I went to the gym after work today and it was not unlike finding myself on Oxford Street on a Saturday, but with more sweat and a considerable amount of flesh on display.
It is, of course, January and the gym has been over-run with would-be athletic gods and goddesses determined to shake off the tins of Roses and extra Bailey’s they’ve acquired round their waist over Christmas.
The changing rooms were nose to nipple and I had to search as thorughly as I could for an empty locker: no mean feat when there's tens of flabby bottoms and cans of Lynx barring your way. A quick glance around told me that few of my fellow disrobees were regular gymgoers. My gym is hardly a Baywatch casting session at the best of times, but the extra inches of podge and the interesting way the carriers of it tried to hide their bodies as they changed gave the game away. I don’t hang around in the changing room and I try not to look at anybody. I don’t really feel the need to get a surreptitious shot of businessman cock and I hate those guys who stride around with their twig and berries on display, languorously applying deodorant and-ugh- talc to their shrivelled balls as if to say “hey I’m totally down with my body and am cool with you all getting a good look”. Well I'm *not* 'down with it' and my sausage is staying firmly under wraps. Ninety-nine times out of one hundred, these posturing masses of testosterone are the very guys who should be covering up.
At both gyms I’ve joined, I’ve always waited until January is over before signging on the dotted line and kissing goodbye to £50a month. By then, the novelty of gym membership has faded for even the most dedicated of resolution-makers and everyone else is back on the beer and peanuts. As I half-heartedly ‘pumped iron’ this evening, I looked around the gym and could practically see the Christmas dinners sweating out of the lot of them. I imagined the thud of a seven stone weakling dropping a free weight was actually a 17lb turkey making its escape from a weary exerciser's upper thigh. I’d never seen any of the new members before; I wonder if I’ll see them again.
The gym is an odd place and I’m not quite sure why I go. I abhorred sport or any kind of activity at school: rugby was my personal hell and as I took off my PE shorts for the very last time as a 17-year-old, I swore I’d never run after a ball or pick up a bat ever again. Of course, as my metabolism slowed and ‘something’ started protruding through my shirt that wasn’t a secreted football but- gasp- a tummy, I realised action needed to be taken. My first gym membership was like PE all over again. My instructor forced me to pick up a dumbbell over and over again because I wasn’t retrieving it from the floor in the correct way. He stood over me as I laboured on the cross trainer and sneered as I pathetically attempted to tackle the shoulder press. I lasted eight months before deciding enough was enough. My latest foray into fitness has been more successful. Having the benefit of a couple more years and a little more confidence in what I was talking about, I’ve found a gym programme that works for me and I can even now be found on the treadmill- a thought as alien to me a couple of years ago as arranging my big white wedding or going to an Elton John concert would be. While I would need to lock myself in the gym for around six months to achieve a physique worthy of appearing in a magazine, I have finally gained what you might call ‘a body’. I’m not quite sure how I feel about it; sometimes I wonder who it is in the mirror. I look a bit like a slightly out of condition swimmer recovering from pneumonia, if you can imagine that.
So I think I’ll do the very opposite of the aspirant fitness fanatics and give the gym a wide berth this month. I’ll leave it to them and try and work up a bit more belly for me to run off in February.