As I would imagine is the case at a lot of gyms, there’s sort of a usual crowd to the spin classes I go to.  There’s heavy-sweating super expensive bike gear guy, who has special spinning shoes and gel-butt bike shorts, and gloves, and racing shirts.  There’s gazelle girl, who is at least 6 feet tall, is 90% leg, and wears little spandex shorts the size of a postage stamp.  There’s grandma, who is totally inspiring and comes every week in her bike shorts and 80s era t-shirts to huff through the workout with the rest of the 20- and 30- somethings.  My personal favorite is wrestling outfit guy, who wears, I swear to god, those little spandex shorts with the overall suspenders, like wrestlers wear, often with no shirt on underneath:

Hot, right?

But every week, there are a few randoms who show up.

This week, one of the randoms was: a Stealth Tooter.

Look, let’s be honest.  Farting during a workout is a fact of life.  We’ve all done it.  I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I have never let one escape while I was working hard on the elliptical, or doing my one millionth lunge.

But this was something else entirely.  This was not a few isolated toots, it was a constant barrage of SBDs.  (Silent but deadlies.)  The corner where my bike was located developed a perma-fart smell.  I found myself looking around at the people on the bikes nearby, wondering if anyone looked embarrassed, or whether I could get any other hint about the source of the problem.  No such luck.

How could someone be this flatulent and not realize it or show any indication of embarrassment?  Is it possible to be that tooty and not realize it in the throes of a particularly challenging workout?  That thought caused me to have a brief, horrifying moment where I wondered if *I* was the stealth tooter, and just didn’t realize it.

But then, about 15 minutes before class ended, random girl on the bike in front of me got up, wiped down her bike, and left class early.  And the smell miraculously disappeared.  So that cleared that up.

But it left me wondering: what is the ettiquette on workout gas issues?  I mean, the occasional unavoidable fart is a fact of life, but if one morning you discover that you’re really a gas machine, do you soldier on and pretend nothing’s happening, knowing that the people around you are being subjected to an awful lot of smelliness?  Do you press on but acknowledge that it’s you by saying “excuse me”?  Or should you just bail on the class entirely, so as not to subject your fellow gym-goers to such an unpleasant olfactory experience so early in the morning?


The scene: Lincoln Park, around 8:30 am Saturday morning, where we have just finished running my first-ever 5K

Pseudo: Wheeze.  Wheeze wheeze wheeze.  Holy crap I did it!  I might barf.

John: You did it! And faster than you thought you could!  Good job!

Pseudo: It WAS fast, wasn’t it?  Go me!

John: I knew it!

Pseudo: Knew what?

John: Knew you could go faster if you were pushed!

Pseudo: Pushed?

John: Like, if I went out at a faster pace than you were used to!

Pseudo: I thought you said you did that just at the beginning, to get us a better position in a less crowded part of the pack?

John: Well, yeah, that was part of it, but the other part was that I had a goal.

Pseudo: You had a goal?

John: But I didn’t want to tell you about it.

Pseudo: You had a secret goal?

John: I wanted us to run it in under 27 minutes.  I knew if I told you that, you’d freak out and say you couldn’t do it, so I decided to just run faster than you wanted and make you keep up.

Pseudo: So even though my self-proclaimed goal was just to finish, because this was my first-ever race and I was nervous, you decided to make it about speed anyway, though I’d specifically asked you not to?

John: Yep! I knew you could do it!

Pseudo: And back around the third mile when I felt like I might die and I was having trouble breathing and wondering why my inhaler didn’t seem to be working- that was you?   You were doing that ON PURPOSE?

John: Yeah! Isn’t it great? You ran so fast!

Pseudo: And now, when I’m sitting here trying my hardest not to barf, wondering why I’ve never felt like I needed to hurl at the end of a run before- you caused that? INTENTIONALLY?

John: Uh Huh! Awesome job, sweetie!

Pseudo: On second thought, maybe I want to barf after all.  ON YOU.


(Um, except now that I’m recovered from the barfy feeling, I’m kind of hooked and want to run another one.  Stupid running, proving John right.)

Helpful fitness attire tip:

The “dry fit” shirts that get doled out to everyone who signs up for a road race are some cheaper, less-awesome version of the dry fit shirts you buy in an actual store.

If you receive such a piss-poor excuse for a dry fit shirt in a nice heather gray color, and you subsequently decide to show off about how you once registered for a road race by wearing said shirt to an early morning spinning class, you will emerge with a huge, dark, impossible to hide, basketball-sized wet patch on your STOMACH.  There will also be matching dark patches on your shoulders, back, and chest.  This will suggest to your fellow spinners that you have a  particularly sweaty belly, and perhaps that you are some freak of nature whose armpit sweat glands have migrated upwards to your shoulder region.  People will stare.

You will be sufficiently mortified that you will vow to stay away from spinning for a week or two at least.  So if you’re committed to maintaining some sort of exercise regimen, probably best to avoid these shirts at all costs.

For a long time, I was intimidated by group fitness classes.

I was not unathletic, exactly, but I am clumsy and kind of gangly.  My endurance was not great, my coordination was worse, and group exercise classes just seemed like an opportunity to embarrass myself and possibly cause injury to others.

But I WANTED to try group exercise classes.  Running on a treadmill and hamster-wheeling on an elliptical get really boring. The whole time you’re doing it, you’re thinking “when do I get to stop?”  That’s not a good recipe for sustaining a long-term commitment to exercise.

The thing that finally got me over the hump, actually, was exercise DVDs.  For several months, I let my gym membership languish while I worked my way through Turbo Jam, the infamous 30 Day Shred, and a bunch of the Biggest Loser DVDs.   Doing them in the privacy of my living room let me become familiar with the kinds of moves and routines that are used in group exercise classes, without the actual flailing around in public part.

So when my friend from work joined my gym, and asked me if I wanted to go to group classes together, I said yes.  Now, several months later, I have my favorite classes and favorite instructors, and I feel comfortable walking into just about any class the gym offers- even if I haven’t taken it before, I’m confident that I’ll be able to pick up most of it, and am unlikely to grievously injure anyone else.

But the point is: it took a while.  And I remember, very clearly, when I was too intimidated to go solo to a totally new class.  So today, in Muscle Max, when our instructor asked if anyone was brand new, and the woman in front of me raised her hand, I thought to myself “brave!”

As we went through the class, it became clear that the woman wasn’t familiar with a lot of the moves.  My biggest beef with the Muscle Max format, actually, is that too often the instructors don’t seem too concerned about proper technique, and just let you have at it.  (For a couple of exercises where it’s really easy to injure yourself, like French curls, they do some instruction on form, but even then they don’t really go around to check that people are doing it right.)

So this newbie in front of me was really struggling with stuff like deep lunges, and clean and press, and dead lifts- all exercises where it’s really easy to hurt yourself.  And that would suck- your first experience with a group exercise class and you tweak something because the instructor doesn’t really explain how to do it right?  That would be enough to convince me not to come back.

As class progressed, this woman just started skipping most of the exercises, halfheartedly doing the others, and eventually she packed up her stuff and left class early, which I guess was better than getting hurt, but it still sucked.  I was annoyed that the instructor didn’t really explain the moves, especially after she’d asked at the start of class if anyone was new.

It left me wondering: I’m hardly a fitness guru, but I’ve been going to this class regularly for about 6 months now, so I’m pretty familiar with all the exercises we do.  Should I have helped the new woman out?

I couldn’t decide if it would be helpful or just mortifying to her.  Back when I was still afraid of group exercise classes, I think I would have been horrified if someone in class had corrected my form, because it would have meant that not only was I doing it wrong, everyone was NOTICING that I was doing it wrong, and let’s face it- no one wants to think that people are looking at them when they’re working out.  We’d all rather just pretend that we’re in little private bubbles where no one can see our red faces, our butt sweat, or our awkward lunge stance.

So I didn’t say anything, but I still wonder if I should have.  What do you think?  If you saw someone doing a weightlifting exercise wrong- and not just aesthetically wrong, but wrong in a way that they could really hurt themselves- would you offer to help them correct their form?

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I’ve been training for an 8K.  The annual Shamrock Shuffle is a rite of spring in Chicago: it’s the opening of  running season, a big party, and chance to get outside after a long winter spent pounding out workouts on treadmills instead of sidewalks.

I signed up for the Shuffle with some friends from work, which I highly recommend if you’re the wimping-out sort: by signing up with casual co-worker friends, you will feel tremendous pressure not to bail.

If I’d signed up with really good, lifelong friends, my thinking might have gone something like this: “these people have seen me through thick and thin, they know I’m not athletic, they’ll understand and still love me if I end up walking the whole thing.  Maybe I should just volunteer to pass out Gatorade at the finish line or something.  They won’t mind.”

Since I signed up with work friends, however, my thinking went something like this: “Oh dear crap, I’ve signed up to run 5 miles with people who seem kind of sporty.  I’ve warned them that I am not FAST, per se, and they’ve assured me they aren’t either, but I have my doubts.  That one guy in particular seems like he’s probably fast and fit.  It will be hugely embarrassing if I end up having to let them go on without me because I can’t hack it.  I’d better get my ass in gear.”

So I followed a program and trained for the Shuffle and, lo and behold, I did not entirely hate it.  I still don’t get the “runner’s high” people talk about, but I can go out and run for 3 miles and feel like I’ve gotten a good workout, without wanting to die.  Victory!  I worked my way up to longer distances, I was confident I’d be able to finish the Shuffle without stopping to walk, and I was really looking forward to the race.

A week or so ago, one sporty guy work friend got last minute tickets to London for this week, so he bailed on the Shuffle.  Understandable.  Then, on Friday, other work friend said that she wasn’t going to run it either, because she wasn’t feeling well, and she had to travel for work this week and it didn’t seem wise to push it.

Hm.  Suddenly I was running the Shuffle alone.  Less than ideal.

I called up some old friends who I know are runner types and asked them if they were shuffling.  Success!  They were!  We made plans to meet up.

Sunday morning at 6:45, I got up to get ready.  I walked over to the bedroom window, looked outside, and saw: 4 inches of snow on the ground.


At that very moment, my cell phone pinged with a text message from my old friends, who said that they were hard core, but 4 inches of snow was a lot even for them, so they were bailing.

I took it as a sign, and climbed back in bed.

The Shuffle did go on:

How miserable does that look? I just couldn’t muster the will to go by myself to the park to wait for an hour for my group to start, then run through that, then go home on the el by myself.  There was only one way I could see that scenario ending and it was with me sick in bed after contracting a slush-induced fever.

But, see, I couldn’t just forget about it and go back to bed.  I’d already picked up my race day packet, which included a souvenir Dri-Fit tshirt.  I’m new to the world of Dri-Fit tshirts, but I bought my first one a few weeks ago and I am IN LOVE.  I want MORE, and I was really excited to start wearing my new Shamrock Shuffle Dri-Fit shirt, but I didn’t feel right about it because I hadn’t actually RUN the Shuffle.  (I am the same girl who did not play with her Christmas or birthday gifts until I’d written thank you notes.  I’m a little prissy about these things.)  I was also kind of pissed off: I’d trained hard for this thing, and I was proud of how far I’d come.

So yesterday afternoon, I laced up my sneakers, put on my sweats, and headed to the gym, where I ran the 8K (and a little more) on the treadmill.  I know it’s not as hard or authentic as running it on pavement, but it still felt like an accomplishment.  Now, the next time I head out for a run, I can put on my souvenir Shamrock Shuffle Dri-Fit shirt and only feel like a little bit of a fraud.


Did I mention that I signed up for an 8K?  No?

Remember like months and months ago when I sort of accidentally took up running and said I was going to run a 5K?  And then I never mentioned it again, because I kind of hoped everyone would forget?

Well, a few weeks ago, some friends from work coerced me into signing up for the Shamrock Shuffle.  So it appears that I am running an 8K in a little more than two weeks.  Eep.

Now, I know for “serious runners” (ahem, Nilsa) the Shamrock Shuffle is a laughable little fun run which hardly even counts as a road race.  But when your personal longest outdoor run ever was previously 1 mile, and your personal longest treadmill run ever was previously 2 miles, an 8K is nothing to sneeze at.

In fact, I was pretty convinced I was not going to make it, so I sort of held off on telling you until now.

But! On Sunday I did 4.5 miles, which is almost the full race distance, so I think I might just be able to finish this thing.  Given my newfound confidence, I feel comfortable telling you about my 8K plan, which directly led to the following story:

To train for the Shuffle, I’ve been following a program.  (I know! It’s only 5 miles! Who needs to follow a PROGRAM to be able to run 5 miles?)  (I do!) According to the program, I was supposed to run 3 miles this morning.  I set my alarm for 6am to give myself plenty of time to get to the gym, run 3 miles, and shower before work.

(We can see where this is going, right?)

At 6:58 am, I bolt up in bed and look at the clock.  Shit.  Am a full hour behind schedule.  Cannot reschedule run for after work, as I am going wedding dress shopping with Bird, and then to drink champagne.  (Whee!  My life, it is SO HARD.  I KNOW.)  So I jump out of bed, throw on sweats, and jog to the gym.

At this point I’m running so late that I figure I only have time for a 20 minute run if I’m even going to have a prayer of getting to work on time.

“Hm,” I think to myself.  “What’s a way I could maximize my 20 minute run?…  I know!  Speed work!”

(Do I technically know what speed work is?  Not really.  It’s just a term I hear runner-types bandying about.  But I figure it must mean something like “try to run faster,” right?)

So I set the treadmill to 7.3 (super hard for me) and proceed to pound out 2 miles in 17 minutes.  I am elated! This is my fastest yet!  And I got a good workout in in less than 20 minutes!  I rule!  Am running goddess!

I slow the treadmill down to a stop, and step off to go get a towel to wipe the machine down aaaaaand… tired legs can’t support me and my right knee buckles and I completely and totally eat it on the (very grimy) gym floor.  At prime gym-going time.  In front of approximately 143 people.  Awesome!

So: speed work!  Makes you feel good about yourself for about 15 seconds, until you fall flat on your face and remember why you are not so much a runner.

(But I’m still doing the 8K.  Don’t let me wimp out.  If you don’t hear me talk about it on Monday the 30th, call me out, okay?)

In our first corner, we have:  Power Breakfast!

Healthy Breakfast

Brown rice cakes, spread with a little peanut butter, plus an apple and a nice full bottle of water!  Nutritionists would be proud!

And in the other corner, we have….the Healthy Diet Underminer!


Also known as Tenderhearts, or “my favorite candy in the whole world which I discovered at a store across the street from our office for 75% off so obviously I had to buy all they had left which ended up being, um, kind of a lot.”

Let’s go down to the ring for the blow by blow:

Power breakfast opens strong with a one-two punch, reminding pseudo that she is on a health kick, and that by eating fiber and protein first thing in the morning she will feel full all the way until lunch!

Tenderhearts counters with a cheap, but effective sucker punch, appealing to pseudo’s sweet tooth: “but we’re deeeliciousssss.  And you don’t want us to go stale, do you?”

Power breakfast breaks back in with a quick jab: “with as many preservatives as you’ve got in there, you won’t be going stale for MONTHS.”

Tenderhearts takes that one on the chin, and asks, with puppy dog eyes: “why do you hate us?  we loooooove you!”

Power breakfast continues the attack with a stiff uppercut: “you’ll regret it if you let them win!  Fight the good fight! Being healthy means striving to make healthy choices every day!”

Just when it looks like it’s down for the count, Tenderhearts roars back with a stunning hook!  “Have we mentioned we taste like cherries?  Cherries are fruit.  Eating us is like eating fruit for breakfast!  Who can criticize you for wanting to eat FRUIT? Fruit is healthy!  You’re doing the healthy thing here!”

I think we all know where this is going:


Round 1: TENDERHEARTS!  (And the crowd goes wild!)

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