Until three weeks ago, I’d never set foot in a gym. In fact, I hadn’t been regularly active for over a decade. But with my first personal training session booked, I got on the bus, adorned in my carefully selected gym attire. The cheapest pair of trainers I could find in the first sports shop I could find. A pair of tracksuit bottoms. And a brand new t-shirt I’d selected to be unnecessarily large so as to attempt in vain to hide my ever growing belly. I chose an Adidas t-shirt – with a vague memory that they had something to do with sport – so everyone would know I was super serious about my new fitness regime.
I arrive intentionally 15 minutes early, to scout things out and for a compulsory pre-workout cigarette. As I’m rolling my cigarette I look into the gym windows. Good Christ. Windows should be banned on gyms. They should be like sex shops, with blacked out windows and a seedy entrance round the back where people shadily shuffle in. That way the general public’s idea of the gym wouldn’t be just rows and rows of unbelievably huge men with strained faces lifting large weights that should be well beyond human capacity. It might make the whole first impression be just a little less intimidating.
I stub my cigarette out and walk inside. After fumbling for a while with the entrance keypad and nearly getting stuck in the strange door mechanism, I sit down in the foyer and await my fate with my new personal trainer.
She takes me into a small room and takes my height and weight. Sadly, my attempts to hide my physical anxieties were foiled at the first hurdle – my carefully selected t-shirt that would hide my body can’t deceive the scales. Worse still, apparently these aren’t your ordinary scales. These are somehow imbued with witchcraft, as my new trainer kindly tells me that actually my biggest problem isn’t my body fat – reassuring at first – but rather the substantial fat surrounding my organs. Who knows how the magic scales can tell this, and who knew I’d be coming out of my first session with a brand new thing to be paranoid about? Life’s just a roller coaster of treat after treat.
After my new terrifying medical diagnosis (presumably having layers of fat around your organs is not a good thing) she throws me onto a cross trainer to start off. Two minutes we’re doing. Easy. I can do that. No problem. Once I feel like I’ve got into the rhythm, my trainer politely tells me that I should be pedalling forwards, not backwards.
Having nailed going in the right direction, we move onto other things – starting with squats. We run through a few sets (I’m learning all the lingo), and I start to think that this isn’t so bad after all. I can do this fitness lark. There’s nothing to worry about.
Then we walk over to a different area, and I realise my legs have turned entirely to jelly, and I’m on the verge of keeling over. Luckily my trainer is walking in front of me, so she can’t see that I’m teetering on collapse. I steel myself as we move onto something else.
The rest of the session continues much in the same vein. And with each exercise, it becomes more and more painful, and I’m more and more breathless. At various points, my trainer helps me finish a set by basically doing all the work for me. But we make it through in the end, finishing first with some planks – which I’m convinced have no fitness benefit whatsoever and are solely designed as a modern form of torture (I managed 30 seconds, 21 seconds and 11 seconds – an achievement I assume is fairly pathetic). And then three long, arduous minutes on a rowing machine. Three minutes sounds like nothing of course. But after 50 minutes of more exercise than I’ve done in at least the last year combined, it’s the equivalent of dousing your thighs in paraffin and throwing a lit match on them.
We’re through. We’re done – I’m thinking. Oh boy, was I wrong. I’m then told that I have to do some stretches. I’ve always thought the whole ‘you need to stretch after exercise’ thing was basically nonsense. But now I realised that it can also be total agony.
It got even worse after that. My trainer said two words I’d been dreading: “food diary”. Images flicker in my mind. The three take-aways a week. The 150 gram bags of Kettle Chips I eat as a pre-dinner snack (or the similarly sized bags of Walkers lime and coriander chutney poppadoms – which are divine). The two cans of soup with three white bread rolls for lunch. The thought of writing all of that down and sending it to someone who’s Instagram feed is filled with early morning smoothies made my whole soul cringe.
And with that, we really are done in the gym. But as I leave to walk to the bus stop, my whole body feels like it’s imploding in on itself. So much for that good feeling you get from exercise. Maybe the second week will be better?
Image credit: Snehalkanodia — WikiMedia Commons