BOSTON.Â Itâ€™s 5:55 a.m., and Julie Bermanâ€™s alarm clock just went off.Â Sheâ€™s not quite ready to get up, but she doesnâ€™t hit the snooze button.Â â€œIâ€™ve got to start speed-dialing at 5:59 if I want to make the list for Sister Joeâ€™s class,â€ she says as she hunches over her phone to call in her reservation for a 12:15 spinning class at her health club.
â€œSister Joeâ€ is Sister Mary Joseph Arimathea of the Sisters of the Precious Blood, a religious order whose mission in life is to teach grades K through 12 and, more recently, to keep Americaâ€™s young professionals trim and fit.Â â€œWhenever I see a set of flabby abs,â€Â the nunÂ says with a look of barely-concealed disgust, â€œI know why the Big Guy Upstairs put me on earth.â€
As a result of years ofÂ punishment she handed out toÂ smart-alecks such as Scott Walje and Dickie Racunas, two fifth-graders who chose â€œAloysiusâ€ as their confirmation name just to tickÂ her off, Sister Joe is regularly ranked among the top spinning instructors in the Boston area by local magazines and weekly newspapers.Â â€œShe makes you work,â€ says Berman, â€œand she doesnâ€™t want to hear any excuses about your white wine hangover.â€
Remember to stretch before class:Â â€œIâ€™m going to make your muscles burn like youâ€™re suffering in Purgatory.â€
That apparently curious confluence of religious discipline and aerobic exercise is being replicated across the country, as more and more nuns are entering the crowded field of spinning instruction and excelling at it.Â â€œMany of the early spinning instructors were former sadistic prison guards,â€ says Boston FitnessÂ Club manager Mark Salerno.Â â€œWe tried non-sadistic guards, but our members complained that they didnâ€™t get a good workout.â€
Spinning is aÂ form ofÂ aerobic exercise developed in 1989 by cyclist Johnny Goldberg of Santa Monica, California, in order to train for races.Â Skinny instructors shout atÂ pudgy professional participants who ride stationary bicycles to bad rock music, helping them to tone and firm muscles and lose their hearing.
Sister Joeâ€™s class is a model of decorum, as were the catechism classes she taught before being transferred to Boston to minister to yuppies making the transition from post-adolescence to early middle age.Â â€œShake what the Good Lord gave you, girl,â€ she shouts at one young woman who is slacking off in the back row, hoping to avoid the nunâ€™s steely gaze.Â â€œIf you think youâ€™re suffering now,â€Â the nun adds, â€œwait until you burn in hellÂ for sleeping with your roommateâ€™s boyfriend.â€
Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection "Fun With Nuns."