Thursday, August 5, 2010

Running Away

So there I was, just a humble not-so young girl who likes cake and needs to run a few miles a week to keep the bits that could go podgy from doing so. Because there’s no way I’m giving up cake.

I needed a gym membership. Now I’ve moved around plenty, I’ve been a member of countless gyms. I should have known an evil, over-priced under-maintained gym from first whiff. But I was conned, duped, fooled into parting with – ouch - £500 a year.

A six foot lesbian showed me round Fitness First, waving to people as we toured. ‘Alright Pete?’ she said, smiling. ‘Going for a drink later?’ What a friendly place! Everyone knows everyone and they drink together! Where’s the dotted line, I thought, I’m not just going to keep in shape, I’m going to go drinking with Pete!

Little did I know Pete was a plant and big fat lesbian had no intention of drinking with him later, or ever.

The assault on my gullibility didn’t stop there. For your benefit, I’ll put in brackets the information she didn’t give me at the time.

‘Over here, we’ve got the steam rooms, sauna and ice room.’ (The steam room has never worked and we have no plans to fix it. The door doesn’t shut on the sauna, letting out vital hot air and aiding our carbon footprint.)

‘Girls changing rooms, plenty of space here.’ (Not at the times you’re planning to come, when there won’t be room to tie your shoelaces.)

‘Showers, free soap and shampoo dispensers.’ (The showers will take turns at being out of order, the soap will run out soon and don’t expect us to fill up the dispensers.)

‘Plenty of running machines. You can plug your headphones in and listen to any of our six channels.’ (You’ll mostly have to queue for the running machines and the volume control doesn’t work so it’s either silence or so deafening you can wave goodbye to hearing. Your membership fee alone would fix the problem, but we'd rather put that towards opening another gym.)

‘I mentioned the six channels. We’ve got Sky Sports, MTV, E4, the History Channel. (We’ll play local news on every channel, on a loop.)

‘Here’s the stretching area. Plenty of gym balls and weights.’ (The number of gym balls available here will slowly decrease, we won’t replace popped ones. Soon you’ll be fighting over the final one, and it won’t be the right size for you.)

I’m thoroughly against an escalator taking you into a gym. Surely the last place you need an escalator is on your way to exercise, but lo, Fitness First has one. (This will mostly be broken. Because we know how weird it feels to walk up a broken escalator. Just somehow different to stairs, isn’t it? Always that risk element that it might start while you’re on it, sending you arse over tit.)

Ignorant to all the information here bracketed, I signed up. And for two years, every exercise routine was endured through gritted teeth. Paula Radcliffe suggests you count to thirty while running, to take your mind off running. I’ve got my own method. I count all the things that annoy me about Fitness First.

Sometimes I left comment cards. They did nothing. Most of the time I gave nothing but a cheery smile to the receptionist, with their fake nails and Americanised training which has them greet me by name: ‘Hello Kimberley, enjoy your workout.’

No! No I will not! You don’t know me, don’t use my name. And I will not enjoy my workout because I’m here under duress. I only exercise so I can eat cake, and I’m only here because your small-print committing me to 18 months minimum was so small I missed it. Now go fix your escalator and leave me in peace.

I’ve never said that to a receptionist. And now my contract is up and I’m leaving. There’s a new gym just opened up around the corner and I’ve got a brand new company to make a silent list about.

You know what? I think all this inner fury has me burning more calories than the happy people all around me. Maybe I shouldn’t leave after all.


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