Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 13th 2014 Contents B9
Thursday, November 13, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Recently the gym has been call-
ing and this week I finally obeyed
It wasn't easy. I may have come
home from Trinidad to people telling
me I'd lost weight but I knew the
doubles, Caribs and lazy weekends
had me less fit than I've ever been.
After two sessions at a gym here
in London I can confirm I am scarily
I used to be so athletic that phys-
ical exercise required no thought or
effort. It wasn't a decision---running
around or remaining sedentary---
whenever the opportunity arose I
would run, kick, throw, hit, catch...
It was second nature.
Last weekend, my brother-in-law
completed a coastal half marathon
in just over two hours. Even imag-
ining running for two hours is caus-
ing me physical pain. I went on the
running machine for three kilometres
yesterday and thought my life was
about to end.
I slowed the machine down to a
walking pace, wiped the sweat from
my eyes and dismounted to that
weird sensation that your legs are
still in motion and you have to stand
still to keep from falling over.
The gym is a parade ring for prize
bulls and cows: same in England or
Trinidad; dozens of eyes assessing
you, especially the muscular, half-
smiling men lifting weights so huge
that any attempt to lift them would
instantly kill me. What are they half-
smiling about, I've often wondered?
I guess I'll never know.
At the gym in Trinidad I went for
two reasons: spin class and Carnival.
I was determined to get rid of the
paunch for Carnival and I sort of
did. I loved spin class because there
was soca music pumping loud and
the instructors were entertaining
despite their sadism and because
the friendly supportive rapport
between the regular attendees was
nice to watch.
I would leave the gym physically
drained but mentally buoyant and
feel the sultry hit of the night air.
I'd walk home via the corn soup
stand on the Savannah and go as far
as my legs would take me before
hailing a taxi.
At my new London gym I turned
up for spin class on Monday and
realised, to my horror, that I was the
only man among 25 women.
"I can't do this," I thought, and
went out to the foyer to phone a
"This just feels wrong," I said,
"they'll all be looking at me thinking
why isn't he doing a more manly
As I hurriedly sneaked past the
now started class I stole a glance
and saw the room was in near dark-
ness with dark techno music playing.
I could just about make out the
chubby outlines of middle-aged
women pedalling away vigorously.
I can only assume the darkness was
to protect their dignity rather than
for cardiovascular reasons.
I decided a weights class would
be more masculine but when I
arrived the next day it was, again,
80 per cent women.
They seemed kind and, noticing
my awkwardness at walking in five
minutes late, offered me spare sets
of dumbbells, but the muscle-bound
fitness instructor had seen me enter
and gruffly told me I couldn't do
the class as I was late.
It was something of a relief in all
honesty, having seen the exercises
they were doing and the sweat
already dripping off them. I wan-
dered fairly aimlessly through the
gym for a while, occasionally stop-
ping to pretend to stretch, occasion-
ally picking up the lightest kettle
bell and awkwardly failing at an exer-
cise I had googled on my phone,
occasionally studying the industri-
al-looking machines and wondering
what they were for.
Finally my eyes alighted on the
"Ah," I thought, "rowing, the Boat
Race, the Henley Regatta, I'll take a
punt down an imaginary river..."
I tried to get in the flow, jerking
the handlebar towards my chest as
the rope whirred, the rotor buzzed
and the digital display chalked up
my distance travelled. I tried to block
out some appalling Ariana Grande
song playing on the TV screens but
I just couldn't visualise myself sailing
down the Thames, and that's when
it dawned on me, the reason I don't
like gyms: they're just not real!
Instead of cycling or climbing a
mountain or cross-country skiing,
you're pretending to do those things
on a simulator.
I thought joining the gym would
be a motivating factor; forcing my
hand in a way that optional activities
like football, swimming or running
don't do. But I've quickly realised
the gym too is optional and it's so
hideously intimidating I think I'll be
opting out pretty soon.
Gym is just not for me
The gym is a parade ring for prize bulls and
cows: same in England or Trinidad; dozens of
eyes assessing you, especially the muscular,
half-smiling men lifting weights so huge that
any attempt to lift them would instantly kill
me. What are they half-smiling about, I've
often wondered? I guess I'll never know.
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