Hey Britt

I’m emailing you because I was expecting to see you at 10am this morning. Everything ok?

Sure, David. Everything’s A-Ok. It’s been one full week since our little face-to-face fitness assessment wherein I repeated, in person and right away, how much I loathe exercise. You handled it well when I made fun of your blood pressure equipment and other pseudo-medical toys that are supposed to lend some weight your clipboard-requiring fact-finding. And I held my tongue when you told me you were an entrepreneur-ing sort of something, or maybe you already wrote a book, or you’re planning to scale mountains, or whatever crap you youngsters do that sound exhaustingly noble or potentially lucrative and certainly like something I immediately want to poke fun at. We’d probably work well together, you and I. You, you’re wonderful. But, me? I’m sort of a terrible person. Also, lazy.

Oh, sweet dimpled barely-voting-age David, you didn’t flinch at all when I told you I wouldn’t do exercises that test the limits of my bionic parts (using helpful hand gestures to indicate the location of my fake bits). And you didn’t balk at my coffee intake or potato chip addiction, or repetition that I planned to– like never– do any sort of personal training. It was all fine and good to fill out forms and tell you what I eat (chips) and that I swim (but not far) or take barre classes (but not often) and wear a step counting bracelet (that would log more activity strapped to my patio furniture). It was adorable that you believed I only have four drinks a week. And then I showed you how flexy/balancy I am with years and years of gymnastics muscle memory on board, but that I cannot run even close to a mile without lots of gasping complaints and begging to stop.

Would I like to be stronger? Meh, I have a husband to lift the heavies. Increase my endurance? No small animals or children to chase.

Lose weight?

Duh. Everyone does. Everyone on the planet wants to lose weight. But this isn’t why I’m here. The Gym will have zero effect on the scale; losing weight is all on me and what I stuff into or deny my greedy maw. Plus, I don’t really need to lose weight. Well, I’ve almost never thought so… until I met you.

Though I wouldn’t let you assess my vital signs– as you aren’t a medical professional and I don’t like being touched by strangers and maybe, like, 47 other reasons– I relented to standing on the wretched, lying scale and having the bee boopy doo dads calculate the sum total of my fatness. What better way to launch a gym membership than to have Equinox’s Watson tell me I’m sixteen pounds overweight! It was kind that you noted it wasn’t always accurate. And though I did want to, rather immediately, throw up my entire quinoa breakfast, I’m sure that’s not the way you want new members to get skinnier.

Now David, nearly all Americans could stand to lose five pounds. Me? I’ve always assumed I’d be almost unfairly appealing if I lost five pounds. Ten pounds down, and I’m a teenager. Fifteen pounds lighter and people will wonder if my cancer has returned. Probably a very good use of my time would be to station myself in the room with Watson and tell women that the machine is a jackass. I wear a size 4 (most of the time) and the deli guy flirts with me (unfailingly). I can still shimmy into my prom dress and do splits and hold a handstand. The bee boopy doo dad machine can go suck a shoe.

Possibly the worst way to inspire a gal to exercise is to deliver a lethal blow to her self-esteem. Because the only thing that girl wants to do is to submit to a couch-bound, maw-stuffing spree. Instead, I agreed to meet with you again—to show up and see what ridiculous exercises you planned for this girl who can balance and stretch, but not run or spin or jump or lift with any sort of enthusiasm or compliance. Ten o’clock on Friday. Yup. I’ll totally come. What the hell, let’s exercise!

And then I forgot all about it. Forgot about you. Forgot I had sixteen pounds to deny this body that I have always assumed is serviceable, healthy (temporarily), lively, and cute, dammit. So I’m sorry if I messed up your schedule. Though I was actually at the gym this morning, I would have been useless after spinning class torture with Potty Mouth Boy who is certain we could all be going faster (and yet nowhere). I will continue to swim (not far), and spin (occasionally, because it is so incredibly hard and awful it deserves it’s own set of paragraphs), and plié, and do what is necessary to keep this body active and healthy. But I’m not losing sixteen pounds, nor hanging out with anyone who thinks I might need to.

xoxo,

Britt

The only scale I ever trust...

The only scale I ever trust…

 

 

Twirly Fabulous

Modern Cancer-acquiring girls have the gift of social media, and if you’re comfortable being blab blab blabby about it, you don’t have to endure the disease alone. I now have dozens of virtual friends in this Crap Sorority of the Previously Bald and Possibly Dying. I’ve met most of these gals through friends-of-friends because, for whatever reason, people who know people who have Cancer want you to know they know other people who have Cancer, too. And because all Cancer-y girls will certainly be besties, they feel adorably obligated to broker the introduction. And even though I wrote that as if it’s annoying… it’s not. At all. (Although maybe take a moment to wonder if you have ever uttered, “Sally had Cancer… you should call her!”) I have texted, phoned, emailed, written, and blog-messaged with at least 100 women who found a lump, who can’t get out of bed, who are still doing CrossFit, who can’t choose a wig, who didn’t know how to tell the kids, who like their hair and hate their hair and grew their hair or love it short, and who want a sympathetic soundboard to blame those extra ten pounds on Tamoxifen.

Tara is one such internet-derived friend-of-friend. A decade my junior, there are still many similarities to how we slog and blog through the aftermath, although she does it with teeny children underfoot while continuing to work at her smartypants job. She’s a do-gooding lawyer and wicked brave and brutally honest. To point, she recently posted her weight. Few people are this honest. I get on the scale, sway, lean, inhale pointlessly, and round down. When subjected to the Balance of Shame in the doctor’s office, I console myself with the delusion that my flippy skirts are, really, rather quite heavy. But Tara posted her weight to disarm its Debby Downer reality and embrace it as a sign of her health. Most of us enjoy a temporary svelteness when the terror of a Cancer diagnosis makes us vomit and forget to eat. Surgery and chemo serve well as a weight-maintenance plan. But just as we’re feeling all groovy with our new parts and hair, hunger and Tamoxifen bring us right back to where we were (or a little ahead of that). Tara posted her weight as an in-your-face, here-I-am, suck-it-Cancer announcement, and by doing so, robbed a silly number of its power. This makes her kind of awesome.

As someone less awesome, I’m flabbergasted as to why that damn slide weight is still being coaxed to the right after an entire summer of liquefied veggie meals. It might have something to do with Prosecco… but c’mon metabolism, give a girl a break. Normally, I don’t focus on numbers, because I always assume that I look fabulous, and a digital judgment from an Amazon.com appliance shouldn’t interfere with my good common sense. But a handful of recent Cancer follow up appointments had me standing on scales in my (heavy) flippy skirts, wondering why I drank all of that kale. Happily, my faithful, on line Crap Sorority friends will always chime in to commiserate, and blame it on obviously very thick clothing or chemo-edema or Tamoxifen in spite of research which suggests that cupcakes might part of the problem.

This week, I chose to combat my anti-estrogen fueled liposomes at the barre (as my favorite belly-up version isn’t helping). Because I adore sitting still or only gracefully moving my appendages slowly, I’ve been doing yoga for two years. But I’ve grown bored with the ohm-ing, so maybe I can twirl myself to skinny? Pure Barre was the intended topic of this collection of paragraphs, because I am walking so funny today. After two classes repeating exercises shamelessly designed to tame jiggly bits—a refreshing departure from thumbs-to-third-eye yoga, for sure– I realize Pure Barre is only loosely informed by ballet. I had envisioned a morning doing mini back bends in fifth position accompanied by Mozart, but instead found myself staring into full length mirrors at my jiggly bits as we plié-d and tucked and lifted at Macklemore speed until our thighs wiggled with exhaustion. And there was no twirling. Nothing about this summons the loveliness I associate with ballet… except the instructors… who are interchangeably pretty and perfect and can do all of these drills without the slack jawed, holy-fuck-torture face. I may have mentioned once or twice how much I loathe exercise, in general, so you can imagine my disappointment that a ballet class was actually cardio. Bah.

But I’m going back. First of all, I already paid for a month of classes. And also, there was a noticeable dearth of jiggly bits in that room. Maybe Pure Barre is onto something. Or not. Certainly Tara is.

If I were as brave as Tara, I’d insert my weight here, followed by a quip about how twirly fabulous I feel. And honestly, after an entire summer slurping salad through a straw, I feel pretty twirly fabulous. But it would also be nice if this skirt wasn’t so heavy.

I didn't get to do this once at Pure Barre...

I didn’t get to do this at Pure Barre…