Patrick’s been on holiday to Jamaica for two weeks. He denied me my Kickboxing to work on his tan. Then I went off skiing for a week, and then he had flu (probably just a cold but you know what wimps men are when they’re ill) so I haven’t actually see him for a month. Four weeks without kick boxing. I’ve been aware of the aggression building up inside. Having found an escape route in punches and kicks, it’s been a struggle keeping it cooped up inside like it has been for the last 27 years. So I’ve had to find other ways of letting it out.
I joined the gym near work earlier in the year in a moment of madness. This is the ninth gym I’ve joined in about four years. I’ve got a pattern: I’m quite a regular for the first few weeks then gradually attendance dwindles to maybe once a month, if that. I was determined that this time would be different but my attendance record is already poor. So last Sunday, to compensate for Patrick’s absence, I decided that I would go to the gym before work on Monday. Dottie the Rottie wakes up every morning at 6.30 wanting her breakfast, a walk, several pees and a crap (not necessarily in that order). As my other half normally takes care of her, I rarely get up but spread out in the bed and fall straight back into a deep sleep. Not this Monday morning. No, I get up, throw on some clothes and set off for the gym, kit bag at my side. I brave the Central line (surprisingly pleasant at 7am) and get to the gym just before 8am.
Having quickly changed into my gear, I walk into the gym itself to discover to my absolute delight that it’s “Fat Monday” – there’s one other girl already there and she’s bigger, flabbier and clearly more out of shape than me. Marvellous. She’s also wearing a WetWetWet 1997 UK tour T-shirt with greying jogging pants. For once, in my streamlined black Lycra, I am the fit, slim one and she is the overweight, red-faced one. It rarely happens, but when it does, it’s fantastic. She is looking to me for inspiration. I represent her fitness goal. I am Lightening from ‘Gladiators’; she is Waynetta Slob.
After some exaggerated stretches, I begin on the treadmill, something Waynetta, panting away on the bike, can only aspire to. I’ve formulated a classification system for the cardio work in an average gym. The easiest (and therefore positioned at the bottom of the ladder) is the bike, followed in order of difficulty by the rower, the stepper and finally the treadmill. Waynetta is most definitely on the bottom rung while I rapidly accelerate to the top, pass Go and collect £200.
I keep losing my rhythm on the treadmill as I’m trying to run in time to MTV and the speed of the tracks keeps changing, but I don’t think Waynetta notices. I’m looking good. I can feel her watching me enviously. I run for 10 minutes. I’m warmed up but not breathless, rosy but not beetroot.
Warm up done, now for some toning. The previous eight gyms have had different machines for different body parts – abductors, adductors, triceps, biceps and so on. But here, my choice is limited. There is only the Multigym, ominously positioned in the corner. It’s big, black and resembles a dentist’s chair. I’ve never seen anyone use it. The staff didn’t even include it in my induction. I’m reminded of a Stephen King novel, where inanimate objects develop evil, malevolent personalities. The Multigym is Darth Vadar.
I climb on, straddling it. I spend a couple of minutes of trying to work out what to do. I’d like to discreetly dismount but I know Waynetta is watching, so I can’t. I grapple with the handles by my head. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to push them up, down, forward or backwards, so I shake them vigorously to see which way they go. Aha. Bicep thingies. I can only manage a few (guess who forget to check the metal pin in the weights?), then some knee curls. To my relief, Waynetta has finished on the bike and goes out of the room, to get some water I assume. Now’s my chance. I stumble off the Multigym in a most undignified manner.
Although Darth Vadar has defeated another victim, I feel smug that I’ve outwitted Waynetta. She’ll return and my image will remain as clean as a fresh tampon. As I pick up some hand weights, I hear footsteps. Must be Waynetta coming back. I position myself so that my bulging biceps will be the first thing she sees.
Except that it’s not Waynetta. It’s another girl. She’s wearing this season’s Nike gear in pale blue. She’s slightly older than me but she looks energised, radiant. And thin. And fit.
And suddenly my world crumbles. My ego deflates like a punctured balloon, as I morph into Waynetta and she becomes Lightening. The dream is over. I’m crushed. I put down the weights and as Lightening sets off on the treadmill, I skulk over to the bike, where I belong.