Beware Of Beauty Near A Treadmill

By Alison Berkley - The Denver Post

You would think trail running, mountain biking and road biking would be enough to get in shape. But the more you get into it, the more you want to push yourself, and suddenly it's never enough. If fitness is my addiction, my trainer is like a dealer. She has me totally hooked.

I thought about that as I spent the better part of an hour writhing around the floor with my legs in the air, arms behind my head like I was being held at gunpoint, forced into various uncomfortable positions by a quasi-drill sergeant with a stopwatch. My face turned blood red, veins popped from my forehead. I started to huff and puff like I was in a Lamaze class, my cheeks full of air, lips pursed. "Thirty more seconds!" Bernadette screams, with a mix of enthusiasm and authority.

My legs start to shake uncontrollably. I have to cross my feet in order to keep them from convulsing, jerking about like I'm a newborn baby, not just the person who looks like she's having one. But that doesn't get past her for long. She comes over and uncrosses them and gently straightens my legs. "Bring your chest up higher," she says. I inch up a centimeter or two. "Higher. Good."

Those annoying workout cliches start to go through my head. "You're only cheating yourself," the voice says. "No pain, no gain." "Shut up! You are so annoying!" I tell the voice. "Changer!" she screams, but in French, so it sounds like "shan-shay!" And we move on to the next equally painful, equally difficult exercise. Today is an hour of abs, the whole abs, and nothing but the abs. Bernadette is the furthest thing from French. She's Californian, and easily one of the most beautiful people in Aspen.

Jean-Robert is the French one. Actually, he's from Belgium, but whatever - you get the idea. It's his gym (as in Jean-Robert's Gym, duh) where he and his girlfriend (Bernadette, hello) are partly responsible for all the good-looking, buff people you see on the streets of Aspen. Bernadette is one of these people who, despite her obvious physical advantages, is beautiful from the inside out. (No, I really mean it.) Her smile could light up the moon. We're talking some serious wattage. She knows how to work it, to turn it up and blind you with it, so you forget all about how hard she kicks your butt.

You start to think that maybe, if you work really, really hard, one day Bernadette's circuit training workout no longer will kill you. But she's one step ahead of you, that Bernadette. She knows when you're getting stronger and just makes everything harder. She will waltz up to the treadmill, all pretty and charming like she's about to serve you a cup of tea or something, and cranks that thing up until you're sure your heart might just explode out the front of your chest.

After about 30 seconds, a heart attack probably is imminent, but dying right there on the gerbil wheel for humans is the last thing on your mind. All you can think about is the possibility you might trip and fall and find out what happens when you trip and fall on a moving treadmill. The machine vibrates and bounces under your feet as you frantically try to keep the pace Bernadette has set.

She looks at you curiously, like whatever could be the problem, and says, "It's only one minute out of your whole life." And you know she has a point. But that's just the warm-up. From there, depending on what day it is - Monday is upper body, Wednesday abs, Friday lower body - you spend the rest of the hour doing whatever exercises she chooses. The only thing you do know is that each exercise will last but a minute. Or should I say one minute out of your whole life.

It's amazing what one minute can do to a person, especially with this gorgeous woman pacing the room in her black workout tights and sparkly platform sneakers, letting you know just how much time is left every 10 seconds or so. I have to say that B. has had a profound effect on me, like she's teaching us these subtle lessons. Whenever I'm faced with something particularly unpleasant, like a steep section on a trail or a particularly grueling climb, I imagine Bernadette screaming, "Shan-shay!" I know the moment eventually will pass.

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