This One’s For the Girls (And Guys Too, I Don’t Discriminate)

I work out. Yes, I do. And I don’t love it, but I’ve learned not to hate it. It’s hell when I’m actually in class, feeling like a failing stripper-in-training as I pulse my hips to the sky until my muscles literally give out. But I can’t deny that I always feel better afterwards, and if I do it early enough in the morning, I can forget it ever happened until I have to do it again.

At Physique 57 the other day, frustrated with myself once again for glancing over at the woman next to me once every thirty seconds to make sure I was keeping up, I had a major epiphany. As much as we want to be “skinny” and “in great shape” and “healthy,” I don’t know that we ever give ourselves the opportunities to be truly satisfied with how we look and feel.

Think about it. Remember the last time you left the house while your hair was miraculously behaving itself, and how great your curves felt in the new dress you decided to debut that day? You felt on top of the world, like no one could stop you, like those construction workers on the corner would have too much respect for you to whistle, but would be forced to bow down and revere the goddess that is you. NOTHING could burst your bubble.

Now remember what burst your bubble. What was it that knocked you off your cloud of hotness? I will bet that 85% of the time (that’s definitely a scientific statistic), it was merely seeing another woman who you thought looked better than you. You saw her coming down the block, with her perfectly effortless style and her chic heels (who can wear heels all day??), and you instantly curse yourself for not wearing the wedges that give you blisters but make your calves look great instead of the flats that are more comfortable yet have seen way better days. In an instant, all of your confidence disappears like a guy in my 20s after a one night stand, and you deflate like a sad balloon.

I mean, I defined “competitive” in high school. If there was a musical, I auditioned for the lead. If there was a cheerleading squad, I wanted to be captain. If there was a student government, I wanted to be secretary (I’ve always loved office supplies). I graduated 30th in my class of 425 mainly because I couldn’t stand when my intensely smart boyfriend got better grades than me. High school offers endless opportunity to exercise the competitive streak that we are born with.

A proud moment for me.

A proud moment for me.

But as we get older, those opportunities dwindle. So we naturally start to compete with each other and compare ourselves to the other women at the gym, and strangers on the street, and even our own best friends. Without a field hockey game to throw your competitive energy into, it has to go somewhere, and unfortunately, our self esteem can take a major hit because of it. Being the best at being skinny is not the same as being the star of the Debate Team.

I have a friend who has been unhappy with her weight for years now. It always pains me to see how frustrated she gets with her body, because when I look at her, all I see is beauty and grace and loyalty. She is an exceptional mother, in fantastic shape because she loves running, and one of the most thoughtful friends I have. She is sexy and funny and smart, and her boss would have a very difficult time running his charity without her. She is an inspiration to me and to everyone else who meets her. But when she looks in the mirror, she doesn’t always see those tremendous qualities.

But think of it this way: There will always be someone skinnier than you. Always. BUT there will also always be someone wishing they had your body instead of their own. So why not just remove ourselves from the equation and (gasp) put all of that energy into appreciating our own bodies? Our small boobs, our big butts, our freckles, our thin hair, our huge boobs, our flat butts, our wildly uncontrollable hair. Keep working out and making healthy decisions, but do it because it feels good, not because you want to look like the girl on the spin bike next to you. Because she probably wants to look like the girl in front of her.

We are more than our body types. We are brains, and kindness, and creativity, and positivity, and wisdom, and mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts and friends. We are extraordinary beings, no matter what shape we are.

So next time you realize that you’re comparing yourself to another woman, smile at her instead. Acknowledge her beauty and her health. And then, compliment yourself on being a bad ass in so many ways, and continue on your confident way as if the sidewalk is a catwalk. And make those construction workers speechless with your gorgeous glow and your fearlessness.

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Let’s Get Physical!

There’s a new revolution going on, sweeping the nation faster than a Law & Order: NCIS: CSI: Miami of Ohio spinoff. Everyone is either doing it, talking about doing it, talking about NOT doing it, or just dressing like they do it so they don’t feel left out cause they don’t actually do it.

I think it’s called “exercise.”

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I discovered “exercise,” in the standard sense, about 2 years ago. I was going through a divorce and felt that clichéd superficial urge to be as skinny as possible, desperately needing a change of lifestyle while stuck in the same apartment I had been living in as a married woman. And what better way to do it than go to an insanely freaking expensive ultra-luxurious urban country club with hot trainers and a steam room that piped eucalyptus through the vents? Oh yeah, I was on TOP of it.

(You could argue that I’ve been “exercising” all of my life, since every time I do a show that involves any kind of movement or dance, I’m “exercising” on a daily basis, sometimes for as much as 7 hours a day. But because it’s what I love to do, and I’m being paid to do it, it’s just not the same as the necessary evil so many people put up with on a daily basis, dragging yourself out of bed, going to the gym/park/studio where you intentionally make yourself sweat for 30-90 minutes, and all you get at the end is a high-five. If you’re LUCKY.)

But somehow “exercise” has become a true part of my life, and one that I actually (no don’t say it don’t say it) enjoy (dammit I said it). And through the trial and error of the workout regimens/classes/crazes I went through, I’ve finally found what works best for me and makes me as excited as I can possibly be about going to a gym. It will never rate up there with getting an unexpected package in the mail or sweeping the Musical Theatre category in Jeopardy while your non-actor friends look on in amazement, but I do feel good baring my abs at a Skivvies concert, so it’s pretty much worth it.

So for all of my very official research on “exercise,” the following is my very official findings on some of the places I have visited, all with the goal of finding a positive environment in which I feel comfortable sweating my butt off while being supported by the instructors and staff.

EQUINOX

These people are SERIOUS about fitness. These people have stock in Lululemon, own different workout shoes for running, training, walking, jogging, standing and peeing, and have way better hair than I do. These people literally “woke up like this,” have no problem accidentally on purpose elbowing you out of a good spot in class, and unironically drink fresh green juice after a workout at the smoothie bar. These people are not my people, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be your people.

www.equinox.com

image2PHYSIQUE 57

The hardcore cheerleading of Barre Classes! The instructors are ready to ROCK, pump you UP, and be your best friend as long as it means you keep pulsing until your thighs actually give out and you melt into a puddle on the floor! Smiling is your best defense here, as is making pain faces so it looks like you’re working harder than you are!

www.physique57.com

THE BAR METHOD

Out of all of the options out there for barre classes, this one is that sorority in college that you didn’t belong to, but are almost sure liked you anyway. A pretty Midwestern girl named Kristin who pronounces the word “per-FECT” taught my class. She actually seemed disappointed with my work because I knew what I was doing. Like, she was so ready to be my Big Sister and bond over 2 pound weights and encourage me that maybe in a few weeks, I would be ready for 3 pounds. But I didn’t give Kristin what she wanted, so she turned her attentions to Joy, the other new gal in class. I proceeded to go home and write in my diary, agonizing over whether I wore the wrong thing or said something stupid, and would I ever be invited back to the house??? But my ass hurt the next day, so I will go back and try to win Kristin’s sisterhood once more.

www.barmethod.com

PERSONAL TRAINING

Can be done at most gyms. Is expensive. Makes me look like Xena the Warrior Princess, and not in a good way.

Jimmy--Taylor_220x329Luke-Milton_220x329TRAINING MATE LA

For my West Coast friends, this is the best workout you will ever have. Not just because the High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout is fast, efficient and appropriately difficult. But because the classes are led by incredibly hot Australians WHO YELL COMPLIMENTS AT YOU. Luke and Jimmy will know your name immediately upon entering, and once you see their butts in those almost-too-short-but-not-quite shorts, you will never forget them. (Full disclosure: My fiancée has just as much of a crush on Luke and Jimmy as I do. They’re THAT AWESOME.) A 45 minute, fast-paced, loud and fun workout, you will thank me profusely if you are able to attend a class. I’m not kidding. Go now. NOW.

www.trainingmatela.com

SOULCYCLE

At the one SoulCycle class I took, I was shocked at how many men were there. Then I realized that the instructor was simply stunning, with her little tiny sports bra and 6 pack abs and long flowing hair that never seemed to absorb sweat, no matter how hard she pedaled. There are candles and positive reinforcements and happiness, which I’m pretty sure is all there to distract from the searing pain going through your thighs as you struggle to pedal in time with the music. Being someone with an innate sense of musicality, it drove me INSANE that I couldn’t always keep up. Candles or not, this is spin class, and it hurts.

www.soulcycle.com

BIKRAM YOGAyoga

That’s just nuts. I ain’t doing that.

CLASSPASS

I’ve recently found my groove by joining something called ClassPass, where you get to go to as many classes you want at any of the hundreds of participating gyms. Physique 57, Crunch, FlyWheel, dance classes, Pilates, lots of yoga, etc. It’s only $99 a month, but the catch is this: you can only visit each studio 3 times in one month. So it basically forces you to change up your workout daily, or at least try new studios and push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Therefore, I hereby promise that I will someday get up the nerve to take a pole dancing class and be sure to report back to all of you.

www.classpass.com