Thigh Master

Woman #1: “Ouch. Ouch. Ow. Ouch. Ow. Ow. Ouch. Owee. Ow. Ouch.”

Woman #2: “What’s wrong with you? Why are you walking like a robot?”

Woman #1: “Ugh. I started going to the gym again, and I think I overdid it yesterday. I can’t walk – it hurts to move.”

Woman #2: “Nice.”

Woman #1: “Hey, slow down. Let me ask you guys something. Do you know that hip adductor/abductor machine? The one where you squeeze your thighs in or push them out?”

Woman #3: “Yeah – the Madonna-Whore machine.”

Woman #1: “Exactly. So… which one is easier for you?”

Woman #2: “Which one what?”

Woman #1: “Squeezing your thighs together or pushing them out?”

Woman #2: “Oh, squeezing together. Totally.”

Woman #3: “Yeah – that’s way easier.”

Woman #1: “Are you serious? See, that’s what I was afraid of. It’s way easier for me to push my thighs out than to pull them in. I can do 85, 90 pounds pushing out, and only like 40 pounds pulling in.”

Woman #3: “What? That doesn’t make sense. Maybe you’re not doing it right.”

Woman #1: “You sit in a chair and squeeze your legs together – what’s not to do right?”

Woman #3: “Hmm. Well, that just seems wrong.”

Woman #1: “But that’s my point. Does it say something about me that it’s so much easier for me to spread my legs than to close them?”

Woman #2: “Gross.”

Woman #3: “It says that you’re genetically predisposed to being a whore.”

Woman #1: “That’s what I thought. But why am I discovering this so late in life?”

Marathon, Man

I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, because it wasn’t like I broke any records or anything, so this is the first I’m mentioning the fact that I ran in the Chicago Marathon this past Sunday. What? You don’t believe me? Perhaps some photographic proof will change your cynical minds:

[Photo by Dr. Greene – click to enlarge. But why, Dr. Greene, did you not tell me what a clown I looked like in this getup?]

Now, many of the real athletes out there may feel inclined to send me nasty emails that say, “Jesus, Jenny! What the hell is wrong with you? Only a real jackass would cut across the street during the Chicago Marathon!”

Normally, I would agree with you completely, but let me defend myself by saying:

1. There was absolutely no other way, short of a helicopter, for me to get over to the side all my friends were on.
2. I waited over half an hour for the big crowds to die down.
3. At least 30 other people ran across the street before I did.
4. I can run like the wind for a distance of exactly one block.
5. My mad breakdance skillz helped me to bob and weave effortlessly throughout the crowd.
6. I spent five hours outside in 35-degree weather cheering all the runners on.
7. I look like I’m a lot closer to the runners than I really was.
8. My fleet-footedness and joyful spirit probably inspired some of the runners to go even faster, or to kick my ass.

I’ve always heard that running a marathon can be a spiritual experience, and I have to agree. But I really should have known better than to go to the marathon when I was at the height of my womanly hormonality. As I sat on the El on my way to meet my friends Dr. Greene and Seamus, I actually got tears in my eyes while watching some young 20-somethings try to decide what they should write on their signs for their friend Meg. For some reason, it was the “You can do it, Meg!” one that really got me. They even drew little pony-tailed stick figures running.

While I have absolutely no desire, and even less ability, to run a marathon myself, I felt so proud for everyone who did, especially my friends. Dr. Greene’s girlfriend, who is part human/part cheetah/part cyborg, kept us on our toes as we tried to keep up with her along the course. She finished in 3h11, which is exactly 15h39 faster than I would have.

Cheetah Girl
There she goes

And although I didn’t get to see my friends Mateo and Ryan, thanks to the miracle of modern technology, I was able to track their progress by getting text messages sent to me automatically as they passed key mile markers. I hope you guys felt me cheering you on – you are both total rockstars!

So to everyone who ran the marathon, you have my undying respect and deep thanks. I hope you can forgive me my trespasses, because for the few steps I shared with you on LaSalle Street, I felt part of your greatness!

[Click to enlarge]
mile 5




Watch Me Flex

“Wow! What a stud!”

“No kidding! I picked the right elevator to get trapped in.”

This afternoon, with brute force and unparalleled strength, I pried open the doors of an elevator, while the other five passengers stood around sighing heavily and pressing the “Door Open” button forty-five times in a row.

A river of testosterone is coursing through my veins.

A fifty year old woman called me a stud.

I’m gonna go smash some shit now.

Take Thy (Chicken) Beak From Out My Heart


As I was leaving the gym tonight, my attention was drawn toward two signs on the wall by the steam room. The first one announced “Free Spinal Checks” from a local chiropractor. It informed me that at least ten different ailments, from headaches to bunions, could be caused by a misalignment of my spine. I cracked my back and moved on to the next sign:

Dear Patrons:

Due to unfortunate circumstances, we will no longer be serving food in our juice bar. However, we will be bringing back free high-speed Internet, and expanding the hours of our juice bar so you can enjoy tasty smoothies and shakes first thing in the morning or late into the evening.
We apologize for any inconvenience this change may cause.

The Management

I’m sorry – “any inconvenience this change may cause?” Are they f*ing kidding me?! The number one reason I joined this stupid gym in the first place was the promise of rotisserie chicken on demand! Now what the hell am I supposed to do with my half-filled “Buy 11 Rotisserie Chickens and Get the 12th Rotisserie Chicken Free!” punch card? I mean, it’s not like Bally’s is going to honor this!

Do they think I was born yesterday? I’ve worked in marketing for my entire career – I invented bait and switch! Oh, man. I am going to write a letter – a scathing letter – to “The Management” and let them know exactly how I feel about this “unfortunate circumstance.” They haven’t seen unfortunate yet!

I mean, what a bunch of crap. So, like, one well-intentioned and eager new member accidentally leaves a rotisserie chicken leg on the treadmill, and another careless gym-goer impales himself on a chicken femur, and suddenly we have to ban rotisserie chicken altogether? I’d like to see them try to go 30 minutes on the treadmill at 2.0 incline and 4.0 speed without eating anything! IT CAN’T BE DONE!

Okay Big Brother. Why don’t you control what I watch on TV while I’m working out on your newly chicken-free elliptical trainers? Why don’t you tell me what I can and cannot listen to on my iPod while doing the thigh-squeezy machine? Why don’t you stop me from doing that back exercise on that one machine just because I’m sitting in it backwards and could do permanent damage to my spine? (Okay, actually, I kind of appreciated that one… but still!)

I’m not just going to sit back and take this. Beginning tomorrow, I’m getting a petition started to bring back the poultry! You can break down my muscles, but you will never break my spirit!
Attica! Attica!

IQ™ Test

Everyone told me I should start working out. Join a gym, they said. A new year, a new you, they promised. It’s never too late to start a healthy lifestyle, I was told. Funny how these so called “advocates” of mine neglected to mention the destructive side-effects of exercise.

I didn’t realize the negative repercussions myself, until last week when I walked past a mirror twice and flexed my arms both times, wrote a list of which workout clothes I would wear for the week, and flipped through the TV section of the paper to highlight the programs I would watch during my workouts.

And then it hit me: my god, I’ve become a meathead.

When you decide to buy into the fitness hype and start working out, no one ever tells you that there is an inverse correlation between healthiness and interesting… ness. In just one short month I have become totally boring.

[Sidebar: I was going to put an exclamation point after the word “boring,” but then decided against it. See what I’m saying? Even my punctuation has become uninteresting.]

I present to you further evidence:

Exhibit A:

Natasha: “Hey Jenny. Farnsworth and I are thinking about catching a movie and then drinks afterwards. Wanna come?”

Me: “No thanks. I’m going to the gym tonight.”

Nat: “It’s Friday night. You’re spending your Friday night at the gym?”

Me: “It’s the best night to go! It’s one of the few times I can get on my favorite elliptical machine. It’s right under the fan, great view of the street below, and the TV comes in clearer than any of the others. Have fun at the movies, though!”

Exhibit B:

My notebook, normally reserved for quirky anecdotes and observations to write about in my blog, is now filled with cryptic scribblings like this:
Seated row: 10 reps x 3 sets @ 40lbs
Lat pulldowns: 10 reps x 3 sets @ 60 lbs
Hip abductor: 15 reps x 2 sets @ 40 lbs
Hip adductor: 15 reps x 2 sets @ 60 lbs
Treadmill: 20 min @ 5 incline, speed 4.5

Exhibit C:

Vivian: “Hey Jen, it’s Viv. So what’s shaking, bacon?”

Me: “Nothing much. Oh, can you believe this? So I go to the gym on Tuesday and they totally rearranged all the machines! The ellipticals were where the treadmills used to be, they switched the regular bikes and recumbent bikes around. What the hell? Whose bright idea was that? Sheesh. Hey – how much does your gym cost? Is it a lot more than mine? I’m sure it is, since everything in New York is so expensive. Do you use those ab machines? They look super painful to me. I keep seeing women using those weight ball things – I wonder how well they work…”

[time elapses]

Me: “Viv? Vivian? Hello? Are you still there?”

Vivian: “Oh, yeah. Sorry, I just zoned out for a minute. Jen, we’ve been talking about working out for the past twenty minutes, can we please change the subject?”

Exhibit D:

When I stopped by the bookstore yesterday, I set down my copies of Ms. Magazine and Mother Jones*, and instead bought the latest issues of Shape and Muscle and Fitness. Now, not only am I boring, but I’m not even a feminist anymore!

I spent some time this weekend plotting out a few data points, and discovered the shocking connection between IQ (Interesting Quotient™) and CMW (Cumulative Monthly Workouts). The results were alarming:


My research shows that the point of no return is around 14 workouts per month. Once you start to exercise more often than that, your Interesting Quotient™ will plunge to depths from which it may never rise. Even at a modest 8 workouts per month, the IQ™ drops dangerously close to dullard levels.

This, of course, begs the question: is it better to be fascinating and flabby or boring and healthy? There are so many sides to this complex debate – I don’t know. I guess I’ve got a lot of thinking to do. And blogging. Writing usually helps me clear my mind, and I’ve already got topics for the next few entries so I’d better start working on them.

Coming up next week on Run Jen Run:

Tuesday - Feel This. Does This Feel Like a Muscle to You?
Wednesday - Hey! The Orange Gatorade Isn’t Half Bad.
Friday - Point/Counterpoint: Cucumber Water v. Lemon Water
*In the interest of full disclosure, I have never actually read Mother Jones. But I do always pick it up when I’m at the bookstore. Oh, I also never got that root canal without Novocain, and I’m sorry for misleading Oprah and all her viewers.

Gym Dandy

Twenty-five fifteen thirty-six. Twenty-five fifteen thirty-six. Twenty-five fifteen thirty-six.

I grab my iPod, water bottle, and keys as I walk out the door.

Two five one five three six. Two five one five three six. Two five one five three six.

I only have to walk a block and a half, but it’s bitterly cold so I pull my hat down over my ears. I am now at the gym. I go to the gym now. I am now a gym-goer.

It’s intimidating, this new culture, particularly at my gym. My gym is a sanctuary for people who look even better when they sweat. The realm of the beautiful people with tight stomachs and muscular calves.

We have cucumber water in the locker room water coolers. Did you hear me? Cucumber water!

Twenty-five fifteen thirty-six. Twenty-five fifteen thirty-six. Twenty-five fifteen thirty-six.

While I normally would have shied away from this world, knowing it was not my own, the lure of rotisserie chicken and flat screen TV’s was too much. I rationalize: if they weren’t hunting for my species, why would they have set a trap just my size?

Each week that I successfully complete my workouts, I reward myself. Sometimes with Spongebob Squarepants stickers on my calendar, but mostly with disguises. A new black sports bra, fashionable capri sweatpants, a shatterproof indigo water bottle, my shiny new red lock. I try to blend in as best I can.

Two five one five three six. Two five one five three six. Two five one five three six.

There is a hierarchy, even on the machines. I break people down into six different categories:
A. Those who do not turn on the TV’s
B. Those who read books while on the machines
C. Those who read pop-culture magazines while on the machines
D. Those who watch the news or PBS
E. Those who watch network dramas or highly-acclaimed sitcoms
F. Those who watch trash

I will not even pretend that I fall into any category other than F, despite the fact that I did watch part of an A&E documentary on these two female boxers a couple weeks ago. However, while my innate tendency is to fall firmly in the trash category, I have acquired the chameleon-like ability to adapt to my surroundings, even if I remain a shade or two off from my neighbors.

One night, I was on the elliptical machines between CNN and a cooking show. I chose Oprah and went undetected. On another occasion, I was on the recumbent bikes flanked by an Economist reader and MSNBC. I had no choice but to watch Masterpiece Theatre. Frickin’ Brits. But once, one glorious morning, I stepped atop a treadmill and was bookended by MTV Road Rules and Laverne and Shirley. I felt neither remorse nor pain as I walk/jogged through almost an entire episode of Celebrity Fit Camp. It was heavenly.

Two five one five three six. Two five one five three six. Two five one five three six.

So tonight, I am writing this entry in my head while watching American Idol, which is challenging because I’m also trying desperately to remember the combination to my slick new red lock. Serious workout people carry bags to the gym with important things in them that need to be locked up, so I needed a serious lock. But I’m also afraid that I will forget the combination and have to ask the manager of the gym to get a bolt cutter to free my bag of important things, which really just happens to contain a Chapstick, a pack of gum, and wadded up newspapers to make it look full.

Twenty-five fifteen thirty-six. Twenty-five fifteen thirty-six. Twenty-five fifteen thirty-six.

I have seen all I can take of American Idol, so I sit down on the mat like that man just did and stretch my legs like that man just did. He is much more flexible than I am, but I don’t let this break my spirit. I just fill up my water bottle, twist my back a little like that woman just did, and walk down to the locker room.

Twenty-five fifteen thirty-six.

My shiny red lock does not open.

Twenty-five fifteen thirty-six.

I tug harder, but it still doesn’t budge. Perhaps I forgot to go past zero twice.

Twenty-five fifteen thirty-six.

Oh god. I can’t ask for a boltcutter. Should I just abandon my Chapstick? But suddenly I remember that I prepared for exactly this type of emergency. I take off my shoe, fish around for the now damp and blurry piece of paper, and let loose a deep sigh of relief.

Fifteen twenty-five thirty-six.

I grab my bag of important things, stuff my water bottle and iPod into it, and head back home.
Fifteen twenty-five thirty-six. Fifteen twenty-five thirty-six. Fifteen twenty-five thirty-six.

One five two five three six. One five two five three six. One five two five three six.