The 30 Day Shred’s Three Circles of Hell

As the mother of a two-and-a-half year old, I’ve got skills the So-Secret-Nobody’s-Heard-of-It Agency wishes they knew about. In fact, the So-Secret-Nobody’s-Heard-of-It Agency tried to recruit me. However, my skills are better put to use managing the small hostile force in my own home.

My skill set, however, does not include running faster than a toddler, or lifting more than 35 pounds over short distances when cajoling and bribes fail to get my daughter to move from Point A to Point B. My skill set is more along the lines of squatting down to play tea party, slowly jogging the two blocks to school (when Z feels like it), and half-heartedly chasing her around the playground a couple of times a week.

So I want to get buff. While there is no hope of fitting into my jeans from high school, I’d like to feel comfortable in my body.

And in Jillian Michaels’s 30-Day Shred, I am anything but comfortable in my body. My body, I discover, continues to jump even after my legs have stopped. “Yo, gut,” I say. “The jumping jacks are over.”

Despite this discomfort, every morning I join Jillian and her two minions (her “best girls,” she calls them. Like, are they really her best friends?). I watch Natalie doing the advanced version of the workout, smiling through her gritted teeth, and Anita on the beginner’s track, coolly appraising me with her don’t-you-wish-you-had-em abs. And then there’s Jillian. She acts all goofy in the beginning, like, “Hey, modest me, I’m just a dorky girl next door.” And then she starts bossing you around: “Don’t you dare turn off this DVD. If 400 pound people can do jumping jacks, then so can you!” and all sorts of verbal abuse she probably thinks is encouragement.

Amazingly, though, after a week I could get through Workout 1 without falling down on the floor. Thus encouraged, I decided to enter the second circle of hell, also known as Workout 2.

When I started workout 2, Z finally noticed what I was doing. “You’re doing the same things they’re doing,” she said. I don’t think she gets it, why I’m growling at the television while heaving my body around the living room and gasping like a scandalized southern belle. To her, this exercise thing is a strange phenomenon. She joins in occasionally, holding two stuffed animals for her “weights” and doing a few jumping jacks. Then she gets bored and sets up a tea party or picks up a book.

Natalie and Anita might be stuck in the second circle with me for awhile, repeating the same exercises over and over again, smiling their smiles, holding back their eye rolls every time Jillian says something about how she isn’t very flexible. 30 days? Yeah, right. 60 days probably won’t be enough for me to get past that cursed chair squat and V raise. I’m going to stick with it, though, for all those times my daughter does want to run to school, for the sheer joy of moving her body.

Really, though, plank pose is overrated.