The gym contains a cross section of people that I'd equate with Kings Cross on a Friday night. Thin, fat, black, white, brown, chatting, silent, moaning, lean, long, lanky, petite, those carrying lots of weight and those hands free. This is both its best and worst quality, being consumed with a wide selection of Queen Mary’s student body.
I confess I am a gym bunny. I go every day because it’s become completely habitual, and drinking guilt levels rise up if I don’t. I'd say there's nothing like running until you feel sick but there is – you can sit and eat a tub of Ben and Jerry's, but where's the challenge? And as I'm very competitive – and an idiot – trying to keep up with the bloke running at 17km/h on the machine often seems plausible.
But daily the same things irk me. In a similar fashion to the library during exam season, the basic irritations of the air-conditioned dreamscape never fail to escape my notice. Sadly my observational habits are too finely tuned to dissolve. Sometimes it’s funny – those that are surprised when the PowerPlate vibrates, shocking as that may be, tickle me – the smelly men who think that one glance in their direction means they’re Ryan Gosling are temporarily amusing, and the American associate students with their socks pulled up look like they’re off to Wimbledon. Bless them. But it’s those that saunter around like they're Jessica Ennis that piss me off the most. And the blokes with weightlifting gloves on that have clearly never seen a dumbbell in their life. I mean, really? Those that read – textbooks, their Kindles (boo hiss) or magazines, I have no connection with. I just don’t understand it.
A recent experience set me off guard a bit. I was rowing in the normal way that I do every day, on ‘my’ machine – it’s in the right place for idle I’m-bored-at-3k people watching and positioned so I can watch The Chaser (ITV, 5pm). Following last year’s elbow-knocking incident with a hunky economist, I found my Safe Zone. Usually it’s not surrounded by anyone. But not that day. A bloke I’ve never seen before – the cheek of it! – thought he’d come and do his workout next to me. I was stressed to the max and unable to get into my zone for three kilometres before he finished up and left me in peace. Never have I been so happy to see an empty seat. The incident led me to think this week that I might be a little claustrophobic, or just a complete nutter. Either way.
The gym is a thinking place, one where I allow myself to be lulled into a comfortable pace by embarrassing iPod playlists. There’s no place for Death Cab in the gym, it’s the dregs of the music industry that make themselves known. Oddly the sweat box is often where I formulate ideas; running has a neurological effect akin to the tidying of a desk, or doing the washing up. Or maybe I'm just really weird. But for me, the gym isn't a place for conversation or mixing with friends. I once went accompanied by a classmate – I couldn't concentrate, the competition got too much for me. And it’s certainly not for public display of affections as I learnt last week, watching a couple do sit-ups together, kissing as they sat up straight. No kidding, I had to excuse myself from the mats. Get a room, very far away from me, if you please.
So maybe I just need a home gym, or to chill out a bit. But as we all know none of that’s going to happen, the workout irritations will continue long through my life. If someone wants to invent some human blinkers, I’ll be the first in line.
Eleanor Doughty is a second-year student at Queen Mary, University of London. Follow her on Twitter here. She probably won't follow you back.
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