Many humans during this month of January will find themselves in the gym, motivated by shame, insecurity, existential guilt and paralysing self-doubt.
Others will be getting a head start on their summer bodies: I must admit, a pretty alien concept to me. I did ‘get big’ once- for Yacht Week Croatia in 2010- but, after failing to sleep with anyone, I never bothered again. Now If people ask me why I’m so skinny or why I don’t look like my brother I just say it’s because I have diabetes- unless it’s a sexy lady, in which case I tell her I have an overactive gland…If she knows what I mean. She never knows what I mean.
Since then I have been back to the gym around three times a year, enough to feel quite qualified on the subject. And, if like me, you like to prepare mentally for what lurks beneath in this most alien of worlds, I have summarised the different establishments, identified the likely-to-meet characters and distilled the often-conflicting ‘workout wisdom’ into digestible chunks that can be swallowed with your pre-work out shake.
Eat 3 meals a day. Eat 6 small meals a day. Don’t eat carbs. Starve yourself intermittently. Run after animals with no shoes on, eat their raw flesh with nuts and leaves, mimicking the hunter gatherer process of our prehistoric ancestors. Don’t eat after six. Eat the chocolate off a Kit-Kat at midnight and eat the wafer in the morning.
Basically, no one has a fucking clue. Just make sure you eat something, but avoid the mistake I made and don’t just eat monster munch (it doesn’t turn you into a monster).
Protein powder: Because chicken is expensive and harder to drink. Protein powder is to steroids what M-cat is to cocaine. It’s cheap, legal, and all the cocks at University are taking it. The only positive is that it makes you fart, releasing all the toxic gas you inhaled chatting to those gym gimps in between sets. That said, it’s a thumbs-up from me but only because I like vanilla, banana and chocolate.
“I love quinoa, it’s a superfood!”
“Not anymore, that was last year. Now its acai“
“Oh? What about bulgar?”
“As long as they pay tax and speak the language, I’ve got no problems with them.”
Steroids: Small penis, check. Temper tantrums, check, Anxiety, check. All the symptoms of steroids and I haven’t even taken any yet, nothing to lose right? But seriously, they are illegal. If that doesn’t stop you, just take a look at the kind of people that take them. Exactly. Think twice. (Then do them).
Creatine — No.
Not all gyms are created equal, and there are some differences you’ll need to take into consideration before parting with your hard-earned E-cash:
Grunter gym — No frills, for serious bodybuilders who want to put on serious size. Typically weights-centric, with an industrial warehouse type feel: corrugated iron, steel fixtures and no Jacuzzi. But even if there was you would not want to get in it. Do not come here to train for your triathlon. Of course I’d never dream of going to a gym like this, but once my brother paid me a tener to spot him for an hour. Expect…a lot of veins, shoulder dislocations, and tanned ex-body builders that kind of look like orange crocodile-skin handbags.
The ‘health club’ — This is a place of leisure, coffee, gossip, and maybe a couple of lengths of breast-stroke. Most people are here for the sauna/steam room, or to put their old Mercedes estate up for sale on the notice board. We get it, you are upgrading. Expect bored mums, racquet sports and tired kids being over-trained by overzealous parents trying to make up for their own athletic failures. Expect a business man having an affair with the twenty-two-year-old receptionist whilst he trains for the Ironman (that he has no intention of doing).
“Well the Audi is just so much more economical, which will come in handy for all the travelling when Tom makes the GB swimming team next month”
“Who are you talking to Anne?”
“The one tacked on to the end of the leisure centre”. — Expect, well, expect the kind of people you’d expect at a gym that cost 14.99 a month. Free spirits, kooks, those existing outside of the influence of social media: Referees, driving instructors, double glazing installers. They use muscles most of us don’t. Expect Tai Chi, Yoga for the over 60’s and exercises you have never seen before. Expect me.
The Nightclub — Dark, smoky and very loud dance music, this is the haunt of the Instagram fitness personalities and hollister staff. Whilst my gym kit consists mainly of t-shirts I’ve spilled tea over (and believe me, they are numerous), people put their best gear on to come here; the blokes wear aftershave and the girls put on make-up. Being ‘underdressed’ is not an insecurity I thought I’d face walking into the gym. Expect self-consciousness, a lot of people talking about getting shredded for Ibiza/Mykonos/Hideout festival, and a remix of a remix, likely Kesha or Rhianna.
The spinning class — Twenty pounds for a 45-minute spinning class seemed fucking reasonable to me until I found out you didn’t get to keep the bike, or the CD. I wonder what has to go wrong in your life for you to become a spinning teacher. Child abuse probably, or gout. The only positive I see is that you can essentially go for a massive bike ride and not end up miles away from your house. Beware, apparently it’s very addictive, and you don’t want to get caught in a vicious cycle. Or is that the point? Expect testicular cancer.
Yoga — as if we hadn’t fucked off the developing world enough.
Some people have met their life-long partners in the gym. Stay well away from these people. Keep yourself at least an arm’s length away from the offenders on this list too.
THE SOCIALIST — Avoid eye contact at all costs. He did all his work before you got there. Now he’s just hanging around, shooting the shit, high on endorphins and trying to find a ripped-to-shreds friend to go to the club with. Always vague about his job, he probably doesn’t have one. He knows the max weight everyone can lift in the gym despite half of them not even knowing his name. He helps people with their form even though they didn’t ask. Find him in the sauna or the steam room, staying well beyond the medically recommended time.
FITNESS CHICK OF INSTA — Somehow never breaks a sweat. Her hair and outfit is always immaculate and potentially sponsored. Her gym buddy films her exercises for her followers, as if it’s not the same exercises she does week-in-week-out. She is fully aware that although her Instagram looks like it's marketed for women’s fitness, 95% of her followers are men using it as soft-porn. I mean how many times a week do we need to see her doing squats? Everyday? Yes, please.
THE ACCOUNTANT — skinny arms, fat belly, bald, doesn’t give a fuck. Gym gear always 45 years out of date. Expect a holiday theme t-shirt from Gator Park, Florida 1982. He’s only here to catch a break from his wife and to position himself advantageously for when FITNESS CHICK and pal come in for their booty-centric workout, which is on Wednesdays, by the way. Apparently.
THE RETIREE — just had a stroke or his choir pal has just died. Either way, he’s in there because he’s scared he’s next. I don’t want to be the one to tell him that lifting those 5kg dumb-bells aren’t going to stave off the grim reaper. My advice? Go and do something you enjoy, golf, gardening, racism, whatever– no one wants you to die on the rowing machine. Not least because they’ll have to close the gym for the rest of the day.
THE BLACK GUY — pretty much the whole gym watches him as he trains because he is fucking hench. Whilst he does his sets, hear everyone whispering about his body fat to muscle ratio. Observe beta males shimmy up to him and compliment him on his genetics as if it’s nothing to do with his dedication in the gym. Please, just leave him alone.
With the mental preparations covered, all that’s left is the exercise, and if you thought that I was going to give you any insight into that, you’ve either never read this blog before, or you’ve no idea what I look like. If, like me, you are still hesitant, my advice would be to stay indoors, and wait for this whole fitness craze to blow over. And if you are still nervous about getting that body out this summer, just remember that Tom Hanks has diabetes too.