Thursday, 13 October 2011


I've been going to the gym  for the last month or so.  It's an attempt to stem the encroaching tide of middle-aged "can't be arsed-ness" and also to reduce my bulk to less vile proportions. 

I have actually got a bit heavier, which is dispiriting, if not unexpected, and I can't see any real difference in my shape yet. However, I am already feeling stronger, and I sweat more when exerting myself.  Niiiiice.  Apparently, according to the nice gym staff, that's a common side effect of exercising.  You get sweatier. 

So.  Heavier.  Slightly more muscular.  Sweaty.  I bet you're all having a little private far-away moment just imagining that, aren't you?

The most difficult part of the entire business is getting into a routine.  I am trying to go early in the day, to be there before 0900, do my routine, get home, get showered, get dressed and be ready to get on with my day by 1030 at the latest.  The downside to that is that I don't eat before I go, which might be a bad thing.  I may have to get up at the crack of dawn to have some porridge first.

I do 10 minutes on the cross trainer* to start with, which is ok, as long as I don't look at the timer counting down.  I try to watch the TV screen above my head, where they show the BBC News with subtitles.  There is a good deal of unintended hilarity caused by those subtitles, with the interpreters having to publish rapid corrections as they go. 

If I can't see the TV screen, I look down into the swimming pool.  Sometimes there are dozens of small children having swimming lessons, which is also hilarious.  They are all so earnest; watching them splashing about like minnows, whacking one another in the face as they attempt backstroke takes me back to my own awful school swimming lessons. 

The school I went to in London, way back in the early 1970s, took us to a concrete outdoor pool for lessons. It was very shallow, and I have distinct memories of regularly scraping my feet and stubbing my toes on the rough concrete bottom of the pool as I was learning to kick.  I never knew what the swimming teacher's name was.  It sounded like "Mr Vinehoff" but everyone in the class had a different opinion what it actually was.  We couldn't hear him introduce himself over the splashing, shrieking masses and nobody had the nerve to ask him what his name was.

I don't think they taught us how to swim, as such. I think it was more along the lines of trial by ordeal, where they threw us into the water and if we didn't drown we had to go back to school and learn about the metric system and decimalisation.

The school I went to in Chichester took us to the municipal baths for lessons, in a bus.  We seemed to spend about twice as long getting to the pool, getting changed into our swimsuits, getting dry afterwards and getting back into our uniforms than we ever did in the water.  I remember the sense of achievement I had when I swam 100 yards.  It was slow and inelegant, like so much of my school sporting career, but I did it, and I got a certificate to prove it.

I also jumped off the diving board.  There was a low board, a springy plank on the edge of the pool which was perfect for doing "pirate walking the plank" impressions when the teacher wasn't looking, and everyone could jump off that.  Well, it was practically the same as the edge of the pool.  You had to be a real chicken to flunk that one. 

Then there were the Other Boards.  I definitely jumped off one of those, but my memory fails me here.  I can't remember if it was the the middle board up a flight of scary rickety metal steps, or the "fuck me that's high" board at the very top, up abut four flights of steps.  I have a nagging feeling that I did go off the top board, because I can recall the terror when I had jumped; that feeling that there was no going back.  When I hit the water I went almost to the bottom of the pool - 12' 6" deep, whatever that is in metric** - and it was scary trying to get back up to the surface before I ran out of air.  I didn't do it again.

It may have been something we had to do for a swimming badge with the Girl Guides. 

We had to do so many odd things with the Girl Guides.  That's a whole blog post in itself.

Anyhoo.  Swimming flashbacks aside, I am enjoying the gym, and any day now will develop one of those bodies that you see on TV, memorably described by (I think) Terry Pratchett as a stocking full of walnuts. 
I can't promise photos. 

*See much earlier, older joke somewhere in the blog archives about this being a piece of gym equipment, not a grumpy muscular man in a singlet 

**I learned NOTHING at school.  Not a bloody thing.


rachel said...

It's all awful; the gym, swimming, managing one's weight, remembering school, the metric system. Awful, awful, awful. I do hope you go on enjoying it, but it gave me the most unpleasant flashbacks just reading about it all.

I once read that you burn up more calories exercising before breakfast; and then I read just the opposite. Confusing...

livesbythewoods said...

Rachel, sorry for the flashbacks. But yes, they were awful, school swiming lessons. I'm still iking the gym though. Maybe it's because it's voluntary nowadays, and I don't have that horrible sense of compulsion I had when doing sports at school.

Isabella Golightly said...

We didn't learn to swim either, and when we got to Australia (where children actually start swimming lessons when they are One [yep, one], I had to go in the class with the kindergarten children. Oh the shame of it. I was 8 1/2. I've never lived it down. But I can swim now.

Isabella Golightly said...

Also, Go You for going to the gym. I believe it was Clive James who said "Arnold Schwarzenegger looks like a condom full of walnuts". I met him once. Clive, not Arnold. Go me. And how great is this? The word verification is 'coninear'. Arnie used to play Conan the Barbarian, way back when. Oh, this is too delightful!

livesbythewoods said...

Isabella - ONE? Really? Wow, that explains the terrifyingly competent lifeguards, at least. And YES, Clive James did say that! Thank you, it was bugging me. I'm sure Terry Pratchett said with something similar in one of his books too.