The real personal trainer

One of the greatest inventions of all time was the 1950s exercise machine with the belt that wrapped around the user's hips and shook them like big maracas. It was utterly humiliating and thoroughly useless. But these vibrators were the last word in friendly exercise machines. The popular iron maidens of today have a domineering, toldja-so quality that makes them not as nice as their predecessor. Plus, I like that it was one sling I was born too late to get my ass into.

Humans built these machines to help them avoid physical exertion. Then our butts began to expand like Jiffy Pop. So we built machines that required physical exertion, and became slavishly devoted to them.

But that's a story for a writer who cares about our society's soul. My story is about exercise machines so new and intriguing you can't mention them in polite company. And we all know that things you can't mention in polite company are the only things worth discussing.

Let 'er grip

Muscles are very important. The stronger you are, the easier it is to overpower other women at the vending machine and wrestle away their Reese's Sticks. But women have muscles you won't see them working on in the gym. They are known as PC (pubococcygeus), or pelvic floor muscles, and the stronger they are, the better, whether it's aiding in bladder control, childbirth or increased sexual prowess. Learn to work the PCs and not only will you age better, your man will look at you like he is Columbus and you are America. This beats the bejesus out of a nice bicep.

The exercises one does to strengthen the PCs are called kegels, and they're easy to do (WARNING: those squeamish about female matters will now want to commence making faces) by squeezing in around that general area. You can do kegels anytime, anywhere. Evita Peron might well have been doing kegels while she was up there on that platform. Marilyn Monroe might have been doing them while standing over that grate. I could be doing them now. They're that easy.

Actually, they're not easy for everybody. "A lot of women don't know where to squeeze," says Nancy Casey, spokesman for the "As We Change" catalog, a line of products devoted to women's health and well-being. And PCs are not something you can just point out. So "As We Change" offers exercise aids for PC muscles -- two, actually -- and according to Nancy, they are among the company's best-selling products. Previously only available to physical therapists, the devices assist in areas women are often embarrassed to talk about but where they could be used to enormous benefit, going as far as to "hold off painful surgery" that might come from decreased elasticity.

And did I mention the increased sexual pleasure? OK, good.

The first is FemTone vaginal weights. These are not weights designed to keep your vagina from drifting out to sea or floating off in a high wind. They are little elliptical objects of graduated weight (0.7 to 2.5 ounces) with thin cords attached so they look like tampons or surreally large nightmare sperm. You insert them and then hang onto them for 15 minutes twice a day. The catalog copy says, "You can use them while going about your daily light activities, like doing dishes or applying makeup." You'll notice these are things you do at home. One assumes this is because you wouldn't want to lose your grip and have a vaginal weight go clunking across the floor of the library or church. How would you explain it? "I'm training for a big tournament" ?

Press on

"As We Change" also sells a "kegelcisor," a stainless steel weight that looks like a barbell, and which Nancy says provides "a guideline" to help tighten those muscles by teaching them where to hang on. Maybe you can invite your girlfriends over to see who could bench press more.

FemTone ($135) and the kegelcisor ($80) could be wonders of gym equipment, but I didn't road test them. That's a consumer report you can't afford. Besides, I'm lucky enough not to need them. I'm so in touch with my girl parts that I frequently have to tell them to stop calling me at work. One would not want to overdevelop down there and end up like some kind of pelvic Popeye.

But because I deeply believe that increased sexual pleasure for everyone is the key to peace, prosperity and those fleeting, blissful smiles you see on people's faces when they're truly happy, I'm glad to let people know about these particular products (which is not to minimize their effects in the other areas mentioned -- any health benefit is a giant step towards happiness). And they have a nice self-sufficiency you gotta love. The feeling of having taken care of yourself leads to increased power, both physical and emotional.

That's important. And possibly what's been meant all along by the emphasis on getting in touch with the inner you.

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