Thursday, 11 April 2013


I don't sweat, I glow. I don't sweat, I glow. I radiate vitality.” The girl next to me was looking at me strangely.
Sorry, was I speaking aloud?” She nodded, although I could see she was thinking 'Weirdo!' She reduced her pace until she could jump off and stretch in the designated area far away from me.
Damn it! I'd done it again. Why couldn't I stop affirmations popping out of my mouth? That was the third person I'd scared off in a week, including a member of staff! But concentrating on a mantra helped me complete my interval training and blotted out the interfering background: a wall of flashing TVs and piped techno music.
Nearly there... Ten more minutes, then a three minute cool down. My programme said fifteen minutes on the cross-trainer next, but I was going to row instead. I didn't want to go on an imaginary hike with Nordic poles, but wanted to pretend I was in a boat on the River Thames. These thoughts came to a halt as I entered the 'zone'. Typical, just when I'm supposed to be slowing down! Now I have to continue to run with this rhythm, where nothing else matters but the pound of my feet on the fake tarmacked road beneath them. For a while, I pretended I was Forrest Gump, until like him I ended my run abruptly.
I did a quick calf stretch taking in what was going on around me. A couple of girls in crop tops and hot pants had walked in and were being chatted up by a male instructor. Others with full make-up and fake eyelashes on were loitering in the free weights to perv at guys who were flexing their pecs and grunting. I was au natural: hair ruthlessly scraped back, in a non-revealing top and tracksuit bottoms, surrounded by 'Heat' wannabes. People posing and waiting to be seen by the paparazzi. The paps that might jump out from behind a bike or resistance machine. A mugshot of me would be in the 'OMG, what does she look like?' category, and as if I had seen the cover of the magazine, I immediately felt deflated. My energy zapped by Lycra-clad gym bunnies.
I sipped my water and realised this wasn't my scene any longer. I came here to de-stress, not to compete with real-life-photo-shopped models. Even the-woman-next-door has to be flawless. Being here suddenly seemed sad and pathetic, like a hamster exercising in a cage with no natural light and recycled air. As I stretched my triceps I had a light bulb moment: I was set to wave goodbye to a big chunk of my life and I didn't care! I would get out of the heat: avoid the gym, the tittle-tattle of gossip magazines, and trashy day-time TV. I would exercise differently, where the price would not be my integrity.
A swimming pool of relief washed over me as with my red towel I wiped my brow and the equipment down. My obsession for this activity had burnt out suddenly; I was amazed by the speed in which it had died within me. The once ignited flame for burning calories on machinery had become a dead fire. And with that I grabbed my belongings, took one final look at the parading bunnies and the pumped-up blokes demonstrating their prowess in the mirror, and exited, letting the door swing closed on this teen-into-adult chapter.
Today's fixation with being seen as 'fit' is not healthier.