the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Three sets of ten

Jon and I have been members of a local gym since I was pregnant with Leta, and last week before I headed in to burn 40 minutes on the treadmill I asked one of the managers about personal training. Why? Because all I know how to do is cardio and a few biceps curls, and the result of all that work is my current figure. The one I’ve had since adolescence. The one that looks like a fancy, modern chair without back legs:

Do you see the part right there where the back of the chair curves and makes the seat? That’s my butt. It is perfectly inline with the top of my body. Or, as the kids might say, BABY DO NOT GOT BACK.

Interestingly, a lot of the weight I gained during my pregnancy with Marlo went straight to my butt, and here’s where I start to give you too much information. But that’s why you come here, right? You don’t come here to listen to me prattle on about health care reform or football or minestrone soup. No. You come here because I’m willing to tell you that while I did not get stretch marks on my stomach, I did grow A MAP OF ALL THE RIVERS IN SOUTH AMERICA on my butt. Because it went from not existing to suddenly I’ve got NASA calling concerned that certain satellites are veering toward Utah.

Anyway, the manager pointed me in the direction of a few personal trainers, and I exchanged email with one whom I met yesterday to see how we’d match up. And after realizing we’d been living parallel lives (see: thinking in childhood that the world might spin off its axis if we did not fast and pray hard enough) she had me perform what she called a “fitness test.” And when I heard the word TEST a certain part of my brain exploded, seized control of all rational parts of my brain, and the first thought that went through my head was, “If I do not ace this test we will all die alone and homeless.”

Pretty much the exact same thought I had every second of high school.

Now, I’m medicated, so I could see from the outside that this thought was ridiculous, but I could also see how awesome it would be if I came away from this being The Valedictorian of Fitness Tests.

Oh, yes. This trainer would talk to the other trainers and say, wow, you should have seen this Armstrong woman. I had to make up a new grade because A++ just doesn’t describe how well she aced this test. And then I would give a speech at fitness graduation, and in the middle of it I’d flex my forearm, grunt and chest bump the podium.

Except, I’ve worked out maybe twice since Marlo’s birth, and while I may be back to my pre-pregnancy weight (thank you, Grandpa Hamilton’s genes) I am not at all fit in any sense of the word. I might be able to bench press a wine bottle, but only if Jon is spotting me. And even then I have to take a nap from all the exhaustion.

So she had me do as many sit-ups as I could do in one minute, and since this was the first part of the test I had no problem. Well, no problem until about the 37-second mark when my abs started revolting and screaming MUTINY! MUTINY! Aim straight for her giant forehead!

And then right away I had to do as many push-ups as I could in one minute. People, on a really good day I can do eight proper push-ups, maybe fifteen if I’m cheating and using my knees. And I haven’t even attempted a push-up since the fall of 2008 before I got pregnant with Marlo. So you will understand that it was no small feat that I did almost 50 (FIFTY!) push-ups cheating with my knees in only 60 seconds. And it will make sense that my arms immediately detached from my body and started hitting me in the face.

Off to assisted pull-ups, then a session of balancing on one of those insane BOSU balls, and then some twisted half-on, half-off the ball maneuver with a weight in one hand magic trick, and I looked down and every muscle in my body was shaking. Like I was being electrocuted. A giant blonde noodle wriggling like a worm. Thank God for this haircut, because I’ve always wanted to look like a lemon-flavored Blow Pop having a seizure.

My instructions then were to keep a journal of my diet and a record of how I was feeling physically. She said that this kind of workout affects the body differently than one that concentrates mostly on weightlifting, and that I might start to feel soreness in several parts of my body. So I came home, opened the door, and then collapsed face-first onto the floor. I asked Jon to write on a piece of paper: ABLE TO INSPECT THE COTTON WEAVE IN THE CARPET.

The rest of the day looked like this:

Soreness in shoulders.

Wait, make that: soreness in thighs.

Wait, I can’t identify where that soreness is OH, MY CHEST. IT BURNS.









Did you know that in order to open any sort of bottle that you have to use the muscles right on the side of your armpit? I discovered this when I couldn’t open a bottle of Advil by myself. Because my armpit was paralyzed. I hope scientists are paying attention because I JUST DID ALL THEIR WORK FOR THEM.

Today’s lesson: A C- would have perfectly acceptable.

  • pinkbrain

    2010/01/19 at 2:44 pm

    Wait until tomorrow, you’ll hurt even more in places you didn’t know you had.

  • s3rp3nts

    2010/01/19 at 2:47 pm

    It does get better. And your triceps (under your arms) can’t be that bad: You’ve been picking up babies!

  • MN Sukie

    2010/01/19 at 2:57 pm

    The first time I worked out with my trainer it was all I could do to lift my arm to put the key in the ignition. I remember sitting there willing my arm to work. I was never sore the day after working out but the first six hours after the work out sucked.

  • pinkbrain

    2010/01/19 at 2:47 pm

    Squeeeee! First!

  • fidothefatcat

    2010/01/19 at 2:58 pm

    Good genes got me back to my pre-pregnancy weight. I have NOT, however, returned to my pre-pregnancy shape. Thanks to your frightening tale, I may never return to that shape. I will have to learn to love my flat butt. Thanks a lot.

  • msmith

    2010/01/19 at 3:16 pm

    I also possess no butt whatsoever….and it disappeared even more after my son was born. The flesh that should have been located there migrated to my midsection (lovely…) and has stubbornly remained there. Even though you “ain’t got back”, be happy you still have the semblance of a waist!

  • stefanie_said

    2010/01/19 at 3:07 pm

    ha! you sound exactly like me after my first day of water aerobics. i thought “i’m lazy but would like to get into something resembling a shape. i know, water aerobics!” because those classes are full of little old ladies, how hard can it be?

    i should mention that i am ridiculously competitive and tried to “win” at water aerobics. and i did. i did everything harder and faster and more than those little old ladies. and the next day i had to skip class because i literally could not lift my body into a standing position. my muscles said a resounding fuck yoooouuuuu.

  • tiny apple

    2010/01/19 at 3:08 pm

    i’m still not back to my pre-pregnancy weight and it’s been 4 years…but i blame hormones for that one. regardless, my hubs thought it would be sweet to get me a couple sessions with a personal trainer for valentines day last year. yes, VALENTINES DAY. let’s think about that for a second. anyway, did the same fitness test and it was HORRIBLE! i feel your pain. i just can’t believe after all those years of high school and college athletics that i used to do this VOLUNTARILLY!!

  • jinjit

    2010/01/19 at 3:10 pm

    Yay! I am so excited for you! I am a personal trainer and have been reading your blog for a while now but this is my first comment because I really wanted to give you kudos. 🙂

  • MJBUtah

    2010/01/19 at 3:12 pm

    LOL…you can’t tell some people it is a test. I was explaining to my optometrist the other day that when I was 10 years old, they told me I was going to have an “eye test” and I did so well on it I didn’t get glasses for two more years. Even though I couldn’t see much. I was a smart kid, and good at tests.

    I’d like to get back to my post-pregnancy weight, which was pretty awesome. 15 years on, I can’t really call it pregnancy weight any more, can I?

  • Stellare

    2010/01/19 at 3:15 pm

    It hurts in a good way though. Just admit it! 🙂

  • jen dalley

    2010/01/19 at 3:15 pm

    I’ve never been a fan of “working out” or doing anything physical, but having had a baby 10 weeks ago and now having a Popped Balloon for a stomach, I was ready ….
    Now I think I’ll just stick with my Wii Fit. I may need some nap time afterwards but I’ve never inspected carpet because of it!
    Laughed out loud a lot during this piece!

  • Athena

    2010/01/19 at 3:16 pm

    Oh yeah – been there! My trainer is 21 – which is 5 years younger than my son(!!) – and he shows no mercy. After several months I still find there are muscles that hurt that I did not know existed.

  • WebSavyMom

    2010/01/19 at 3:18 pm

    –>This is why I operate under the theory of AVOID INJURY; Don’t Exercise.

  • Becca

    2010/01/19 at 3:26 pm

    “Don’t let my mom take Leta to church.” That made me snort!

    I know how you feel. I started karate a few months ago and discovered muscle I had no idea even existed. and I am not kidding. My kid made it look so easy (he’s 4)

  • lonek8

    2010/01/19 at 3:27 pm

    I did in fact know all about the miracle of underarm muscles in terms of bottle opening, having in my own time done way to many cheater pushups in the interest of trying to make friends in a stroller bottcamp class. That class also taught me that it is impossible to socialize and make friends when you are dragging your lungs behind you while pushing 70lbs of kids in a 50lb stroller and trying (in vain) to keep up with ten tiny speed walkers posing as mommies.

  • jenny

    2010/01/19 at 3:29 pm

    Hahaha! Oh God, this makes me insanely scared of The Personal Trainer. (Or rather the personal training…)

    Kudos to you!

  • MissCaron

    2010/01/19 at 3:29 pm

    LMAO!!! Trainers always know the way to inflict pain and torture like they used to work in a Nazi camp or something. Not cool.

  • mrsalexhad

    2010/01/19 at 3:33 pm

    I love that pain! It’s like giving birth but for days on end! Wait til the evil trainer makes you do * gasp * LUNGES and SQUATS. Worst torture known to woman. Couldn’t squat to pee for days because of the intense pain. Fun.

  • The Three Ms

    2010/01/19 at 3:33 pm

    OMG Heather! This strikes me as especially funny since I’ve been walking around like some one punched me in the girly parts for the last two days from my own idiotic, totally self induced, post holiday crazy in the brain, haven’t worked out in 2 years but I think I’ll do 15 minutes of 70 lb thigh squeezes in the weight room on Sunday! OUCHHHHHH!

    Hang in there! I’m assuming you made it off the floor finally since you were able to type this Post. 🙂

  • Schnauzie_Mom

    2010/01/19 at 3:33 pm

    I used to personal train and got all those “your the devil” kind of comments…but be honest, deep down, you really love it:-)

    I can’t remember if you have a Wii, but if you do, I highly recommend the EA Active Sport game. It can be a pretty good workout alternative for those cold, winter days where you just can’t force yourself to leave the house!

  • Jessa

    2010/01/19 at 3:35 pm

    go for you! I just started work with a trainer a few weeks ago and I remember almost crying in the shower after the first session because it hurt so much to lift my arms up over my head to wash my hair. I would have bent over at the waist instead, but that hurt more. After 4 weeks of twice-weekly 5:30am wake-ups for training sessions, the pain is a welcome feeling. Stick with it and you’ll feel A++++

  • Milla

    2010/01/19 at 3:38 pm

    what’s a “push-up”? is that like those ice pops that you suck on? i’ve had a few of those, none of that other kind though.

  • GAgirl

    2010/01/19 at 3:42 pm

    Thank you for making me laugh so hard, my Diet Coke came spewing out of my nose. I do a couple of weight classes at the gym and workout with a trainer 2 days a week and I love that soreness. I feel like it means I had a great workout. Typically it will hit you 2 days after so just wait. I have found when I drink a good quality protein shake it eliminates most of the soreness (and repairs/heals your muscles). Keep up the great work and thanks again for the great laugh.

  • lynnor

    2010/01/19 at 3:45 pm

    laughing so hard I’m crying. Because I’ve been there. And am there.

    BTW: even in my fit/weightlifting days I couldn’t sculpt out a butt. If you find the secret to that, let me know.

  • angelaraew

    2010/01/19 at 3:49 pm

    My friend and I went to a martial arts class and ended up having our shoulders hurt like you wouldn’t believe yesterday. So, we decide on yoga. Why? Because it probably won’t hurt your shoulders. Have you heard of downward dog? Yeah. Painful.

  • Daisy-girl

    2010/01/19 at 3:50 pm

    Personal trainers are mean by nature. I think that is a criteria on the job description. Seeking sadistic personality type willing to torture unknowing clientelle into submission in order to achieve world domination. Powder Puffs need not apply.

  • Summerfred

    2010/01/19 at 3:53 pm

    I’m dating a personal trainer so I completely feel for you! One would think if you are boning the trainer, he might take it a little easier on you. Yeah, soooo not the case. I think trainers are born sadists… or is is masochists? Maybe both. We’ve developed a love/hate relationship. I hate him almost every second while we are working out, but I love him afterward. It works for us.

    Best of luck to you! The trick is to just stay with it.

  • lemusgro

    2010/01/19 at 3:56 pm
  • lemusgro

    2010/01/19 at 3:56 pm
  • Bree

    2010/01/19 at 4:03 pm

    And now you get to go back to the gym and do the same exact thing while your muscles are still paralyzed by pain. But don’t worry, that will actually make them feel BETTER. Welcome to Opposite Day. 🙂

    You’ve gotten through the toughest part! The rest is cake. You can doo eet!

  • lhaven

    2010/01/19 at 4:06 pm

    This is why I read your website. Your writing is brilliant and it makes me laugh and cry harder than I knew I could. Thank you.

  • WanderingOne

    2010/01/19 at 4:11 pm

    Oh yes, I know these feelings well. And to think, once you’re not sore, if you do a different workout of similar intensity… You will be sore in ALL THOSE PLACES AGAIN. And you’ll think to yourself, “But I worked out! How can THIS BE SO SORE AGAIN!?!”

    … As for this workout, though, I suggest a big glass of water (hydration helps lubricate the muscles and ease the pain) and more advil. You’re going to hurt in new places tomorrow.

  • ButtersandRoses

    2010/01/19 at 4:15 pm

    This is exactly how I felt after Bar Method last Thursday!

  • Jamie Bray

    2010/01/19 at 4:22 pm

    I love you Dooce.

    Thank you for making me laugh so hard I cried. Excellent writing :).

  • Amy G

    2010/01/19 at 4:43 pm

    LMAO 🙂

    I had a personal trainer appointment back in ’07 that went pretty much exactly like that. I knew I wasn’t in peak form, but I totally thought I could ace the “let’s see where you’re at right now” test. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was dying within about 15 minutes. And I couldn’t walk, sit, lay down, bend over, lift anything or climb stairs for several days straight. It sucked. But it was HUGE motivation for me, and ultimately, my fitness level improved enormously. Stick with it, sister. You’ll be fine. 😉

  • brooke

    2010/01/19 at 4:46 pm

    the only problem with trying hard, is now this is the bench mark from where you start. if you only did 3 push ups, she would aim for 5 next time. aim low! (spoken from a true under achiever!)

  • Saint Tigerlily

    2010/01/19 at 4:55 pm

    Delurking to share:

    When I had my first serious work-out session with my trainer prior to our wedding I found myself stuck on the toilet and unable to get up. To assist, I grabbed onto the towel rack next to the toilet and promptly (and impressively, I thought) pulled it straight out of the wall.

    I then had to call out for my then fiance to come and help me. I still believe it was an important part of our Growing Together As A Couple and I have still never felt physical pain that is supposed to be good for you quite like what that evil trainer did to my thighs, ass, knees?, arms, chest, part under my ribs in the back, neck, shins and other muscles that I think popped into existence for the simple pleasure of torturing me only to vanish immediately upon accomplishing that mission.

    In other words: I feel you.

  • Katie Kat

    2010/01/19 at 4:55 pm

    Okay, I’m tired from just READING your ordeal. And the fact that I had to actually REMEMBER my login name and password. Where’s the gin?

  • Miss Bits

    2010/01/19 at 5:05 pm

    My brother in law is a personal trainer. Not even as a full time job, but for fun. For fun I tell you! Still baffled. A prerequisite is the innate ability to make something brutal look easy. I think that trait has recently been mapped on the human genome.

  • JillyLly

    2010/01/19 at 5:50 pm

    Ahh the joys of working out! I also had a similar experience just recently only instead of having a trainer, I thought it would be a good idea to try the hill mode on the tread mill. So there I am, running up and down ridiculously steep hills and when I’m done I thought to myself that it wasn’t so bad, but when I got off the treadmill I found that my legs had turned to rubber and refused to move by themselves. Awesome. Walking back to my apartment was a nightmare after that.

  • CharmCity

    2010/01/19 at 6:08 pm

    1. When I broke my wrist, I was placed in a cast up to my elbow. The doctor also gave me some pain meds for the first week, since apparently a broken wrist hurts. The pain meds were in a child-proof bottle that I had no chance of opening with the cast on. Oh, the irony.

    2. Right now my abs are screaming b/c I finally got back to the gym yesterday after way too long of a break, and pushed myself way too hard doing front and side crunches. Why did I push myself way to hard? To impress a girl who was watching me from a treadmill. I am a straight woman. This is totally illogical.

  • Soapourri

    2010/01/19 at 6:10 pm

    This really did make me LOL! I can totally relate to the shaking muscles thing – I was afraid I was going to splat on the floor at the gym. But, hey, I just read some of the comments – “love that soreness”? “the pain is a welcome feeling”? WHATTTTT?

  • The Jessiest

    2010/01/19 at 6:37 pm

    The BOSU ball! Yes! The first time my trainer put me on one of those I looked ridiculous, shaking all over the place because I couldn’t keep my balance. Insane.

  • CreatureofHabit

    2010/01/19 at 6:39 pm

    I need to be on this plan! My current approach to fitness is the atrophy approach (TM pending). It’s the approach where you do nothing and you because really soft. And pale. It’s not hard at all.

  • renaemcalister

    2010/01/19 at 6:49 pm

    YAY for “getting in shape”, my second son is 10 months old and I told myself it is time to get with it already. I am also taking note of everything I eat and I’m using an app for iPhone called “lose it” that is great, has a ton of nutritional info on almost any food you can think of, AND, it is password protected. (So my 2 year old can’t randomly delete things and my husband can’t see how much I weigh) Did I mention it’s free too, cause those are the best kind 🙂

  • mosaicmama

    2010/01/19 at 7:27 pm

    LMAO at yellow-flavored Blow Pop having a seizure.

  • barbara

    2010/01/19 at 7:28 pm

    Oh man, that was hilarious!
    I felt that way the day after my first yoga class. It hurt to drink a glass of water. Stick with it! I promise you’ll feel better!

  • inosint38

    2010/01/19 at 7:39 pm

    whenever I need a good laugh I can count on you Dooce..thanks 🙂

  • svatura

    2010/01/19 at 7:57 pm

    I have recently returned to the gym as well and I have to share the most motivating ‘mommy workout’ I have ever seen. I don’t even have kids and watch it everytime I should go to the gym but not sure I want to.

    She is amazing!

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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