Hi friends! I'm happy to let you that I'm going to start a new column here on AMR: The Struggle is Real. Because it's the truth. Whether we're talking about running, motivation, parenting, mental health, marriage, friendships, whatever, there's always something that pulls on you (or me). I'm excited to open this umbrella and write more regularly; I have missed it.
Today I'm starting (relatively) light because it's the end of a month that has been filled with turkeys—both the protein-packed and political kinds, and you might need a diversion or four.
Since running has been relegated to my no-go list, I've spent a ton of time in the gym. I wish my gym had oodles of windows and no random balls of crud in the corner, but that is not the case. Most of the light comes from the glare of televisions, usually playing dualing episodes of Law + Order, and I'm pretty sure there are drops of my sweat from 2014 petrified on the floor.
It is convenient and affordable though—the two most important features for me—and mostly tolerable, provided I have something to distract me from dustballs floating in the dark.
Fortunately, I discovered Netflix downloads this summer, a mere eight months after the company released them. They have made hours and hours on the Stepmill and bike actually enjoyable. I know multitasking as a concept is basically bunk, but I can watch and get in a moderate cardio workout at the same time, which is glorious. #BOGO Plus, like a Pavlovian dog, I now equate the gym with entertainment...climb nowhere and watch serial killers? Yeah!
If you're not into Law + Order, here my latest recommendations; I like shows that are about an hour, which is how long I typically do cardio. Also, as you might be able to guess, I'm not into fantasy or fictional worlds. I really dig real stories and real people.
Documenting the beginning of the Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI, this series follows two agents around the country as they interview serial killers about their backgrounds and motives. It is not light fare by any stretch, so consider yourself warned.
That said, it works for the gym for me; if I focused exclusively on it, I would digest it too deeply. Instead, I follow the plot loosely and watch my RPM's on the bike or glance up at CNN or the guy doing crazy stretches on the mat in front of me. I also really love how it transports you directly into the late 70's with TWA boarding gates and Chevy Novas and other cars (and nobody wearing seatbelts).
Watch if: You're a true crime fan, and don't mind slower-moving plots + gory details.
Netflix: Last Chance U
This two-season docuseries follows the football team at Eastern Mississippi Community College. While the athletes excel at football, they're at EMCC because they haven't excelled in other parts of their lives; most of them were kicked out of their previous Division I colleges, and are hoping to rise again to that level after a few years at JUCO.
The EMCC coach is a piece of work; he can't say two words without swearing, and he drives a golf cart around the football field at practice, which infuriated me; even in the air-conditioned gym, I could feel the dense Mississippi afternoon air and relentless sun. The whole situation weighed on me, as did the reality of the most of the players' futures. Still, I couldn't help but root for the Lions both on and off the field.
Watch if: You want an authentic peak inside the football world not seen on Sundays—and you don't mind copious four-letter words.
Netflix: The Keepers
Another docuseries, this seven-part story revolves around the unsolved murder of Sister Catherine Cesnik (above, center), a nun in Baltimore, and a few of her former students (right and left), who bring the case (and the accompanying stories of child abuse) back to life. While the story itself is important and upsetting enough to warrant documentation, what I really loved watching were the armchair detectives, who adored their teacher and dug into the research and interviews with diligence and fearlessness. I greatly admire them—and the other victims of Father Maskill who came forward.
Watch if: You like seeing everyday people take serious action on a cause they are passionate about.
When my eyes need a break, here are two things that never let me down:
Gimlet Media: Heavyweight Podcast
"Awkward and uncomfortable in the best way," is what one reviewer gave Jonathan Goldstein's podcast, which follows one person revisiting an episode or relationship from his or her past. During Buzz, the first episode in which Goldstein tries to smooth over the relationship between his dad and his uncle, I couldn't stop laughing; during Julia, in which an adult confronts the girls (now women) who bullied her in 8th grade, I couldn't stop crying. I listen to a lot of podcasts, but this is the one I salivate over.
Listen if: You like real people stories interspersed with humor and perspective.
Spotify: Songs to Sing in the Shower
When I'm done with cardio, it's time put down the drama and pump up the jam for strength training and PT work. Enter Don't Go Breaking My Heart by Elton + Kiki; Uptown Funk by Mark + Bruno; I Want It That Way by The Backstreet Boys; and other upbeat tunes that I know by heart. Totally cheesy? Yes. But also totally effective: I often plank just a little bit longer—even on the dirty floor!—because I can't wait to see what beauty comes on next.