Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Plumping Iron


I am considering the best way to get fit, dear reader, and I am in a bit of a quandary.

Mrs PM says that I should join a gym. It’s a good suggestion but one that I have a bit of a problem with. You see, dear reader, I have been a member of the gym in the past and I know that it is not for me.

Allow me to explain.

The first problem is the cash. Gym membership is expensive and the only way to get value for money is to go on a regular basis. A few years ago, I joined the local gym, newly opened and very modern. It had everything I needed from such a place: a swimming pool, sauna, equipment, canteen, personal trainers, TV, classes and five star changing rooms.

It was New Year and I was determined to rediscover the fitness of my youth. And as an incentive, the cost was relatively cheap – or so Mrs PM told me.

HOW MUCH? I screamed when she told me the cost. Unfortunately, I only screamed within my own head and I watched in horror as Mrs PM signed both of us up for six month membership, including a signing on fee.

WHAT, IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS SANE, ARE YOU DOING? screamed my wallet when it heard the price.

I think burning my own cash might have been more cost effective.

Having signed away my income with blood and sweat, I decided to make a supreme effort. My personal trainer took me around the equipment, showing me how to use the various machines, including cross trainers, running machines, cycling machines, rowing machines and all manner of contraptions for lifting weights using various parts of my body. He even came up with a workout routine for me that involved spending forty minutes of cardiovascular exercise followed by a further half an hour of circuit training culminating with various methods for cooling down.

I recall that first session with horror.

I entered the gym and mentally calculated how many fivers I could have burned at home. I changed into my sporting gear and, as I left the changing room, caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.

“Cripes,” I thought. “What a scrawny fat git!”

Then I realised that I was looking at myself. And yes, dear reader, I was scrawny at the top of my body, yet fat around my middle. I was a walking paradox.

All the other guys who were getting changed looked athletic and muscular, making me look like a badly stuffed scarecrow in comparison.

And this was the second problem, dear reader.

I looked totally out of place. Here I was, a forty-something, trying to look cool while surrounded by athletes who were already totally fit, toned and honed and using the gym to put the finishing touches to an already fine physique.

I was paying money to embarrass myself. I bit the bullet and went for it.

My first port of call was a cycling machine. Armed with headphones, I perched myself on a machine and started watching the TV as I cycled. From the corner of my eye, I saw a lovely lady on the machine next to me – she was pedalling furiously. Just in front was a guy who was also pedalling as if his life depended on it.

The testosterone floodgates opened. I wouldn’t allow myself to look like a sad old pillock in front of these two young athletes. I ignored my workout programme and pedalled as if the hounds of hell were on my tail.

Ten minutes later, I got off the machine and almost passed out. I was gasping for breath but I just stumbled away, muttering something like “Good workout,” to try to hide the fact that I was about to fall apart.

And that was when I tried the cross trainer.

Next to me was another young woman who made it look easy. I climbed onto the contraption and followed the instructions, programming the thing to give me the workout that the personal trainer had recommended.

Within ten minutes, the thing had me doing all sorts of crap.

“Pedal backwards – now forwards – now with your arms – now with your legs”, read the display as it showed me how badly coordinated and unfit I was. It was like a mechanical bootcamp sergeant.

I was half expecting the thing to suddenly scream at me:

“What do you think you are doing you blubbery lump of dog meat? You look like a bag of mad badgers.”

Thankfully it didn’t have a voice.

Feeling totally humiliated, I decided to go circuit training and encountered problem number three, dear reader.

All of the contraptions were occupied by huge men whose sole purpose was to fill the entire room with muscle. I felt totally inadequate – like a twig standing next to a Giant Redwood.

One of the machines I was supposed to use was free. I was about to sit down when a big booming voice said “I haven’t finished yet.”

Standing behind me was a huge black guy, covered in sweat with bulging veins that were bigger than my arms.

“I’ll be five minutes, mate,” he boomed. “Wait there.”

I watched him set the weight to something just short of “ELEPHANT” and then lift the colossal chunks of metal with absolute ease, blowing and puffing as he went. It was mesmerising – the man was a monster.

I must have been stargazing because I didn’t notice him get up. Either that or was I in a state of shock.

“Do your best,” he boomed, slapping me on the back. I almost went sprawling. He watched as I sat down and adjusted the weights – to “WIMP” (the lowest setting). He chuckled as he walked to the next machine where he would undoubtedly lift three ten ton weights.

My ego was in tatters but I took a deep breath and followed the instructions I had been given.

On the next machine, another guy was about to begin. He stared at me as I approached. He looked as if his ego had been annihilated too. His approach was slightly different from mine. Rather than accepting the fact that he was not a muscle-bound meathead and really should be working within his limits, he decided to repair his ego by showing that he could cope with the “ELEPHANT” setting.

He took a deep breath and, as I watched, lifted the enormous chunks of metal. His head, already red, turned crimson and then purple. His arms shook. His breath was ragged and he struggled to suppress a groan of agony as he pushed his body to the limit. Veins popped out all over his arms and neck.

He tried to look calm and composed, yet his face betrayed him. He only managed a couple of lifts and then dropped the weights with an almighty crash.

“Good workout!” he whispered as he got up. “It’s all yours.”

He watched as I took his place and adjusted the weight setting back to “WIMP” and followed my instructions. I smiled at him and I think my face said it all:

“You didn’t impress me, mate!”

I did manage to persevere for about three months before I began to get bored. I adjusted my workout in an attempt to relieve the tedium but to no avail. The physical effects were noticeable though. My upper body shape changed slightly and when I finally gave up, I had progressed and was comfortable on the “WEAKLING” setting. I could also run further and faster; I even managed to tame the cross trainer.

I would like to get fit again but the gym is not for me. I could try Mrs PM’s Tae-Bo challenge at home, which I have managed to do for a month or two before that bores me to death (after almost killing me). If you have never heard of  Tae-Bo, click here to see what I mean. Billy Blanks, the inventor of Tae-bo, is a master of martial arts and all round fitness guru.

Mrs PM bought a video about ten years ago and, after laughing, I decided to try it myself. Let me tell you, dear reader – it is bloody tough! If you can disregard the cries of “ALRIGHT!!!” and the typical American whooping and screaming, it really does work – until boredom sets in (as it inevitably does).

So my choices are:

(1) Humiliate myself at the gym whole burning loads of cash.
(2) Allow Billy Blanks, the Tae-Bo king, to bully me into shape for a month or two, until the weather gets warmer.
(3) Bite the bullet and revisit my cross country running youth by taking up jogging.
(4) Get on my bike and cycle to work.
(5) Do nothing and grow into a fat old git.

I have started in the right way by allowing myself to be terrorised by Billy Blanks this evening. I am currently half-dead as a result - it must be working.

Wish me luck.

19 comments:

Kath Lockett said...

Run, Wavey Davey, RUN.

It's free, it's as long or as short as you want it to be and you get better each time. Trust me.

Oh and you fart explosively the *very second* you trot past someone younger and more attractive. What's not to like?

drb said...

Good work Mr PM! Areadly working out! I have never been to a gym my life! A bit of a hypochondriac - may catch some nasty fungus in the gym equipment. See, another reason for you not to go to the gym.
I think cycling to work is the way to go. It kills quite a few birds with one stone.
My hubby swims 1 km every day and surfs on the weekend. Maybe you can try that too. He looks like Batman in a wetsuit.

I am trying to get back onto Pilates. Will do it now... you inspired me..

The Plastic Mancunian said...

G'Day Kath and thanks for the advice.

Perhaps the exploding fart may speed me up to help minimise the embarrassment.

:0)

Cheers

PM

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi drb,

I will try cyclng again when the days get longer. At the moment it is dark when I leave for work and dark when I finish so it is a little unsafe.

I would love to try surfing - the problem is, the water here is freezing - even in the summer!!!

:0)

Cheers

PM

River said...

My ...ummm..."workout routine" started off fairly well with a daily walk, but I haven't walked in almost a month now. The latest setback was the gastro, I didn't dare move more than a few metres from a toilet,plus I pretty much couldn't move anyway, but I'm well again and the walking will resume as soon as I catch up on a couple of other things.

Nomad said...

I wasn't much better than you when I went to the gym a couple of years ago. I liked the whole routine of it but I have to say I was very dedicated. And some of the machines I couldn't understand how they were supposed to work. One time I was in completely the wrong position, awkwardly facing the wrong way. Later, spying somebody else on the machine, I saw the correct way and never used it again.

Luckily there isn't all that much ego-flexing here in Turkey and you don't feel as uncomfortable. In the US, I was once given a free week at a gym. What a humiliation it was. I was left on some torture device, trying to fall off or permanently damage anything. Later this bullying type, all muscles and not an ounce of fat, calls me into his office and proceeds to brow-beat me and hassle me into signing up for a year. "Don't you want to meet women? Women go crazy for healthy men with muscles and a good physique. Don't you care about sex.. at all?" were some of the questions I recall.I just sat there thinking, "serves you right for thinking this was free." I never returned after that first night. I had all that in high school and it was more than enough for a lifetime.

I would advise swimming. All around it is the best exercise and you can easily set your own pace. Also, the best part is, most of your less appealing parts are hidden underwater!

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

I know about your recent illness - I hope you feel better soon.

I intend to walk more myself - hopefully armed with a camera to take some snaps of Manchester for the blogging elite and casual reader - an idea stolen from your good self (I hope you don't mind). I will wait until the weather improves though.

:0)

Cheers

PM

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Nomad,

I would have walked if I had been asked questions like that.

Thankfully my "Personal trainer" made sure that I didn't humiliate myself on the machines by using them incorrectly (thank heavens!).

I used to swim a lot in my youth. It built up my stamina for more enjoyable forms of exercise such as football (soccer). The only problem was I found it quite boring, particularly if other swimmers weren't as fast as I was.

:0)

Cheers

PM

River said...

Oooh! I look forward to seeing photos of Manchester.

drb said...

I agree with Nomad that swimming is the best form of excercise. It does not put much strain on the joints as jogging/running which in my opinion does more harm than good as it also put too much stress on the heart and will also cause premature aging.

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

I'll let you know when they go up.

:0)

Cheers

PM

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi drb,

I do like swimming but as I said it can be boring, particularly as you can't take your mp3 player in the pool with you.

:0)

Cheers

PM

drb said...

Here's a thought:
Invent a MP3 player that serves as an earplug for swiming!

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi drb,

Nice idea - I reckon somebody has thought about it, though.

:0)

Cheers

PM

Nomad said...

One time I went swimming and found they had music piped in so you could hear it when you swam. I do wonder why they don't have waterproof MP3 players.

Nomad said...

http://goo.gl/1Ml5d By gum, they have!! (I've always wanted to use that expression!)

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Nomad,

You need an "EEEE" before the "By Gum" and then you will be an honorary Northerner!

:-)

As soon as drb suggested it, I knew somebody must have thought of it.

A snip at $78!!

:0)

Cheers

PM

drb said...

nah, I wasn't referring to a waterproof MP3 player - one that you have to lug around while swimming, but one you actually insert into your ear - ear bud and player in one.

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi drb,

In that case, I think we could possibly make some money ...

:0)

Cheers

PM