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Day four

November 4, 2016

What an action packed (by my recent standards) day I have coming up. A gym orientation session at 1pm and a haircut at 3pm. Both the result of my birthday appeal. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, dear friends. Perhaps I will pick up a bottle of prosecco, too.

The gym is a daunting prospect. Exercise may be good for you in general and for depression in particular, but, god, it’s boring. The treadmill I can just about take (with the help of music playing on my mp3 player (charged up yesterday) and the exercise bike is okay, I suppose, but the weighted machines? Oh, god, spare me.

Last year I noticed that Zumba classes were offered at the gym twice a week. Zumba, I thought. Hmm. That might be a form of exercise I would actually enjoy. There was only one hitch: the classes were at 9am on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Seriously? Yes, I know there are morning people, people who are up at the crack of dawn (or earlier in the winter), people who sing in the shower in the morning, overflowing with the joys of life. I am not one of those people. Still, it could be worse. It could be 8am. I can do this, I thought. So I bought a strip of eight tickets. I used four of them. Yes, the class was fun (and would be more fun when I got the knack of co-ordinating the arm and feet movements), but I’m just not a morning person. The class started at the time I normally get up, which meant making an effort to get to sleep earlier and be up and out the door before I was normally having my coffee. Why, oh why, oh why couldn’t the damn Zumba class be at 10am? I gave up.

I’m sure, if I tried (and if there were limitless options available on the island) I could find some form of physical activity that I actually enjoyed. I did Pilates for a while when I was living back in London. That wasn’t too bad, but it probably doesn’t count. (I should check.) I also did some salsa classes and those I really enjoyed. But running (oh, ha, ha, let’s be honest – walking) on a treadmill for half an hour? Yeah, as I said, it’s okay with music.

Why am I paying to go for a walk? Couldn’t I do that for free? Well, yes, dear reader, in theory I could. Perhaps not at this rainy time of year, but, yes, I could. I’ve known since the last time that exercise would be good for depression (and therefore me), but have I been going for walks? No, I haven’t. Have I been telling myself I should go for a walk? Yes, I have. Have I sworn to myself, as I read in bed at night that tomorrow I would go for a walk? Yes, I have. Did I go for that walk? No, I didn’t. Walking in a forest or a park is just too damned lonely. It’s the sort of thing you should be doing with someone else. You may not work up a sweat, but that’s the way it should be. Once a year, on New Year’s Day, I drag myself off the sofa, out of the house and drive down to Drumbeg for a walk. It’s a tradition. Mike and I always went for a walk at Drumbeg on New Year’s Day. (Of course, we went down there a lot more regularly than that, but apparently I can only manage one memorial walk a year.)

I blame gym teachers. Seriously? You’re going to make us run around the track again, so I can be the last one across the finish line by a country mile again? Oh, goodie. Seriously? You’re going to make us do gymnastics again, so I can be a completely hopeless laughing stock again? Oh, goodie. Basketball? Netball? Field hockey? Oh, goodie. I love people smirking contemptuously at me. It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.

Back in the 1990s, when I was working on toxics – specifically the growing body of scientific evidence linking hormone mimicking chemicals with numerous ailments, including breast cancer – I was asked to attend a roundtable discussion on women’s health. The Vancouver Women’s Health Collective was putting together a proposal for Vancouver to be one of the cities chosen by the federal government to set up a centre of excellence for women’s health. One of the women at the roundtable lamented the fact that so few teenage girls seemed to continue with exercise after they finished secondary school. I could tell just by looking at her that she’d been a gym teacher. (Trust me, there’s a type. You can always spot them.) With considerable satisfaction I looked at her and said, “I blame gym teachers. They simply refuse to admit that some students are not athletic, have no aptitude for sports and will never enjoy being embarrassed in front of their peers. Why not offer them less competitive options like dance classes or aerobics?” I am (after all these years, I confess, inordinately) pleased to say she did look rather abashed.

Also back in the 1990s, a friend of mine (who eventually became an instructor herself) got me going to aerobics classes. It was easy. The classes were held in the gym of the local secondary school, which was a two minute walk from my house (and a six minute walk from the Greenpeace office, so I could even do some lunchtime classes). It was completely non-competitive. Yes, the keeners could line up at the front and jump as high as they wanted, but there was no shame in being (like me) one of the people in the row at the back, keeping up as best they could. I remember thinking then: Why the hell don’t they do aerobics classes in school? Why do gym classes have to be so bloody competitive?

Oh, and by the way, Ms Annoying Gym Teacher, for your information, I suspect most teenage girls do plenty of exercise after they leave school. You may not approve of it, but the sex and drugs and (dancing to) rock and roll regime keeps you plenty fit.

Bloody hell, a Down on Gym rant probably isn’t the best way to start the day that I’m going for my gym orientation. Or perhaps it is. Now that I’ve got all that bile out of my system, I can go with an open mind.

Actual gym regime will start on Monday. (It was a birthday present, after all.) Thanks to my friend in the UK, I have enough money for an annual membership. A year? Yikes. Hopefully after six weeks the routine will become habit. Who knows? I may even start to enjoy it (despite the lack of sex and drugs and rock and roll). Wish me luck.

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