adventures in sex

How I Turned My Sex Life Into an Exercise Routine

In the back of any fitness enthusiast’s mind is a series of attainable and unattainable goals. Run 26.2 miles? Attainable. Squatting my way to Coco Austin’s ass? Utterly unattainable. But my personal Everest has always been sexercise, that elusive yet seemingly attainable goal of burning calories with exertions designed by nature to feel good. Over the years, while on the treadmill or holding a plank, the ultimate form of multitasking would call to me: “Why are you doing (insert current activity) when you could be having sex?” It seemed so simple. Deceptively simple. Following in the footsteps of exercise pioneers like Suzanne Somers and Jane Fonda — and sexual pioneers like Sappho and Kim Cattrall — I was ready to condition and climax.

First, I needed a plan. I was shocked by the lack of information on sexercise. Most of the books were distasteful self-published works from nostalgic swingers. As a modern sexerciser, I would need to construct my own approach.

My grand experiment would last fourteen days. I would perform aerobic sexercises for 30 minutes a day, six days a week, using twelve approaches culled from contemporary fitness trends. Needing zero persuasion, my husband was onboard. (He would regret this decision in coming days.) Experiencing the mix of dread and anticipation every athlete feels before an intense training period, we set a date and commenced sexercising.

Day 1: Interval Sex

We start with interval training, a workout basic that can be applied to any cardiovascular routine. I will alternate between periods of heart-pumping high-intensity humping and sensual, slow-paced recovery periods.

I decide to keep the tone sporty instead of sexy, so I pull off my clothes, smack my hands in a single clap, and yell “Let’s do this!” in my coachiest voice. I immediately regret missing the chance to scream “Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose!” while slapping my husband’s bare butt. Luckily, it’s just the first night.

I position the clock so I can time my (nonsexual) splits. Jumping into bed, we assume my first position, my husband lying on his back while I pump vigorously for one minute, slow down for 30 seconds, then pick up the pace again. Like Kristen Stewart in Breaking Dawn, I am a female jackhammer. I break a sweat and my first mistake becomes painfully clear: I forgot to warm up. Like a distance runner cramping after the second mile, jumping into hard intervals leaves me with a sore, dry vagina.

After a pit stop for lube, I practice targeting different muscle groups by switching whether I use my arms and legs to propel movement. Though some sexercise books outline specific positions, I find that using positions I already know and enjoy makes it easier to endure my interval burns.

Though I work out daily, twenty minutes of interval sex exhausts me. I face two unpleasant truths: First, I have terrible sexercise endurance. Second, when it comes to sexual workouts, men have been duping women for years. When I became the predominant thruster I burned calories, toned muscles, and worked my heart. The first rule of sexercise is to take back the thrusting. Whether on top, bottom, or sideways: thrust, ladies, thrust.

Day 2: Sexin’ to the Oldies

Richard Simmons - Sweatin' to the Oldies Volume 1 by RichardSimmons-Official

In the eighties, Richard Simmons swept the country in a pair of striped Dolphin shorts and a bedazzled tank top. For my second day of sexercise, I find the full Sweatin’ to the Oldies workout online and discover a surprising amount of thrusting. I prop my laptop in bed and prepare to mirror Simmons’s every move.

After my now mandatory warmup, I lie under my husband with my legs wrapped around his torso, swaying my hips to “Dancing in the Street,” pumping in time with the infectious beat. With each song, I switch positions. I climb on top and assail my husband with hips and balled fists for “It’s My Party.” For “On Broadway,” I employ a more artistic, flowy bounce with occasional jazz hands. (Yes, I mixed sex with jazz hands.) I flip my body into a doggy-style tripod for Buddy Holly classic “Peggy Sue,” then unleash a frenetically thrusting, no-holds-barred reverse tabletop position for “Great Balls of Fire.” The result is not unlike interval training, but the music makes it easier to maintain a steady pace.

While I find Richard’s cries to “Sssssssizzle!” and “Keep it up!” encouraging, my husband has difficulty doing just that. He claims it is scientifically impossible to orgasm while Richard Simmons is screaming. Or, as he put it, “The only reason I was able to maintain an erection is that I had access to boobs and vagina.” My husband is a complex fellow.

Day 3: The Sex-Minute Mile

Day 3 or 30, it’s hard to tell anymore. I already feel like a prisoner marking the days on my cell’s wall. Today I opt for a sprint instead of a full 30 minutes. The goal is to raise my heart rate to anaerobic levels for the sexual equivalent of a six-minute mile.

To combat diminished enthusiasm for the night’s event, I transform our bedroom into a sexual race track. I write FINISH on three pieces of computer paper with a black sharpie and tape them to my headboard, then tack a streamer across the bed. I plan to rip it triumphantly upon completion of my race with celebratory fist pumps. Finally, I place a dixie cup with water beside the bed, either to drink or to throw on myself during the race, and set a timer to six minutes.

I’m not exactly sure which splits I’ll be hitting, but climb on top of my husband and attack at full force, legs driving into the mattress and arms thrashing violently for leverage. My heart starts pounding and I am beginning to sweat when seeds of doubt creep into my mind. You can’t do this. It’s too hard. You are a sexercise failure. I push through, but just when the end is in reach, disaster strikes. My relay partner has dropped the baton. I should have been prepared for this outcome, but the defeat is wrenching. The FINISH sign looms large, the streamer mocks me unbroken. Maybe we need a little penis numbing cream.

Day 4: Sexy Squats

Today I face the sexercise I have been dreading: squats. Perhaps the most obvious intersection between sex and exercise, squats are an unavoidable necessity. 

I warm up with my knees positioned on either side of my reclining husband, the squat equivalent of doing push-ups from your knees. After a few minutes I transition to my feet, performing a ballerina’s grand plié onto my husband’s penis. I brace my arms against his shoulders, engaging my core, but my legs start to burn immediately. I alter the angles of my knees and the distance between my feet, but I keep losing my balance on the soft bed and flopping back and forth. Having read that you should never squat below a 90-degree angle with your knees, I prop my husband’s butt on pillows so I don’t have to squat as low, but my knees ache from the deep squats nonetheless.

My legs are screaming at me to stop and I begin screaming back. Confession: I am an angry exerciser. I seethe during my squat sexercise — face clenched, fists clenched, vagina clenched. This is my least sexy sexercise yet.

Day 5: Rest Day

At last, my first rest day. I do not have sex with my husband.

Day 6: Sexilates

Reinvigorated from my day of rest, I tackle abdominal sexercise. My husband gets on top in missionary position and I perform crunches timed to his thrusts, curling my upper torso to meet his body. It works, but engaging my stomach is difficult when my body keeps sinking into the bed, so I flip both legs to one side with my knees stacked. I twist my torso upward, side-crunching to match my husband’s tempo. After twenty reps, I reverse and do the other side. This is my most successful sexercise yet, as I am both feeling the burn and actually enjoying sex. It’s a breakthrough!

The only caveat is that, without the flattering coverage of LuLuLemon leggings, I have to stare at my naked stomach during each crunch. Nothing could be simultaneously more inspiring and devastating to a workout. I recommend closing your eyes. 

Fifteen minutes in, I transition to a basic Pilates mat routine. First, the Hundred: After a lot of body finagling, I end up in a boat pose facing my husband while he pulls me back and forth. I hold the position and get a great workout. Next, I lie flat on top of him with my feet by his face and try a naked Roll Up, struggling to roll my body into an upright position while keeping him inside of me. At the top, I look expectantly at his face, waiting to hear that I have achieved some undiscovered form of sexual pleasure. “Well?” I ask. “Are you trying to break my penis?” he responds.

Nonetheless, I remain confident that sexilates is a viable and healthy pastime.

Day 7: Zumba Sex

The basic premise behind Zumba, the latest dance-exercise craze inviting women to dance away the pounds, is much like sexercise: do a physical activity so fun that you forget you’re exercising. I recently attended a nine-hour Zumba instructor training program of my own volition, so I’ve got this one covered.

At the training, they kept telling us to pretend we were in a club, and with a quick trip to Spencer’s for a miniature strobe light and a Zumba mix largely featuring Pitbull and Sean Paul, I am prepared to make love in this club.

Zumba instructors aren’t supposed to use verbal cues to signal the next move, lest they detract from the students’ musical experience. Following the Zumbatic code, I insist on non-verbal signals. Instead of saying we want to change positions, my husband and I smack each other’s arms and make lewd gestures with our hands. My approach is a finger countdown from five, four, three, two, quick obscene gesture, awkward scramble into the next position.

Although the instructor can’t speak, Zumba students are encouraged to scream things like “Get it, girl!” “Whoo, whoo!” and “Yeeeeeahhh!” I scream these at my husband at regular intervals. He may be reconsidering our marriage.

Day 8: Crossfit Sex

Largely inspired by an exercise called “The Thruster” on Crossfit’s website, I decide to introduce Crossfit into my sex life. The website offers daily workouts named after women, like the Angie and the Jackie, as though the weight-lifting regimens are dresses from Anthropologie. In honor of former Miss Universe Barbara Palacios, I choose the Barbara: five circuits of twenty pull-ups, 30 push-ups, 40 sit-ups, and 50 body-weight-only squats, performed in order and with a three-minute resting period at the end of each circuit. The best substitute, I decide, is to pick four positions and then do each for 20, 30, 40, and 50 reps increasing in intensity.

Crossfit sex resembles interval sex with one noteworthy challenge: counting. When I count silently in my head, I lose track, so I start counting out loud. To keep it sexy I try using a sultry voice, but end up sounding like a creepy version of the Count from Sesame Street.

Day 9: Bikram Sex (“Hot Sex”)

I have zero natural flexibility. I can barely sit cross-legged on the ground. But since no sexercise program can be complete without some form of yoga, I pin my hopes on Bikram yoga, also known as “hot yoga.” The heat is said to loosen the muscles for stunning feats of flexibility.

Bikram experts recommend that a room be heated to 105 degrees with 40 percent humidity. Luckily, I own an adorable elephant-shaped humidifier; unluckily, my thermostat only turns up to 90 degrees. With my house turning into a sad, lukewarm sauna, I lead my husband in pre-sex stretches and pranayama, breathing deeply into the back of our throats and making weezy Darth Vader noises. It’s really sexy. Limber and oxygenated, we embark on the 26 Bikram postures I’ve printed out. Most are sexually impossible. Tree Pose and Eagle Pose offer no genital exposure at all. I have luck with Cobra Pose, which involves lying on your stomach with an arched back, and the “Hands to Feet,” pose which is basically just bending over.

Even in the underheated room, my flexibility increased, which would be sexy were it not for the sweat pouring from my body and onto the bed. Instead of the usual small wet spot in the middle of a postcoital bed, our sheets are covered in sweat. Tired and annoyed, we have to change the sheets and take showers afterwards.

Day 10: Rest Day

My final rest day. Not having sex has never been so sweet.

Day 11: Sauna Suit Sex

Don’t try this one. Seriously, do not try this one. It’s not worth it and the memories you will create can’t be erased. I unequivocally blame my husband for this idea. A former college wrestler, he often had to cut weight by exercising in a sauna suit, which is a glorified set of trash bags taped together to prevent your sweat from escaping. You heat up quickly and lose tons of water weight. I imagine it will be like hot sex, but with all the sweat trapped in an easily discarded bag. I am wrong.

Mixing DIY Internet instructions and my own ingenuity, I fashion two sauna suits from white trash bags and duct tape. My husband and I take off our clothes, awkwardly shimmy into the suits, and I seal up the openings except for two strategically placed holes. There are few outfits in the history of the world less sexy than trash bag suits with genital openings. Repeatedly, I try to sneak a digital picture, but my husband fiercely rips all devices out of my hands. Even when I assure him in my sweetest voice that the picture is just for us, he knows I am lying.

The plastic sticks to my skin, making my body feel like a Saran Wrapped piece of meat. On the plastic across my husband’s chest there is a warning to keep away from children to prevent suffocation, which I read continuously. Some combination of sweat and plastic rubbing against skin creates an insanity-inducing itchiness. I felt like an old Looney Tunes cartoon where someone had poured itchy powder down my back. Multiple times mid-thrust, I must push my husband away, reach under the plastic, and scratch desperately like a madwoman. 

Having problems maintaining an erection, my husband asks me to rip two holes for my boobs. As I lie in bed wrapped in a suit of trash bags covering everything except my vagina and breasts, I realize I have hit sexercise rock bottom.

The one inexorable truth is that you cannot have an orgasm while wearing a homemade sauna suit.

Day 12: Fitness Role Play

Today I explore a brainier side to sexercise: role-play. I will be a sexy fitness trainer, he my sexy trainee. My husband and I don’t typically engage in role-play; the copy of Fifty Shades of Grey on my nightstand book stack remains unopened. “Give me ten push-ups!” I yell, then as a reward let him fondle me. “Twenty crunches!” I scream, followed by a brief blow job. Fitness role-play is easily incorporated into sex, but I realize it undermines my purpose. Isn’t the point of sexercise not having to exercise?

Day 13: Sexy Weight Vest

With the end in sight, I jump on the bandwagon of a cyclically recurring exercise trend: weight vests. Sexy promotional pictures of women wearing weight vests encourage me. What says “sexy” like a midriff-bearing, side-boob-revealing vest covered in tiny weights and resembling the garments of a suicide bomber?

After a trip to my local sporting goods store, I plan to lure my husband into the bedroom wearing nothing but my sexy, strength-building 30-pound vest. Discovering that heavy-duty nylon fabric is definitely not designed to coincide with nudity, I trudge over to the bed, flop over into my sexy vest pose, and call my husband in. He immediately bursts out laughing.

We try to have sex, but the vest is so heavy that I can barely move. My balance is off and I am constantly threatening to fall forward or backward, like a half-naked Weeble wobbling. After five minutes, I can take no more. Since the vest increased my overall caloric expenditure, I figure it evens out.

Sorry, unnamed sporting goods store, but I returned the vest the next day.

Day 14: Sex on a Fitness Ball

Like a camper facing the last night of summer, I thought I might feel nostalgic on my last day of sexercise, but instead I am relieved. I’ve already told my husband that I’m done with sex. Forever. But first, we will go out with a bang. We’re going to use a prop: a large fitness ball.

I also saved this night for last because we are staying in a hotel, and I plan to steal the ball from the fitness room. What atrocities will I not commit in the name of sexercise?

We sneak downstairs around midnight. He is on lookout as I snag the smallest ball, then run up the back stairs to our room, a thrilling caper to get us revved for super-hot ball sex. I wipe down the ball because I have no idea where it has been. Then we get to work.

Ball sexercise has one rule: try to stay on the ball. First my husband sits with his butt on the ball, leaning back, with me on top. We desperately work our cores to stay balanced, but end up wedging our feet against the walls and floor. The ball is bouncy and I pretend I’m on a human Hoppity Hop ball, officially reducing to an exercise machine. Then my husband tries to be on top, but the higher center of gravity sends us crashing to the ground.

The real victory comes when I get into a tabletop position with my upper back stretched over the ball, allowing me to work my core and while my husband accesses my genitals. Success! I also try a reverse position that approaches a plank, putting most of my weight into my bent arms. As we start to sweat, however, the ball begins to slips out from under us. After the fifth falling incident, ball sexercise has lost its glamour.

I deem it a relative success anyway, then wipe down the ball again and leave it in the hallway so I can blame its presence on some teenagers three rooms away.

The Aftermath

Although most of my experiments have been unequivocal failures, I still believe in the dream of sexercise. My experience taught me some valuable lessons. First, you have to match sexercise with your sex drive, otherwise it’s just exercise: something you don’t want to do, but are mildly happy you did once it’s over. Second, warm up and cool down with normal sex. I couldn’t orgasm during sexercise, but could manage an enjoyable 30-minute routine and then climax afterwards. Finally, sexercise isn’t for the self-serious or easily embarrassed. If the idea of naked face-planting after you slip off a wet exercise ball mortifies you, then sexercise may not be for you. Following my two weeks of sexercise, I feel more toned and lean — and have discovered a new level of trust with my husband. Though sexercise will not be our primary form of sex or exercise, we will without a doubt continue to add “sssssizzle” to our sex life.

I Turned My Sex Life Into an Exercise Routine