Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Being a gym rat

I am a bit of a gym rat. I have been going everyday give or take for the last 19 years, longer if you count the on and off memberships I had at school. I even went twice or even three times a day when I was working in a gym a few years back. I have tried every aerobic class there is and taught a fair few as well, used just about every piece of cardio equipment on offer and tried all sorts of combinations of lifting weights, using balls, pulling stretchies, boosting bars and wedging myself into machines. Every time we have moved country I have found myself a ‘local’ and eased myself into a newish routine.

My ‘local’ here is the newest, biggest and probably the least populated gym I have been in so far. It has an amazing view of Independence Monument from the treadmills and crosstraining machines and a weight machine for every muscle you can think of and probably a few you’d forgotten you had. The ‘personal trainer’ rattles around the huge room waiting for someone to look confused or possibly just stunned at all the equipment. There are two weights floors, each with their own set of attendants who are actively trying to look busy or at least trying to look like they are not spending the whole day watching one of the 10 televisions on each level. Most days I like having the gym to myself. After years of being at the gym for someone else, years of answering questions and dishing advice (always of the solicited variety of course!) I usually prefer to be an antisocial gym goer. You see I like to work out with emphasis on the work part and sometimes it hurts and sometimes I am out of breath and sometimes I am just trying really hard not to fall over.

Speaking of falling over the other day I was reading older posts on a blog (Paradise lost in translation)I read regularly when I came across a gym confession that made me smile. The blogger (sorry I don’t know your name) recalled falling off the treadmill at the gym in front of some rather more sedate gym goers who were no doubt smugly thinking ‘Yep knew that was coming’ as they strolled carefully trying not to break a sweat.

I didn’t use the treadmill for years due to my own mortal fear of ending up horizontal under the end of the belt. I was, however, a runner for many years regularly pounding the pavements or tracks where ever I was at the time. After a while running became a kind of meditation. My feet fell in a rhythm, my heart slipped into a comfortable work mode and my brain was left to wander with a small alert bit keeping an eye out for holes and dog poo. This is exactly why I don’t like the treadmill. The treadmill is flat you-controlled terrain, devoid of the tree roots and the ankle turning stones of a bush track or the oncoming human and animal traffic of an urban footpath. There is no longer a pressing need for the alert bit to remain alert and a running body becomes a small stride from daydream land and from there it is only a very small miss step to having legs above your head instead of on the floor where they belong!

I have had to rein in my fears a bit since we moved to the tropics and the idea of heaving a slimy, sticky body around humid, dusty, rubbish filled streets lost its appeal. I have conquered the treadmill demons...well on a Monday and a Friday anyway.

On a Wednesday I have discovered (or should I say rediscovered) spinning! Not the woolly kind (which would definitely be a meditative sort of exercise) rather the sweaty, panting thank-god-for-gelly-bike- seat kind of spinning. It’s a mindful exercise in that it is almost impossible not to be aware how hard your body is working and it is working hard and what a rush!! One of these days I might even recover enough to go twice a week.

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