I’ve never really got gyms. You can probably tell, just by looking at me. It seems… fake. Like fast food fitness. Like we’re all too lazy to actually go out and do real things to make us fitter, so we bring things to us. Sure, i get that it’s better than nothing, but it’s also… nothing. Running on a conveyer belt. Riding a bike that goes nowhere. Lifting a heavy stick with circles on the end. Squeezing machines with wires on. Rolling on squishy balls. Sliding up and down mats that hundreds of other sweaty people slide up and down on. Eww.
Then there’s the mirrors. Endless mirrors. Grotty carpet. Drops of sweat on the walls. Communal drinking fountains. Showers breeding tinea. Shower gel that grates your skin. Lockers that are too small and too smelly. Left over deodorant sticks on splashy vanities. And signs. Signs everywhere. Warm up. Cool down. Clean up. Wipe down. Stretch. Repeat.
Then there are the people. tThe fatties that come for a week and then stop. The muscle-heads that come every day, wear very little and always seem to have heads too small for their shoulders. The girls in tight clothes. The girls in loose clothes. The girls in new clothes bought just for the gym. The mums: they stick out. The personal trainers – always in primary colours, and always with gel in their hair, if they’re men, and their hair in buns if they’re girls. Both have tatts, and both are half your age, half your body weight, twice as strong and twice as annoying. Because you wish you looked like them. or slept with them.
At any given time, there’s always the pretty girl, arse squeezed in to something spectacular, boobs pert and pretty, hair bobbing along like it would if you were shagging her. But you never will. There’s the buff guy, with the singlet revealing his pec cleavage from the front and from the side, grunting as he lifts a tree trunk off his chest fifteen times, because he can. There’s one who never gets out of the stretching and abs area, one who never gets off the bike, and one who never stops walking on the conveyer belt – despite the fact that it’s beautiful outside, and she’s only metres from the walk path around the river.
And now there’s me. I’m most like the mum at the moment. Floppy clothes, the “don’t talk to me” iPod firmly stuck in my ear, an aversion to anything to do with my ‘core’ because I know that’s where I’m most rotten. The one who sits down on the machines, gasps at the number the last person managed, then quietly slides it up to… well, nevermind… then slips it back down after I’m done so the next person thinks ‘wow’. Just kidding. I don’t. But I’ve thought about it.
They keep telling me the sticks with heavy things on them are really good for you, but that would involve a trip across the ocean – a flat, spongy expanse of skipping ropes and bouncy balls – to “where the wild things are”: the men who should be hairy, but aren’t. Whose balls hang out of their shorts. Who watch themselves in the mirror. And the other guys. Hang on? They watch the other guys? That’s weird. There’s a girl behind you, buddy, wearing almost nothing, jiggling her bits up and down, and you’re watching the dude with the tribal tatt squat and groan? Oh… Perhaps I don’t belong here.
But I am going every day. For an hour or two. Yes, me. And, strangely enough, my arms already feel bigger, my tummy a bit tighter, my lungs a lot cleaner and, just to tease, my legs even hotter than ever. I’m enjoying watching bubbles of sweat pop out of my arms, and discovering that I have muscles in my neck (seriously! my neck! who would have thought we have muscles in our neck!). A room full of mostly healthy people, wearing very little, sweating and groaning, pushing and pulling and pumping… whoever thought i could get into that?
Now the trick is to escape. To leap off the conveyer, get back into my beloved water, and pant until I can’t breathe, where people wear even less, have even less body hair and spend their time as wet as can be.
If only there were mirrors on the bottom of the pool.