I Hate Working Out (But It Feels So Good)

Caroline de Maigret
Bruno Koach

It's a bit of a running joke around the office that there are two women I am in love with/who turn me into a gawky teenage boy: the model Constance Jablonski (she is a living, breathing angel) and Caroline de Maigret, who, in case you are unaware, is a music producer and model in Paris. She is also super fucking cool, and the quintessential Parisian woman in that she eats butter and croissants, stays out "too late" sometimes, smokes cigarettes sometimes, wears practically zero makeup—especially none to hide her under-eye circles; they're 'life badges'!—and doesn't own a hair brush, and yet somehow manages to look as if she's stepped out of an Isabel Marant campaign 100% of the time. Anyway, I say all of this to set the scene: coffee at the Bowery Hotel a few weeks ago, this exemplar of French cool—fringe covering tired eyes, dressed in a slouchy white sweater and jeans—telling me she recently hired a personal trainer. That's like Christy Turlington saying she's just 'over' working out. "It was time," de Maigret explained. "But I still hate it!" She promised to write me a postcard about her new fitness regimen when she got back to Paris. Here it is.

—Nick Axelrod

I hate sport. I don't like watching it, I don't like doing it. Yes, I like to swim in the sea in the summer or play tennis with friends during my holidays. But that's not "sport." That's leisure once a year, for an hour. See, I've had this great chance in life of being born with good genes. I was born tall, with a pretty face (not to everyone's taste, I concede), and a thin body.

What I mean by "thin" is that whatever I would eat until the age of 30 had no effect on my weight. I could do whatever I want; I'd stay in shape without dieting or exercising. By the age of 31, my man and I decided to have a baby. One year later, Anton was born and I had gained 53 pounds. (Believe me, it's not easy to have nine months straight of chili con carne cravings!) I lost the weight very fast, and the last few pounds were finally gone nine months later. All fine.

One morning, I'd say around my 37th birthday, I saw myself in the mirror and was stunned: my body had changed! I had not seen, at all, the evolution happen, but it was there. That body, with more curves around the waist, the belly, the hips, and thighs. The skin not as toned as it used to be: I had aged.

It wasn't the easiest thing to accept, and it brought other life anxieties along the way. But once it was finally digested and understood, it was OK, and life went on. It goes on because I feel like a teenager in an adult body. I breathe young.

So here I was, having to face my new reality. I had to start exercising. (I am not going to tell you about the different membership gym cards I went through—the ones I never attended and cost me a fortune.) I hated it. Hate hate hate. "What do I care what my body looks like?"; "I'm not a Barbie doll"; "I'd rather be reading books anyway than wasting time at the gym" were going through my mind...

I then realized I was not being honest with myself. I could do both: nurture my mind and take care of my body! I just needed someone to push me because obviously I was not able to do it alone. So I met Bruno, a coach who now comes to my house twice a week. (It's a big luxury, believe me, I realize every day how lucky I am in life—this is Bruno, by the way). And it all changed. Exercising is hard, but it makes me feel so right. My mind feels so alive and sharp; my body feels toned.

That's all I'm asking for: to feel good about myself. I don't feel tired anymore although my schedule is crazy. I wake up better, I climb up stairs faster, I have less anxieties. It's quite magical, really, how good it is for the soul to feel OK in your body. (Oh please, what a cliché! But I had never guessed it was so true.)

I still pray the night before our session that Bruno's gonna call in sick in the morning, and I still have adrenaline rushes when he's five minutes late, thinking that, by chance, he might not show up. But I'm so happy at the end of the hour, to have worked so hard and to feel so good.

—Caroline de Maigret

Caroline de Maigret is a Paris-based music producer and model. Photos courtesy of the author. Read her Top Shelf here. Want to work out in Paris? Contact Caroline's trainer, Bruno, at brunokoach@gmail.com.

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  • http://cosmoslyn.blogspot.com.au/ Ailyn Koay

    i agree, my trainer says i am a good girl for not complaining but i usually groan

  • Laura

    Ha! I started to like excercise when starting pilates...

  • Corina

    It is very true that you feel different (better) mentally when your body feels strong and toned. I like barre classes but I would love to pair it with personal training sessions at the gym for more of a well rounded workout routine.

  • tera

    thanks for this. Two things: first, look how excited he is to go work out with her! Running top speed! Second, I do wonder if many Parisians who say they do not work out actually do?? Possibly they just do not go on about it like those in the US?

    • Inès

      I think there have been a lot of changes the last couple of years in Paris. You find many organic/health stores and restaurants now, and people just seem to be more body conscious than before. One striking example: now you see much more runners in the city! For my part, all my workouts come from the US: Pilates, Ballet Beautiful and Tracy Anderson. Otherwise, Swedish Gym is very popular among women (cheap and numerous classes in every neighborhood).
      However I still think Parisians, and French people in general exercise less than Americans. But well, the gym-addict American is as cliché as the cool bedhead Parisienne ;)

    • thejulia

      Parisians walk a lot more than most Americans (except, maybe New Yorkers, who are also really skinny). Gyms are more common now than they used to be but it's still nothing like it is in the States.

    • p

      I lived in Paris from 2000-2003 and can say firsthand that people there workout more than they let on. I belonged to a huge multi-floor gym that was one location of a big chain found all over the city. Day and night the place was packed. You had to sign up and wait to use any cardio machine, and all the group classes were like sardines. And this was over a decade ago.

      • tera

        voila! This makes me feel better. Thank you!

  • Suzanne

    I can totally relate to this, though things changed for me at around 40. It was shocking! Maybe it's time for a personal trainer.

  • Alyssa Gapske

    Love this. I do the same thing. I feel sooo great when it's over, but I hate every single second until it's over.

  • Amanda

    Ugh yes. I love how I feel when I've been working out but I dread actually working out.

  • Karla Orbegozo

    I did the same thing as her, getting gym memberships but giving up at record speed. Now at 24, I know I need to lose some weight, and I'm the only one who can fix this (it is my own damn fault, after all.)
    I am confident about myself, there are some things about my body that I love and feel grateful for, as well as some things I'd rather hide. So, I want to feel good naked, I want to be able to run up a whole flight of stairs without being short of breath, and I want to live longer!
    I started going to the gym once every two days. I do zumba, yoga, spinning, and soon pilates and kick-boxing. Always switching it up so it doesn't get boring! If there is no class that day, I get on a machine and work out until the album in my ipod is over. And when I'm not at the gym, I stay at home, put on an awesome Songza playlist on (cardio hip-hop) and jump rope and do squats until I'm rolling on the floor.
    I'm starting to like the pain after a workout and I'm not giving up halway through like I always did. I'm excited!

    p.s I know about popsugar videos, which are amazing, the trainer works out WITH YOU and explains how to do it well, it's super easy stuff to do at home, but if you guys know any other websites, that would be great!

    • aisha

      bodyrock.tv and dailyhiit.com are also good

  • malteseproverb

    ugh this woman is me, except that i can't afford to pay a personal trainer to come to my tiny apartment to force me to work out, so i stay not being in shape. it was refreshing to hear this elegant woman going through the same angst, and also i appreciate that she knows how lucky she is.

  • http://www.tonytowear.com Tony to Wear

    A personal coach makes all the difference. It is so much easier when you have somebody on your side helping you!


  • http://thefashion-six.blogspot.co.uk Emma Rose

    I was never an exercise person, I mean, if I said I was going for a walk my friends would literally laugh at me and think i was joking! But a few months ago I signed up for a gym membership, I honestly love it and I don't regret signing up! You never like the thought of going but you feel good after and you feel like you have accomplished something


  • CherHorowitz

    I hate exercise too. I don't think I get endorphins ever. I mostly do it because I want to be decently strong and not a total wet noodle.

  • Sarah

    This is exactly my story! Except that I haven't started working out yet.
    Maybe this post finally motivates me.

  • http://mafaldadotzero.blogspot.fr/ Mafalda

    It's always difficult to start, but I feel so good after exercising!

    Mafalda ❤

  • Erica Rae Deutsch

    she sounds amazingly genuine

  • Bella

    I would also get excited about exercise if Bruno came to my house twice a week ;)! I was terribly unfit two years ago, after two high risk and mostly bedridden pregnancies, and started out working with a personal trainer too. After a year I was motivated enough to go it on my own. I do Les Mills Bodypump, Bodybalance and I do Pilates. I also run now and then, anything to keep moving. It is a part of my life now, like breathing. Even when I wake up a bit the worse for wear after a late night, the thought of how great I'll feel after exercising gets me out there.

  • charmystique

    That love-hate relationship everyone has with sore muscles.

  • http://www.fancyalterego.wordpress.com/ Heather P.

    I'm so much more of an outdoor exerciser, which made these past few months so difficult! I hate the gym, and I've never been one for working out at home. I can't wait for the weather to warm up so I can get outside...and maybe to the gym a bit more too!

  • Janet Lee

    Maybe it's not the actual PLACE of gym, but how active you are overall in your life. Taking a few flights of stairs at a brisk pace definitely beats the Stairmaster. You can never run up the steps that much on a machine. Also, running outdoors (during the daylight, please don't risk your safety!) is better for you than the treadmill. The uneven surfaces of the paths you're running on and the incline of the roads here and there also make it more effective than indoor running. If you can afford to buy a bike and you're able to ride where you live, that would be better than a gym membership.

  • anastasiaC

    im the same way - i hate sport, I hate exercise but after doing it often and on a regular basis...I really am starting to enjoy it! My body has changed as well...Im 43 and cant get over how its all changing...gahhh! such is life!

  • http://www.clevergirlreviews.com/ Clever Girl Reviews

    I always feel better if the work out is medium intensity. If it's my 100% for an hour I feel terrible for 2-3 days!

    • Nina

      Same here, I get a MEAN and long-lasting headache after extra intense spinning classes - and I drink loads of water before, during and after, but it doesn't help.

  • Nina

    I live in Copenhagen, which means I ride my bike, at least twice a day, EVERY WHERE I go, all year round no matter how shitty the weather is. It's definitely the easiest, fastest and most normal way to get around here. I love it and hate it at the same time - it's definitely good daily exercise.

  • http://www.surface85.com/ Aurelie | SURFACE 85

    I agree with Inès! I think the Millennials in France are more health conscious. I see a lot of my friends in France running. Like @thejulia:disqus said we walk much more in France especially if you live/work downtown (I think it's the same for a lot of European cities) which might be one of the raisons why we don't feel the pressure to work out. Until I moved to India, I wasn't working out so much myself because I had a good 45 to 60 min walk everyday. In India it's much more difficult to walk outside so I use the car all the time (which is pretty similar to the life in the US). I felt the lack of exercise on my body. Now I'm going to the gym at least 3 times a week. Like Caroline I hated it, for almost a year I was complaining all the time before leaving for the gym. There is something not natural about it, I felt like a rat running on my treadmill! Now after almost 2 years I kind of enjoy it. I guess it's a process!

    Aurelie | http://www.surface85.com

  • Semara Simu Shahin

    I love working out. Although I'm not the biggest fan of running, sometimes I can't get enough of it. Also, I'm a total Pilates, yoga and barre type of gal. Working out in the gym, with tons of machines and doing deadlifts and squats all day isn't my type of working out though, but it could be someone else's :)