I have never been in favor of fitness as a hobby. Sports are fine if you must exercise, running is acceptable, but working out at the gym is wretched, and attending fitness classes like a spandex-clad lemming slavishly and sweatily aping the every move of the much more shapely spandex-clad captain of your sad lemming tribe - that is the worst. But now I live in southern California, and all anyone here seems to do is get in shape. It's not even fitness as a hobby, it's fitness as the driving imperative of one's life, with whatever professional and familial obligations one might have ranking only second or third in importance behind maintaining firm glutes. It is an eternal progress towards perfection, only think for a second what this progress really terminates in. There are people here who don't even seem to own any clothing for use in non-exercise contexts. Of course, I scorn all this, and all of them, and this entire state and its "lifestyle," but I have a lot of free time. So perhaps the collapse of my resistance was inevitable.
At first, I was persuaded to take tennis lessons with a friend. I do not enjoy being instructed, but at least I've already reached a degree of tennis competence at which it's possible to enroll in a course that focuses mostly on strategy and not repetitive groundstroke drills, and the class has actually been very helpful, even though we are almost the worst players in it. And I was content with things, really. It's a two-day a week commute to UCSD, an hour each way. Time-consuming work!
But then I began noticing the phenomenon of the Saturday morning post-yoga class woman at coffee shops. The Saturday morning post-yoga class woman comes into the coffee shop around 11:30 am as you've just begun hopelessly trying to read Bodin while simultaneously writing your chapter on Bodin (and also online shopping, because let's face it, you suck) after having gotten out of bed only 30 minutes earlier. She has been up since 7 am. She is wearing very flattering yoga clothes and carting her mat in a designated yoga mat bag. Already fully alert from her morning workout, she requires no caffeine, and instead orders a green juice, takes out a trendy novel, and proceeds to her Saturday morning ritual of healthful productivity. Saturday morning post-yoga class woman does not consume pastries, although she could if she wanted to, having pre-emptively negated their caloric content with her careful attention to fitness. She could probably write your entire chapter in the time it takes her to finish one green juice. All of which of course means that if I become Saturday morning post-yoga class woman, I would finish my own chapter in the time it takes to drink a green juice, I would actually drink green juice, and I would otherwise be improved in every way.
The first problem with this plan is that I will not do yoga. It is just elaborate stretching, like we used to do in gym class under duress, but now re-branded with better outfits and a vague and exotic appeal to Eastern religion. Every hour, at least five college-educated women in American succumb to yoga because it's just so good for you and makes you feel so great. Whenever anything is so universally approved by the smart set that not even culture warring partisanship has produced detractors, I worry that civilization is in jeopardy (another contender for this honor is Downton Abbey).If I resist and it turns out to be yoga that leads us into a dystopian society, there will be at least someone left who remembers the world as it was before yoga, like in The Giver. So I decided to become Saturday morning post-generic fitness class woman instead.
The second problem with this plan is that fitness classes are expensive and elaborately specialized and confusing. What kind of fitness do you want to do? Bike in place to excruciating music? Lift ball-shaped weights and swing them around? Lay on a mat and swing your legs around? Run around a room in circles while a large man yells at you? Suspend yourself from the wall? There are so many options! And once you select one, how do you fund it? But the solution to all these problems is Groupon, which can always get you to do that which you probably would rather not.
My Groupon for 30 random fitness classes all over San Diego in hand, I surveyed these options and elected for the one that involves suspending yourself from a wall at 8 am on Saturday mornings. (You can look up TRX in Youtube if you wish to see a demonstration of self-wall suspension.) Did this seem moronic and antithetical to my vehement and arbitrary opposition to the humiliating nature of group exercise classes? Yes. But healthful productivity! I wasn't too concerned with the difficulty of this activity, because I am in ok shape from tennis and all those years of pre-Californian driving-avoidance, and it seemed like the wall was going to do most of the work for me. My main concern was planning my healthfully productive post-exercise Saturday, which was of course to include the requisite post-class visit to a coffee shop, followed by many productive hours of chapter-writing at home, and then a leisured evening out with my husband.
Well. I got up at 6 am, attended this class, after which I could hardly walk up the stairs out of the gym. Unlike the green juice women, I required coffee after this event, and upon returning home, immediately fell asleep. The next day, I first became aware of many muscles I never even knew I had by means of the intense pain they caused me each time they were called on to function. Two days on, sneezing still reminds me of the existence of all the muscles in my upper abdomen. If becoming Saturday morning post-yoga class woman will in itself requires months of practice, then how will I ever finish my dissertation at this rate? And there is still green juice to acclimate to!