If you want to make me cantankerous, take me to a gym. It’s not that I dislike them, in fact I’ve had spells of regular gym bunnying in the past and can get quite into the whole thing, it’s just that turn me a bit grumpy. All of a sudden I turn Spartan – I don’t want fuss or frills, I don’t want any concessions for being a girl, I don’t want to be told stuff that is clearly bollocks. The last gym that I looked round was a big chain place with a smoothie bar, indoor tennis courts, outdoor pool and hi-tech gizmos in the fitness bit. Actually, scrub that – it wasn’t just ‘a gym’ it was a ‘lifestyle centre’. What’s more, it wasn’t just a lifestyle centre, it was a lifestyle centre ‘for people like you’. People like me? Really? I wouldn’t want to go to a place full of people like me. And anyway, Mr Show People Round, if you’d looked at my mucky little Clio lowering the tone of the car park full of Audis, Mercs and BMWs, you’d realised that I’m probably not the aspirational type that you’re looking for.
My sexism/nonsense heckles were raised when we went to look round the new gym (where I was actually a member until a few years ago and I will say now that the staff and facilities are lovely) and we peered in the room that contains the toning tables. Toning tables. I ask you. Luckily we didn’t dwell too long, so the poor lad avoided a series of increasingly incredulous questions asking why on earth I would want to do a non-cardio, non-stretching, pointlessly passive activity that isn’t doesn’t even have the benefits of being weight-bearing.
There is also a small ladies-only section of the gym, which as far as I can see is occupied by the two extremes of under-confident baggy t-shirted ladies and the over-confident fake tan and false eye-lashed crowd. Either way, it’s not really me. The main gym does have a fairly high ratio of grunting men (though there are other gyms in town that cater for the more meat-headed end of the spectrum) and I will admit that there were a few gathered around the exercise mats like some kind of primate lounging on the rocks at the zoo, but I’m looking forward to the entertainment of people watching.
Ginge and I did a shared induction where we weighed, measured and not found to be too badly wanting – I wasn’t quite as lard-based as I expected and I already knew that if I loose half a stone, I would sneak into the normal BMI range. I also know that I’m not too fussed about that for any number of reasons and was pleased that it wasn’t assumed that I wanted to use the gym to lose weight. When it came to goal setting, I waffled about using the gym to improve my running and do something to improve my pathetically weak upper body strength (I will manage a successful yoga crocodile one day). We went on the despised rowing machines and climbed ¼ of the Great Pyramids (on the Famous Steps programme) and all was fine until we started on the treadmill…
We walked, yes we feel fine. We increased the speed a bit, yes we feel fine. We made the gradient steeper, we feel fine. We lowered the gradient and upped the speed, yes we feel fine. When I say upped the speed, I think it was 5mph… I announced that I wanted to get my pace down to being more regularly less than 10 minutes/mile. So that’s about 5.5mph he said. No I said. There followed some tooing and froing which ended with me going “10 minute miles are 6mph. I can run a 10k in an hour”. I know that I know quite a bit of running theory (even if I don’t put it into practice) and I hang around on twitter with runners who are absolute founts of knowledge, so I don’t expect him to know too much, but as I muttered darkly to Ginge “that’s not running knowledge, it’s just basic bloody maths”.
Everything else went fairly smoothly (apart from two potential flashpoints when he referred to the chest being “a large muscle” – I gave him the benefit of the doubt for that one – and being asked to do variations of straight leg raises, of which I am highly sceptical for both their effectiveness for improving core stability and the strain that they place on the lumber spine) and now I’m all signed up. Crikey.
I know that my grumpiness will subside and I will end up becoming focused and competitive (with Ginge and myself) and hopefully I will see some improvement in my running. I’m looking forward to working on my strength and learning to love the rowing machine. If nothing else, I’ve got to love a gym that offers Ferrero Rocher in exchange for racking up 60 visits…