Thursday, 26 September 2013

joined a gym (Week 2)

So, after a whole week of doing at least one exercise class or sporting activity per day without (and this is the important bit) injuring myself or dying, what possible terrors could Week 2 hold? I’ve already sampled two-thirds of what the Peckham Pulse has to offer, and with only Zumba, Aqua Zumba, Combat Aerobics (me neither) and the ever-tantalising Soca to sample, soon I will be able to cherrypick a smorgasbord of fitness pursuits to suit me. While mixing my metaphors.

Total cost so far: £82.76
Number of total visits: 17
Number this week: 7
Total cost per visit: £4.86

Day 8: (Monday) Combat Aerobics 9/10 – Class size 20 
Look at the fun she's having!
It’s sometimes hard to get the sense of what a class will be like from the short description on the back of the gym leaflet. It’s even harder when, as here, there is no description and you just have to come along out of curiosity without knowing whether it’ll be pseudo-Tae Kwon Do on Pilates mats, Krav Magar with Swiss balls, or what. Turns out that “Combat Aerobics” is Boxercise with more boxing (pads and gloves and everything), and because I like Boxercise and I like punching stuff this gets it 9/10, the highest score for a class so far. There were about 20 people in the class and we paired up in the latter half a la Rocky, one partner with pads and one with gloves. It was pretty fun.

Day 9: (Tuesday) Aqua Zumba 6/10 – Class size 20
This did not start well when I forgot to set my phone alarm the night before, hence woke up at 11am (the class starting time) and had to haul ass to be in the pool by 11.20. The demographic makeup of the class was as with Aqua Aerobics – mostly on the silver side. Also, I got a bollocking off the teacher for coming in late and yes, not bringing my paper ticket. 

The problem with any kind of aqua exercise is that as the unencumbered instructor bounces happily through their routine at the poolside, those in the pool are left flailing gracelessly against the water resistance – which I know is kind of the point, but the instructors go so fast that I really felt I might as well have been treading water or swimming lengths for all the extra good the Zumba element of the class was doing me. But it’s nice to be a) the youngest person there by about 30 years and b) in the water, so it’s not all bad. I just can’t escape the notion that I’d get just as much out of swimming lengths.

Day 10: (Weds) Zumba, 6/10 – Class size 30
Zumba: not *quite* this exciting
But would Wednesday morning’s normal, land-bound Zumba be any better? Well, it was taught by the same instructor, who in her tininess and bounciness somewhat resembles a rubber pixie, and who was if possible even faster and harder to follow out of the water than in it, so no, not really. 

The Latin-influenced Zumba music provides the background to dance-style workouts which are dizzyingly fast for a beginner, and my growing annoyance at not being able to pick up any of the moves before we were onto the next one left me sweaty (which is fine) and frustrated (which ain’t). I’m sure it’s easy and loads of fun once you’ve learned the routines, but frankly at the moment it’s not feeling worth it.

Day 11: (Thu) Nothing (2/10)
My first day off, due to two-hour meeting in the daytime and an event in the evening. I felt a bit pissed off by this, rather than relieved, which I didn’t expect. I could have quite fancied at least going for a swim but didn’t really have time. I’m going to two classes tomorrow though, to make up for it. I am just that hardcore.

Day 12: (Fri) Total Stretch (8/10) Class size 10 and Zumba (7/10) – Class size 40
I’ve decided I really like the Total Stretch class. It’s low impact, I can do all the moves, and it’s only 45 minutes long so I’m always there early. Also, the teacher on Sunday told me I was very flexible because I could squat right down on the floor like a frog. Yeah! So I did it again. As the name implies, it’s a class aimed at improving your flexibility and stretching all your muscles, and thus not a sweaty experience – in fact, stretching exercises are best done in a warm studio rather than an airconned one, because warm joints are more flexible. Total Stretchwear should therefore be more on the tracksuit than singlet-and-shorts side, because if you do it right you won’t get too hot.

For my third Zumba-related class this week my sister was joining me, so I couldn’t really drop out despite significantly reduced enthusiasm levels. I lent my only pair of trainers to her and was therefore reprimanded (again) for turning up in Fitflops, but the actual dancercise part was a bit easier this time, especially since I remembered some of the moves from Wednesday. This is actually one I may stick with: it’s challenging but not too hard, it gets you sweaty and breathless without making you want to die, and the tunes aren’t too bad.

Day 13 (Sat) Circuit Training, 5/10 – Class size 20
Circuit training: in which sweaty people compete to collapse first
Speaking of exercise classes that make you want to die, Circuit Training is definitely up there if today’s experience is anything to go by. I probably shouldn't have done 3k on the cycle beforehand, bringing the total length of uninterrupted exercise up to 90 minutes, but I was bored, and also didn’t realise that the instructor would extend the class length by 15 minutes in order to … well, torture us a bit more, it seemed. I left at the stated end time of 1.15 and considered this a lucky escape.

As with Combat Aerobics on Monday, the instructor cheated a bit (IMO) by having us jog round the studio for ten minutes as a warm-up/knacker-out. After that we did a LOT of upper body weight training, some standing up and some lying back on the Step things. Even though I had the lightest possible bar bell and tiny dumb bells made for fairies, it was still pretty hard. I am also completely uninterested in growing my biceps so it felt a bit pointless, and also made me want to die a bit. Definitely a hardcore class for hardcore people.

Crosstrainer: not just an angry gym instructor
Day 14 (Sun) Gym workout, 7/10
Despite feeling a cold coming on (thanks husband, thanks sister) I gritted my teeth and went along to the gym – not to a class (there are only four on Sundays, two of which are Spinning). There is a dazzling array of high-tech equipment available to the inducted member, but I decided to stick to three of the simplest: the jogging machine, the cross-trainer and the exercise bike. Half an hour of fast walking and fifteen minutes each of cycle and crosstrainer certainly made my legs ache, but wasn’t too exhausting.

One depressing aspect of this visit, though, was seeing an obviously anorexic girl on one of the other jogging machines. I’d noticed her in the gym before, but didn’t realise (though I should have I suppose) that she is probably a daily visitor. When I describe her as anorexic I am not exaggerating: this girl is so thin that her knees are literally wider than her thighs, uncomfortably and irresistibly calling to mind pictures of people who were in Nazi concentration camps or Japanese prisoner of war camps. She had set the angle of the machine to maximum (you can tilt the surface so that it goes uphill) and was walking fast, probably about 6km/h. She was reading Grazia or Hello or similar, propped up on the workout display: I have the feeling she probably does exactly the same routine every day and knows it backwards.

She was there when I came in and still there, on the same machine, when I left just over an hour later, implying her workout is 90 minutes or maybe even 2 hours, which given her total lack of body fat, is probably actually dangerous. I have no idea what I would do if I were a gym instructor in this situation: I’d imagine they have some sort of duty of care, but then again, you can hardly ban someone from the gym or limit their access, even for their own good, and I can well imagine the adverse reaction if someone tried to talk her out of over-exercising. It’s pretty unnerving to see, though.

Gymsperiment Week Two Verdict: Getting better

Do I feel better, worse or the same? Physically better than before I started – i.e. more flexible and generally less tired and achy.

Is it worth the money? At average £4.86 per visit, I am saving about half the fee on every class and gym visit.  

Best thing? Combat Aerobics and Total Stretch.

Worst thing? Circuit Training, watching the anorexic girl exercise herself even skinnier.

What next? Kundalini Yoga, Body Conditioning and other flavours of yoga (who knew there were so many?) are calling me …


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