fitness class

Getting cross training at puregym

Digested read:  I’ve caved, I’ve joined a gym for cross training purposes and can confirm absolutely, that the experience is making me very cross and bad-tempered indeed.  I think that must be why it’s called cross training. Am really hoping gym-going is an acquired taste and I’ll learn to love it, meantime, I’m enjoying the teleport machine and the glitter balls. Well, you have to celebrate what joys in life you can.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.  I’m allegedly taking part in the London Marathon this year, but my efforts at preparatory training have been largely thwarted. I am trying, but my default activity level is inert, and ice and snow and hills (do you have any idea just how hilly it is in Sheffield) are making running quite literally impossible. Call me nesh and over-cautious by all means, but I maintain if you can’t stand upright on a road unaided, you shouldn’t try running down it, or more specifically up it.  We have had a lot of ice and snow.  Hence, I’ve been favouring long slow walks to get miles on legs, which is something, but not actual running.  The trouble is, even though I think it’s legitimate not to run in such ‘sub-optimal’ conditions, after all, I wont even start if I’m in plaster up to my neck from falling over and down hillsides – it doesn’t make London any further away.  I still have a finite number of weeks left in which to train, and those weeks  are depleting more rapidly than you’d credit.  I need to take positive action to up my game. Aaaargh.

Fortunately, or possibly not, depending on how things work out, I have a running buddy who is injured.  Well, shame about the injury for her etc, but obviously the important thing in this story is me.  I can just copy her initiative because she has done me the good service of acquiring a painful stress fracture in her heel, so I don’t have too.   Because she can’t run at the minute due to injury, but like an over-excited collie needs her exercise, she has taken the drastic step of joining a gym.  She also goes swimming to be fair, but I’m not yet desperate enough to do that. Swimming is such a faff, even if not in Cambodia. You have to get dressed and undressed, take loads of stuff with you, fret about your bikini line and body fat, and also get wet.  I’m brilliant at floating (body fat is not all bad) but hopeless at the making headway aspect of swimming, so it really isn’t for me, I’m just not that desperate just yet.  That time may come, but spare me now, please.

In the interim, it is to a gym I shall turn.  I shall embrace take on this cross training malarkey and see how it goes.  Weirdly, the last time I was in a gym was in Cambodia at Phnom Penh Sports Club no less. That was pretty horrific to be fair, but massively entertaining too, maybe this will be the same.  I may not get any fitter, but my what I fail to gain in muscle and dignity I will acquire by way of anecdotes. That is something I suppose.  I went nearly every day to the gym when I was in Phnom Penh, and it didn’t offer up the transformation I was hoping for to be honest:

post work out shot phnom penh

At the time, I told myself it’s because I’m just not good in the heat.  I inwardly resolved never again to complain about the cold.  But then I’d forgotten about ice, and snow, and how profoundly unpleasant it is when hail flies at you horizontally like shards of glass, and you can barely stand in the wind.  Short memory me.  Short in mind as well as stature.  Oh well.

The upshot of all this inclement weather and inadequate training and injured co-smiley, is that to the gym I would take.  With extreme reluctance and a heavy heart, but that’s where I was bound all the same. She recommended puregym, mainly on the basis of price, and no contract.  It keeps its prices low because it is the no-frills end of the fitness market, but a pin code access system allows them to be open 24/7. Thus, if and when insomnia strikes as it often does around 3.00 a.m. instead of listening to Radio 4 Extra for hours on end, I could head to the gym for a swift 5k on a treadmill.  Like that’s ever going to happen…  I wasn’t overly enamoured with the class choices on offer – they all looked booked up and too much spinning for my liking.  I tried spinning once, swore ‘never again’ then was persuaded AGAINST MY BETTER JUDGEMENT to give it another try, and I lasted about 2 minutes before abandoning my wheels.  It wasn’t even a fitness issue for me, it seems to be a fundamental incompatibility with those bikes.  It was like DIY female genital mutilation, absolutely not for me.   I’m not such a fool I’ll make that mistake again!  Try, try and try again is not a philosophy to be applied in ALL circumstances, sometimes way better to turn and walk away before you are in blood stepp’d so deep.  Look what happened to the Macbeths!  Well, quite.  I rest my case.  Sometimes it’s OK to stop, and best thing all round to do so.

Where was I, oh yes, contemplating gym membership.  I also looked at Virgin, because quite a few of my fellow Smilies go there, but I winced at the membership fees for that, I knew a gym was never going to be my natural habitat, plus I don’t like the water related facilities.  All that pee and chlorine is not for me, so I’d be paying a lot for things I wouldn’t use, even hypothetically.  Back to puregym it was.  Annoyingly, I missed the no-joining fee offer by 24 hours because I hesitated before signing up. Not even made it to the gym yet, and already I was burning money.  It did not bode well.

To be fair, it was easy to join on-line, though I wasn’t filled with enthusiasm for the whole endeavour.  You get an email/ text with a pin number to give you entry to the gym.  It’s a very long number, how am I supposed to remember that?  Maybe as my physical fitness improves, so will my capacity to remember long numbers, somehow I doubt it though.  I can’t even remember my own phone number so little hope there.  Also, I don’t have a smart phone, which is going to be a pain for booking classes etc. as that all has to be done online.  My puregym buddy assures me you can often get into classes at the last-minute even if they are ‘full’ because people cancel, but to do so really requires access to a smart phone.  I mean there is a turmoil, I mean terminal hub thingy in the gym where you can book on I suppose, but that defeated me.  I don’t have a smart phone, any more than I have a life.  This also does not bode well.

I’d only actually looked at the online photos of the gym, and I picked the Sheffield Millhouses one purely because it’s the nearest and has parking  – though I hope I’ll be enthused enough to run there, do a class and run back once I get in the swing of it all.  Yes, yes, hope over experience, but people can change.  Really, they can!

sheffieldmillhouse_201611_007 exterior

Not the most attractive of exteriors, but clean and functional I suppose.  With big windows. The big windows are a mixed blessing.  Point of information, I bought a new bed from bensons a few doors down, they have the same mammoth glass windows, but it is possible they have been incorrectly fitted, because instead of filtering out the glare, being in their was like being an ant kept under the focus of a sadistic child’s magnifying class.  Beyond hot, it was torture in there.  Surely that should be put right, hope it won’t be like that in the gym…


So, I joined, I booked a class.  Kept it simple with just a stretch class to begin with, chosen because it was the only class that wasn’t fully booked being held at a time I could attend.  Fortunately, my smiley friend who was grooming me to be a companion gym bunny was up for going too.  Prior to turning up I didn’t think I’d mind going on my own, I always do stuff on my own, but oh my, the gym was a scary place.

Start off, you have to get into the darned building.  I’d had the foresight to bring my phone with me with my pin number in it, but not my glasses.  A tiny little keypad taunted me at the entrance and I had to squint and scrutinise at length. It took several attempts to gain admission.  I say ‘gain admission’ but what I actually mean, is after you’ve passed the pin number test you get to step inside a claustrophobically sized Perspex cylinder which opens on one side.  Then it slowly closed behind you until you are completely encased.  Like you’ve been spun into a chrysalis or entered a teleport machine.  Actually, a teleport machine would have been super fun – especially if they piped in the sound effects from the star trek flight deck (original series) – more accurately, this felt like I’d been sucked up into a tube a la Augustus gloop

The tube is a snug fit, and you are completely trapped in there for slightly longer than is comfortable but not long enough for you to cave in to thrashing around inside and beating on the Perspex in panic.  Personally, I did find that once within, it was as if time stopped, and nothing happened for just long enough for me to become convinced I would be trapped within for all eternity – the only consolation being at least such imprisonment would spare me the indignity of being required to participate in any work out in the gym.  Maybe they use the opportunity to x-ray you as well, I don’t know, I can’t think of any other explanation for how long it takes some people like to be x-rayed though. like this woman, not me though, not me.


However, eventually the pod does mysteriously open.  The other half of the tube slides apart and you are disgorged into the souless abyss which constitutes the gym floor.  I’m not sure whether this was an improvement in my situation to be honest, more like frying pan into fire…

sheffieldmillhouse_201611_042 souless

My first impressions of the gym were not good.   It was like entering a black and white picture.   The light is weirdly artificial despite the huge panes of glass.  The void seemed sterile and desolate, despite large numbers using the equipment.  There was no smiling receptionist, no signs, no clue of where to start.  I found myself plotting to cancel my direct debit before I’d even stepped onto the atrium floor.  Still, however desolate, I’d already paid for my first month, so might as well follow through for now…

If in doubt, precautionary pee – so I headed to the ladies, where I was immediately alienated by a sign on the door advising ‘girls’ of it’s opening hours.  This is a pet hate of mind.  What is this obsession with calling adult women ‘girls’? I find it’s patronising, infantalising, downright insulting, and the fact that some women do choose to refer to themselves in this way (for reasons that entirely pass me by) doesn’t mean it’s OK for businesses to do so.  Makes me squirm.  This visit was not going well.

I then decided to go for a mooch about.  There are no signs, well no helpful ones anyway, and no identifiable staff members either.  There were a lot of people on the machines but each had a zombie like expression and was staring into the void there wasn’t much interaction going on.  There were a few large video screens about, but not loads, and many people were working out in their own headphones.  Not only wearing headphones, they were wearing gym kit as well.  I’ve never used headphones, but for the first time ever, I could see why you might want to do so here.  All the machines seemed to me to be fractionally too close to one another, infringing personal space.  I didn’t feel at all comfortable.  On the plus side, it was clean, and I didn’t feel watched or judged by anyone, it was the sort of crowded experience you have on a London tube train, when people are so rammed in together the only way to make the thing tolerable is to behave as if no-one else exists.

I’d wanted to use a rowing machine, but some were out of use as being serviced (fair enough) and the only free one was between two guys mid work out and I felt a bit self-conscious about using that one as I didn’t know how to use the equipment and I didn’t want to expose my vague cluelessness with quite such immediate effect.  Instead, I headed up the stairs for an aerial view of facilities, and peered into the spin room.  To be fair, that looked impressive, but not impressive enough for me to cave in and sign up to a spin class in a moment of weakness.  I did have an exploratory clamber onto a bike, but instantly feared being spliced and removed myself to a place of safety.

Eventually I espied my gym buddy teleporting into the void.  Rarely have I been so excited to see a fellow smiley, and I’m always pretty excited when I see a smiley, so that is really saying something!  She was also a few minutes early for the stretch class with ‘Em’.  We went and sat on adjacent bikes in a quieter area of the gym, and pedalled and chatted and that did calm my nerves a bit. She is a huge enthusiast for the gym, being in daily attendance since becoming injured.  She was positive about the classes, and the possibilities for getting into them even though seemingly full.  It seems many people block book to bagsy places and then drop out at the last minute. I can see why, when they are so over-subscribed it is tempting to do so.  Annoying though.

As the time for our class neared, we ventured upstairs and waited for the previous pump class to finish.  Hundreds and hundreds of people filed out, sweaty and smiling. My gym buddy recognised and/or was related to some of the attendees.  Get her and her sporty network.  In we went.

So the good news, which cheered me up hugely, was the prolific presence of glitter balls in the ceiling!  A rare bounty of them.  Sort of like the egg nursery in aliens, but more pleasing and on the ceiling instead of the floor.  Also, less uniform, all different sizes,  marvellous.  I do like a good glitter ball, and you just don’t encounter them enough in daily life these days.  I really wanted to get a glitter ball for my downstairs loo, but I’ve had to make do with a chandelier in the sale from Dunelm, (£4, absolute bargain), glitter balls are hard to source.  Mind you, hardly surprising when you think how many are needed to populate a workout room at puregym.  I really hope this is a uniform corporate policy, it would encourage me to try other gyms to check it out. This photo in no way does the vision of glitter balls justice, but it may give you the general idea:

sheffieldmillhouse_201611_147 glitterballs

In situ there were so many glitter balls, it was like a glitter ball nursery.  Indeed yes, it really was just like the alien egg nursery, going on and on for ever.  Bit less sinister, but just as numerous, and possibly without the ability to replicate themselves, but frankly who knows.  Lovely!

Now people had finished filing out, loads of new people piled in. Unlike me, they appeared to know what they were doing, wordlessly performing a mysterious drill of getting out mats and blocks and poles and weights.  I just felt confused, and sort of ineffectually copied, periodically my gym buddy and other users helped me out by passing bits of equipment to me, whilst I blinked with a mixture of fear and incomprehension.

Em turned out to be a guy who didn’t introduce himself or the class.  It was all very strange, there was no sign in sheet, and no music, no ‘any new people, any injuries’ question at the beginning – which I’d imagined might be standard gym class practice.  I presume he, whoever he was, must have had to step in at short notice.  It was all peculiar, not unpleasant, but, well I’m not sure what.  We just sort of copied.  The lack of any explanations as to what we were doing, combined with my inner cluelessness did however make the class a bit more interesting than it might otherwise have been, since it meant there was a constant element of surprise.

As always, the newness of it all, did add to the comedic value of the occasion, always a boon.  Thus I was extremely chuffed to find that amongst the equipment we had at our disposal was what appeared to be my very own giant Lego brick.   That was excellent, although I felt the colour options were rather muted, being just black and grey rather than proper primary colours.

At one point we had to sort of disassemble and reassemble this into a different configuration to get it to the correct height for use.  On the plus side, this made it even more like having actual Lego, on the down side, it meant we were required to stand on it, and everyone knows standing on Lego is really painful.  Why we don’t just scatter the floors of our homes with Lego bricks rather than getting guard dogs to protect where we live I have no idea – oh, unless it’s because most burglars don’t have bare feet I suppose.  Did you know that there is actually an endurance test that involves running barefoot on a tread mill whilst Lego bricks are poured onto it?  Who’d risk that apart from die-hard masochists, can’t lie though, I’d probably watch, albeit through chinks in my hands.  Like Cambodian kick boxing, a brutal sport, but you can’t quite look away.

The giant Lego brick turned out to be a step like in proper step aerobics.  Like these ones in fact, but I didn’t look like any of these people whilst using mine.


I am very wary of steps.  Someone I used to work with broke her ankle really badly falling off a step in a step aerobics class back in the eighties, and I’ve harboured a deep suspicion of them ever since.  She had to have an operation and everything.  If memory serves me right we may even have had to have a whip round for her whilst she was hospitalised, it was THAT bad.   We only had to sort of balance on the edge of them so we could lower our heels below our toes to stretch our calf muscles.  Then there was a deeper stretch, toe against a wall and pushing down on your heel to lengthen the stretch more.   That didn’t work for me, as all that happened is I could feel my arthritic toe bones splintering as I tried to lean in against the wall.  My feet are rubbish, they are the only feet I have, and I do try to look after them, but they weren’t helping.

We got the giggles when we were told to grab our poles.  I say ‘we’ but it was only me and my gym buddy so either we are really immature and pathetic or the others have become immune to such hilarity through familiarity with the terminology.  Much like some runners and the ease with which they will talk about fartlek.  A mystery.  Some open goals just have to be taken.

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The pole was silver and black and very much like a tap dancing cane.  Give me a top hat and a feather boa and I’ve broken into a routine.  Except I don’t know how to tap dance of course, but what with the glitter balls and everything the impulse was there.

And then the class ended really abruptly.

It wasn’t unpleasant, I liked the stretches, even though we didn’t hold any of them for very long and I had no idea what was going on.  It wasn’t a typical class I’m guessing, and if I’d not had my gym buddy along with me to be an ambassador for the gym I think it would not have inspired me to come back. As a gentle introduction to the concept of gym going it was sort of OK.  At least I made it through the door.  Wouldn’t recommend it as a first date, but I don’t think anyone was expecting it to be.

It was all very bizarre, and not really exercise either I finished it feeling a bit non-plussed.  I felt like I’d just experienced the briefest of alien abductions, now I was catapulted out of the weirdness of the parallel universe of dark and glitter balls, back where I’d started and I had no idea what had just happened. I’m not aware of having experienced an anal probe of having a microchip inserted, but often abductees don’t recall those details do they?  So my absence of memory proves nothing.


I’m actually quite an authority on the subject of alien abduction and amnesia now, as I’ve just been googling it.  There are websites devoted to ‘how to tell if you’ve been abducted by aliens‘ so that’s erm, something.  I’ve definitely got insomnia for a start.  The metro did an article covering 13 sure signs you have been abducted by aliens (but don’t realise it) and there is an International Center for Abduction Research plus didn’t Robbie Williams get really into UFOs etc so that near as dammit proves it must happen.  Shame the extra terrestials didn’t restore me to a near perfect physical shape whilst they were about whatever business it was they were about.  Oh well, there’s always next time.

I felt like best not overwhelm myself so didn’t linger after the class.  I  needed to do a big shop whilst I had the car anyway. I did plan to come back later for combat, but the class was full and as number 9 on the waiting list I didn’t make the cut.  Oh well.  I hate exercising at night anyway.

So my verdict.

I’m not remotely convinced by this whole gym malarkey.  It just doesn’t feel at all like my natural habitat, and I can’t see myself motivated enough to spontaneously use the equipment to any great effect.  Maybe I do need to book an induction to make the whole place seem less alien, but it did most definitely reinforce why I prefer to head out to the hills.   I think I can see myself using the rower though, and if I can suss out the classes maybe that will help me get that much needed cross training in.

It’s become obvious that cross-training is well named, because it is blooming infuriating and makes me very cross indeed.  Doesn’t mean I shouldn’t stick with it though.  So triumph for today was a modest one, at least I joined and  made it through the door.  Marginal gains people, marginal gains.

My gym bunny career is likely to be short lived.   On the other hand, this marathon isn’t going to run itself.  Maybe I will yet learn to love the place.  I used to shun mushrooms, avocado and even garlic in my youth, what was that about?  Now these are my three main food groups.  I suppose the garlic consumption might yet turn out to be an asset on future gym visits so that’s a cheery thought, as long as I work out hard enough to work up a sweat that’s my personal space issue sorted.   No wonder garlic is a super food!  Not only does it work as aphrodisiac, currency, food, medicine and vampire repellent but also it deters fellow humans from encroaching on your work out area.  I say currency, but I don’t think puregym or even local retailers in Nether Edge will take garlic bulbs in lieu of direct debit or cash payment.  Shame.


We shall see.  Failing that, I shall make enquiries about what one must do to get enrolled onto this:

fitness protection

So, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for improved weather, but meantime, I’ll keep trying with this gym malarkey, though if I make it, it will be from being conscientious rather than keen.

Thanks running buddy for the tip off.  My jury of one is still out on the matter, but I’m glad you gave me the necessary nudge to make me join in the first place.   It’s not called cross training for nothing. It’s making me very grumpy indeed. But then again nothing ventured…  I suspect this sojourn to the dark side will be short lived though. But then again I daresay it could pay off on the long run, maybe. See what I did there, with long run – lawks a lordy I can be hilarious at times! 🙂 whether I’ll be laughing my way round the London marathon, well, let’s just say that’s rather doubtful right now.  Best get my laughs out of the way now, while I still can eh?

So, puregym see you there 🙂 gazing into the void.

PS for the record, I’m not knocking puregym per se, it’s clean, it does what it says, it has good equipment as far as I can tell and lots of it.   But it’s just gyms, to me they just suck all the joy out of exercise… unless I can find a body combat class where you get to live out your fantasies of punching people in a safe environment.  Now once I’ve sussed how to book onto those classes, well, that could turn out to be a game changer!



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So over that…. got bigger dreams now.

No need to worry about me any more. I have embraced celebrity culture in Cambodia instead. Check me out hobnobbing with Phnom Penh’s answer to David Beckham! Fickle Moi? Possibly, but hey, we all need our coping strategies. It’ll still be a mega love-in if I get to follow in the footsteps of Jees or Pash once I’m back in the UK! 🙂 Oh, and you do know you can check out all my Cambodian Adventures on my other blog Cambodia Calling right?  If you want to eavesdrop on my TEFLing exploits feel free.

Cambodia Calling

Don’t get me wrong, I think Jessica Ennis and Paul Sinton-Hewitt (or Jees and Pash as I like to call them) are pretty awesome, it’s just that now I’ve got bigger fish to fry.  I’m over them. I have decided not to become embittered by ‘what might have been‘ but rather to celebrate the awesomeness that surrounds me here.  This morning dear reader, I have been dancing amongst the stars and I mean that LITERALLY people, not just metaphorically.  – Though the ‘stars’ are in the sense of ‘celebrities’ not ‘celestial bodies’ so try not to get confused.  Look, just keep up will you, it’s not all that complicated if you just show a bit of patience and concentrate, all will be clear!


This morning, I decided a trip out to the Olympic Stadium was in order.  Background is I’ve been feeling a bit grumpy knickers lately. …

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Olympians in the making?

So, this is the attempt at cross training. It wasn’t really exercise, but it was quite an experience. This is the alternative reality of early morning exercise in Phnom Penh. Enjoy. Oh, and Happy Christmas if you are tuning in today. Hope you got your Christmas parkrun is as is now the new festive tradition for parkrunners everywhere. Ho ho ho, bah humbug etc. Lx

Cambodia Calling

Almost definitely I’d say.  I mean, we went to the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh, so that must count for something right?

As my regular reader will know, following my massively competent running performance and networking operations at Phnom Penh Sports Club, I had been given a tip-off by a local woman that if you want a fitness excursion, then the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh is the place to be.  There was the little matter of getting there for 5.00 a.m., but hey ho, you have to try these things.  From what I could gather there would be a smorgasboard of activity classes you could choose from, so arrival time wasn’t absolutely critical, but best to be there well before 6.00 a.m..  In the event, three of us committed to going along this morning, agreeing to a 5.30 a.m. rendezvous at my street corner, near the shop with…

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Pleasures by the pound…

british-2506_640 pound coin

I am a woman of modest tastes but even so, I am AMAZED at just how much fun you can have for a pound sometimes.  I’ve been on a bit of a winning streak regarding bargain purchases of late, but nevertheless, today I exceeded even my own expectations with how the day unfolded.

In case you have not been following my musings as avidly as you might, recent pleasure inducing pound purchases have included:

bat deely boppers

  1. Poundland sparkly, bat, deely-boppers – absolute bargain, and fun at the time, but ultimately the joy they brought was short lived.  Honestly, once the initial novelty had worn off, they lost some of their appeal after just a couple of days. I wore them on two consecutive occasions – Halloween (a hit), then at the Dovedale Dash (wavering enthusiasm), and today when I looked at them tossed aside on the floor of the hallway, it was  like happening upon a forgotten half drunk cup of tea that’s gone cold.  You could have a gulp, but you just know it wont be the same, and whatever ‘might have been’ in the moment, that moment has passed.
  2. Last night, for the modest outlay of just one pound, I bought an ENORMOUS bar of chocolate.   It was a Cadbury dairy milk daim bar to be specific, and I scoffed the lot.  It was sort of lovely at the time, but I did start feeling a bit queasy half way in and then felt horrible afterwards.  Not unmitigated joy therefore.  I was going to photograph the crumpled up wrapper to add interest to this blog post, but I couldn’t face rummaging through the kitchen bin, still, I’m guessing you’ve binge eaten a chocolate bar yourself at some point, so you can probably imagine

So today, was particularly brilliant, because it reminded me what else you can get for a pound that maintains the pleasure momentum and apparently does not diminish with familiarity either.  I give you (drum roll), the

3.  Women’s community exercise class in Heeley

We didn’t have a session last week, it being half term, so I was pleased to get back into it today.  Today was pretty tickety-boo from the outset to be honest.  The most amazing bright autumn sunshine lighting up the trees which have the sort of wonderful display of colours that makes you rejoice at being alive and want to skip through fallen leaves kicking them with scuffed shoes and scooping them up in your arms and throwing them above you with gay abandon, like a child in a fairy tale.  I’d have a stab of doing this in real life, but I’m too worried about scooping up dog poo and syringes along with the leaf litter to be honest, rather than being put off by the embarrassing possibility of being caught in the act of doing so, but you get the idea.

I left the house and pleasingly my car was neither blocked in, nor had the bonnet been used as an ash tray with stumped out fag ends scattered across the top which was the scene that greeted me when I left my flat yesterday morning.  Instead, the guy who maintains (very well) the communal areas of the house and gardens where my flat is, crossed the car park to come and speak to me.  He was all lit up, like he’d seen – hmm, well, I don’t know really, but something pretty amazing that he felt compelled to relate.  Apparently, he was coming through Walkley, Sheffield, when he saw the bin vehicles doing their weekly roadside collections.  He then became aware of this extraordinary singing voice, rich, deep, mature evocative –  giving a world class rendition of ‘what a wonderful world’.  The guy telling me this story was almost overcome, he’s a nice guy, but definitely more a ‘bloke’ than an obvious seeker out of other people’s inner poetry.  He said he doesn’t normally take much interest in music, but he just couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  The singer turned out to be a youngish (maybe 18-20 year old) white guy, who was singing away whilst emptying the wheelie bins. His mates were apparently oblivious to this talent that moved amongst them!  ‘I don’t know why I’m telling you, I just wanted to share it with someone, it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end!’  It really was like he’d seen a vision, he wondered off in an apparent daze, still shaking his head in disbelief.  I wish I’d heard it too.  I don’t think it’s the same bin men that cover our patch, so I might have to start stalking Walkley in search of him for myself.  It was a great start to the day, hearing about this awesome singer, greeting this glorious autumn day with a blast from his lungs that had this guy at least filled with wonder.

wonderful world

I was smiling therefore as I headed off in my little car, phutting it’s way to Heeley institute.  I love this session, it’s hilarious beyond your wildest imaginings.  This coming together of a motley crew of women at the appointed hour.  In our medley of body shapes, life experiences and fitness expectations.  And, the clincher is it’s just a pound a shot, it being a community health initiative of some sort, and an absolute bargain.

The week off for half term had taken its toll on our collective co-ordination, but not on the positivity and enthusiasm of our instructor.  She is terrific, and one day, I’d like to record her commentary on the class in full . It is the fitness class equivalent of those famous nursery school teacher monologues that Joyce Grenfell did ‘back in the day’.  So today it was something like this:

Hello everyone, I’m not with it at all today me.  What are we doing? Are you the same?  Isn’t it hot?  I’m not complaining mind, lovely.  Who’d have thought it.  November!  Phew, right, music, yes, that’s it, oooh, Brown Sugar, nice.  One two, one two.  How lovely was the weather yesterday?  Gorgeous, I was in the garden, sunbathing…  (Pause.) … not in my bikini though. Ooh, she’s opening the door at the back now, so don’t bang into it will you?  Grape vine, to easy walk, super, well done, perfect!  Can we do the arms as well now?  It’s supposed to be a diamond.  Can you tell?  This is the slower pace, we are going to do it faster (pulls a face) it’ll be fine.. here we go!  Well done!  Brilliant!  Super!  Ooh, did you two crash?  Oh dear, I think I’m going to have to separate you. Is everyone nice and warm now?  You should be.  I am, phwaw, really warm.  Are you OK in your cardigan?  Are you sure?  It is warm now?  Ok to carry on, does anyone need a drink, right that’s the first part done, crack on…

and so it continues.  There is so much knowing laughter in this class, it is a really positive sense of women coming together and being comfortable in each others company.  After the routine that might loosely be referred to as ‘dance’, we move into floor stretching and work on our core.  She tries to explain where we should be feeling the ‘burn’ in the stomach muscles for each type of crunch exercises   Eventually, after some discussion amongst the group, she takes on board the user feedback and agrees with our collective analysis that is ‘yes, well basically, that first spare tyre you’ve got, the one under your bust?  That’s the one we are working on here’  I LOVE her approach, this is the lived experience of our bodies engaging in perhaps unfamiliar exercise.  No pretentions, no inhibitions, we can just laugh our way through all this and do what we can.  I am very conscious that as I carry all my excess weight in my midriff I’ve  basically got tyres appropriate for a substantial off-roading four-wheel drive, but in this class right here and right now, I’m not self-conscious and I really don’t care.  Life is good.

NBC motivations

The class ended with some leg stretches, this included one where you basically sit on the floor,  legs in front of you, but instead of crossing them, you have the soles of your feet touching so your knees drop out sideways.  No idea what it is actually called.  It gives you a good stretch, and you can use your elbows to push down a bit on your knees if you want to make it deeper, but all of us have our knees sort of suspended quite a way off the floor.  This caused one of the class to suddenly rather randomly exclaim: ‘Do you remember that woman who came here once and bang.  Her knees went out sideways right down touching the floor.  It was amazing.  Whatever happened to her?’  A cluck of recognition went through the room as the more long standing participants of the group remembered the woman who performed this amazing feat of suppleness, but no-one recalled ever having seen her since!  It had us in stitches (though I appreciate maybe you had to be there to share the joke).  Our fitness guru did acknowledge with a wink, that there might have been a causal connection and said she’d try and track her down and give her a call to see whatever happened and check she was OK!

yoga poses

It was through a gale of giggles that we completed our upper arm stretches.  At that moment the community health champion co-coordinator, who established the class, poked her head around the corner to see how we were getting on.  She was seeking to promote a ”health in the city’ campaign, and wanted a couple of shots of us ‘ladies’ in our glorious yoga poses to use for the publicity (optional participation).  We were all up for it though, this class is great, women of all shapes, ages and sizes do take part in exercise and it would be wonderful if more did so.  Whether my positivity will survive the sight of my image on a billboard at Sheffield railway station, or on the back of a bus (I can already hear that joke in my head thank you for noticing) remains to be seen!  In fact, I know it will be more likely a few rushed fliers and a soft focus image of a group of us in which it is impossible to pick out any one individual, on a City Council website, and that would be fine and dandy.

After all, it is indeed a Wonderful World, and there is much pleasure to be had for a pound.  Start saving your pennies now!

Oh, and favourite outfit for today?  The older woman who wears really trendy T-shirts each session.  This week, her top is sporting a huge red padlock emblazoned with ‘love 4 ever’, with a roughly drawn background of wire mesh fencing and barbed wire onto which the lock is fastened lovelock style.  She is awesome.  We all are, what more to say?

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Going hardcore

Brrrr, really unappealing outside today, the clocks have changed, and it’s been foggy all day.  By evening, I was less than enthusiastic about venturing out in the dank and dark to work on improving my fitness at the squash club.  Unfortunately, my naturally conscientious streak kicked in, I’d already texted our pathologically positive fitness instructor (you know who you are) to say I would be going, and so therefore go I would have to, and it being Tuesday, it would be a hard core destination – abs and core work, the joy of anticipation that engulfed me is too hard to express ….

flapper exercise

The car park was pitch dark when I arrived.    I’d sort of forgotten that it would be – that’s the difference it makes with the clocks having changed.  The last couple of weeks when I’ve parked up it’s been just dusk, and if you pick the right spot to park overlooking the rugby pitches, you get this extraordinary spectacle of  starlings swarming – apparently, it’s called a murmuration of starlings by the way, what a brilliant word – I challenge you to drop that into conversation casually in the next week.  They carry out this amazing airborne acrobatic choreography at dusk, it is a marvel to observe.  I haven’t really seen it so clearly before, and although the flock isn’t as huge as they can be in some places, it’s still pretty impressive, so I like to get there a bit ahead of my class to watch that happening.

I also see other things in the gloaming  Last week I was quite spooked.  There were a couple of looming shapes on the grass that looked for all the world like dumped bodies with tarpaulin draped over them – to be fair, they may well have been exactly that, I didn’t bother venturing out of the car to go and give them a prod with my toe or anything.  They say it’s best to hide things in plain sight, so on reflection seems reasonable to say that’s definitely what they were.   I don’t know if they were still here this week, because it was so dark.  Last week someone was also exercising a dog out there, ostensibly doing some sort of recall training, but I have a suspicion he did a massive dump in the middle of the pitch (the dog not the owner) whilst he was about it, not realising he was observed.  Oh well, Rugby players probably like that kind of thing if their reputation for preferred partying antics is anything to go by.

Anyway, I digress,  I ended up parked up a bit early, so I thought I’d sit in my car listening to the radio for a bit rather than go in too soon and stand about awkwardly in reception waiting for the class to start.  After a couple of minutes I got the fright of my life.  A passer by knocked on my car window.  He was smartly suited complete with tie and matching handkerchief in his breast coat pocket, a real gentleman’s outfit.  He’d seen me slumped over the driving wheel, head in my hands, and wanted to check I was OK.  I thought that was quite public spirited and genuine of him actually, even though if that got my heart rate more elevated than any of the subsequent excursion.  I decided waiting in the car wasn’t the greatest of my ideas, and headed to the gym.

It was quite jolly, because I found another regular, who I recognised,  had just gone in ahead of me.  The studio was so completely black it was like entering a darkroom.  We shrieked with nervous laughter, trying to find the light switch without dislodging walls of weights and balance balls onto the floor (though actually, that would have been quite fun too).  After a bit, the lights now on, it dawned on us that we were the only two of the normally heaving class who’d turned up (half term week?).  Our nervousness was heightened as our upbeat instructor bounced in Tigger like, seeing the opportunity potential for a more focused and vigorous session than usual, this week there would be no hiding place.   Her optimism is boundless, hope over experience for her, every time, there is no position we cannot adopt, no move we will not attempt, no routine we cannot do.  Can we do it?  Yes we can!!

yoga pose

I don’t look like this by the way, I’ve got more of a moustache for a start.

In fact, the session was hilarious, hard work, but good fun.  We did some of the usual stuff with the steps (I’m always a bit hesitant about these, because someone I once worked with broke her ankle really badly falling off a step in a step-aerobics class – no really), then she came up with ideas for new exercises and routines in response to requests.  My exercise partner wanted to use the free weight bars.  I don’t know what their proper name is.  But they look like the sort of cane a tap dancer would use, except when you pick them up they have the effect on me that kryptonite has on Superman.  They are just insanely heavy for their size.  We had to do a load of exercises with them which ought to have been really simple, but actually seemed impossible.  One was just lying on your back with your feet on the floor, knees bent, and then you’d have your arms up above your head on the floor stretched out behind you holding the bar, and you had to do a kind of crunch/sit up thing keeping the bar raised above your head.  I honestly felt like my hands and arms had been nailed to the floor behind me, it was insane.  I thought I might end up left there beached for all eternity.   It really demonstrated, in a profoundly depressing way, new muscular inadequacies of which I was previously unaware.  The other one we did that really made me laugh, was a sort of stretching one.  You ‘simply’ had to lie on your back on the floor (so not all bad, we got to do quite a bit of lying down) and then move your bottom so it was hard against the wall, with your legs at right angles also against the wall above you.  If you have never tried this, you would not believe how difficult it is just to get into that position, though once you are in it, you get a really nice hamstring stretch, I liked that.   Then we just had to let our legs drop outwards, still against the wall into a wide V-shape (not glamorous) again, a really good stretch.  I liked less having to raise our hips up with our feet still flat on the wall over our heads as I thought I was going to be asphyxiated by my own stomach and bust smothering my face.  I just didn’t feel that was quite the sort of breathlessness that I’d signed up for when I joined the class.

Anyway, I will admit I laughed a lot, and felt like I’d had a good workout by the end.  It is a bit of a shame about the corpses on the pitch outside, but then again, perhaps that’s just seasonally appropriate with Halloween only a few short days away, you have to embrace some of those seasonal celebrations or winter will just seem unending.

Don’t have nightmares…


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Community Kicks

Serendipity brought me this opportunity.  Someone I met on an activity holiday in Northumberland (go Northern Bootcamp) turned out to live quite near to me in Sheffield, and she tipped me off about this completely brilliant community exercise class.  It’s just one pound, one-hundred pennies £1 – absolute bargain.  That is what got me heading over to Heeley (see the punning there?) to get my community kicks.

Outside Heeley Institute

This weekly class is subsidised by some sort of community health initiative I think.  I do know that the first time I went (just last week) there were quite a few forms to fill in which made me really wish I’d brought my glasses with me.  I was bit worried that I wasn’t strictly eligible as I’m not within the Heeley postcode area, and nor am I an ‘older Asian Woman’ which was the target demographic.  The woman from the council who set it all up a few weeks ago had rolled up to see how it was going, and she was of the view the more the merrier, and said not to worry about being out of area.  That’s good.  It can be tiring generating false identities.  Trust me, I know.  I was a mystery shopper for a while (really boring, I thought I’d be going off shopping at boutique independent stores or eating at high end restaurants, instead I just had to keep phoning telephone help lines to ask for financial advice or bank loans) this meant I had to come up with lots of false names and addresses so they I could fool the call operative that I was a ‘real’ person, and it was an absolute pain.  It’s quite nice to be able to truthfully be me, even if I still have no idea what my own phone number is and have to look it up every time.  Not very convincing I know.

The class is held in a community hall over in Heeley and it’s really pretty good.  Large arched windows let in lots of natural light and it’s been recently painted.  I associated community halls with sticky floors and disintegrating plaster work, but this is nothing like that.  It is perhaps a little tattered at the edges, but pre-loved rather than shabby.  Having said that, there a few niggles.  Last week there was no proper music for our class due to the power not working. This week when I arrived there was a maintenance man in evidence.  He was there to put up a clock, but fixed the power too whilst he was there.   The interruption in power supply was caused by a twig pushed into a power socket apparently, it’s hard to fathom how that happened.   Kids playgroup perhaps, a small crawling child unable to access a metal pin improvised with nature’s bounty instead?  Or wanton vandalism?  Another mystery.

On arrival, we sign a register (postcodes etc were all given last week alongside legthy form on everything from mental health to reasons for exercise having been completed last week) a small pile of pound coins gathers next to it, as we all deposit our payment.  It’s all very discrete, and I suspect if you couldn’t afford the pound and didn’t pay, no-one would chase you for it.

The demographic of the class is hard to read.  There is one woman who told me proudly that she was 66 last week, she is incredibly youthful looking and laughs all the time, I’d never have guessed her age if she hadn’t made a point of telling me.  It is quite ethnically diverse which is good, it feels like a healthy cross section of the community –  and at a guess I’d say there is a mix of people who are retired, self-employed, mums on maternity leave and others between jobs.  All women.

I struck up a conversation with a woman I recognised from last week.  She was carrying a two litre water bottle which was three quarters full with what looked like cheap lager.  It was a thin brownish colour and had a definite froth at the top.  I didn’t know whether to be impressed, straight-faced non-judgemental (alcohol at 10.00 a.m. is a legitimate lifestyle choice, we all have our props to get through the day after all) or ask her outright.  If it is alcohol, I wonder vaguely if they have a sort of non-intoxicants policy – you know the kind of thing.  ‘It’s your choice, but please leave drugs, alcohol, nitrous oxide canisters and the like in the bag drop by the door before continuing into the hall to join your community activity’ (nearly said nitro-glycerine there, but I think that might be a special case).

I asked her outright.  Disappointingly, it wasn’t home brew, she’s on a detox.  Some sort of apple concentrate with spices etc.  I really wished I hadn’t asked her.  So much more fun to think otherwise.  Other class members arrive, it’s quite a full group – maybe 17 of us, and a bit of a squash.  Just like at the other class I go to, we all cling to the walls at first.  There are more places to hide here though, there are stacks of plastic chairs, and around the corner a sort of alcove behind where a kitchen area sticks out, and then there’s a cupboard too. You could have a stab at playing hide and seek in this hall and it wouldn’t be a complete disaster as long as the people you were playing with were aged 4 or under.  Even so, we are all eventually flushed out into the open like woodlice exposed when you lift up a stone, and cheerily cajoled into position to start the class..

The music having been restored we worked out to sixties classics including ‘da doo ron ron ron, da doo ron ron’ and ‘needle in a haystack’.  It’s a brilliant instructor, she is tireless, and always leads by example, throwing herself into routines with enthusiasm and keeping up a running commentary of implausible but encouraging feedback on how we are doing.  Periodically she’ll call out ‘Good Work!’  or  ‘That’s excellent’ you’d think we were potential candidates as circus acrobatics for Cirque de Soleil!  However, she can’t be completely deluded, as I noticed she changed some of the exercises, ‘tell you what now, lets not try four repeats for this one, lets just go twice shall we?’  None of us were fooled, there were knowing laughs that she had lowered her expectations about our capabilities after witnessing us in action, but it was taken in good humour.

Despite our being, well let’s say a ‘mixed ability’ group.  We did work up quite a sweat between us.  In fact the large windows completely steamed up.  It might have quite got the hopes up of any passing doggers, but actually, the windows are too high up for anyone to really see in, they would have to pass on by never knowing what sights they had missed out on…

Our instructor is particularly safety conscious, providing a list of hazards and precautions as we worked out – ‘look out for the fire door, left ajar – don’t want you banging into it’,  and ‘don’t forget to get water when you want’ – despite this one woman managed to crash spectacularly into the piles of chairs stacked at the sides of the room. Quite an achievement as she was facing them at the time, it must have been that she had so much forward momentum her brakes just failed.  She wasn’t hurt, just laughed uproariously.  A good reaction.

The instructor worked out furiously, at intervals  mopping her brow with an endless supply of paper towels filched from the loo.  She also has a habit of saying what’s in her head which I find both entertaining and endearing, today the themes were being sore from over-exertion in the gym yesterday, and  hunger: ‘ooooh, I’m starving today, absolutely ravenous – I could eat my arm I really could’. 

After 45 minutes or so of throwing ourselves around to the sixties classics, we moved onto floor work.  We obediently  trooped to the side of the hall and queued up outside the cupboard to collect our yoga mats.  These are a motley assortment.  Some thin limp offerings were probably bought in bulk as a community resource, one or two classier thick ones with proper tapes to secure them may have been left behind by other users, some look distinctly pitiful.  Our instructor was left with the only available mat which I swear looked like some ferocious animal had taken several bites out of it in a wild feeding frenzy,  I did wonder if  maybe her hunger had got the better of her after all.  Thinking we wouldn’t notice because a)she had her back to us whilst ostensibly fossicking in the cupboard for a yoga mat, and b)we were distracted by laying out our own mats; she took the opportunity to rip a good old hunk of the blue foam mat off with her bare teeth, she must have been pretty desperate to do so, but it seems a plausible enough explanation to me.

We finish with some stretching.  There isn’t a class next week because of half term.  We are all encouraged to ‘go for a nice autumnal walk outside instead.’  Perhaps I will.

It is amazing and fantastic that this kind of community exercise class exists.  An absolute bargain, and no compromise in the ability of the instructor.  Even though it was all kept pretty simple, she did help out with correct technique, encouraging you to keep your hips parallel or noting where the weight should be in your feet (back on the heel rather than forward on the toe) when doing stretches.  It’s good to get out, even though it’s  a bit of a drag to get over to Heeley, it’s well worth the effort. Yay.  Here’s to the Heeley Institute, long may it continue.

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On the hilarity of the adult exercise class… an insider’s perspective

So it’s Friday, so that means my dance exercise class has come around again.  Is it just me, or is there not something hilarious and side-splittingly funny about the whole adult exercise class concept and execution?  Random individuals gathering in sports halls and studios across the land, fighting age and gravity in pursuit of raised cardio activity and tauter toned physiques.  Surely a manifestation of the bottomless (if misguided) optimism that occasionally seizes us all in our struggle to keep (or get) fit.

This particular class is held in a small studio with full length mirrors, which is part of a wider sporting complex.  I arrive, shuffling in self-consciously at the back, having already met a couple of other class-goers in the loos.  We are variously complaining of both ailments (bit run down, tired, you know how it is) and digestive challenges (why is cheese so hard to process now I’m older/ I shouldn’t have eaten so close to exercise).  Personally I am suffering on both counts.  My leg still feels strangely numb post yesterday’s run out, and in addition, that lentil and quinoa soup I had earlier (no, I really did, I am a very healthy eater, it’s just I have never really grasped the concept of portion control and I tend to eat other stuff on top, oh well, we all have to have our weaknesses, lack of will power is just one of  mine) has led me potentially to windy city… not a promising start to the class.

It was quite nice to be back though, our fitness instructor is as always smiling hugely and welcoming.  I don’t know how she does this, she is a whirlwind of energy and smiles.  Has she found a human version of catnip?  Is it genetic?

I found myself sort of hugging a wall and trying to disappear into it.  It is so weird, that childlike thing that all of us in this particular class seem to do, not wanting to be at the front.  We seek to make ourselves invisible – perhaps because we are self conscious about both our athleticism (not enough)  and our bodies (too much).  I am certainly, and it seems  probable my fellow groupies feel likewise, so we lurked around the edges, even though this is  clearly ridiculous.  You can’t hide in a studio box, especially one with mirrors on one side, windows on another and with such tiny dimensions that even we ten or so attendees constitute a crowd.  I chatted to one woman who I’ve noticed has come a few times too.  She was debating whether or not to wear trainers for the class – there is quite a lot of toe pointing.  I told her I have to, on account of the arthritis in my feet.  I just came out with it and then felt ancient and decrepit at my confession.  I can’t risk going up on my toes in bare feet because I feel the bones in my feet disintegrating as I do.  I wondered if I’d over-shared, so to break the tension I just told her that I was OK with recognising that my dancing career probably wasn’t going to take off at this point (due to age not talent, obviously), but I was happy to just focus on my running  instead.  We both laughed.  In fact we bonded, she told me by way of exchange of her own running catastrophe earlier in the week.  She went out for a run, long enough to be knackered and feel quite smug,  and then on return to her car she realised to her absolute horror, that she’d dropped her keys somewhere on the route.  She had to do the whole thing again.  To make matters even worse, when she did spot them, they were in the hands of another runner who’d thoughtfully picked them up.  This meant she had to do another sprint to catch up with him.  He was a really good runner.  I felt her pain.


So we embarked on our flailing around, trying to stand and balance on one leg, gyrate our hips, and follow the uncertain rhythms of the rather abstract music which was ‘modern’ and discordant, and don’t even know what word to use to describe it’s genre. The instructor executed each move with poise and vim, the rest of us stumbled about in her wake.  At one point looking at our collective reflection in the mirror I would swear not one of us was facing the same way or doing the same move. Imagine a group of kids of all shapes and sizes in say pre-school, (at an age when they haven’t fully learned to either follow instructions or co-ordinate limbs properly) trying to work out a routine to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and you might get some idea of the image reflecting back at us   Inevitably there were one or two amongst  the group with some innate ability and flair, but they weren’t enough to distract from the endemic ineptitude that surrounded them.   It was hilarious.  I don’t mind at all being so rubbish, but I am amazed that our instructor doesn’t find it more dispiriting.  The main thing though is to keep mobile, and have fun, I can at least do that.

It is only a 45 minute class, but I was exhausted by the end of it.  My leg didn’t feel particularly worse at the end of it, and I was glad I went,  Another class down.  I wonder if I will ever get any more supple or balanced over time, but regrettably, the only way to find out is to stick with it.  Watch this space….

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Unleash your inner dancing queen…

Cross training is the way to go apparently.  It seems if I am ever to make any measurable progress with my running, or at least attempt to hold back the tide of decrepitude that comes with the relentless march of time, it is a good idea to try and find other forms of exercise.

I know my balance is rubbish, my core non-existent, in fact it’s amazing I can remain upright long enough to do the washing up some days.   Possibly as evidence of this, or alternatively as an amusing aside, I once told a spotty youth at an induction session for a gym that I had a genetic abnormality that meant I didn’t have any abdominal muscles and so couldn’t do any sit ups or crunches etc.  He eyed me up, and clearly this seemed all too plausible to him, ‘ok, just skip them’  he said.  It didn’t instil a great deal of confidence in me for his basic knowledge of human anatomy nor physical exercise.  Most importantly of all no rapport, no shared sense of humour, no progress to be made.  It maybe didn’t help that when introducing ourselves at the reception before our shared induction, my friend unzipped her fleece only for a ketchup soaked chip to fly out and land in the paper diary on the desk.  Never have I seen ketchup splatter so far and to such devastating effect.  She had been starving whilst waiting for me outside after a long day of work, grabbed some chips to chomp on for quick carbohydrate fix and obviously one had had dropped down her top in her haste to consume them. One way or another we never did go back…

Anyway, I digress, I have been seeking some sort of class to supplement my running.  I can’t motivate myself, and I don’t fancy any more outdoor sessions now winter is drawing in apace.  I want not too expensive, good humoured but knowledgeable leadership.  How fortuitous that the same fitness instructor who marshalled us for the Endurer Dash runs regular classes at a not to distant social club.  I like her positivity, it is almost pathological, and certainly infectious, or maybe contagious.  It might be contagious as she is quite tactile and huggy so could be spread either by physical touch or be airborne, not that it matters, the ability to pass on enthusiasm and positivity can only be a good thing.

The class is loosely based on dance moves, but that’s not entirely obvious to me.  I do find it much harder than I ought to, but it is definitely fun.  There is a lot of hip gyrating, and standing on one leg (or more accurately wobbling on one leg).  The main thing that will motivate me to stick with it is probably the wall of mirrors that we face throughout.  There is no way you can hide your physique from that reality check.  Normally I will only stand in front of a full length mirror for a very limited period of time, the tolerable maximum duration being however long I can hold my stomach in for on any one particular day.  I defy anyone to hold their stomach in for a whole 45 minute work out session, particularly one where you are standing on one leg for durations that even a self respecting flamingo might query.  Despite the difficultly of the balance exercises, and the torture of the mirrors, the exercise class itself is strangely compulsive.

The instructor (coach, leader – I don’t know what you call these people) anyway, she has super-human mobility and stretch.  She can do things with her body that I didn’t think were possible.  She will ‘simply fold’ over, legs outstretched in front of her, reaching out effortless to touch her toes whilst burying her head on her knees and flattening her prone back. I am still pretty much as a right angle.  I don’t even know  which bit of my body is preventing the move.  Is it because my stomach rolls get in the way, or is it because my ham strings are so tight they aren’t giving a millimetre in any circumstances, try as I may.  Same with sit ups.  She can do this amazing ‘impossible’ manoeuvre where she lies flat on her back, arms stretched above her and legs  outstretched and hard against the floor, then in one graceful movement  she slowly sits upright without using her arms to push her up or letting her legs lift from the floor, she arcs her arms round to touch her toes and folds her whole body against her legs, and then slowly and controlled with her steel abs uncurls and then repeats.  I don’t see how this is humanly possible.  It certainly isn’t humanely possible.  The only comfort I take is that whilst I flail around, not even able to get up to a sitting position without using my arms to help me, I can see in the mirrors that the rest of the class is similarly struggling like so many fish out of water.  Whilst the graceful instructor performs this miracle of muscular control, the rest of us flap about and sweat, thrashing around on the floor to little effect.  One day perhaps…

Despite these indignities, the class is fun, I sweat a lot, and I know I’ll ache afterwards.  It goes quickly, and you emerge into the sharp cold air of Autumn and the dark night almost in a state of shock.  What happened there?  How did I get myself into that?  It is glorious, this is exercise that is fun.

Our coach also has a good trick, after the session she always sends a  text saying how awesome we all are, and how proud she is of our ‘non stop energy’ or whatever.  The thing is, even though I know this is a motivational technique, and I know it is her job to be positive and even though I strongly suspect the contents may not be entirely true re our energy and enthusiasm levels (let’s agree it might be an appropriate use of a little white lie…) it still sort of works.  You get a warm glow of achievement.  Yes I am non-stop with my energy and enthusiasm yes I can do this.  Yes. We. Can!  It seems I am just as shallow as I thought, all it really takes to motivate me is a kind word and a broad smile.

Dance classes on a Friday, core work on a Tuesday night, bring it on.

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