Earlier today, a very good friend of mine – who shall remain nameless – sent me a rather guilt-inducing text, inadvertently providing me with the fuel for this latest rant. Actually, screw that, I’m going to name and shame you Pinchbeck, you and your ‘today i joined the gym’ smugness. A few hours later, as I sit here sipping my wine and watching Bake Off, I am actually rather glad that I did not succumb to that crazy urge to accompany you in a gym-joining frenzy. I cannot think of another leisure activity that has the ability to induce such opposing feelings of self-rightousness and shame as the humble gym. As I type, I am almost certain that you,too, are reclining at home, quite possibly with a glass of Rioja in hand… Unlike me, however, I bet you are currently suffering from ‘I should have gone to the gym today’ regrets. Therein lies the problem with the gym: joining one simply isn’t enough, one has to actually visit that hellhole.
I am a gym-joining veteran. I have joined many a gym, sometimes the same gym on more than one occasion, always with good intentions. What I have never done, however, is manage to get my money’s worth. My latest foray into the realms of regimented fitness was around a year ago when a new budget gym opened up two minutes walk from my front door. What do I have to lose? £10.99 a month! What a bargain! I’ll only have to visit once a week to make it worthwhile! I can even shower at home! What I didn’t factor in to the equation, however, was the inescapable guilt I felt every time i walked past that godforsaken building. I would find myself taking circuitous routes to avoid it and the feelings of inadequacy it provoked. Perhaps if I had been visiting once a week (or even once a fortnight, or later still – once a month, as I subsequently justified as being good value), then I would have been able to saunter past, head held high. As it was, for months I would scurry along, that niggling feeling that I was wasting my money (and kidding myself) ever present in the back of my mind. It wasn’t just a view of the building itself that caused my heart to sink; a mere glimpse of my online bank statement featuring the words ‘Puregym’ was enough to evoke those feelings of inadequacy and shame. For a year I paid the monthly fees, always vowing to go at least 6 times a week the following month in order to bolster my averages (still naively believing that might actually happen). Alas, it was not to be. It all came to a head two months ago when they had the AUDACITY to raise the fees to the outrageous sum of £19.99 a month and I worked out that each time I had gone to the gym over the past year it had cost me an average of £20… Enough was enough! I stopped the direct debit and haven’t looked back. (Obviously the next time I join a gym, I will be more committed…)
So what is it that I find so offensive about the gym? Where do I start? Well, as has been a bit of a theme in previous rants, I have a problem with much of the general public, and many of the most offensive contingents of this group do choose to congregate in this venue. From the men who think it is impressive to lift massive weights whilst looking around to see who is watching, to the shrill blondes who coordinate their gym clothes with their yoga mats, everywhere I look, something is bound to rile me. Okay, I’ll admit it, I have a grudging respect for the beefcakes who make it look so easy. I’m the amateur dismounting the scary weights machine (there’s probably a proper name for it), to remove a couple more kilos, only to realise there are no more weights left to take off… I’m also a little in awe of the aforementioned blondes; I only have to look at a running machine to turn into a tomato-faced, fuzzy-haired goblin, whilst they somehow manage to run like it’s easy and catch up on all the gossip, all the while looking like they just stepped off the pages of a sportswear catalogue. I, on the other hand, squeeze myself into my gym gear (black lycra looked really good on the Sports Direct hanger), and end up resembling a shiny black over-filled sausage. Makes me sick! It also makes me slightly nauseous to look along a row of cross trainers and to know with certainty that each and every one of those men is currently pulling his sex face. (Thanks Ash for bringing this little gem to my attention. I’m all about the naming and shaming tonight; I blame the wine).
When I was a member of a posh gym, I felt rather less of the associated Gym Shame. This was for the sole reason that there was a sauna in said gym. I would don my gym clothes, partake in a leisurely gym-session (we’re talking around 15 minutes or so – a drink from the fountain, a walk to the treadmill, a wipe down of the equipment, a minute to find an inspiring playlist… you get the picture), and then retire to the sauna for an hour or two. I felt no guilt as I had unquestionably been to the gym and scanned my gym card – good for accumulating those all-important smug points – and I’d also attained my money’s worth (also all-important if you like adhere to those stingy-Scot stereotypes). Oh, and most crucially, my flatmate was under the illusion that I had been in the gym for an impressive two hours. I don’t know what it is about the gym that evokes such an atypical sense of competitiveness within me. Even recently when I succumbed to The Guilt and actually ventured round to my el cheapo gym (all the while hoping that my passcode wouldn’t work and I would be able to come home and drink wine, guilt free – ‘well I TRIED to go to the gym’), I lounged about the house afterwards, un-showered and still clad in sausage-skin-evoking lycra “did I MENTION I went to the gym this eve, BF?”
In my experience, when attendance of a Posh Gym lapses, the subsequent guilt is far greater than that of the £10.99 gym – it’s all relative, I suppose. Fortunately for me, however, the posh gym was further away from my house. Out of sight was indeed out of mind. Also, I had a nagging feeling that at least part of all membership fees contributed to the salary of the hugely obese woman who could always be witnessed jogging round the perimeter of the gym, seemingly oblivious to the many vacant treadmills. To this day, I am convinced that she was employed in an attempt to discourage the likes of me from letting our memberships lapse… Look what will happen to you without us!
So, Pinchbeck, I hope you have heeded my words and joined your gym wisely – we’re talking suitably far from your house and equipped with sauna. I have another top tip for you: those funny technical-looking cable things attached to the treadmills, I discovered on my last visit they’re nothing too technical at all – they’re merely for plugging your ipod into! I have a funny feeling you knew that already… Anyway, let me know how it goes; give me another month or two and it’ll be about time for me to be thinking about joining again…