It’s been years since I went to the gym properly. Back in my early 20s I used to go three or four times a week. These were in the days when I would throw in a 5km run just as part of my gym routine. I went 2 days ago and managed 1.5kms before wanting to curl up in a ball and never move again.
And today, 2 days on, I still ache like I’ve been hit by a truck. I don’t remember aching this much since my post-childbirth first week where your body protests at just about every move you make.
There are some other things, apart from the aching, about the gym that I’d forgotten.
1. Watching you watching me
I’d forgotten just how fascinating it is to watch other people exercise. You’re catching them at such a vulnerable time; they are sweating and tired and usually running with their mouths open or grimacing at the TV above them as they try to take themselves away from just how bloody hard work it is. I find myself looking around and watching people, at first discretely and then, forgetting myself, openly, as they grunt and groan and gasp. And then they go and look around and catch your eye and know you’ve been watching them. You do that looking away and looking around thing, as though it was just a coincidence that they looked at you just as you were glancing in their direction but you both know full well that’s not the case.
The trouble is, whilst glancing around and pretending not to look you catch someone else’s eye – someone that was watching you whilst you grunted, sweated and panted on the machines.Gah!
2. Feeling Judged
In a room where everyone is watching everyone else it’s very hard not to feel judged. Especially whilst various bits of your body are all wobbling in different directions to the beat of your elephantine footfalls on the running machine. You know you look like crap – you can see it in all of the 364 mirrors that seem to be pointing towards you at any one time – you don’t need to read it in other peoples expressions as they take in your flailing body as you pant and grunt trying not to be thrown off the end of the running machine.
2. Crap TV
Ahhhh, the sanctuary of shite TV. I’ve never watched so much crap so gratefully in all my life. Not only does it take you away from the godawful fact that you still have 7 minutes of agonising, sweaty hell until your run is over, but it’s a welcome distraction from the judging. Both by yourself and others.
You can plug those headphones in and let your mind disappear into the mundane world of The One Show, Top Gear or Sky News. Depending which TV bank your machine is in front of you might even catch an episode of Emmerdale and spend 20 minutes trying to figure out who all the new people are since the last time you watched it 10 years ago and who’s sleeping with who.
3. Other peoples sweat
A sad fact of the gym is that you are constantly surrounded by other people’s sweat. It’s dripping off them as they run alongside you, uncomfortably close as the gym owners have wedged all the machines as close to each other as possible in a bid to fit more equipment in. It’s on the machines you sit or stand on – no matter how many signs are put up urging people to wipe down the equipment after they use it there will always be a patina of other peoples sweat on ever single thing you touch in that gym.
It takes a while to get used to that again.
4. Changing room etiquette
I fail at this big style. I’ve always been a just-get-your-kit-off kinda girl. I go in the changing room, remove my clothes, put others on and I’m done. But it seems that’s not really the done thing. At least not at my gym. Not if the looks I got and the queue of people waiting to change in the three cubicles provided are anything to go by.
Seriously, did we suddenly get really prude again whilst I wasn’t looking? Is it not okay to get starkers in the changing room? I’m not talking about running around naked or standing chatting to people whilst in the buff, but just, you know, removing one set of clothing to replace with another. Is that not okay anymore?