“Feel that knot in your stomach? It’s the body getting stronger,” she snarled. “That’s fear leaving the body.”
The only thing that knot was doing was keeping my lunch down. Which, in about twelve seconds, was going to accompany the fear back up my throat and onto the floor. I didn’t know what to be more frustrated about. Being so out of shape that a sloth could out run me, or actually obeying a woman on TV who couldn’t even tell if I was doing bicep curls with a couple of burritos from Taco Bell.
If you’ve never heard of it before, 30-Day Shred is an extremely intense twenty-minute workout that will kill you. Dante broke Hell down into seven levels; Jillian Michaels does it in three. Where each level is like torture on repeat and the fire—which is in every muscle including your face—is very real.
This is how it’s supposed to work:
You stay on each level for ten days. Because ten days is just enough time to maim yourself without killing yourself. So you’re excused free by day eleven, and it’s on to the next level.
Each level workout is only twenty minutes. This may not seem like a lot of time if you’re waiting for a jury to deliver your verdict. But, I’m here to tell you that twenty minutes can feel like an eternity. Especially when you have no idea how to properly hold a hand weight.
Each workout uses Jillian’s 3-2-1 method. That’s three minutes of strength, two minutes of cardo, one minute of abs. Or, in normal people speak, three minutes of wheeze, two minutes of pant, one minute of face planting on your floor until you can feel carpet fibers in your nostrils— and discover that mystery spot on the carpet is the cottage cheese chunk that went missing four weeks ago.
“If you feel like you’re gonna die, stay with Anita,” she instructs. Anita is:
- The one doing the “modified” versions of the exercises.
- The girl who represents the majority of the people who purchase this DVD, despite the fact that she’s so thin you could slip her into a mail slot.
- The one who represents the viewers who can barely make it to their mailbox without having to stop four times to “rest.”
- So average, her “modified” versions include activities that Olympians win medals for.
Saying any of these exercises is modified is like taking the whipped cream off a hot fudge sundae and calling it a salad.
“You don’t get to do a twenty-minute workout and take a break. That’s not how it works.” Not even to pick your lung up off the floor. If you cough it up, kick it out of the way, so you don’t slip on it and pull a hammy trying to regain your balance.
Eventually, your fat is so exhausted from being jiggled around that it all falls off on day thirty.
Around day thirty you’re either still with the program, or you’re still watching the DVD, but your cardio is now stuffing sprinkled donut holes in your mouth while rolling your eyes whenever Jillian says anything and mocking her instruction while simultaneously throwing a donut hole at her close-up shots.
I’ve seen flies move slower than the three women on this DVD. How can a human being get up and down from the floor so fast? Was this part of the workout? Because, at that moment, it would have taken less time for Jillian Michaels to gain 400 pounds and lose them all than it would for me to move that fast between exercises.
The warm-ups included various arm swinging activities like windmills, where I spun my arms around so fast that I probably powered a small city somewhere.
Then, it was on to jumping jacks where everything on my body that needed toning slapped against me in retaliation for what I was doing. Waves of accumulated belly fat rolled like an angry ocean in a category five storm.
Then, it was back to cardio, where I was jumping an imaginary jump rope and kicking my own butt. Literally. With butt-kicks. Thankfully it’s big enough that it wasn’t a lot of effort for my feet to find each cheek. At the rate momentum was going on both ends, my stomach and butt cheeks could have met in the middle to create an entirely new continent.
Things started to get interesting for me around the time strength came into play. Mostly because the only available weights I had were either five-pound dumbbells or a forty-pound medicine ball—which I’ve only ever used to squash spiders. It’s one thing to incorporate weights into a workout, but when you haven’t touched a weight in nearly ten years—maybe even fifteen, probably more like twenty—lifting five-pound dumbbells alongside any of these exercises is stupid. Especially when your arm strength is equivalent to an over boiled spaghetti noodle.
Finally, there is something very wrong with a situation when you get to the abdominal portion of a workout, and you’re excited because it means you get to lie down. This also happens to be the closest thing you get to a break until the very end of the DVD, where you’re supposed to recover by stretching and letting your heart rate naturally slow down. Not, collapse on the floor in a heap and weep silently.
Cardio, strength, abs. Up and down off the floor like I had springs taped to the bottom of my shoes. It went on for the longest, most exhausting twenty minutes of my life—this includes delivering all three of my children. If I had delivered all three of them consecutively, it would’ve been less strenuous than this DVD.
After I was finished, I immediately felt all the muscles in my body tighten until walking seemed sad. I wanted to hail a cab up the seventeen steps to my living room, where I could pass out on a floor of plush carpet. Carpet that would never make me do a bicycle crunch on it.
“This is what it feels like to be shredded,” I thought to myself.
I was so exhausted; even my internal monologue was out of breath.
As I crawled up the stairs with the same weakness one might experience after crawling through the Sahara Desert for forty days without water, I tried not to think about doing this routine again tomorrow, let alone 29 more days. My husband met me at the door with a glass of water and the most wonderful thing in the word: Ibuprofen.
“How was your workout?” he asked.
“Might want to be careful when you walk around down there,” I told him. “I’m pretty sure I left a lung on the floor.”