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Oh, how I hate thee, Jillian Michaels

As the clock ticks ever more quickly toward my departure date for Peru, I find myself behaving a like a pregnant woman nesting before she has a baby– except completely the opposite.  I’ve been tossing out or donating my “normal” possessions (e.g. shoes, thirteen different scented perfumes, books on Brazilian bikini diets, etc.) and buying things like a compass, rehydration salts, and safety whistles.  My house is by no means a nest at the moment, but rather a scattered springboard for a year of international travel.  

One of many crazy things that has passed through my mind lately is a strong desire to buff up.  I mean, what if the dream I had last night actually comes true and civil war breaks out while I’m in Bolivia, requiring me to fight insurgents with my bare hands, unload AK-47s into crowds of masked bandits, and run barefoot over the Andes to safety?!  At a hair under 5′ tall, I would need some serious muscles to achieve this kind of Rambo status.

Who else is there to turn to in times like these but the Mistress of Misery, Miss Jillian Michaels?

Many moons, er, months have passed since I last attempted Jillian Michael’s “The Biggest Winner!” Complete Body Workout, a five-disc set of heart-pounding, soul-crushing, vomit-inducing circuit workouts.  Memories of physical pain must fade quickly, because if I had any recollection of how difficult this workout is, I probably would not have attempted it today.

The five-disc set includes a basic “front” body workout, “back” body workout, a cardio session, and two maximized front and back workouts, for the truly masochistic.  I popped the “front” body workout in today for 35 minutes of fun.

Michaels, whom you may know from her role as the badass trainer on the TV show “The Biggest Loser”, is a big proponent of high intensity workouts and muscle-confusion.  In her books, she delves into the science of heart-rate, glycaemic index, and hormonal balance (most of which is above the head of this little runner).  For this DVD set, she designed her workouts to flow seamlessly and rapidly from one exercise to the next, without any breaks or breathers, incorporating multiple muscle groups in each movement.  The result is not only stronger muscles, but a well-conditioned cardiovascular system.

The thing that really kills me about Jill is not just the painfully effective structure of her workouts, but her no-mercy attitude.  She reminds me of an old track coach of mine, who also served as the school’s football coach.  You don’t talk back to a coach like this.  You don’t even make eye contact.  You just shut up, follow your orders, and occasionally respond “yes sir/ma’am!”

Today’s workout was accompanied by the following dialogue (yes, Jill actually says all this in the DVD):

Jillian Michaels:  I can be your best friend or your worst enemy. You do what I want, I’ll be your best friend.  If not, I’m gonna come through that TV and kick your butt.
Meghan’s wimpy brain:  I don’t really want to be friends with you.

JM:  Don’t even think about stopping.  Don’t you DARE stop!
MJ:   Ok, just please don’t hurt me…

JM:  Jumping jacks with shoulder presses.  Thirty of ’em.  You gotta keep your heart rate up if you want to melt off that fat!
MJ:  I just realized I like my fat right where it is, thankyouverymuch.  Why, if we got stranded on a mountain somewhere, I’d have reserves for twice as long as you would!!

JM:  ARRGHH rage!  You should really be hurting right now.  If you’re not, I’m gonna be really disappointed that I haven’t done my job.
MJ:  Wimper!… [silent, broken submission].

In the end, sopping with sweat and heaving for breath, I realized 1) being able to run far doesn’t necessarily make you fit, and that I have some serious work to do before I am in Rambo shape, and 2) that somewhere, deep down, I hate that I love you, Jillian Michaels.  See you again tomorrow for disc 2.

If you have decided to totally ignore my warnings, you can purchase Jillian Michael’s “The Biggest Winner” online here.  The DVD requires an aerobic step and five to ten pound hand weights.   I also wholeheartedly recommend/hate her book “Making the Cut: A Thirty-Date Diet and Fitness Plan for the Strongest, Sexiest You.”  

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9/11: Remembering through Running

I remember hearing my father swapping stories of “where I was when Kennedy was shot” with others of his generation.  I wondered how on earth someone could remember the minute-by-minute details of his third grade teacher’s announcement to the class and the reactions on his classmates’ faces, forty years later.  Ten years after 9/11, I am beginning to understand.

The announcement came in journalism class my sophomore year of high school.  Our teachers wheeled in televisions on tall stands so that we could watch the news coverage.  All sports and extracurriculars were canceled, but my fellow cross country runners and I couldn’t imagine not running that day.  Much to our parents’ dismay, we stuck around together after school to go for a long cathartic run without our coaches.

Today the only thing I could do to pry myself away from the images and sound clips on the TV was to go for a long, slow run around my hometown.  No iPod, no distractions, just me pounding the wet pavement on a cloudy day.  I saw a few more American flags than usual, a lot of packed church parking lots, and sensed a solemnity I’d almost forgotten we were capable of.

I hope that today you are all able to find some peace, whether it be in church, in your home, or on a run.