Gym? What’s a Gym?

Gonna get straight to it, I’ve taken up membership at a local gym. In it is loads of gym-y equipment like treadmills, weights and water fountains (the stuff you’d expect) but there are also items of equipment which to the novice gym goer are both weird and scary. Take for example the Stair Stepper, a machine that looks like something you’d buy on The Sims as a wacky item. Shock (/horror) it exists in real life:


Another fine example is the nicely titled ‘Ab Cruncher’ that aims to do exactly what it says on the tin. Now in this image you’d think it was a right jolly using one of these:


But seriously, when you see people using them in real life it’s easy to question whether the design originates from some form of medieval torture. I mean look at the girl in this video demonstrating how to use the machine:

Rebecca looks like she’s about to poop herself.

I will be the first to admit that my bi to thrice weekly gym visits has not seen me use either these two machines so far (I joined up about a month ago). Thanks to Rebecca I’m now scared of the Ab Cruncher and part of me asks why there is a demand for a Stair Stepper. Either these people are living in bungalows or have never utilised an escalator in an empty shopping centre.

Back to me then. I joined the gym after many weeks of boredom pondering how to spend my evenings after work. I mean sure, I have socks to wash and I guess the cheap cheese won’t buy itself, but these are hardly riveting ways to spend one’s evening. I was also getting worn down by my born-again-fitness-freak housemate who was coming home every evening in her gym gear saying, “I’ve just been at a couple of fitness classes and on the weights. You been up to much?” “I made a sandwhich and now I’m deciding which chocolate bar to eat. It’s been a hectic evening.”

The two factors combined I took the plunge and signed up to the gym. I was uneasy about the idea at first, more than anything because I’d previously signed up to the gym at university, handing over £120 annual membership in my Freshers’ Week. To 99.9% of people this would be a good deal. Guess how many times I frequented the gym in one year?


Yes, that’s right, twice. Both times to use the pool. And one of those times was because Alice got a little tipsy one evening and convinced someone she barely knew to go swimming the next day. It was both incredibly awkward and with a headache incredibly not fun. I suppose you could count the time I went to the gym induction. Oh yeah, went to an induction on how to use the gym equipment but then walked out with this new found knowledge never to return again. Who does that? Oh wait, ME!

Simply put, I had a deep rooted fears I would bail again on this gym in Swindon. This time though I double checked the money would leave my account every month so that I was reminded of my responsibility to commit to this. Money on the table, cheeky corporate discount applied, I signed up. First thought after clicking ‘submit’, “shoot, I’m actually going to have to go to this place now”.

First day and I think both my friends will agree I was completely clueless on what to do. I was only one rung of the ladder up from Homer…

I did not know where to go or what to do and I was wearing gym clothing bought about a year ago (I have a theory that goes if you buy the equipment, your body will do the rest. If you buy the textbooks, the essay will magically write itself; if you buy the sports gear, you’ll magically lose weight overnight. It is a theory that has yet to be proven true).

Where to look was also a source of confusion. I mean in the gym the men either look like this:


Or this:


Or this:


I mean not that I have anything against any of these sort of guys, but in my gym they’re never…




In the space of five minutes I felt every stereotype and expectation I had come to build up in my mind turn to sweaty ash before my eyes. I was in a very good mind to write a strongly worded open letter to the advertising industry.

That said, since joining the gym I spend less time fussing about the lack of eye candy and more time in female dominated classes, (in the words of one family member “you don’t get many guys attending Zumba classes, those that do are a bit more, you know, theatrical”). However pushing my body to its limits has, well, it’s limits. After four weeks of intense aerobics classes and prolonged periods on cardio machines something had to give (literally). On Wednesday my knees were absolutely knackered.

Despite the pain and genuine concern I had, I was also a little bit chuffed. I’d never had a sporting injury before! Sure, I’d given myself stitches stretching to get crisps and there was that time I fell face first onto the ice on a school trip, spraining my wrist and bringing half the class down with me, but this was a proper minor injury.

I Googled knee sprains and from the information I could find I made the balanced decision that I wasn’t going to die. Giddy from the excitement of a) knowing I wasn’t going to die and b) realising I wasn’t doing this for a laugh, I was a health freak with an injury, I started doing crazy stuff like buying vitamins with fancy names like glucosamine and Ebay-ing joint supports.


(I’m aware in that photo it looks like my knee has taken a liking to the model in the photo. Wouldn’t blame it, that’s one nice looking knee.)

Pain kicked in though so I dug around in my limited medicine drawer to find this. A product that I never, ever, thought I’d end up using.


It’s like the cold sore cream Mumma Bennett made me buy before University “you won’t ever need this, but it’ll be nice to know you have it.” Never used it. Actually I think I still might have it…expiry dates don’t matter on drugs right?

The next problem with the heat cream was how the heck was I meant to apply it. Unsure, I decided on two very different approaches, the hope being one of the two ways must work.

If you can’t be bothered to watch the video, right knee got the dotted treatment:


The left knee got the smiley face treatment.


(By the time I took the photo I had wiped the hat off. It didn’t suit the smiley face’s style)

This didn’t really work so I tried the new fangled method of rubbing the cream in. Seemed like a good decision at the time. I put a hot water bottle on my knees and relaxed with a tea to watch The Apprentice. 20 seconds later I felt a tingling (not the good tingling like the feeling of Christmas or a puppy licking your hand). It was then that I very quickly realised I was burning. The hot water bottle had proceeded to leak boiling water on my knees and the cream I had applied using my hands had got into a burst blister (I was so hyped on my knees I hadn’t noticed this other sporting injury). Both my knees and my hand was burning. I yelped and jerked forward, spilling very hot tea all over my torso, the additional shock causing me to fall out of bed, whacking half my body on a floor covered with chargers and pens. I stumbled out to get tissue but upon re-entering my room I was hit by a wall of menthol. In my excited attempts to self heal I must have used more of the cream than recommended, because now my eyes were burning from the fumes. In the space of five minutes I had managed to turn one injury into six. If that isn’t talent I don’t know what is.

On the plus side, my knees are now fine.

All this and I only joined the gym a month ago. This is still very early days, who knows, I may even do another post on this later on looking back on my what I have/haven’t achieved (ok future me, now you HAVE to keep going at it!) Right noe though I’m determined to stay at this and get fitter, even if it kills me.

No seriously, keep the ambulance on speed dial.

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