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.