Another French Take on Exercise

One sunny morning in Paris, as my ex-husband Alan waited on the landing outside our apartment for the elevator, our neighbor, Mariele, joined him.  He was dressed in a t-shirt, running shorts and running shoes, so she said the obvious.  “You’re going running, aren’t you?”

He said, “Yes.”  That was that.

A week later, they shared the elevator as he headed upstairs after his run, all
sweaty and stinky.

“You run a lot, don’t you?” she said.

“Almost every day,” he answered.

This was in the late 1980’s and we were spending 4 years living in the French
capitol, thanks to Alan’s employer.

The next week, out on the landing, she said, “My husband Gérard runs, too.  Almost daily.”

The following week she said, “You and Gérard should run together.  He doesn’t get as sweaty as you do.  Maybe you could get him to work harder.”

Alan running the streets of our quartier of Paris.

A month later, she asked, “Has Gérard talked to you yet about running together?”

Alan answered, “No, not yet.”

The next day Gérard came out of his door as Alan waited for the elevator.

“About this running business, Alan,” he said.  “We are men of the world, aren’t we? May I assume you are discrete?”

Alan said that yes, he was a man of the world, and yes, he could be discrete.

Gérard continued.  “Mariele wants us to run together.  The problem is, I don’t
run.  That’s not what I do when I leave the apartment.  You understand, don’t you?”

Alan said he understood.

“The next time she brings up the subject, could you come up with a graceful reason
not to run with me?”

Alan said he would.

“Merci beaucoup,” said Gérard as the elevator arrived.

I tested out exercise in France by joining Alan at Club Gymnase, a 20-minute walk from our apartment, right by the Place d’ Etoile.  We’d meet at noon.  I’d join an exercise class, he’d work out on machines.

This was when women wore leotards cut up high on their thighs and leg warmers scrunched around their calves and ankles. The French women in my class made this look far sexier than anything I’d seen back home.

Our exercise room was separated from the stationary bikes by a floor-to-ceiling window wall.  One noon hour I was jammed against that wall when we tried a new exercise. This involved getting on our hands and knees and raising and lowering our hips.  Since this was pretty easy, I idly glanced at the bikers in the next room. Then I looked at the women around me.

This is what I saw.  Every single biker, each one a man, was staring at us.  We women provocatively pumped our predominately bare asses up and down.  Some of the men started pumping their bikes to the same rhythm that we pumped our posteriors.  Some of the men, Alan included, slowed their pedaling almost to a complete stop.  Some pushed their pedals furiously, their faces red and sweaty.  All of them, every last one, had their faces turned in our direction.

How could I blame Alan for forgetting to pedal the bike?

 I looked back into the exercise class at all those tight posteriors grinding away and thought, “It looks like a mass hallucination has gripped us all, inducing masturbatory fantasies featuring the gym floor.”  I laughed out loud, lost my balance and fell flat on my face.

The next week I got yelled at.  We were trying another new exercise when the instructor came to stand over me and yelled in French.  Having no idea what he said, I kept up what I was doing.  I thought if I ignored him he’d go away.  He yelled again.  I ignored him again.

Then he switched to English that dripped with scorn.  “Keep that up and you’ll walk like a duck!”  The implied, but unspoken, end to that exhortation was, “You stupid American woman!”

That was my last trip to the Club Gymnase.

(check out the video at the end of Solace for a Grieving Heart #2 for the first take on French exercise.)



12 thoughts on “Another French Take on Exercise

  1. I wonder what a social anthropologist from another species might say about your description of the mass hallucination. “Human males and females have many strange rituals that might be related to sexual foreplay. They are largely futile because there is not a very high cause and effect correlation between the rituals and the act of mating. But then again, in the culminating human sexual act, what percent of the sperm actually penetrate the egg? So human rituals give us wonderful metaphors of their existence and the extreme complexity they bring to what might otherwise be very mundane lives.” And so Georgia falls on the floor laughing about the masturbatory fantasies featuring the gym floor.

    I can’t wait till your next post.

    • Search no more Currious. The answer to your question is here. Males produce approximately 40 million sperm cells per ejaculation. Of these, 16 million are considered to be mobile. Approxiamtely 2 million find their way to the awaiting egg cell. Most will attach and to the egg releasing enzymes contained in the acrosomal cap of the sperm cell. These enzymes break down the protective cell wall of the egg cell allowing one, yes one sperm cell to enter and fertalize the egg. Thus the answer to your question “what percent of the sperm actually penetrate the egg” is .0000002%. Amazing.

      • Wew….those are amazing odds. We better encourage our men to get more socially active. Enough with the on-line pornography.

  2. Georgia, you crack me up! Now THAT was funny. But what of Gérard? I was waiting for the twist – perhaps he was either the instructor or one of the drooling gawkers near the front of the class. No, wait! That was ME! Anyway, I’m sure the answer will be just as entertaining…

  3. OK, I think I might be falling into a trap here. The first thing your blog motivated me do was to start exercising, for that I am grateful. The second thing I felt compelled to do is join a club, task complete. Now I find myself searching for work out clubs in Paris as well as looking for low cost airline tickets. Au revoir mes amies. La prochaine fois, Paris!
    Thanks Georgia, this was a fun read.

  4. In a very scientific way, I wondered whether the way the men responded to the women’s posteriors indicates the sort of lover they are – some matched the rhythm, some stopped, some went as fast as they could. Is there not anecdotal evidence of this linkage? I think there is a deep scientific question to be answered here – Double-blind study anyone? We are women of the world, are we not? And are we not discreet?

    • E. Mae, there are certainly many questions concerning the male attraction to female breasts and buttocks. What is intriguing is the multitude of answers that come from such diverse groups as evolutionary biologists, evolutionary psychologists and evolutionary anthropologists. Most of us,, of a certain age garnered most of our “knowledge” from Desmond Morris’s “The Naked Ape. I pulled out of my archives a paper from 2002 that puts a new spin on these eternal questions. Here is the link for your reading pleasure.

      • Hi Big Fan: I have surprisingly clear memories of Desmond Morris and “The Naked Ape”. Guess that’s because I was in high school and obsessed with figuring out sex. Thanks for passing along this fascinating read.

  5. I used to work out to that video long ago. Loved the leotard era. Where did it go? I was there, but I was in the class – 5 or 10 feet away. I guess we’re all just friends now. We could start calling each other comrade.

    • Jimmy…we are now doing coed Bikram Yoga….I think they darn pretty much just take their clothes off….on second thought…it’s not quite as provocative as leotards and those crazy socks.

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