I desperately want to get back to they gym this weekend! I couldn’t have imagined almost two decades ago that I would ever be harbouring such ‘healthy’ desires.
I formed a staunch dislike of sport from a young age. This was thanks to a series of useless school PE teachers who managed to drain every last element of pleasure out of any form of physical activity; especially for a kid like myself, 5’4″ with sloppy coordination and a desire to remain warm at all times. The teaching methods of PE lessons between the late-80s and the time I left school at the end of the 90s made me avoid any form of sport until my mid-twenties. Namely, doing cross-country in the pissing rain whilst wearing nothing more than white polyester gym shorts and a rugby shirt in the blue Buxton House colour, pretentious – but far from warm.
In retrospect I recall that two of my PE teachers often acted somewhat inappropriately; was it really necessary to stand watch by the showers? Didn’t have a towel? No problem, a single rough blue paper hand-towel was made available. It didn’t matter that I wanted to have a go on the rock-climbing wall or to stay indoors and play badminton. We all did rugby, myself included, regardless of the indisputable fact I was utterly crap at it and had no interest in being involved. My lasting memory of these lessons is being shouted at because I wasn’t clutching the other boys’ buttocks firmly-enough during a scrum. That, and a teacher showing us his pants in order to demonstrate that boxers would be an impractical form of underwear for playing hockey.
It was only when I left home, two-stone overweight with a rather poor complexion, that I found myself living directly next to a gym where I was able to approach exercise on my own terms. Eventually I came to love exercise, but I still needed outside motivations to actually get off my arse often enough to remind myself of that fact. I’m always better able to commit to things when I’m less able to avoid them. If I’ve made my intention public, promised to meet someone, paid in advance, or have a definite date and time in my calendar then I’ll be there. Without these things in place I simply remind myself all day of my intention to visit the gym in the evening. I’ll probably stop off at Marks & Spencer on the way home from work to pick up something unhealthy and comforting for dinner. ‘No problem’ I think, ‘I’ll burn off all those calories when I go to the gym later.’ Whilst cooking dinner I’ll spot that last drop of Chardonnay in the fridge door. ‘It would be a shame to let that go stale’ I think, ‘…and there’s only half a glass, it’ll be fine, just a few more calories to burn at the gym’. After enjoying dinner and finishing the wine, which was actually closer to a glass and half, I will still have just a little motivation for the gym. ‘Just need to grab my bag and get my trainers on… but I’d better scrub that baking tray before I go.’ You get the picture; with an hour before the gym closes I’m slumped in the armchair with HobNob crumbs around my mouth, feeling like a right old git. To quote from a Stephen Fry book, “The spirit, believe me, is willing, even though the flesh is a bin-liner full of yoghurt.”