by Maria Schulz
I’ve been exercising a lot more lately, and I keep trying to convince myself that’s a good thing. I know it’s great for you, but my body seems to shun actual exercise the way a priest shuns possession.
I started doing Zumba with my friend Joanie, and I have now gone twice. This is something of a herculean accomplishment for me. You can get me to try anything once, but twice? I felt like I should get a medal, preferably the Bronze Star.
It’s not that I don’t like Zumba—I do. It’s just that I’ve simply confirmed to myself that my mother’s donation of Puerto Rican genes did not include those that would help me with coordination, grace or the ability to dance. Instead, I’m pretty sure that she just gave me a love of chicken and rice, fried cod cakes, and flan.
I can do the steps slowly, but when the instructor starts to ramp up the speed and intensity, I look like an 80 year-old who just got off the short bus.
I also tried a class called Cardio Dance Blast. It was challenging in a different way than Zumba, and I did have fun. The thing about it was that it was not so much dancing as it was trying to follow the clubbing steps of a deranged bar fly who just had some speed slipped into her drink.
At one point, the teacher turned off the lights and put on strobe lights to simulate a rollicking club atmosphere. Then, she free danced and told us all to follow along. I did, but imagined that I looked less like her and more like a dancing monkey.
Exercising makes me crave the craziest things. All that movement makes me dream of Jack in the Box Taco Grandes, which I haven’t had in 25 years. I also start fantasizing about jumping in the car and finding the nearest Jack in the Box. Never mind that the closest one is 3 states away—the more I inflict exercise on myself, the more it seems like a good idea.
Luckily, I am usually so exhausted by the time I get home that I am in no shape to begin my three state odyssey. Instead, I take a shower, mumble something incoherent to my family, and stumble into bed.
If my old gym teachers could see me now, I’m sure they would laugh and laugh. There’s Mrs. Berger, who enjoyed using me to demonstrate how not to do any given exercise; Ms. Dilello, who seemed to enjoy watching me inch my way around the track in pursuit of the 20-minute mile; and Mr. Collumb, who wrote in my high school yearbook, “Dance, dance, dance! Keep moving,” after a tortured semester of Aerobics class.
One college professor of mine had us do food and exercise journals as a class project. When the 30 days were up, we handed in our diaries, which had to list everything we ate and everything we did. It was not the first time I saw that look of disgust on someone’s face, and it wouldn’t be the last.
“You eat too much Jack in the Box and White Castle! At this rate, you’ll weigh 400 pounds by the time you’re 40!”
All I heard though was “crunch crunch crunch crunch” because I was eating a bag of Funyuns. “What did you say?” I said, between crunches.
He shook his head and handed me the paper. “Read my comments,” he said. Luckily, there was a catalog of comments about what he seemed to perceive as my crimes against humanity in every Jack in the Box in New York.
I managed to piece together what he said thanks to his summary on the last page. In bold red pen, he wrote, “Your diet is terrible! You eat too much Jack in the Box and White Castle! You’ll weigh 400 pounds by the time you’re 40!”
He was definitely someone I could only take in small doses and it was best to drown out his voice with Funyuns. I’m not sure if he would be disappointed if he saw me today, because I do NOT weigh 400 pounds and I don’t even eat Jack in the Box or Funyuns anymore.
Mr. College Professor tried to get us to run around the track. I wished I had Ms. Dilello’s phone number, because it would have been helpful to have her tell him that this was a very bad idea.
“I hate jogging,” I told him.
“You will love it!” he screamed.
I’m not sure if it was the adrenaline rush from all the exercise he seemed to do, or the 50 gallons of coffee he drank per day to keep his weight down, but he couldn’t make any sense of me and the result was a lot of screaming.
I considered jogging something you should only do at gunpoint, and only then because you have an angry chimp pointing a gun at you or you’re in a Prisoner of War Camp. Exercise junkies say, “jogging” and all I hear is “Death March.”
I attempted to run around the track at what I thought was a reasonable rate, trying to break the 20 minute mile mark that I had set for myself in high school. Mr. College Professor was screaming and jumping on the side of the track while the other kids whizzed by me. I kept getting a stitch in my side and slowing down, which appeared to aggravate my professor. I couldn’t tell what he was saying, and I wasn’t even eating Funyuns.
The only time I ever felt the urge or desire to jog was after being subjected to a 14-hour day of travelling to Key West, Florida. We left on the morning of a snowstorm and we were panicked that we would miss our connecting flight.
We ran through the Miami airport towards our terminal (which, of course, was number 99 and we disembarked at terminal 12) like our lives depended on it. Our fellow passengers from New York ran all the way with us. We actually got there 25 minutes before the flight was scheduled to leave.
“Oh,” the flight attendant said as we showed up with a group of 10 fellow New Yorkers with tickets to this flight. “We sent the flight off without you because we thought there was no way you’d ever make it.”
Apparently, these people have never seen a crowd of New Yorkers making their way through Penn Station at rush hour. Of course we would get there on time! What airline sends off flights early? How could they sell our tickets?
After hours of complaining, screaming and crying, the airline finally put us all on a mini-bus that would drive us from Miami to Key West. Now that would’ve been okay if this was the afternoon, because I hear it’s a beautiful drive at sunset. But of course, the airport jerked us around until about 8 pm and then sent us on our way in the pitch black of night.
We moved at a rate that made watching icebergs melt seem like fast-paced fun. When the driver finally hit the gas and exceeded the 40-mile an hour mark, it wasn’t long before we saw the flash of red lights and heard the wail of a siren behind us. The cops were about to pull us over.
I sat there, exhausted beyond hope and craving nothing more than the fried conch and cheeseburgers in paradise that I had been promised. I saw the white lines on the ground in front of us, and immediately began to think of Dustin Hoffman running down the road in the movie, Marathon Man.
I would have too, if it weren’t for the fact that I hate running. Instead, I sat there and wept/giggled like the lunatic I am while my husband and girls patted my back consolingly.
My exercise goals for the months ahead are to:
- Keep trying Zumba. I may not be the most talented dancer in the class, but at least it leaves me too exhausted to buy fast food
- Try yoga to reestablish my balance. When I was a kid, I could stand on one leg and hop. Now if I did that, I would probably break one or both of my legs. I know this is a lofty goal but I’m willing to try it
- Sign up for TRX classes. These are basically isometrics classes that utilize a giant bungee cord and your own weight to help you build muscle mass. I just hope I don’t strangle myself
- Return to the Spinning classes that I loved a while back, except when one of the coaches stood next to me and screamed that I could “DO MORE.” I showed her my heart rate monitor, which would have been out of range even for a giant like Shaquille O’Neil, and she quietly said, “maybe you should stop and catch your breath.” You think? I had to go home and lay down for a while. Funny, but I never went back.
- Get into kick boxing. I used to do those Denise Austin videos all the time. I have fond memories of doing it after my kids were born. My parents would come over every Wednesday and watch me do my videos. They would laugh and laugh. I want to share that kind of joy with the rest of the world.
- Hope that the nice men with the butterfly nets don’t come and take me away once they’ve seen me dance, kick box, spin or try TRX.
We finally made it to Key West last year, and despite the horrible traveling conditions on Day 1, we had a great time. The food is amazing and fresh and no, I did not long for Jack in the Box while I was there. We went on a snorkeling trip around Key West and even “free danced” to Bob Marley on a sunset cruise. It’s true—the sunsets there are spectacular!
Here are some recipes I found that are inspired by Key West. We loved the Jamaican Jerk marinade on beef and you can’t go there without trying the Key Lime Pie.
So, Hungry Lifers…what foods do you crave? Does exercise make you as hungry and crazy as it makes me? Please post your comments and let us all know. Thanks!