The trials involved in joining a gym

Getting a visa to North Korea with 'investigative journalist' in my passport would have been simpler

Share
Related Topics

Being ahead of the game is not usually my forte but at least a month before Sir Liam Donaldson, the Government's chief medical adviser, suggested that all adults should take 30 minutes' exercise every day if they wanted to keep fit, I joined my local gym. What a performance. Getting a visa to North Korea with "investigative journalist" written in my passport would have been simpler.

Being ahead of the game is not usually my forte but at least a month before Sir Liam Donaldson, the Government's chief medical adviser, suggested that all adults should take 30 minutes' exercise every day if they wanted to keep fit, I joined my local gym. What a performance. Getting a visa to North Korea with "investigative journalist" written in my passport would have been simpler.

My children have been urging me to take exercise for years. They, of course, belong to gyms and have the latest trainers, tracksuits, sweat bands and anti-jog devices on their Walkman. When I went to the gym my student son belongs to in Newcastle, I was dazzled by its sophistication. As well as the rows of gleaming computerised exercise machines, there was a health juice bar, a video library, a chill-out room and a corridor lined with stripped pine doors that said Massage, Aromatherapy, Personal Trainer consultancy etc.

My gym falls into the basic no-frills category. Before it became a sports and leisure centre it was called the Corporation Baths with all the glamour inherent in that title. At least a dozen local schools used it. The first time I set foot in its gloomy interior was to see my daughter compete in the under-eights backstroke quarter-finals. One of the other mothers persuaded me to go swimming with her once a week and for a while I did, trying hard not to notice the flotsam and jetsam bobbing about in the water beside me - used sticking plasters, cotton wool, clumps of hair. One morning taking a breather in the shallow end I stood on someone's dental plate with three forlorn teeth attached to it and decided I would run round the park instead.

So anyway I bit the bullet and made an appointment to see the admissions secretary. The problem was trying to work out what sort of member I wanted to be - comprehensive, off-peak, with family but without use of pool, with use of pool but without exercise classes, weekend only including yoga; the combinations were infinite. No pool, no classes, no yoga, no family - just half an hour on the running machine every day, I said, and when I had filled in the monthly direct debit form I was referred to someone called Dan for induction.

It's a curious thing but now, standing in a bus queue or waiting to check out my library book, I can glance around and pick out the people whose body language suggests they have recently been induced by a tall blonde muscle-bound Australian called Dan. They're the ones staring vacantly into space or biting their nails or looking nervous. I was doing all of these after my induction with Dan.

I thought I was going to be shown how the machines worked, but induction turned out to be a quick-fire question-and-answer session about what I thought I was going to achieve by taking regular exercise. And if you are daft enough to think that the answer is "well, to be healthier I suppose" then think again. We talked about happiness, fulfilment, satisfaction, the meaning of life and being at one with ourselves and the world. We talked about harmony, inner peace and the incomparable joy of being in control of our own special space. When I say we, I actually mean Dan because after that first travesty of an answer about wanting to be healthier, I shut up and let Dan do the talking.

Having convinced me that within three months of joining the gym I would have the body of Carmen Electra, the motivation of Hillary Clinton and the confidence of Germaine Greer, Dan showed me how to work the running machine. It was dead easy, he said, standing me in front of the sort of control panel that lands spacecraft on Jupiter. "You just punch in your weight," he said, "then your age, pulse rate, blood pressure, speed, distance, time, gradient, mother's maiden name, expiry date and away you go."

I spend an hour at the gym every morning, half an hour setting the machine and half an hour running. Of course I feel better but the main satisfaction comes from how many audio books I've managed to get through in a month. I'm halfway through Proust, for heaven's sake. Sometimes I get distracted by the weightlifters, one in particular, a well-built young man who wears a skimpy vest and shorts ensemble.

A recent survey revealed that 60 per cent of people who join gyms give up after two weeks and another 20 per cent after a month. I wonder how long I'll last. Tesco apparently has introduced a new German-designed trolley that helps you to exercise as you shop. Maybe I'll stop running for my life and shop till I drop instead.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Syria's Kurds have little choice but to flee amid the desolution, ruins and danger they face

Patrick Cockburn
A bartender serves two Mojito cocktails  

For the twenty-somethings of today, growing up is hard to do

Simon Kelner
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement