I have spent a reasonable amount of time in the gym over the years - well, it’s been an intermittent relationship, mostly dependant on other commitments and motivational factors. It began when I started to frequent the small weights room at the local leisure centre. I was one of the first few females to be spotted there (pun intended) delicately and self-consciously picking up weights under the hefty male gaze, which although not discouraging was at times patronising. When the leisure centre was built it was a much needed attraction. It had an indoor pool and four squash courts, which were a real novelty. The centre was, and still is, one of the few forms of recreation in our village (apart from the park, and a plethora of pubs), so it’s no wonder I got fit; there was little else to do. Fitness can become addictive and it’s easy to become obsessed with one’s body - the quest for bigger muscles, smaller waist, flatter stomach, firmer buttocks is never ending…faster…stronger... longer. I’ve never been all that serious, though. I’ve never had a six pack, which I think is a good indicator of fitness seriousness.
I’m not being sexist here, but nowadays you get those women that seem to go to the gym purely to exercise their mouths; they’ll annoyingly park themselves on the rowing machines for half an hour while they catch up on all the gossip. Then there are those women who tentatively make their way around the resistance machines: worried lest they should break into a sweat and ruin their make-up and hair dos – whereas, I don’t feel like I’ve had my monies worth unless I can wring my vest out at the end of a session. Once, I was lifting some weights, and had just bench-pressed a personal best, when a woman, of the aforementioned variety, nodded in my direction and said to her friend, not too quietly, ‘It’s not natural.’ I didn’t realize people like this still actually existed! I resisted an anthropological urge to go over and interview her, and ignored her blantant rudeness and ignorance. I don’t know what prompted the woman’s remark really; it’s not like I was particularly ripped, had big guns, or looked mannish. I certainly had no intention to look man-like. But the comment weighed on my mind, and I later asked my friend if I looked like a freak. He assured me that I did not. Nevertheless, I subsequently cut down on the weights, just to be on the safe side.
Around this time, fitness courses and instructor training courses were becoming extensively popular. I attended two that were run by the YMCA: Resistance Training, and Exercise to Music (commonly known as weight training, and aerobics). Frankly, God only knows how I managed to pass the Exercise to Music course: feeling extremely uncomfortable moving around to music in a public space is a bit of a handicap when it comes to doing aerobics. We had to construct and teach a miniature class comprising of warm-up, main part and cool-down, and pick our own music for each section. I think the main mistake I made was choosing Sade’s No Ordinary Love as the sound track for my cool-down. It tugs on the heart strings, but not in a good way. It’s a desperate song about unrequited love. I’d never really listened to the lyrics before:
I gave you all that I have inside
And you took my love
Keep trying for you
Keep crying for you
Keep flying for you
Keep flying I’m falling.
You’re meant to come out of a fitness session revitalised and uplifted not sad or morbidly depressed, which is what this song makes you feel (depending on your emotional range and/or psychologial stability). Yeah, this was the wrong tack to finish on.
I haven’t done aerobics for ages. Nowadays, I still like to keep fit. I have a few free weights at home – dumbbells – which I throw around when the mood takes me. Well, actually, I like to give the main muscles of my upper body a bit of a work-out when I can: biceps, triceps, deltoids, abdominals and pectorals. I accommodate my heart, lungs and legs by running. Well, I say running…I’m not a natural runner, and I’ve never felt the urge to do a marathon like I did with the Swimmathon. I start out on a run with the best intentions, but it gradually degenerates into a brisk walk, which, if I’m not careful, then turns into a leisurely amble through the woods. Although not conducive to improving my fitness level, this does have the advantage that rather than gasping for air I am able to focus on reminiscing about the past, and planning what to write about next in my autobiography. It was on one such occasion that I recently ran into the Quorn Hunt, which inspired me to write about my time working with horses….But that’s on a productive day. On a less productive day you can find me aimlessly roaming about the countryside like one of Hardy’s tragic heroines (well, perhaps more like a dodgy female protagonist) wondering what the hell it’s all about.
To cut a long story short: