Fat to Fit · Fitness

Suck it up, buttercup

My first few trips to the gym this week were, well, an epic.

I must be the only person I know who can get lost twice on the way out of the changing room. Seriously. I ended up in the toilets and then by the poolside, both of which were more appealing than actually getting my bum in gear on the gym floor.

The best thing is, that’s not even the beginning of it.

I started my day on Thursday pretty successfully: I dropped the little one off at nursery, packed my gym bag, and rang a taxi (I was running later than I had hoped) to get there. I had spent the evening before hunting high and low for my gym membership card and realised that, after two years of total non-use, it had probably upped and taken itself to therapy because it wasn’t fulfilling its life’s purpose and had never experienced a simple scan of its barcode.

£6 in a taxi. £6 for a replacement card. £22.50 in TK Maxx on a pair of capri pants that didn’t make me look like a watermelon in a tubigrip.

This getting fit thing is certainly making me lose the pounds, anyway.

And then I got lost. Twice.

But do you know what? I’m a pretty determined wee bugger. I made it. I got on a treadmill and walked briskly for half an hour because I was too terrified to break into a jog and see my jiggly bits jiggle in the mirrors which appeared to be everyfuckingwhere.

The entire time, I picked up on every grammatical error and mis-heard word in the subtitles of Bargain Hunt and berated myself for not bringing headphones. I knew I had been too self-congratulatory about remembering the pound coin for the locker. Win some…

Once I was suitably warmed up with the walking, I braved the weight machines.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I did the induction which was required upon joining the gym. The problem was that my induction was over 19 months ago, and I had forgotten pretty much everything that the guy had told me. I suppose I could have asked nicely for another one, but I knew that the gym I am in deemed this “personal training” and charged me an exorbitant amount of cash for the knowledge. Cash which I had already spent on these rather lush capri pants, which were currently hugging my slightly sweaty bum.

I also could have manned up and asked someone else in the gym to show me where to start, but it was a Thursday morning in a posh private gym, and the only other people there were serious fitness fans. There was more grunting going on in the free-weights area than at a swingers party. I won’t lie: for the first time in forever I was intimidated, and I don’t intimidate easily. These guys – these very ripped, tiny-tank-topped guys who aren’t distracting me at all not even one tiny bit not at all promise miss – don’t come here to help Muffintop Magoo here kill herself on the lightest weight setting of the bicep curl machine.


Instead, I sashayed my new capri pants to the nearest machine, and stood surreptitiously drinking water while peering sideways at the helpful label telling me what to do.

I established quickly that – frankly – those stickers are nonsense. They all pretty much say: sit on machine. Adjust various bits of machine. Do exercise and breathe out. Release and breathe in.

Yes, sticker, but how do I adjust the seat, or find that lever which moves the weight out of the way to let me get into it? And it’s all very well breathing out, but I’m moving in entirely the wrong way.

So, here’s pretty much how my entire weight section of the workout went down.

Approach the machine with the sippy-water-sideways-glance technique and try to scan the helpful pictorial.

Attempt to clamber into the machine, in its closed position, which in the case of one machine involved trying to contort my body into three angles at once to fit my lower legs between two bars. Eh. Right.

Realise that every other person in the gym is a beast, and as such, the weight is inevitably on the heaviest setting, and the seat/back pad/reach is set for a 6ft tall, 5ft wide bloke. However, since the knowledge of how to adjust said machine is absent, deal with this as best you can. Suck it up, buttercup.

Move weight to lightest. Try exercise once. Feel gallus. Move weight up. Try exercise once. Feel gallus. Move weight up. Try exercise once, nearly fucking die and move weight back.

Ten reps. Five reps in, realise that you’re holding your breath.


Climb out of machine by reversing whichever godforsaken routine you used to get in (in one case, hands on the floor and shimmy legs out) because in spite of scanning the machine during exercise the lever to let you in and out still eludes you.

Wipe awkward bum-crack-sweat-mark off the seat with blue roll.

Sashay to next machine. Repeat.

Honestly, I was never so grateful to go and do 20 lengths of the pool and get a jacuzzi. At least I know what I’m doing in there.

But do you know what? I went back. Twice more in the following three days. It turns out my determination is a lot better than my stamina, and my ability to ask for help. Maybe by watching enough people during my warm-up walks I’ll start to spot where those levers and adjusters are.

I can understand, though, why people find gyms intimidating. The culture and the people there are generally not like me which is a great mark of success for the gym, really, and the lifestyle…but daunting as hell for new people like me. The equipment is really hard to get your head around, and I just have images of ending up in one of these “What the fuck are you doing” gym-shaming videos which do the viral rounds on social media these days for completely ballsing something up. I took my friend’s advice and tried a bit of HIIT cardio as part of my third workout and nearly collapsed at the end of a treadmill after two intervals.

In spite of it all, though, I want to get to that point where I’m comfortable in my own skin.

Legs Bums and Tums, workout and a swim it is tomorrow then. Wish me luck…

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