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:
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!
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…
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:
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.
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:
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!