Gym Etiquette: Nudey-a-no-no

When I go to the gym, it’s usually under duress. I’m either there because I can’t run outside (ice, ice, baby) or because the boiler’s broken and I need a shower. So, y’see, I’m usually not in the greatest form when I’m there. Especially at Stupid O’Clock in the morning, when the sun is low on the horizon, pale and watery like the semi-skimmed milk in my coffee. The last thing I want to see is someone’s arse.

There I was, on a dull Wednesday morning, going from the shower to my locker wrapped up in a big fluffy towel and this lady in her fifties walks past me into a shower cubicle in the nip. I mean completely in the nip. I quite honestly did not know where to look. I ended up looking at the ceiling, actually. I pretended I was stretching my neck. Yeah, I know, some pretty nifty thinking on my feet from me there! I went back to my locker to practice the fine art of getting-dressed-without-ever-taking-the-towel-off and wandered over to the hair dryers and there she was! Walking around AIR DRYING! “Maybe she’s forgotten her towel” I thought. “Maybe she’s from a nudey colony.” Although, you think you’d notice one of those around the place. Then I thought. “Well maybe she’s doing it to deliberately freak me out.” Because I get paranoid when I’m uncomfortable.

I get very, very uncomfortable around nudity and I know I’m not the only one. A very unscientific ask-around my office one lunchtime (my timing is nothing if not impeccable) revealed a similar attitude (if not quite as extreme as mine). A similarly unscientific Twitter ask-around revealed that lots of people (mostly men, not surprisingly) are perfectly fine with it. In fact, it seems to be a feature of most male locker rooms. And now I’m very uncomfortable again…

Sometimes the answer seems to lie with the fact that I’m Irish. I went on holidays with two girl friends to Northern Italy when we were but students. We stayed in those youth hostel campsites you find all over Central Europe. The three of us would creep into the communal shower rooms at the crack of 11am, checking furtively around corners to see if there was anyone around before whipping off our towels to reveal… our swimming togs. Other girls hailing from Germany, Spain, France used to walk around topless. Dry their hair topless, tie their shoelaces topless. We were absolutely mortified, almost every time we had a shower. But those girls didn’t give a shit. I envied them their confidence but never felt the need to take them as role models. I’m just too much of a prude.

I often wonder why I’m so prudish… and then I get embarrassed thinking about it so I stop. I can’t see myself becoming any more comfortable with it in the near future. Looks like I’m going to have to stretch out my neck muscles a whole lot more in that locker room!

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Run Fat Girl, Run!

Exercise: for some people it is a way of life, an avenue of relief from the stresses and strains of modern day life. For the rest of us, it is the stress and strain of a modern day life. In this modern world of airbrushing and Arnold Schwarzenneger being Governor of California (irrelevant but still baffling), we are expected to be healthy and fit and you’re a failure if you’re not. You’ll also die a lot younger, which has me slightly worried.

I am not someone who enjoys pushing my body to its physical limit. No joy for me in the sweaty aftermath of a gruelling workout session. I can’t even make it up an escalator without breaking a sweat. Yeah, it’s freaking tragic how unfit I am. Bottom line-I need to get fit or I will become obese and whale-like. Also, if I exercise, I can eat more. Fact.

It can often take an hour or two’s internal dialogue to get me off the couch to walk across to the shop for a Galaxy Cookie Crumble. Bearing this in mind, imagine the mammoth amount of motivation and inspiration needed to get me into sweat pants and runners and out the front door. First of all, none of that gear is, in any way, flattering. This is actually something I am trying to use to my advantage. Putting on those godawful legging yokes is like a massive kick up the arse in itself because oh. Good. God. I feel sorry for anyone who has to actually look at me in these. I’m not fat but I acknowledge that I need to tone up and these leggings are the perfect reason to initiate that process. Manky.

Second of all, it’s hard work ! It’s not that I’m lazy (open to contradiction on that one though), it’s just that I prefer to spend my free time relaxing and eating. Alright, mostly eating. As a teenager, I had an extraordinarily high metabolism which resulted in me eating like a horse and resembling a wire hanger. Unfortunately, I developed some (ahem) bad eating habits during this time of physical invincibility.

All of this procrastination (it’s my way of life) leads me to Sunday. I was lying on the couch, lazing away and tweeting “I’m soooo lazy. There’s a little part of me that wants to go for a run but the larger part of me (my ass) wants to stay on the couch.” This provoked a response from a fellow twittererer…er, @brianch telling me to “HTFU!” This verbal abuse got me thinking. Yes, I could clean the kitchen in a bid to avoid it (which I did, incidentally) or I could harden the fuck up and go for a run! It’s not like it was going to kill me or anything…

On with the leggings, those hideous sausage casings. On with the runners and the tshirt that doesn’t quite cover the top of the leggings when I run. On with the iPhone app that tells me when to warm up, when to run, when to walk and when to cool down. I have to say, if it hadn’t been for that app, I would probably still be on the couch. Out the door with me and the first thing that hit me was the heat. It wasn’t the nice, dry kind of heat either, oh no. It was that sticky, disgusting, oppressive heat, but I thought to myself, that’s four flights of stairs you’re not going back up. Yes, I’m so lazy I’ll exercise to avoid the stairs. Go figure.

I set off and followed the instructions of the nice lady on the app. “Run for a bitín there” she says. “Take it handy for a minute or two now” says she, later on-or words to those effects. I have to say, I was pretty proud of myself. I was running! I don’t usually run unless being chased. I was so proud of myself, in fact, that I started to get a bit cocky. I was running for one minute, walking for a minute and a half, until I had built up to eight minutes of running. I was on my second last run when I decided to really go for it. I pegged it up the road for a good sixty seconds, flat out sprinting! What the hell was I thinking? By the time App Lady had uttered the words “You will run for ten more seconds” I was audibly telling her to go fuck herself-so loudly, in fact, that an Asian couple walking past got a wee fright.

By the time I had reached my front door, I was pretty sure I was going to die. I’m not exaggerating. I thought I’d punctured a lung or something. And it’s not as if when you’ve finished humiliating yourself publicly and damaged yourself mentally that it’s over, oh no! There’s stretches. Stretches for muscles I don’t even want to talk about (*groin* eeew). I was the colour of freshly ripened tomotoes at the end of it all. Don’t anyone ever try to convince you that going for a run in the morning is a good idea, by the way. I was that colour for hours. It was terrifying, frankly. Why would anyone willingly put themselves through that?

Because of the App Lady, because she’s challenging me and I love a good challenge.  Despite all my whinging and my moaning and my complaining, I felt really good after the run on Sunday. I was more relaxed, I slept better than I have in a long time (my other, life-controlling Sleep App told me this on Monday morning). I rediscovered muscles I’d forgotten I had. Maybe I do like the sweaty aftermath of a workout (eew, no, that bit was gross). Maybe I do enjoy pushing my body to its physical limit-it’s not a very long way, in fairness.

I find myself wanting to see where this is going. According to the App Lady, it’s going towards 5km in nine weeks. All I have to do, in the meantime, is harden the fuck up! I’d like to see me try.

It’s How You Get There That Counts

Another beautiful morning on public transport in which I publicly humiliated myself. There’s a bend just after my bus stop that is not to be faced lightly. You must ensure that you are seated and steady when approaching. The amount of times gravity has had its wicked way as I have been making my way to a seat and swung my handbag into the face of an innocent fellow passenger… So I’ve learned my lesson-or at least you’d think I have-never get caught standing on the upper deck at that particular point of the journey. This morning, however, the lower deck filled up stupendously. The posh-lady-announcement came over the speaker, “Seats are available on the upper deck”. So off I go, on my merry way, up the bleedin’ stairs, to find that the only seat available on the upper deck was in the middle of the back seat. Anyone who ever got a school bus will understand what I was going through at that point. Also, not one woman among them. I gingerly made my way to the back seat but alas! we had reached the dreaded bend! As I swung myself around to sit down, the bus swung itself the other way and gravity had a bit of a laugh (as well as everyone else withing gawking distance). I tried in vain to counteract the effects of the swinging but the most I could do was avoid plonking myself on some unfortunate man’s lap! What he got instead was a face full of boob. If I didn’t know where to look, I think it’s safe to say that he did. I sat down (eventually) and giggled. Yes, I giggled, like a teenage girl. It’s something about the back seat of the bus, it turns me into a teenager.

I can’t wait to see what the journey holds for me this evening. Never a dull moment on the London transport network…