Joeblade

The Gym

There was a time, several years ago, when I was a skinny little bast. Upon arriving at university, 6 years ago, my shirts were a medium size and my meals were tiny. The student lifestyle — particularly, the geek student lifestyle — took its toll, as did the subsequent professional geek lifestyle, and I managed to almost double my weight. For this reason, approximately three months ago, I bit the bullet (a chocolate one, natch) and joined a gym.

This was hardly a snap decision, and it was only after months of prevarication and dithering that it actually happened. Months of denial, of telling myself that I wasn’t that unhealthy, of telling myself that I was hot and out of breath from walking five minutes to the local shop because the weather was muggy, of believing that new clothes didn’t fit me because they were poorly tailored, and not because I just had an increasingly round body.

I can only lie to myself for so long before it starts becoming a matter of religion, and so it was with some trepidation that I made the decision. I would join a gym.

Five months after that, I found myself arriving at the gym for the first time. Believe me when I say that there is no dithering like that of a man who needs to go the gym but would rather be sitting somewhere else eating a pizza.

I was surprised that what I actually found in the gym, as it wasn’t a great deal as I’d imagined it would be. Where were the legions of ultra-skinny girls in strips of lycra, jogging for three hours per session on the treadmills, each carrying a Discman? Where were the hordes of muscular men with shaven bodies, oiling themselves up and posing in front of mirrors whilst lifting weights? What were all these fat people doing here, and why was nobody openly laughing at me as I feebly struggled with various machines and stretchy bits of evil? Why, in fact, did I look entirely like I fitted in?

It turned out, much to my surprise, that most of the people who attend the gym regularly are unhealthy people, people just like me with hopes, dreams and ambitions. Who would have thought that? I had expected to feel self-conscious, but you really can’t feel that way when nobody’s looking at you. I’m not sure what all these people are actually looking at, in fact — everybody just has this dead-eye grimace, staring off into the middle-distance, perhaps imagining a delicious parfait or fillet mignon, hanging tantilisingly just out of reach. Mmmm.

The skinny girls and muscly boys all make an appearence at some stage, but they have their own agenda and won’t so much as spare you a glance. They don’t care what you look like, you see, because they know, deep in their hearts, that they are beautiful and toned, and that’s all that matters. It would be easy, normally, to be annoyed by them, but they offer a welcome break from staring at sweaty fat people as you struggle with the rowing machines.

If you are thinking of attending a gym yourself — and if you’re reading this, then you almost certainly should be thinking of attending a gym — then I’d suggest that you have a fitness test when you first turn up, as then you’ll know just exactly how insanely unhealthy you are, and get them to work out an exercise programme, instead of just flopping around randomly on whatever machine happens to be free at the time. And do it now, because what took years to put on will take more than a few months to take off again — after three months of going to the gym twice a week, I’ve so far managed to crawl my sorry arse up to ‘poor’ on the fitness charts. It’s slow-going.

By Paul Haine, in