If the Exercise Class Descriptions From My Gym Were Honest

Posted on
Jun 10, 2015

As my recent foray into Paleo eating suggests, I’ve tried (and triumphantly failed) to be healthier. A big component of that failure isn’t just that I like eating things made primarily of butter – it has to do with my woeful attempts at exercise. I regularly take classes that, had I known what I was signing up for, I never would have agreed to while sober.

Part of the blame lies with me – I tune out the instructors because I’m trying to figure out how, in a room lined with mirrors, I can pick the wedgie my workout pants give me without anyone noticing. Whenever the music starts, unsure of what to do, I flail around like my sports bra is on fire.

But the gyms and studios I frequent should also be held accountable, because the descriptions on their website are woefully vague: “energizing,” “fast-paced,” and “emphasizing strength and form” mean absolutely nothing. I’ve had naps and bowel movements that met all those criteria. But I think gyms rarely use more accurate descriptions, like “vomit in front of strangers” and “question if that’s sweat or urine on your pants,” because these might deter a more discerning customer.

To spare others from a similar fate, I’ve created new descriptions for some of these classes.



Based on the premise that if you can keep your heart operating at maximum capacity for long enough, it will eventually explode, burning, like, a shitload of calories. You will find yourself repeating the mantra – “Just one more set, and then you get to barf.” (Note: in the 80s, this exercise was called “cocaine.”)



Medieval torture to the tune of $35 an hour. If you can’t do the exercises (and unless you are in Cirque Du Soleil, you can’t), don’t worry – you’ll just fall through the machine on to the concrete below. Your face will absorb most of the impact.

Scenes from an actual class:




Thirty seconds in, and I started thinking that my patronus was the decaying body of a beached whale. I’m pretty sure every single other Lululemon-clad woman in class was a former ballet dancer who quit to become a bellybutton model. The instructor kept telling us to “Contort yourself into a position that is profoundly uncomfortable and inaccessible to most humans. Now, PULSE!” (I might be paraphrasing.) At one point we had to interact with a rubber ball in a capacity that, in certain cultures, would constitute marriage.


Circuit Training/Plyometrics

High-speed interval aerobics that make you feel like your little sister was selected as tribute in The Hunger Games and you had to take her place. Often taught by a lean, tattooed gazelle of a human who bounds around class like it’s a fucking meadow. Fear him. He’s from District 1.


Spin Class

Just save yourself the middle man and take a hammer to your knees. Alternatively called: “Now I know why hamsters eat their young.”


Mat Pilates

Because sometimes you want to lie on your back, with your legs spread at weird angles, writhing in pain. Most of the exercises seem like grotesque attempts at simulating childbirth. At some point, I may have blacked out.



Bikram Yoga

This is one of the worst things I’ve experienced as a consenting adult. Great preparations are taken to replicate the conditions you’d find if you were to practice yoga inside a human body cavity for 90 godforsaken minutes. Perfect for those that enjoy passing out onto carpet that smells like a yeast infection. (Shit that the instructor actually said during class: “Take only tiny sips of water during class, and not too often. Think of it as a treat.” She described something that is ESSENTIAL TO ALL LIFE ON EARTH AS. A. FUCKING. TREAT.)


Body Pump

Even though the word “pump” has never been used in reference to the human body in any pleasurable way, ever, I took this class. There I learned that you don’t need proper form or supervision while weight-training when you can just herniate a disc while listening to Katy Perry. Note: You will make noises that sound like you are trying to seduce a whale.




It’s sort of like being a marionette, if the person controlling your strings was being electrocuted. By the time you figure out how to do the actual workout without strangling yourself, everyone will have moved on to another exercise that you will also suck at.

Everyone else:



Fail_trx_incline_press_ups (1)



Pelvic thrusts in public, for those who wish to eliminate whatever shreds of dignity they may have left after Pilates. On the plus side, you get to relive the humiliation and peer rejection of a middle school dance as an adult.


Tracy Anderson – Arms

(Note: Tracy is the fitness sadomasochist to the stars. She has tortured Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lopez, and Madonna.)

A series of arm exercises that, were they replicated in water, would conveniently signal to a lifeguard that you are drowning. Starts off fairly tame, and works into a crescendo of trying to dislocate your shoulder while praying that a well-intentioned neighbor doesn’t see you and call a paramedic.


Please note that the guy on the left is just punching the air at random.


Tracey Anderson – Legs

Do you remember that fairy tale about the girl who puts on a pair of enchanted shoes, and then she can’t take them off and has to dance until she dies? (Also, WTF were kids allowed to watch in the 80s?) Anyway, this workout is basically that. You hold your leg aloft and kick, ideally while crying. Complete one million repetitions, and you disappear in a puff of lavender-scented smoke and are reborn as Gwyneth Paltrow.


This isn’t a gif. It’s a live feed video of her doing it an infinite number of times.


And this, dear friends, is why in high school I lettered in Debate, Academics, and Drama.

Leave a Comment

  • Ariana Adams

    Oh my gosh, do not read at work! Co workers will eye you as you giggle uncontrollably! I’d love to hear your take on Crossfit. (I love it, but your commentary is too hilarious not to want to hear more.)

    • disqus_kmtQIGTZkn

      hahaha Indeed, took me few minutes to stop giggling at my desk!

  • you’re going to be a ninja!

  • DawnMarie

    Sooooooo thankful I was no where public while reading this as the sounds I made were similar to those emitted during body pump class. You are wonderful! As a certified Pilates mat, Barre and Zumba instructor, I willingly back your descriptions. Especially, the Barre!!! Guffawed it what I did. PS Hot Mess Mom sent me.

  • Colleen Sweeney

    This is why I work out at home, where only my cats judge me.

  • mammatroll

    That was one of my favorite Hans Christian Andersen stories! The little girl tricks her grandmother into getting her red dancing shoes instead of what the gran thought appropriate, and gets punished by not being able to take them off while they keep on dancing, even through the grandmother’s funeral. She keeps on dancing through the world until she meets an executioner living in a forest, and begs him to chop off her feet. How about that for a description of a class? 😉
    Also, all your descriptions are disturbingly accurate. I shall slap myself in the face with a bag of ice cubes whenever I feel the urge to join anything ever again. Thank you.

    • Everywhereist

      Wait … that was one of your favorite stories? Because 30 years later, I am still haunted by it.

  • J Tidrick

    Pretty sure the guy on the left is missing his shark costume

    • Jennifer


  • I took a Zumba class once. I was all “I’m coordinated-ish, I can dance-ish, this should be OK!”

    Apparently you’re supposed to go every week and build up to learning the routine? I did not know this. So I show up and the entire class knows like 10 minute chunks at a time with virtually no prompting from the teacher, and I’m just flailing along 5 seconds after the fact trying to imitate the teacher.

    It was.. humbling. I did not return.

  • Kristina Cline

    I love this. I think Zumba is under appreciated though. Pelvic Circles to the beat is kinda fun when it is 10am and you are the youngest person in the room. I understand that the gym in the evening is a whole other beast, but I have the luxury choosing my workout time.

  • Tawnie Hildebrandt

    I’ve read your blog since you were featured in Time years ago, but never commented before today (I’m the ultimate lurker). I can relate to many of your posts, but today’s post TAKES THE (CUP)CAKE and just had to tell you: I just can’t stop laughing. Everything you said is just so terribly true. I will never be able to keep a straight face in any of these classes again. Can’t wait for your book!

  • OMG I’m dying! This is hysterical and ALL too accurate 🙂

  • Mr. Tiny

    Two letters in Academic decathlon and one in Drama and somehow I still didn’t think it appropriate to get the jacket… I went to one fancy gym class with friends and I left under my own volition rather than a stretcher. After that success I never felt the need to go back.

  • Hahah, I’ve only tried about half of the classes on this list and I completely agree. I wish the descriptions weren’t so vague, I’ve been tricked into trying classes that are basically torture. I paid someone to torture me.

    I tried a step class a few months back, thinking it was gonna be fairly easy. I was wrong, so very wrong. At several points my legs went “Nahhhh, let’s have a nap,” and left me flailing about trying to get my limbs to do what I wanted them to do, while everyone else did it perfectly. I’m 99% sure I would have suffered less if I’d made some kind of ‘your Mum’ joke to Ramsey Bolton.

  • 1FlourSackMama1

    Funny! I love the group setting where we can all feel silly together:)

  • Paleo lets you eat all the butter you want! it just has to be from holistically raised cows on an organic farm that eat only certain blades of grass. Totally doable and available at all grocery stores 😉

  • Janine Pangburn

    As a former pilates instructor in a previous life, I will give ya “an amen, sista!” Thank god for theater!

  • jen


  • Naum Rusomarov

    I can’t breath from laughing.

    Some people at bodypump do look like they’re about to herniate a disk.
    And that hammer to the knee was spot on.

  • Ari

    My roommate and I first found this article a few years ago and we read it out loud in our apartment and laughed so hard we cried. We just decided to reread it for fun and years later, having read the article multiple times since, we still had to keep pausing to catch our breath. My ribs legitimately hurt from laughing. You are amazing. Thank you

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