I feel a lot of different things when I exercise: tired, resentful, inflexible. Hungry, gangly, territorial. Sometimes I feel excited about the bowl of Fruit Loops that I will suck down guilt-free when I get home, and occasionally I feel sexy, like a badass backup dancer in a Beyoncé video. Most often — about 15 minutes into any given workout, and again at 24 minutes, and 37 — I feel that I've had enough and that it really should be over by now.
Here's what I never, ever feel when I exercise: toe-curling ecstasy.
Researchers at Indiana University report that some women actually experience orgasms while working out. A study at the school's Center for Sexual Health Promotion surveyed 124 women who claim to have been sent into paroxysms of pleasure while exercising — during spinning or yoga class, in the weight room or swimming pool, and while climbing poles or ropes (which makes me picture the word "climb-ax," which makes me giggle stupidly).
The media is calling these episodes "coregasms" because they're most often brought on by abdominal exercises — especially multiple sets of rigorous crunches. But let's call them "gymnasms" because it's crazy fun to say; try it.
These thrilling shockwaves are surprisingly sex-free. One woman in the study was a virgin, but had enjoyed a rollicking O at the Y, while another gal could achieve the Happy Sneeze in her Spandex — but never in her marital bed. Scientists explain the phenomenon thusly: endorphin release + fervent squeezing of pelvic muscles = happy ending.
The researchers say studying this phenomenon may ultimately shed light on the great mystery of the female orgasm, and hear, hear; a gal can't always find a partner with the steel nerves and steady hands of a master safecracker, much less the borescope and blasting caps that are sometimes necessary to finish the job.
But gymnasms aren't all yee-haw. Some women who experience them say they get nervous exercising in public — and while I understand their anxiety, it's hard to feel much sympathy for a lady who can, ahem, arrive while doing sit-ups.
It seems too good to be true. If controversial sex researcher Alfred Kinsey hadn't alluded to exercise-induced orgasm in his famous 1953 report (and if a friend of mine hadn't recently confessed to feeling the telltale titillating tingling after dismounting from a stationary bike), I'd swear the whole thing was a scam dreamed up by a greedy consortium of gym owners.
If it's true, though — if the very activity so many of us loathe can lead to the very sensation so many of us crave — then I can't help fantasizing a little. Since when are we rewarded so blessedly, so YES! YES! YES!-edly, for doing unpleasant chores that are good for us? It's like finding out that some women get rich just by scrubbing their shower grout, or drop five pounds every time they go to the dentist.
What if other must-dos could be so gratifying? What if we could die the delightful "little death" while doing our taxes? Or draw the hallelujah breath while pumping gas? Or folding laundry — multiple sets of rigorous, rapturous laundry-folding?
If exercise could be something secret, delicious, and even slightly taboo, rather than an irksome, obligatory travail, it would change the whole landscape of my psyche — to say nothing of my abs.
As someone who suffers through planks, squats, and lunges solely for the privilege of overconsuming sugar cereal, I remain skeptical. But I just might try that rope-climbing thing. If you see me halfway up the rope, grunting, sweating, and wearing that unmistakably blissed-out expression on my face, you'll know what I'm thinking:
Fruit Loooops ...