Monday, July 26, 2010

Hakuna Tabata

Monday 26th July – Monday session Week 3 - Tabata/Boxing

Today’s trainer told us that she mixed Boxing with Tabata because “it can get a bit boring otherwise”. Needless to say at no point in the morning was I bored. We did some boxing stuff to start off, which was similar to the punchfit I have previously described. Only I noticed today that, almost straight into the running bits, my legs were starting to wobble. While I didn’t actually collapse during the session, I was definitely unstable on my feet for the whole time.

Today I came the closest yet to leaving mid session. I seriously thought about it at least three times. Just getting up and walking out. The hatred, which I normally cover with a thin veneer of cynicism and snappy remarks, was more evident than ever. I was swearing under, and over, my breath and I scowled constantly. I even said to my boss “no point even asking me today”.

The last exercise was sitting up and punching, while your partner satup and blocked with the boxing mitt things. I struggled big time, but was rescued in the end by a coughing fit that I was genuinely concerned would turn into something a tad more gastric. It didn’t but it provided an unceremonious end to a really shitty session.

Then we went down to breakfast which was identical to the last 2 (except that the yoghurt had berries, rather than passionfruit in it). Still yummy, although a kick in the balls would have been looked upon favourably in comparison to what I had just gone through. Andrea told us that you get a twitchy eye when you don’t have enough potassium, which is presumably why you don’t see a lot of monkeys with eye twitches. She has an amazing ability to tell us things which, just because of the way she says them, makes me not want to believe her. Today she told us to drink water while exercising, but gave it as much credibility as a homeopathic website (who would probably tell you the same thing, as long as that water had some essence of “fatigue” diluted in it).

Now a quick word on Tabata. According to wiki, Tabata “uses 20 seconds of ultra-intense exercise (at 170% of VO2max) followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated continuously for 4 minutes (8 cycles).” Can’t argue with the “ultra intense” bit, and I’ll take her word that it was 20 seconds. However, apparently “10 seconds of rest” means “the amount of time it takes to get from a standing position into a position on the floor” or vice versa. So it was pretty much the same as any other exercise thing we’ve done, only it didn’t stop. Oh, and it also involved squats, or squat jumps, and burpees. So it sometimes took a whole bunch of effort to use those 10 seconds of rest to get back up from a burpee into a position where I could stand with a weight held at arms length, ready to start squatting.

In my last post I said “I’ll be well shitty if all I can think is ‘Bloody hell I’m tired’.” I have not been able to walk properly all day. I have been well shitty.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A now a look at the week ahead…

Sunday 25th July – Reflections before Week 3 begins

The theme of Week 1 was “I really don’t want to do this, but I’ll do whatever everyone else is doing, so I won’t have to make a decision”. The theme of week 2 was “I’m a big boy now, and I can do this all by myself”. Needless to say I did a lot more in Week 1 than I did in Week 2. I did actually intend to go up on Friday, but forgot my gym bag (no really, I did – it’s still packed ready for tomorrow). So I had a curry with friends instead. It was yummy, there was naan, and the paper in the pappadam basket had that all too familiar “window to weight gain”. In all, I wasn’t that disappointed to have forgotten my gear.

I have been stiff all week, particularly across the chest. Not sore as such, but I can feel it when I move. When I put pressure on my arms, or if I twist my body, I can feel an ache in my shoulders, chest and those-muscles-that-go-down-the-back-of-your-arms that’s just a bit odd. An ache like I haven’t felt before. I don’t know how this will affect tomorrow’s workout, but we will see.

Tomorrow we are doing “Tabata”, with boxing. Surprisingly, I’m not looking forward to it. The boxing thing is going to hit the parts of me that are still sore, and the whole “exercising at 7am” thing is going to hit the parts of me that really don’t want to get up and exercise at 7am. The Tabata thing just seems like a great way to tire me out very quickly.

The rest of the week will probably follow more the theme of Week 2 than Week 1. After Monday, I’m working in Melbourne all week and staying there Wednesday and Thursday nights. The hotel I’m staying at doesn’t appear to have a gym, so I don’t think I’ll get much of a workout. (I could of course do situps and pushups and suchlike, but I doubt I will be up for it.)

I’m quite stressed about work this week. The thought of starting the week by putting my body through cycles of 20 seconds of intense boxing workout followed by a whole 10 seconds of rest, for an entire hour, doesn’t really help. I have thoughts that need to be thunk tomorrow, and I’ll be well shitty if all I can think is “Bloody hell I’m tired”.

So right now, at 10:47 on Sunday night, I am thinking “if ever there was a week to skip it, it could be this week.” But I probably won’t. For the whole deal to be free I need to attend 10 out of the 12 sessions. So I could skip tomorrow’s and I would still have a one session buffer. But I think it’s better to have those sessions for accidental sleep ins and illness, rather than a deliberate piking.

Here’s hoping I accidentally sleep in tomorrow, then.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Different kind of training

Friday 23rd July – Equipment overview

This morning, at what should be an unlikely - but which is becoming increasingly likely - hour of 7am, Andrea had organised a session to to show us through all of the equipment at the gym.

No one had thought to bring a notepad, as we didn’t think it would be necessary, but it soon became clear that she had a lot to say. I quickly started taking notes on my phone as she was throwing lots of numbers at us in quick succession. For example:

  • Leg Press machine: set weight to 46kg, 20 repetitions each leg
  • Leg Curl machine: set weight to minimum, 20 repetitions each leg
  • Leg Extension machine, set weight to 16kg, 15 repetitions each leg
  • Squat machine, set height to number 3, weight to minimum and do 2 sets of 20.

These were the first 4 machines she showed us. My notes stop there, because she started being less specific after that. There were, however, a lot of machines and a lot to take in. There are machines, or settings on the machines, for pretty much every kind of muscle you want to hit (although apparently the squat machine will get a lot of the leg ones at once – bonus). They also have your basic barbells and assorted weights for those who like to kick it old school.

They also have a Roman Chair, which she demonstrated to us:

This is not Andrea

She then assured us that it wasn’t as easy as it looked. We told her it didn’t look at all easy. This was, I felt, a bit of a theme of the session. The idea was that she would show us how to do stuff, and while she did indeed do that, the specific nature of the demonstration quickly waned. After the first couple of machines, she would quickly show us things, sometimes 3 or 4 different exercises on the one machine, and then move on. She made it all look easy, of course, but it also felt like she assumed we already knew what we were doing. Between that and the fact that we could hardly hear her over the dance music, I didn’t really get a lot out of it (which is a bit of a worry, as it looks like some of this stuff could kill you).

The assumption of knowledge seems to be a very important part of the gym world. It’s pretty much expected that I know what a quad or a tricep or a hamstring are, where they are, and which ones I need to work, which exercises will work them, and which ones I need to stretch after doing a particular exercise. It’s one of the intimidating things about gym that, in many ways, is a reflection of real life. We all spend so much of our time pretending that we know what we are doing, when really we are faking it, or just fumbling our way through. So often it seems that the worst thing you can do is let people know that you don’t know something.

(Interestingly, my spell checker also doesn’t know what a tricep is. Maybe it doesn’t actually exist.)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What do Eric Carmen and Billy Idol have in common?

Wednesday 21st July – Self paced training

Wednesday. This is the day that the gym has its scheduled lunchtime Spin class. I knew that some people were going up, and I was asked if I was going. I said “no”.

Aside from the “hating spin” factor, my reflections on last week made me wonder if I am perhaps taking things too hard and too quickly. I am extremely out of shape, and I know that if I want to get even a bit in shape then I need to exert myself. And I am concerned that if I don’t have an overly enthusiastic person going woo at me, or at least the simultaneous suffering of my peers, then I won’t actually push myself to do anything, and it will be too easy to just stop.

But having never done this before, it’s entirely possible that three really intense trainer-driven sessions in a single week is too much. Also the Wednesday and Friday session I went to last week were open to any gym member, not just the corporate group, which means they aren’t necessarily tailored to a potentially out of shape group just starting a 12 week program.

Besides, I really do hate spin, so if there’s any class I’m going to ditch in favour of some self paced training it’s that one.

So today I decided I would try the treadmill (we haven’t yet been shown how to use the big equipment, but I figured I could probably work out the treadmill). The idea was that I would still go up with the guys doing spin, but they left before me, so you know, whatever.

The treadmills are in the same room as the spin bikes, so it was vital that I brought my music and headphones, in case Jackie got played again. I had decided earlier in the day that, with such uplifting tracks as “I hope you die” and “Magna Cum Nada” (translated as “most likely to suck”), the Bloodhound Gang would make an appropriate soundtrack (one song even has the line “Luciano Pavarotti on a treadmill, not going nowhere slim chance we will”).

My plan was to do 30 minutes. I started out at a fast walking pace (6 on the screen, I assume that’s kph) and then after a while took it up to just fast enough to need to jog (8). Then I alternated between the two every minute or two. It was work and I was sweating, so I felt I was challenging myself and not slacking off, but it was manageable. But then around 12 minutes in my back started hurting. For many many years now I have had, especially when I’ve been standing “too long”, a sharp pain in my lower back, on one side. I’ve been to a chiro, who can make it feel good until I stop going. Usually it doesn’t bother me. Today it did. At first it only really hurt while running, so I did a couple of cycles of “run til it hurts/walk til it stops” but had to cut the whole thing short at the 20 minute mark.

I can’t help but wonder what I would have done had my back not hurt. I’d like to think I would have made the half hour. But also, I can’t help wondering what I would have done had it happened while a trainer was telling me what to do. Either way I stopped before my arbitrarily set goal. I don’t think I’m disappointed, though, as I did something.

Exercising without a trainer was definitely a different experience, and was, comparatively, good. I could listen to my own music and go at my own pace, and I could still manage to push myself a bit, but not to the point where I feel, as the Bloodhound Gang say, deader than the parents on Party of Five.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Such a lonely word

Tuesday’s reflections on honesty

One conceit that I have, and I’m sure I have many, is that I usually think that I am being honest with myself, whereas I am quick to accuse others of kidding themselves. This crops up quite a bit at the gym.

I see people who are red in the face, sweating like a drug smuggler on the set of border patrol, and looking very close to death, but when asked how they are going, or what they thought of that session will immediately (or as soon as they have caught their breath) say “good, good”. I can’t help but think these people are either lying, or at the very least being dishonest with themselves.

But if, while I am gasping for air and blood bursting through my fat lined veins, you ask me how I’m going, I am likely to be honest,

and simply say “shit” or “shithouse” or “shitty” or maybe even “cocking arse”. So when trainer Phil from yesterday asked, I wasn’t really sure what purpose it was supposed to serve. Presumably it’s some form of encouragement, but I responded pretty grumpily and, in my opinion, honestly. I expect he’s used to surly fat bastards, and I’m not going to lose sleep over it. No more sleep than I’m currently losing, anyway.

Likewise when my boss at breakfast (same breakfast as last week - and just as nice – but this time with serving spoons) again asked “Did you enjoy it this time, Robbie J?” I still said no, because I didn’t. She told me she was going to ask every week. This didn’t, as some of you might expect, annoy me. I’ll actually be intrigued to see how I answer.

A few people have assured me, both today and yesterday, that once I get used to it – once it stops hurting and causing me to be constantly tired – then I will start to enjoy it. Personally I don’t think that is likely. I can easily see myself saying “hey, it’s not as bad as when it was hurting and causing me to be constantly tired, but I’d still rather play Grand Theft Auto”. What I can’t see myself saying is “let’s do that again!”

Resistance is futile

Monday 19th July – Monday session Week 2 - Resistance training

It was indeed cold (just under 5 degrees when I stepped off the train which, thanks to the marvels of VLine was 5 minutes late, and which in turn made me 5 minutes late for the session). It was also dark. This is a very depressing time of year, where many people leave for work in the dark and return home in the dark, with the only sunshine they see being through the window of their office.

Good thing for me, then, that not long after I got there we all went outside.

But not before a little bit of public humiliation. I suppose it’s to be expected when you turn up late. I remember back in the early 90s I went to the toilet in the middle of a Doug Anthony All Stars set and was incredibly impressed with the verbal abuse I received from Tim, Paul and Richard. This was not like that, but I (along with another person who turned up late) were nonetheless asked to do some exercise in the middle of the room while the trainer (different guy again… Seemed like a bit of a Phil to me) pointed and laughed and said don’t we look silly. Great way to get me on side. (A few other times throughout the session he pointed and laughed at a other people. And yet the guy wasn’t a complete prick. Other than his enjoyment at putting people on the spot, he seemed like an OK guy.)

Anyway, after that we did some stuff with resistance bands. These are big elastic bands with Resistance-bandshandles on them. They can be used for wrapping around things (feet, bars, stoic animals), and stretching with them. They are also apparently quite an effective torture device. Here’s the thing. I was sore. My body had not yet recovered from Friday’s session, and here I was hitting the exact same muscles that, when I got out of bed just an hour earlier, complained in a loud voice that this was simply not on. My tiredness and grumpiness from the night before had not waned. And now I was 5 minutes into this workout and it felt like the last 5 minutes of Friday.

Gyms go to a bit of trouble to make sure that you understand the risks involved in exercising, and if you have a heart attack well, then, suffer in your jocks. But this is one risk they don’t tell you about. They should put a warning on the door: Exercise makes you forget all the good stuff that has happened to you since you last exercised.

So having wiped my memory of my excellent (if not sore) weekend entirely, we then went for a bit of a run outside and into a multi story carpark. We did squats and lunges, the kinds of exercises you might expect, but up and down the slopes and stairs of the carpark. We also did some fast walking (it seems that “stereotypical fat man at the back of the pack” may well be a running theme over this course) and Phil was quite encouraging and understanding, if a little hi fivey.

When we got back to the gym, Andrea (whose name has changed to something a bit more anonymous since my first post) took us through some obviously made up statistics on bone density and life expectancy. I’m not sure exactly what she said, as my brain is quite good at filtering that sort of thing out. But she did say that it was important that we damage our bones so that they can get stronger. An excellent piece of advice for a bunch of amateurs, I must say.

Bottle gone

Sunday 18th July - Reflections before Week 2 begins.

It’s currently 5:40 on Sunday evening (although you won’t see this post until after I finish catchup from last week). I am still very sore from Friday’s session. I am tired. Very tired. This is no doubt due to the fact that the last 2 nights I haven’t gone to bed until 1. But both times I was awake the next morning way before 8am, feeling like I needed a rest.

I think perhaps my expectations of deep sleep were a little premature, but I did hope that after 3 fairly intense (for me at least) workout sessions in five days I would sleep like a baby. But I haven’t slept well all week. I’m tired when I go to bed, which is fine, but I’m also achy, and that can’t be good for my sleep patterns (which are easily disturbed at the best of times).

It has also been cold. Over the last couple of nights, the low has been 5 or so degrees, with a high of around 13.

So right now I am looking forward to a night of fitful sleep, followed by an early morning start, in the cold, so that I can do what? Something I have solidly established I fucking hate. Followed by a day of work.

No nice breakfast in the middle of all that is going to make me feel better about the whole thing.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Spiking the Punch

Wednesday 16th July - Lunchtime Punchfit

After the shock of finding out I was about to die, I had mixed feelings about the Friday “punchfit” class, and was being less than committal about the whole thing. I had agreed to do something, and had brought my gear in, but had not actually made specific plans with anyone to do anything in particular. But I had made the decision to do something “upper body”, to give my legs a rest, so in the end three of us went up at lunchtime for a punchfit class. A full session of boxing and suchlike.

It was during this class that I confirmed my suspicion that both trainer and music make a huge difference to my attitude towards the exercise. Instead of BZ featuring Joanna we had the kinds of things that people actually buy on CD. There was U2, John Cougar and other stuff which, if it came on my car radio would probably inspire me to change channels, but which in the context of this gym had me actually thankful.

Likewise, I am beginning to get the impression that there are different kinds of trainers and I may respond well to one kind, and poorly to another. One thing that separates them for me is that there are trainers who lie, and trainers who don’t. The spin trainer (let’s give her the entirely appropriate name of Jackie) was, basically, a liar. She was telling us how great it was, she was shouting “woooo” as if it was all fun, and when she said we had 10 minutes to go she meant 15. But the final straw for me was when we had ten seconds to go: “10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 2, 2, 2, it’s stuck on 2!, 2, 1”. I have seen this kind of thing on Biggest Loser, and I honestly don’t understand how these people think it is in any way motivational. To me it destroys any trust, and causes an antipathy that can’t be repaired.

But punchfit guy (he did introduce himself, but his name has been lost in the haze of muscle fatigue. Let’s call him Punchfit Pete) was not like that at all. He was acknowledging that it was hard, seemed appreciative of the effort we were putting in and his 10 seconds lasted for about 10 seconds, maybe less. Which is not to say he didn’t push us. Hard.

The exercises were incredibly full on. Punching, running, jumping, sitting up and oh so many pushups. I calculated afterward that he had asked us to do approximately 150. I was doing them on my knees at the start, and against a wall by the end of it, and I still didn’t get in as many as I was supposed to. It killed me. I was absolutely destroyed. I had difficulty taking my shirt of to have a shower afterwards as it involved putting my hand above my head and lifting it. While talking on the phone to someone that afternoon, my arm started shaking with the effort of lifting the receiver. I managed to drive home, but my hands had to be in specific places on the steering wheel. As it turned out, I would be sore all weekend.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Look at me still talking when there’s science to do.

Thursday 15th July – Cellular Health Analysis

I’m not sure if it’s part of the gym program, or something organised by work, but a naturopath (or possibly nutritionist, or perhaps both) came to the office to analyse us. After measuring my height and weight, She attached two electrodes to my right hand, and two to my right foot. Then, without me having felt anything, she removed them.

What she was doing was a Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis, which supposedly measures the conductivity of the body and, in doing so, can give you an accurate reading of your bodyfat percentage, muscle mass, cellular health, physical age and hydration levels. I say “supposedly” because it felt quite a bit like bullshit science to me. Needless to say, it told me I am a physical wreck. While my actual age is 36, my physical age is 50. I have 20kg more bodyfat than I should. I theoretically have more muscle mass than I should too, but she said that because of my enormous belly that measurement is inaccurate. My cells are dry (at the sultana, rather than the grape, end of the spectrum).

The cure? Drink more water, have fish oil, eat more protein, eat less fat. Do cardio work (like spin!) with a little bit of weights.

So basically eat well and exercise. I am truly shocked.

Coda: I asked Doctor Karl Kruszelnicki the following question over Twitter: “A woman came into our office, and gave us a Cellular Health Analysis (with electrodes). Any validity to it?” I got a response. He said, quite simply, “Nope.”

Like a record, baby

Wednesday 14th July – Lunchtime Spin Class

I have been unsure how much of this “get to use the gym for the rest of the week, for free” thing I really planned to do. Actually that’s a lie. I know exactly how much I planned to do and that is “none”. But I know that I am not going to be proactive about this at all (given I can’t motivate myself by any traditional methods), so one decision I did make was to go along with what other people suggested, within reason.

I didn’t bring my gear into work on Tuesday. I had no plans to go to the gym. Others did, and bully for them. But I did get cajoled into bringing my gear in on Wednesday. “There’s really not much point in doing it for just one session a week,” I was told. “And a free breakfast” I thought to myself, but no. So we rang up and booked ourselves in… for another spin class. If you’ve read what I’ve written so far you will know what I think of spin. But I had in some way removed any decision making on my part, so I went along with it.

Any hopes that it would be a different person taking the class were dashed when it turned out that it wasn’t. So we adjusted our bikes, jumped on, and then got told that it would be a full 45 minute session. Great. So we started. Something I discovered with the last spin class is that I have no strength in my knees. So when she said “stand up” I tried, I really did. But I couldn’t keep it up for very long.

It’s very very hard to continue to do something that a) you don’t want to and b) you aren’t very good at. The only way to get a sense of achievement is to set yourself arbitrary goals, because you’re not good enough to achieve the goals set for you. Once I knew I couldn’t do the things she was asking, I set myself the arbitrary goal of not stopping. So I didn’t get when she said, and although I fiddled with the resistance knob, I didn’t do it as much as she said to. I didn’t stop pedalling, but I sat in my seat for pretty much the whole time. Until, that is, about 15 minutes before the end. You see I hadn’t really set my seat up very well and by then my balls ached. A lot. So my nuts and my knees were constantly begging for relief, and so I was up and down like a dunny door.

Oh, and guess which song got played? Go on. Were you thinking a punk cover of Lionel Ritchie’s “Hello”?

Well you were wrong. It was Jack Jack frigging Jackie. I’m pretty sure there are more than 4 shitty dance songs in the world, but this woman obviously has little routines timed to the “verses” and “choruses” of this “song”.

So it finished, and for some reason we actually talked to her, even though I now know for sure that I won’t be going back for spin. She was very nice, and encouraging and all that, but will take more than a few nice words to get me back on those castration machines.

Again the stairs, again the jelly legs. “Next time,” I said to myself, “give the legs a rest. Do something concentrating on the upper body.”

Time for something positive

Monday 12th July – Breakfast

After the gym session we all headed down, as one sweaty mass, to the cafe which is in the same building as the gym. Thankfully there was an escalator. I have seen this picture before and have, as everyone else has, laughed at the stupid Americans. It’s easy to do.

But having been to the gym, and turned my legs into two quivering blobs, I now understand that there is a safety issue at play here. I can make no case for the up escalator, but I would suggest that people’s lives would depend on that down one.

Anyway, I digress.

I was intrigued by the idea of the gym organising breakfast. I wasn’t sure what to expect. We sat down and Andrea said “OK, so now you’re going to learn how to eat.” I made some joke about “I think I know how to eat, ho ho ho” and then felt like a tool as soon as saying it. She then gave us a book, which I briefly looked at. (Enough to see a well oiled muscly man with a shiny “soul glo” kind of perm. Presumably one day I could look like him, if I eat well, exercise and use a Flux Capacitor to go back to 1985.) Andrea then talked a bit of pseudo-science about lean muscle mass and suchlike that I didn’t really take in.

An important part of any diet program is to pooh-pooh all other diet programs. These days, though, people have cottoned on to that, so now it’s important to assure people that what you are about to embark on is not a diet (because we all know diets don’t work, see?). Some programs will use words like “lifestyle change” and others, like this one, won’t classify it at all. So we need to reduce fat and pasta, and increase protein. But it’s not a diet. Cos in diets you stop eating those fatty foods you like, and those evil carbs, and you eat more meat. See how this is completely different from a diet?

Anyway, first thing to come out was some big bowls of yoghurt, plonked in the middle of the table. Then came a big plate of fresh fruit.

Put fruit and yoghurt in bowl, eat.

Now I don’t mind yoghurt, and I don’t mind fruit. Putting them together is also good. I actually enjoyed this breakfast (400 words in before we get to the positivity promised in the title, sorry about that folks). Of course fruit and yoghurt would never be enough for me, but hey this is a diet after all. Or a lifestyle change. Or whatever. Sacrifices would be made (at least on the days where I was being given free food).

But then, after that (and after seconds of that which, given they didn’t provide serving spoons for either the yoghurt or the fruit, was basically an exercise in discreet double dipping) came out more food. Namely cooked tomatoes (enough for 1 each), toast (buckets of it) and scrambled eggs (even bigger buckets).

It was, I must say, awesome. I really enjoyed eating it. I could easily eat this every day, assuming someone else was taking the time to prepare it. (After all, if we’re talking about a lifestyle change why not include a few wait staff and kitchen hands?). I don’t know how much the breakfast, and the talking that we get while at breakfast, will change my perception of food, or of gymming in general - and I am also not sure if brekky will be this great every time - but I am happy to turn up each week for it to find out.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Monday Session Week 1

Monday 12th July: Intro – punchfit – spin

One thing that I didn’t make exactly clear in my previous posts: this is the first time I have ever been to a gym. Ever. Sometime in the early 90s I went into a gym, with a mind to join, but then they started asking difficult questions like “What do you want to improve?” and “How heavy are you?” and “Do you have a heart condition?” I didn’t know if I had a heart condition, and I wasn’t keen to use the gym as a diagnostic tool, so I never signed up and never went back.

So all weekend I have been stressing, really stressing, about doing this. Last week we got given a sheet of questions which was very difficult to fill out. (Have I had any trouble breathing in the last 12 months? Well yes, actually. I have asthma - is that going to be a problem? Oh I see. This is a form, not a dialogue. OK I’ll just worry about it in my head.) I’ve done fitness training before (work has previously hired a personal trainer who came into the office and got us to do stuff) but there’s something about going into a gym. It’s like crossing a line. There are people who’ve had sex, and people who haven’t, and you’re pretty much one or the other. You’ve either killed someone or you haven’t. You’ve either been to a gym or you haven’t. I was about to take a one way trip.

So I turn up, about 1 minute late, and everyone’s there. There are around 15 people from work doing it, and I expect some of them are surprised I have arrived. The trainer (let's call her Andrea) reminds us how important water is, and also tells us that they have this powder stuff, called ENDURO, that you should really put in your water, especially given we haven’t had breakfast. I, of course, have forgotten to bring water, so I borrow a water bottle from the gym, and put this powder into it. And that’s it for the intro: then we’re into it. She splits the group into 2 halves, one to do a boxing thing, and the other to do “spin”. We will switch halfway through the hour.

I start with the boxing. We pick gloves, pads and a partner. Then she takes us outside. By this time it’s about 7:15 on a Geelong mid-winter morning and it’s very cold. Why, I wondered, do they pay for real-estate, when they do things outside? Anyway, boxing is pretty straight forward. You punch into the pads, and then you swap the pads over, and then stand there while the guy with the gloves punches you. Except this isn’t boxing, it’s “punchfit”. So you punch, and then you jump and then you punch and then duck. It’s gets very tiring very quickly.

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned how much I hate this.

And then she says “OK let’s run around this bit here, twice.” No one had mentioned running. It’s maybe a 20 metre circuit. We punch we run. I’m not sure how many laps we did, but it may have been 3. However, I’m losing it. I drop behind the others, I cut corners. I become the stereotypical fat man at the back of the pack. But then it’s over: our time is up. I’m actually feeling reasonably positive about all this, that wasn’t so bad. I go grab a drink (it tasted foul with the powder in it, and leaves a sticky residue on the inside of my mouth) and we head upstairs (stairs!) for the spin class.

For those that don’t know, spin is fancy modern talk for exercise bikes. I had been told that spin is great cos you can go your own pace and it’s a really good workout. I think people define  “great” and “really good” differently to how I do. So we pick a bike and a different woman, whose name I don’t know, takes us on a guided tour through hell.

This class had absolutely everything I had been dreading about coming to the gym. I didn’t realise that I had so much hatred to confirm until I sat on that bike for 20 minutes. Everything was artificial. The colours and the lights, the trainer, the enthusiasm, the godawful crap they made me put in the water (which meant that, no matter how thirsty I was I couldn’t take another drink) and oh my giddy aunt, the music. I love music, and I love almost all forms of music. It’s a very powerful force. It can reinforce a good mood, or help change a bad one. I even like a little bit of dance music. But music can also invoke feelings of rage. Especially if you’re a fat man on an exercise bike being enthused at by a woman with a fake tan. This is only one of the songs that was played, but it was stuck in my head for the rest of the day. I hated it when it came out, and I hate it now:

I notice it only goes for 3:59. I wonder if the trainer had a remix, or if she just managed to cram that much loathsomeness into 4 minutes. Regardless the song was in every way the perfect soundtrack for the session.

It finished and I thought “right, I’ve done that. I’m never doing spin again. It’s cut.” I am actually hoping that there are 12 distinct exercises each week that I can cut, so that by the end of the 12 weeks I will have cut everything. If they have less than 12 different exercises, I could be in trouble.

I almost fell down the stairs. My legs were shaking. “OH&S!” I thought. Of course I didn’t say it, because I couldn’t talk.

As we headed to the cafĂ© my boss, whose idea this whole thing was, said “See, that was a bit of fun, wasn’t it?”. I managed to squeeze out a very incredulous “No, no it wasn’t” and she seemed genuinely surprised. I think she thought that once I did it, I would see that it was something I could enjoy. Maybe deep down I thought that too. It’s not.


Using hatred as a motivator

I hate physical exercise. Genuinely hate it. I know hate is a strong word. But it’s not strong enough for my feelings towards exercise.

So why, I hear you cry, are you doing this? To be honest, I don’t know. Obviously I want to be healthy, and I really don’t think I am at all.

But why now?

The only way to lose weight is to eat healthily and to exercise. This is not a new revelation, and regardless of the fad, if you boil any weight loss program down to its bare essentials, this is what it means. For someone like me, who is quite large, and quite unfit, this means I need to do both of these things to an extreme level. I realised a little while ago that what this means is that for me to get healthy I need to do something that I hate.

Every day.

I am reminded of this scene from Office Space:

Other people thrive on exercise. They love it. A friend from work recently injured himself and the worst part about it, for him, was that he couldn’t go for his regular run. He was getting antsy. He needed to get out there and run. To him it was like chocolate, and to take it away was stressing him to the point where he was having difficulty concentrating. I look at people like this and, when I’m feeling particularly negative, I think “either there is something wrong with them, or something wrong with me.” Other times, of course, I accept that there are differences in people, but that’s not as fun.

So I know it is possible to like exercise. And so perhaps the answer is to change my mindset and enjoy it. Perhaps. But I really don’t think that’s possible. It’s called a mindset because it is just that: set. (Note: that I have no idea if that’s the “set” that is used, and according to QI, “set” is the word with the most definitions in the dictionary). So if I can’t change my attitude, then I am back to the Office Space mentality of hating every single one of my days. Which is not a good way to live.

Having said that, I have found a curious enjoyment in the negativity I have displayed towards this whole process. I signed up for this program almost casually. I thought and thought about it a lot, and then one day cleared my mind and just signed up. So I have resigned myself to the full 12 weeks, and I am dreading every one, but having done it, I find I am taking some kind of pleasure in actually testing how much I really do hate it. And I actually think my genuine and heartfelt hatred of it is, in some way, motivating me more than any artificial positive attitude could do.

The downside of this is that my negativity is never internal. I am talking to friends at work (some of whom are also participating and who are no doubt motivating themselves in much more traditional and positive ways) and being, basically, a real prick about it all. So today, one colleague suggested that I blog to get my negativity into a space and also to provide an extra layer of motivation. If I get nothing else out of an exercise session I will at least get something to write about.

So here it is. A blog of loathsome motivation.

An introduction


A local gym has been offering a 12 week “Breakfast Club”. The basic deal is for a certain sum of money (quite reasonably priced), you get a 1 hour organised training session (7am Monday, solely with workmates) followed by a healthy breakfast at a nearby cafe.

On top of that you get free access to the gym for the remainder of the week, including other scheduled sessions (open to any gym member) which happen over the week.

The company I work for is quite keen for people to be healthy, and so has offered to cover some of the fee, making it less than half what the gym charges. I don’t want to mention figures, but we’ll say that my portion would be about what a breakfast at a cafe would set you back.

However as an extra incentive, my employer has said that if a participant turns up to at least 10 of the 12 organised sessions, they will cover the total cost of the 12 week program. So if I can make it, it will be essentially 3 months gym membership and 12 breakfasts, for free.

Now, I am a lazy lazy man. (You will hear more on this as this blog progresses). But I am also aware that I need to be more fit than I am. I am also extremely stingy or, as we say at work, tight.

The unique opportunity that this offer provides is on two levels. On the first level, I am paying for something. Regardless of how cheap it is, if I pay for something I want to get value out of it, and so I will participate. I have, in fact, used this with reasonable success as an incentive to lose weight in the past. Pay money for a set of diet books not because I need books to tell me that I need to eat healthy and exercise, but because if I pay for something I want it to be worth it, and so will use it.

But the second level is that if I participate fully then I get all my money back. As soon as I wrote my name on the list, I was pitting my tightness directly against my laziness. In a cage match. With those foldy chairs.

So I did indeed sign up. It is now Friday of the first week. As I will explain more in my next post, I am going to blog my experiences at the gym, and with the program, as it goes along (So my first few posts will be over this weekend, to catch up on this week, and then they’ll be a bit steadier from next week on). I encourage you to comment, and to tell me of your experiences with the gym, exercise, weight loss. I expect this blog to last for the 12 weeks, but probably not for any longer.

There may well be swearing.