Army 101 / Autobiography / Coping mechanisms

An open letter to Jillian Michaels from an army wife

A major difference between Fort Campbell and Washington, D.C. (or between many army post towns and Washington, D.C., I assume) is that if you want to get to a gym, you need a car. Or I guess a bike and enough balls to ride it on rural back roads with blind curves and corn fields instead of shoulder areas and crosswalks.

Since I have neither a bike nor the required balls (which I mean figuratively, of course, because I’m more Cowardly Lion than I am Amelia Earhart), Jonathan and I have been surviving on one car. Which he takes to work. At a stupid-early hour of the morning. And then I’m stuck in our apartment with daytime talk shows and a lot of inanimate kitchen objects that look delightfully like animals but aren’t ideal workout buddies.

Crab gym buddy

This crab salt and pepper shaker holder keeps hogging the hand weights. What a dick.

As much as I’m loving my staycation, I’m coming from an intense D.C. metro commute which included more than three miles of walking and a Washington Sports Club visit up to five days a week. Which has now been reduced to however-many feet of walking I can do while looking for a Swiffer WetJet in a Super Walmart (actually surprisingly high), and attempting to lift the large trunks of army flotsam and jetsam that Jonathan left blocking the closet door (limited success so far; please send forklifts and socks).

Luckily, I spent an obsessive and totally warranted amount of time worrying about this car-less, gym-less period before I moved. When I worried out loud to my former roommate Rachel, she offered to let me borrow her Jillian Michaels workout DVDs.

Even though Rachel has been a health and fitness role model for me (and the only person I know who will talk to me about flaxseed for an hour and not hate me afterward), I was still skeptical of the workouts; ever since my abusive relationship with running ended, I’ve been hooked on gym equipment and locked into my routine. I’ve been healthy enough and happy enough and OCD enough to refuse to deviate from this routine (which, funny enough, is how my former fling with running turned toxic, but that’s more introspection than I can handle right now). But Rachel is a superhero who looks great in yoga pants, and my routine was being held at knife point, so I sneaked into her room to steal her hand weights on a Sunday afternoon before I moved.

I borrowed an innocuous “30 Day Shred” DVD; I say “innocuous” because it boasted 20-minute workouts with a beginner level, and because the word “shred” in a workout title can’t scare somebody who exercises on a regular basis and once won third place in an Irish jig contest. I popped in the DVD and navigated to the intermediate level, then backtracked to take a look at the beginner level instead; I figured I’d use this first phase as a warm-up to get an idea of the program and moves, then get my real workout with an advanced level later that evening.

Which was a good plan until my 20 beginner minutes were over, and I spent the next two days struggling to walk down escalators and stand up from my desk chair.

Jillian Michaels get ripped

I am ready to get ripped, Jillian! Thanks! All these exclamation points have me really excited! Let’s do some pushups! But maybe just a few! I’m only on day 15; I’m not ripped yet!
Image from

I ordered the Jillian Michaels DVD that night, and it’s been simultaneously kicking and saving my butt since I arrived in Fort Campbell. I’m maybe halfway through unpacking our new apartment, maybe halfway certain that we’ll be PCSing in the near future (for non-military audiences, that means moving again), and maybe a fraction of the way through sorting out my new life and the thousand ways it could change before breakfast tomorrow. I have countless anxieties to suppress and transitions to navigate and wedding preparations to coordinate and hair products to shove into cabinets, but I also have 20 minutes every day to vomit my way through a circuit of bicycle crunches, and to remember that I am strong.

Dear Jillian Michaels,

Thank you for giving me a difficult-to-avoid, at-home workout plan that makes me feel better about the bowl of Fruity Pebbles I ate for breakfast today. Again.

An (almost) army wife

How do you stay in shape without access to a gym, or during tumultuous times in your life? Have you tried at-home workout programs? Which ones have been great and which did you throw angrily at your television after the first day?

P.S. I realize that if I drove Jonathan to work in the morning, I could have easy access to a car all day. But if you think that’s a good option for me, I dare you to take a sleeping pill before bed and then get behind the wheel of a car at 5:30am.

P.P.S. Legally I think I need to clarify that I don’t actually want you to take a sleeping pill and then drive a car, nor do I condone the behavior. You could die. Which I think proves my point, so there you go.

0 thoughts on “An open letter to Jillian Michaels from an army wife

  1. I have a love/hate relationship with running. I’ve tried P90X and that guy is a dorkwad and I want to punch him in the face so that didn’t work. I do Turbo Fire…which I LOVE. She is so nice and upbeat and I like doing it. Since I have a long distance military husband and 2 kids and a 10 hr a day job it is the only way I can get a work out in.

    • I feel like I’d have a similar response to P90X. I’m going to need to do a lot more bicycle crunches before I can do P90X abs. Though I’ve heard there’s a P90X yoga program that I’m curious/terrified about.

      What is Turbo Fire like? Is it dance-y? Kickbox-y? Other kinds of -y?

      • Kickbox-y. The program has a mix…HITT workouts, 20 mins, 20 mins, core, a strech (yoga) one….I really like it and I told the long distance hubby (as I call him) that he bought it for me while he was deployed. He’s like however you justify your spending is fine. He was a great husband on deployment bought me great christmas/birthday/mothers day/easter/new years/thanksgiving/valentines/st.patricks day presents and some random holidays in between. He’s so good 🙂 It’s actually all my money (not his) but it is how i justify it…don’t hate 😉

  2. If you want a REAL work out, Aileen, try Jane Fonda’s Prime Time Fit & Strong ( She may be pushing 80 but girl knows how to work it!

    PS and by the way, Jillian Michaels was in Dupont a few weeks back and I saw her walking around the circle. Girl is tiny! She’s about your height.

    I miss you and can’t believe you’re not in Arlington. I want to hear how things are going with you and the 12 super walmarts! I can’t wait to see you.

  3. Personally, i am somewhat obsessed with jillians dvds. I have tried and own almost all of them. In fact, i just did “super shred and shed ” this morning. I really like her 6 week 6 pack, and no more trouble zones, but when you feel like beating something up, her kickboxing one is pretty fun!

  4. Yeah, I have no advice on exercise because, um, yeah, the sweating and the breathing hard and all that jazz. No, thanks. But, from one grammar nerd to another, thank you for writing “P.P.S.” instead of “P.S.S.” which is a mistake I see frequently and it makes me insane.

    • I spent an embarrassing amount of time being unsure about the P.P.S vs. P.S.S. battle. Then I realized that P.S. stands for “postscript,” and “post postscript” made more sense than “postscript script.” Uh oh. I said post and script too many times and now I’m starting not to understand words again. Chair! Hamburger! Port-a-potty! Smorgasbord!

  5. I advise you to invest in a 55cm exercise ball (or yoga ball, cardio ball, physioball, or whatever you want to call it). I’ve never been into additional “tools” for exercise (I like body weight stuff), but this is my exception. It is life changing. There are a zillion exercises you can do with them (even cardio) in your own home and they will knock your body out in no time. But when you already have a knock out bod, it’s sort of hard to improve upon that AILEEN 😉


      I’m jobless and low in activity level for the time being, so I’m at a perfect point to make fitness a hobby instead of a chore. I’m relatively new to the body-weight trend, but I’m getting borderline obsessed (naturally).

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