I Tried It: Boot Camp with Jillian Michaels at Sweat AC

In which I planked and planked and planked with celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels.

I’ll admit I was a tad nervous going in to Jillian Michaels’s boot camp class on Saturday morning at the Sweat AC fitness festival in Atlantic City. If you followed the blog last week, you know my pride took a serious beating at the Eagles Cheerleaders’ workout on Wednesday night, and I wasn’t sure how much more I could handle. I mean, all that any of us Biggest Loser fans ever really saw on the show was five-foot-two-inch Jillian Michaels crouching over tearful, sweat-soaked contestants and screaming at them to work through the pain—all before making them do 7,000 more push-ups.

One of the women I took the class with told me beforehand that her entire goal was to get yelled at by Jillian Michaels. She said she thought it would be “fun.” I told her that we had two very different ideas of a good time, and that my (completely serious) goal was to fly as far under the radar as I possibly could and get out with my pride intact. A good workout would be a fringe benefit.

That's me, all smiles at the beginning of the workout.

So you can imagine my delight when 200 or so compatriots filed into the room. I figured there was enough of us that flying under the radar might actually be possible. The only downside, I realized, was that we were packed so sardine-like in the room that the entire workout would need to be one that didn’t involve much moving, while still living up to Jillian’s reputation of a no-excuses, tough-as-nails trainer. Which meant that we would somehow need to be worked within an inch of our lives all while never actually straying from our inches of real estate on the mat.

Not to worry—Jillian had a plan. Which is exactly when I started to really worry about how this would go.

See, if there’s one thing I know about Jillian Michaels from my time as a 30-Day Shred devotee, it’s that she likes to plank. I’m not taking about that weird, now passé Internet sensation where everyone photographed themselves lying stiff as a board in odd places. (What was with that, anyway? Flash mobs, I got. But planking? Never made sense.) No, I’m talking about the shoulder-killing push-up position with infinite variations that Jillian makes look so simple in her workout videos. It’s only when you actually attempt to stay in a plank for, say, 20 minutes straight that you realize just how difficult it is.

And so when Jillian Michaels had us in plank for what felt like half of the one-hour workout, I wasn’t all that surprised. It was hard, yes, but what was even more challenging was the fact that she didn’t let us rest or catch our breath at all between moves. And when we tried to do just that, we were chastised. “I didn’t fly all the way from L.A. to see you quit!” she hollered at one point. “Is this all you’ve got Atlantic City?” A few muffled “nos” was the best we could muster.

Not that the workout was bad—it was just reeeeeally hard. The most difficult moves included a double-leg donkey kick from the plank position (like this), single-leg mountain climbers (like this), bent-leg oblique twists (like this), and a round of jumping sumo squats that I thought would never end. The thing is, individually these moves aren’t overly difficult. But when you string them together for a one-hour, no-breaks workout, half of which is spent supporting your own body weight with your abs and shoulders, you pretty much want to die. In the best possible way, of course.

I’m happy to report that I survived (pride pretty much intact), and I’m totally jazzed that I got to work out with Jillian Michaels. If nothing else, her workout showed me that I don’t need a ton of space or equipment to get in a really good conditioning session (I’m still sore today, so I’m positive it worked), and that I can keep my heart rate up just by doing a bunch of moves back to back to back, which means I’m getting some cardio in there, too.

And for all her yelling, Jillian did a great job of getting a room full of sweat-soaked people to work through the pain and give her 7,000 more push-ups. But then, I expected nothing less.

>> See more I Tried It posts here.