Banana Break

20 Mar


“Plus que seize! Plus que huit!” the trainer at my French gym yells at all of us, as we crunch and squat and cry out in pain. (Translation: “No more than sixteen! No more than eight!”)

Welcome to “Abdos Fessiers” class, which basically translates to Abs and Asses. In this class, we work out our abs…and our asses.

Before this week, I had managed to fly under the radar at the gym, and was no more than one in a sea of many asses. I came, I went. I wore my bright red BU workout shirt, which was basically like wearing a neon sign saying, “Hey, I AM FOREIGN AND I LIKE THE COLOR RED!” I said “bonjour” and “au revoir” to the trainers, and wondered if they ever got sick of drinking hot water instead of eating real food. This was my role at the gym.

But then, I made the mistake of asking a trainer a question. It wasn’t even an exercise-related question! I simply asked how much it would cost for me to renew my membership under the student discount. (Am I currently a student? No. Does my BU ID picture look like I’ve just gone through puberty? Yes. But do I want to save an extra five bucks a month, and put it toward more important pursuits, like Merlot? Yes.)

Now, Mika, the trainer, “knows” me. No, he doesn’t know my name or my dress size (thank God for that one), but he knows my face and, frankly, my ass. Which means that now, I get to be one of the lucky ones on the receiving end of his motivational yelling.

Abs and asses class is exhausting. Mika makes us strap weights onto our ankles and lift and turn and squat and squeeze, until we simply cannot continue. And then, if we let our butts touch the ground, he yells at us and tells us to do sixteen more.

Before I was “known,” I used to cheat all the time. (Kind of like how a celebrity is forced to stop dining and dashing once thrust into the spotlight.) Butt on the ground, abs relaxed, Facebook open on my phone, fork poised and pie shrinking next to my exercise mat. Now that I’m “known,” I can’t get away with this stuff as easily. Maybe a cookie, but not a pie, because Mika likes to come and stand over me as I try not to die.

If you’ve never had a French man standing over you and screaming at your double chin, let me tell you what it’s like: it’s like having a French man standing over you and screaming at your double chin.

When Mika approaches, I immediately try to lift and protrude my jaw, so it looks like I’ve had an instant facelift. I take a deep breath, and try to be totally nonchalant. I want my facial expression to say, “This is cute, but it’s nothing like last week’s Mt. Everest climb, during which I carried needy children on my back.”

Sometimes, when I’m in plank position, he dives down next to me and starts doing the plank, as well. Is he trying to motivate me? Is he intimidated by my physical power and trying to reassert his dominance as the leader of the class? Is he cleaning the floor with his elbows? I’m never sure. All I know is that his plank usually startles me so much that I kind of panic and collapse to the floor.

Or when we do squats, for example, sometimes, he’ll put his face in my face and say things like, “Excellent work, perfect.” The student and attention seeker in me swell with delight, and I try to say, “Merci,” in a calm, audible manner…but it always comes out as a struggling whisper.

(Why the heck am I thanking someone who’s causing me so much pain? Am I sick? Did I go to finishing school?)

As you can probably tell, working out at the gym is intense. Yes, because of the exercise, but also because of all of the sudden and very intense social interaction.

I should also mention that Abs and Asses class is composed of about fifteen women. No men. That’s because all of the men at the gym are outside of the workout room, and are camping next to the weights.

The male and female gym experiences are very different. While we’re being screamed at about swimsuit season and squeezing things that aren’t used to being squeezed, les mecs are outside, lounging.

Ok, I don’t want to be unfair. I’m sure these guys are also working hard to lead healthy lives.

But, as an observer, I have witnessed the following routine of men at the gym:

*Pierre enters the gym and proceeds to greet every single man with a firm handshake.*

“Hello, Thomas. Hello, Hugo. Hello, Robert. Hello, Thibeault.”

By the time Pierre has finished with all of the greetings, he’s probably already done the majority of his upper body strength training. Come to think of it, maybe this is the purpose of all of that hand shaking? Maybe this is their secret to bulging biceps.

After acknowledging and greeting and complimenting every single man Pierre has ever known, he enters the locker room and exits wearing an old tank top and holding a banana.

Yes, Pierre needs to snack because Pierre is going to work hard.

After his snack, Pierre is almost ready to start lifting. Almost.

Before he can really begin, Pierre must walk for a total of ten minutes on the treadmill. Ten minutes. No more than the amount of time that most people spend picking out an outfit or trying to put on a pair of panty hose.

Once warmed up and ready, Pierre can start lifting.

Just kidding. There is something outside of the window that Pierre must observe. What is that fascinating thing?? (Air. It’s most likely air.)

OK, now he’s ready.

He reaches for the big bar with the big weights on it, and starts picking it up.

“GRAWWL UMPH GRRRR GUPELL,” he grunts, as he bangs out one lift. He’s going for another, when Hugo comes over to talk about the party he went to last weekend.

All lifting stops for ten minutes, while Hugo and Pierre discuss their personal lives.

Oh, what’s that? It’s time for another snack?

Pierre heads over to the vending machine and purchases a giant protein shake. Because socializing takes a lot out of you, and protein is really the only thing that will give you back your energy.

In the time that Pierre has spent greeting, snacking, walking, and socializing, we ladies have been squeezing, squatting, and lifting…as well as tightening our chin skin; adjusting our workout tops so our breasts don’t spill out; slyly sniffing our own armpits, to make sure we’re not “that girl” in the class; silently cursing the relatives who gave us their sweat genes; weighing the pros and cons of wearing our hair in a ponytail versus a bun; wondering why we ate that entire tiramisu, but then reminding ourselves that we ate it because of feminism; daydreaming about cocktails; and wondering why we even bothered with the gym in the first place.

When we leave the workout room and enter the main gym area, all of the men look at our sweaty, exhausted faces. Their facial expressions ask the question, “Why do they look like that?”

As I exit, abs and ass on fire, I stare at Pierre and wonder how that banana tasted.

Pierre is still staring out the window.

All in a day’s work.


2 Responses to “Banana Break”

  1. C. Lau April 15, 2016 at 1:58 pm #

    This made me laugh out loud and that hasn’t happened very often haha! So easy and entertaining to read and can totally relate to some of the things you said 😀

    • sophpearl April 17, 2016 at 2:23 pm #

      Thank you so much for reading! I’m glad you enjoyed it. Just returned from another class with this trainer and am contemplating eating an entire cake, just to spite him 😉

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