The second time is bound to be easier than the first, right? Wrong.
After my painful and unpleasant first gym session, the following week I was filled with confidence. I’d got over the psychological barrier of actually setting foot in a gym. I’d finished one full workout. I’d persevered through the agony of the following days’ DOMS. I could do anything.
We started off the second session as we ended the first. A short stint on the rowing machine. So far so good. My trainer diplomatically tells me that my food diary “isn’t the best she’s seen”, before we move on to some surprisingly challenging jumping exercise. Who knew jumping could be so difficult? Of all the things I thought I’d struggle with – jumping wasn’t one of them. But apparently I did.
We move on to various other things with varying degrees of pain. And then we move onto something I vaguely remember from my childhood. We used to do it as part of warm ups before practice and matches when I briefly played in a football team. Walking lunges. Simple and straight forward. Sure, you might look like you’re in an outtake of Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks, but it’s nothing challenging. I’m blasé when my trainer tells me “this is one of the only exercises that often makes even me feel sick”.
One set through and I’m feeling just like Mark Corrigan does moments into a light jog. “An idiotic boob”. Thighs burning, gasping for air, we power through the following two sets.
We take a seat on some piece of gym equipment that I have no memory of. While resting, my trainer asks me where I would put myself on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is totally fine and 10 is going to be sick. I confidently give myself a 7 while holding my stomach, frantically swigging water and gulping for air. Moments later I tell her that I am in fact going to be sick, and run awkwardly toward the changing room, my legs buckling slightly as I go.
I fling myself rapidly into the cubicle. And then it comes. An ungodly wretch, as my body discards the litre or so of water I’d thrown down me in the last half our or so. Christ. My brain is working on overdrive, cascading thoughts around like a pinball. All the totally irrational and totally fucking wild thoughts you get when in a state of panic.
It settles abruptly on Andrew Marr. Two weeks prior I’d read Jason Williams of Sleaford Mods’ latest book. In it, he talks about his mind obsessing on Andrew Marr “doing that extra tug on the rowing machine”. That thought plants itself in my brain. Fuck – this is the end. Twenty-seven years old, trying to get my act together and it’s all going to come to an end on the slightly unsanitary toilet floor of a PureGym.
No sooner had that thought cemented itself than the second heave came. Specks of the morning’s strawberry granola (I’m trying already you see) splatter. This time it’s Mark Renton in Trainspotting. The image of him careering off the treadmill hits me suddenly, and the third heave arrives just on cue.
After the third, I hit that point when your body lets you know it’s finished. You feel that strange mixture of exhaustion, euphoria, embarrassment and relief. I pick myself up off my knees, and head to the sinks to clean myself off. Looking in the mirror, I can see that I’m pasty and shattered.
I head back outside, and my trainer asks me how I’m doing. I tell her casually that I threw up three times. She sighs, smiles and walks downstairs to get me some gum.
When she’s back she asks if I want to call it a day and talk about food, or whether we can do some light exercises for the rest of the session. We do food first – hoping at least this would be some respite.
Sadly, the news wasn’t good.
First things first, it’s an end to white bread, pasta and rice. I’ve long been of the view that people have got the idiom wrong. It should be that something is the “greatest thing since sliced white bread”. Alas, joyful, tasty, white bread, rice and pasta are out. Gritty, miserable brown bread, rice and pasta are in.
From the rest my disappointing food diary pastries have got to go to. As do most of my breakfasts, including – to my surprise – granola. It wasn’t worth bothering after all. We dodge the subject of the takeaway pizza or the two sides I had with my yaki soba when eating out that week.
We finish off the session with a few simpler things, none of which unsettle my stomach again. As I’m doing the warm down stretches, she promises me we won’t try the deathly walking lunges again for a while.
Later that day, I get an email with her meal suggestions. I don’t remember feeling this uninspired since Ed Miliband was leader of the Labour Party. I make myself wholemeal pasta for dinner, and decide that tomorrow’s breakfast is a banana pancake as that somehow sneaked onto her list.
Image credit: Channel 4 – YouTube Screengrab