Thursday nights are gym night. That is of course, as long as I can be arsed. It is very much dependent on the day I am having whether or not I will actually venture forth through the biting cold or freezing rain to the small, brightly lit leisure centre tucked round the back of the local sixth form. For example if I have had a particularly tiresome shift at work (all of three hours) or have spent the day cleaning the house (half cleaning, half drinking tea, watching TV) a trip to the gym is immediately off the cards. On the off chance that I am actually up for a gym session, I contact my personal friend and gym buddy Harvey, to enquire whether he would also like to punish himself in a garishly lit, soulless room, in a pitiful attempt to add the mealiest layer of muscle to our chicken like arms and legs.
The trips to the gym are always the same, dressed in my faded and slightly too short trackies, which from an unfortunate accident involving a upturned bottle of bleach, are now dyed red at the bottoms. I clank my way down the residential back road leading to the sixth form, the over packed shopping bag of empty glass bottles straining in my grip. There seems to be only one bottle bank in the whole of the town and it lies en route to the leisure centre. It is located at the rear of a car park, which sits opposite the gym. As I navigate my way between the stationary cars, Harvey reminds me of the early evening car park dwellers. These super dry clad hoodlums with their pink shirts and trademark faded jeans sit side by side in their cars, comparing each other’s revs and penis size, pumping grimy dubstep on their rear sub whoopers. Concealing a grin, we dump the bottles and make out way out of the car park to the leisure centre, an extremely ugly building that is half shed, half brick.
We are greeted as ever by the super friendly kid at the desk, who tuts and rolls his eyes every time we so much as try to enquire about something or other. Once our two pounds have been exchanged for a key to the gym, we enter the male changing rooms. As usual our collective nostrils are subjected to the lingering, rank odour of sweaty B.O and we make haste stowing our jumpers and phones, so as to escape the festering hellhole. On our way past the sports hall we glimpse the blurred, frantic movement of flabby bodies, accompanied to the usual musical score of crappy chart songs. The fitness instructor bellows encouragement at the red-faced dancers, who smile weakly, in a feeble attempt to force themselves to enjoy it.
There is still a faint whiff of stale body odour in the gym itself but at least a couple of the windows are open to lessen the stench. Harvey and I joke about fighting for the machines because there are only two other people in there. An old man on the weight machines (who for some reason is wearing a waistcoat) and a young woman on one of the running machines (so thin that if she tripped and fell her ankle would probably snap in half). As I carry out my warm up exercises I curse myself for not bringing a music player. Now I have no choice but to listen to and occasionally watch with a look of horror, the nightly showing of ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’ on the gym TV screens. Kim is crying because she has lost one of her most expensive earrings in the ocean. First world problems. Here I am trying to figure out how I am going to live off a tenner for a week and these bozos are complaining that two mansions just simply aren’t enough. I glance around the airless room and wonder what the world would be like if this was the only way one could exercise, if there were no bikes, rowing boats or jogging paths but simply synthetic versions. I shudder at the thought and yet I do not stop. I continue to run on my virtual path, when there is a whole world outside at my feet. I’d love to say I have a valid reason for choosing a stuffy, industrial, four-walled box over a forest path or a winding river but the reality is I am a lazy exerciser. And besides it is dark and cold outside.
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