Tuesday, 6 November 2007

The Gym

I’ve been put on a 10-week exercise program. Exercise releases endorphins which make you feel good. I had a choice of swimming, aerobics or the gym. I can’t swim. Aerobics involves too much jumping up and down. I chose the gym. I’ve never been to a gym. I didn’t know what to expect. Visions of toned muscular bodies clad in Lycra. Designer sweat trickling down shiny bronzed limbs.

In between 1-400pm the Healthy Life clients attend. Most wear baggy tee shirts and trackie bottoms, hiding a lifetime of abuse, or illness. We are all there to be beaten into shape, physically, mentally, or both.

It is friendly and I feel comfortable there. Matt, my fitness instructor, worked out a program with a warm up on the exercise bike, weights to strengthen my upper body, ten minutes on the country tracker and ten minutes cool down on the treadmill.

It is hard. I’m 4 weeks into the program now. I feel stronger. But I’m not sure if pumping iron is for me. As soon as I can do the exercises comfortably and I start to enjoy them, Matt ups the weights, highers the resistance and increases the speed.
“You’ve got to get a sweat on,” he tells me at every session.
He seems to know when I’m pretending. Ignoring my declarations of pain, he insists, “You’re doing fine on this program. We’ll up it next time."

At yesterday’s session an overweight woman was pounding the treadmill next to mine. In between breathless pants she introduced herself as Sall. Her face was red and shiny. Sweat ran down her cheeks. Her hair was soaked. But she determinedly continued. I admired her dedication.
“I’m trying to lose weight,” she said.
“Have you lost any?” I asked as politely as I could.
“You will do, if you stick at it,” I said, trying to offer encouragement. Without provocation she told me what she eats.
“I had two bacon butties for my breakfast, washed down with three cups of sugary tea. At lunch time I had sausage, chips and gravy in ASDA canteen. Tonight I’m cooking a spaghetti bolognaise. I nearly bought a cheesecake for dessert, but I returned it to the freezer,” she said smiling.
“Well done!” I said, smiling back.
“What have you eaten today?” she asked eyeing me up and down.
In an almost apologetic voice, I said, “A bowl of porridge for breakfast, a humus salad for lunch, and tonight we’re having vegetarian cottage pie.”
“Hmmm,” she said quickening her pace.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

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