Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Gym'll Fix It

So, race is entered, number's arrived in the post already - no backing down now.

In somewhat of a blind panic, I visited The Gym. Gyms have been my nemesis in the past - places of torture, and insanely sweaty, unpleasant-looking people in lycra (alright, 'nemesis' might be an exaggeration. I can't forgive Gym for relieving me of 6 months' fees in 1997, just because I wanted to sit prettily on a rowing machine and leer at the young men who worked there. How was I to know you had to pay through the nose for that).

I arrived for my induction last week, all outwardly cheerful at what I thought might be just a little sight-seeing tour round the hallowed exercise pits of David Lloyd Cheadle. Picture my dismay as Herr Gym Instructor signalled me to 'jump' onto a machine which I imagined could easily have been used to interrogate prisoners of war. Turns out it was a cross-trainer. Well, I don't know, do I??

An hour later, I collapsed to the floor, finished off by something ironically called a 'medicine ball'. An hour of galloping from one instrument of torture to the next, with HGI cheerily engaging me in a one-sided conversation, all the while scribbling worryingly on a clipboard. Our 'chat' went something along the lines of: HGI: 'How's that speed for you?'
               Me: 'Fine.'
               HGI: 'Oh really? Well, you won't mind if we just sneak it up a bit then, will you?'
               Me: 'Hmpppsshhhffttttt*'
It really was every bit as bad as I'd secretly anticipated. I had some Know-It-All Gym'ed Up twonk waffling on in one ear about interval training, blah blah blah, resting heart rate, blah blah bah, while my face turned the colour of Revlon ColourStay lipstick no.6: Scarlet Harlot.

Surprisingly afterwards, I didn't ache in every crevice as I'd expected. I braced myself for days afterwards when getting out of bed, waiting to be hit by the bodily aches and pains which tell you loud and clear that you've been a tad ambitious with your poor bod. But they never came, and I immediately convinved myself that this was the sign of a latent Paula Radcliffe in the making. I've been four times since then, and am enjoying the post-gym buzz enormously. I always thought it was an urban myth.

I'm also enjoying the Costa Coffee they serve at the gym (two birds, one stone), and the people-watching. I've nearly come a cropper off the running machine several times, trying not to snort at some bloke strutting by, towel over arm, approaching the weight machines. I have to look away so as not to become an RTA on my treadmill as he pulls a variety of sex faces whilst wrestling with a weight which is clearly several kilos heavier than is healthy. Then there are the ladies in the -shall we say - autumn of their youth, trotting daintily away on treadmills to my left, neither of whom are in danger of working up a sweat if they stayed on it from now till Christmas.

Soon the warm weather will kick in, my fitness will pick up, and I'll be out on the roads, pounding my poor knee joints to a pulp. But I'll miss the daily soap opera that is The Gym.

* Hmpppsshhhffttttt = eff off, you cross-eyed ginger twonk. Go near that button again, and I'll get your effing clipboard, chop it into 75 pieces, and feed it into an area on your body south of your mouth.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

'Run, Forest, run!'

Yesterday, I entered myself for the Cancer Research Race for Life 10k at Tatton Park in June. Nothing much unusual about that, you might think - unless you know me.

I don't run. It is one of several things I don't do, the others being: apologise, be unecessarily cheerful, drugs, and public transport. I drive past people out jogging on a Sunday morning and I pity them that they clearly didn't drink enough alcohol the night before. I avoid conversations with people who run in the manner that other people avoid smokers, in the fear that some of their get up and go might rub off on me like a viral infection.

And yet, I am about to become one of Them. I should point out that I haven't knowingly run a single step since my schooldays, and have still yet to do so. I'm already imagining myself winning next year's New York marathon without ever having pulled on a pair of trainers - not that I'm mildly delusional or anything. Short of discovering hitherto unknown Ethiopian heritage, that's not likely to happen. And yet, I'm already feeling cheerier (notice cheerIER, not actually cheery) than I have done in months at the prospect of a personal goal to get my teeth into. Factor in the purported anti-depressant qualities of running and exercise in general, and I imagine in a month or two, you could wrap me up and send me off to Pontin's as a redcoat.

I'll confess now that I was actually in the school athletics' team. But this was entirely down to unfortunate circumstances; these being that at the 400m trial, everyone else misheard the gym teacher and stopped at the finish line on the penultimate lap - I was the only one who kept going. More fool me. Humiliation at the hands of Manchester High School followed soon after. And it wasn't just the humiliation that made me go red - I've developed new tones of luminous day-glo pink over the years due to exercise. Some people just turn a pleasant healthy pink, but many's the time I've had to plunge my head into a bucket of cold water after an hour's horse-riding lesson, or risk having my head explode. So I can pretty much guarantee that 5 minutes into any run I do, I'll be able to light a whole street with my face.

So why do it? I can't put it better than Mark Twain, who said: 'Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones that you did do. So throw off the bow lines, Sail away from safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.' I might hate every second. I might puke up half way round in front of the official photographer, or do a Paula Radcliffe and get caught short. But I won't know till I try.