Are you secretly too ashamed to admit you aren’t exercising all the chuffing time? I used to dread hearing the words “at the gym” coming up in conversation with anyone in case they realised I’ve barely been to a gym since they were called gymnasiums. But now, at last, I’m beginning to feel comfortable with honestly hating exercise.
If you’re anything like me, please remember: we are entitled to this attitude without judgement from the others. Don’t be embarrassed. I’ll bet you are busily rushing around, on a daily basis without having to make an appointment with someone whose purpose it is to coach you in whatever rushing around substitute is currently fashionable. Or if you’re not, that’s your business. I won’t sloth-shame you.
I learned a long time ago that I don’t belong in a gym. It was after having my daughter – a year’s membership being the ‘thoughtful’ post-partum gift from her father.
I had hoped for something a little less exhausting as a push present, but I was carrying extra weight and definitely out of shape, so I eased my lactating orbs into my most supportive maternity bra and borrowed one of his loose t-shirts as mine were all too snug to stretch over my wobbling form.
After warming up for a while, the one rowing machine became free, and as it seemed less intimidating than the rest of the equipment, I arranged my ample backside on the seat positioned a few inches from the ground, and gripped the handles. I hadn’t noticed that the shirt was hanging down behind me, close to the wheel which glides the seat along. It became harder and harder to row until I started to choke and the penny dropped. The hem was caught up in the mechanism beneath me which was winding the t-shirt up. I was strangling myself with every strenuous stroke.
Then I realised the only escape option was to slither out of the t-shirt, firmly wedged in the machine, and onto the floor. Covering my modesty with my sweat towel, I eventually managed to rip the shirt from the machine with my free hand, leaving a scrap of fabric lodged in the cogs to add to my shame.
The rowing machine was out of order for a while after that.
Nobody speaks to each other at the gym either, so I clearly didn’t fit in. I wasn’t familiar with the protocol initially, but when I summoned the courage to return, I tried out a treadmill while music thundered around me and, to my amusement, the song was: Road to Nowhere by Talking Heads. I made the mistake of remarking on the irony to the miserable bag of bones pounding on the treadmill next to mine who threw me a glance, but wordlessly continued her futile effort to run at the wall we were facing.
Other Things I’ve Tried
Pilates: quite nice because much of it is done lying down and it’s not yoga – I didn’t want to have to change religion.
Zumba: doesn’t seem to know what it is supposed to be and for those of us who can’t tell a samba from a mambo, keeping up is a problem.
Hips, bums and tums: I mostly barged in the opposite direction to everyone else and being made to run round the exercise space for a warm up just about finished me off before I’d even started.
Callanetics: pulsing the muscle you’ve located to encourage inch loss. Finding any muscles at all was problematic, but I persevered with some success until sheer, bloody boredom set in.
Jogging: I was advised to jog for five minutes then walk for five and repeat. For me, there’s little discernible difference between the pace of the two.
At the peak of my exercise enthusiasm I would swim a mile on a Sunday morning before anyone in the house woke. The pool was a very short walk from my home at the time and so I often managed to attend aqua-fit classes during the week too. Then I moved house and almost two years later, still haven’t committed myself to a convenient pool or aqua class even though I know of two nearby. Breaking a routine is a killer if you find it difficult to build up enthusiasm for exercise and I’m brilliant at excusing myself because I really don’t want to do it.
Come on – let’s put an end to the shaming of non-exercisers who, like me, probably walk miles around their workplace every day, climbing flights of stairs and taking fresh air breaks whenever too long has been spent at a desk, then commuting home to the housework. At the weekends, we might be walking for its own sake, outside, in real life, for free, rather than on an expensive conveyor belt, or sometimes on a Saturday night we might be dancing like no-one is bothered.
So if you think ‘proper’ exercising at my age is even more important than before, my arthritic, overworked skeleton really is indifferent to your disapproval .