It was 7 p.m. on Cinco de Mayo, and while normal people were at bars, throwing back Coronas and margaritas, I was on my way to meet a personal trainer who, God willing, would squat and thrust me toward a phenomenal sex life. The mission: to enhance my bedroom performance via that good-old women's magazine standard called sexercising—and then put my newly sexercised body to the test in bed with a guy.
As I approached the gym, I was nervous to meet Keith, a trainer I was put in touch with over Facebook. Unbeknownst to me, Keith worked at Crossfit Virtuosity, "5,000 feet of mayhem space" (their words) that eschews exercise machines in favor of free weights and random heavy objects. Out front, people were carrying barbells above their heads and walking back and forth between the gym and the street. Then they would put down the weights, bend over, and flip a giant truck tire.
We were five minutes into it when, lying on my back, my heart racing, I started making involuntary little grunts. I felt sexier already.
A tall Asian man walked over to me. "Meghan?"
"Keith?" We shook hands.
He smiled. "You look terrified."
We walked inside and over to a mat. "I was calling all the female trainers I know, and I asked them what kind of sexercises they would do," Keith explained. "So we're going to do some hip openers, some heart openers, and maybe a little something to help you with your reverse cowgirl."
I was in.
Keith took me through a relatively rigorous set of exercises, including:
The Straddle Stretch: Sitting with my legs outspread, Keith had me touch my toes, and then roll over on my back so my feet touched the floor behind my head. Then I would roll back again, touching my toes.
The Fire Hydrant: Starting on all fours, I lifted my leg like a dog relieving himself, and then extended that leg behind me.
The Stripper Stretch: in which I spread my legs and bent over repeatedly. Keith had me do this as I skittered across the gym like a giraffe at watering hole. I tried not to be self-conscious as I elevated my ass in front of a line of dudes doing sit-ups.
Next came groiners, squats, and mountain climbers. I was bad at the groiners, but Keith reminded me I just needed to "make it sexy." We were five minutes into these when, lying on my back, my heart racing, I started making involuntary little grunts. I felt sexier already.
Following this, at the other end of the gym, Keith handed me a pole for hamstring extensions. Holding the pole at the base of my back and against the back of my skull, he had me bend over, making sure the pole kept contact with the base of my spine and my head. Once Keith felt I had this down, I did sets of hamstring extenders interspersed with sets of squats.
Back we went to the mat, where I did what he called "sit-throughs" and what I called "my personal hell." I started with my hips up, my knees at a 90-degree angle so that I was in a sitting position with no chair, my arms hanging straight below my shoulders, fingers pointing the same way as my toes. I was to lower my hips down between my hands while keeping my arms straight, and then bring my hips back up. As I thrust my hips up during reps, Keith gently suggested, "Try to keep your hips off the floor as you go down."
"I've got a big ass!" I whined as I begrudgingly struggled to keep said ass from touching the ground. After that, we moved on to sit-ups. Keith put a pad under my lower back, telling me I could substitute a rolled-up towel at home, and had me lay down with my legs outstretched. I was to roll up slowly, tightening my abs as my hands reached out to touch my toes. Then he had me put my feet together, like I was doing a butterfly stretch. Again, I rolled up slowly, sliding my hands down my open thighs. "OK, this is getting a little sexier," I said.
Keith smiled, "You see where I'm going with this." We did some more sexy crunches, and then he had me do some more sit-throughs and I called him a jerk.
We had a short debate over what constituted a reverse cowgirl. I insisted that it's when I straddle a man with my knees on the ground while facing his feet, whereas Keith believed it's when the woman faces the man's feet but squats instead of kneels. Keith's reverse cowgirl is, in actuality, a move I've always thought of as the "crazy porn position" because of its ubiquity in adult entertainment. After I set him straight, Keith proceeded to stretch me out. We did a lot of hip openers, as promised, and he spent some time on my chest (not that way), opening up the muscles over my breast plate. "If you subscribe to yoga, you know how important it is to open up the chest and heart," he assured me.
He continued to roll my shoulders back and massage the muscles just below my collarbone. I lost track of time during the series of stretches and massages that followed, but I walked out of the gym feeling strong, feeling sexy, and feeling limber. The next day I woke up feeling sore.
I skipped a day, and then proceeded to do my at-home workout each morning:
• 20 straddle stretches
• 20 fire hydrants, each side and each direction
• 20 groiners
• Stripper stretches across my living room
• 3 sets of 10 hamstring extensions, using a Swiffer broom in place of a pole
• 3 sets of 10 squats (the last two days I did 4 sets)
• 3 sets of 10 sit-throughs interspersed with sets of crunches
• 10 sit-ups with my legs out
• 10 sit-ups with my legs butterflied out
• 20 crunches with my legs straight up in the air, toes flexed and me touching my toes
I replaced Keith's marathon stretch-out with a series of yoga stretches: cobra, frog, forward lunge, pigeon, bridge, camel.
The workout took me 30 to 40 minutes per day, and for someone who really hates working out (but is willing to do so in the name of better sex), it was tolerable. On the sixth day, I cut some of the sets in half, figuring I should save my energy: This would, after all, be the night when I put all these exercises to the test.
The night before my first training session, I had had some control-group sex. The guy was my ex-boyfriend, whom I'm still on good terms with, and the sex was good, as it always had been. Adhering to the scientific method, we ran through all the standard positions one at a time: missionary, doggy style, girl on top. I even tried the reverse cowgirl (me straddling him, knees on the mattress, facing his feet) and the crazy porn position, which actually wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. When I wondered aloud, "Does this even look good?" about the crazy porn position, I was told that, yes, it looks amazing.
A week later, after a week of dedication and early-morning sexercises, we went at it again. The results? When I was on top, I was able to open my hips more and had a little extra range in my leg positioning. I gave the reverse cowgirl and the crazy porn position another go and was able to do at least five more squats than before. But by far, the biggest change was mental—my body confidence had changed dramatically. My abs, aesthetically my weakest feature, no longer made me nervous. In fact, I thought my tummy looked kind of cute, and my ass felt—I never thought I'd use this word—perky. As I peeled off my clothes, I wasn't just excited to get laid, I was excited that someone was seeing me naked and seeing all that hard work in its full glory. I may or may not have rolled around on the bed prior to intercourse, purring to my ex, "Check me out."
Demonstrating for my partner the sexercises I had been doing over the past week made for interesting foreplay, and he did comment that my body looked "awesome." But I wouldn't say the sex itself was significantly better. It was still good (except for the part when I got a little emotionally verklempt about my ex—all those damn heart openers, maybe?) and perhaps therein lies the problem. Prior to my workouts, the sex we had was more than satisfactory. If you're already having great sex, it's hard to say what makes it even greater.
I asked my man if he noticed the difference, and he paused before saying, "If I didn't know you were doing this, I wouldn't have been like, 'Wow, that was really good. I wonder if she was doing sexercises!'" He was quick to reiterate that the sex was still very enjoyable, he just didn't notice a difference.
As a woman, I found that trying to get better at sex feels similar to trying to orgasm: The harder and more methodically you work at it, the less likely it is to happen. It's tough to work your way to better sex. Good sex is all about letting go and responding to your partner—it's not really about how many squats you can do. Don't get me wrong, it was fun to have a little extra physical ability in the bedroom. But I don't want to work at my sexual skills. I just want to enjoy them.
Meghan Pleticha is the Sex and Dating correspondent and Assistant Editor for The Faster Times ( www.thefastertimes.com). Her work also appears regularly on Nerve.com. You can follow her writing at www.twitter.com/champagnelithe.