Saturday, 5 October 2013

joined a gym (Weeks 3 & 4)

Fourteen days and seventeen visits down, this is where it gets hard – not just because I'm pretty sick of writing about exercise, possibly one of the hardest subjects to make interesting, but also because I caught a cold on Sunday. Well, it was Saturday really, but it started making itself known on Sunday, and thus my Monday and Tuesday were pretty much spent on the sofa. It should have been a nice rest, but obviously I was feeling shit so didn’t really get the benefit. 
Also I seem to have brainwashed myself by dint of repetition into actually wanting to do some exercise every day … has the Gymsperiment worked?


Total cost so far: £82.76
Number of total visits: 27 (just under 1 per day)
Number this fortnight: 10
Total cost per visit: £3.06

Days 15 & 16 (Mon & Tue) Nothing

My cold took over properly and my only exercise was dragging myself to the kettle to top up my hot water bottle. Atchoo!

Day 17 (Wed) Soca, 5/10 Class size: too many
This is what you get when you google "Soca dance"
Oh my God, I really shouldn’t have plunged back into exercise, still half-ill, and started with Soca. IT IS HARD! It also suffers from the Zumba issue of being very fast and tough to follow if you’re not a regular. Plus the class was massive (about 40) and there’s a lot of flinging yourself about, so there was a pretty high incidence of bumping into people, and a definite danger of dying of exhaustion. Too full-on for me – I’ll stick to Zumba from now on, unless I can find anything slower.

Day 18 (Thu) Nothing
Thursday was a very busy day, starting at 10.30 and finishing at 8.30 and spent between Denmark Hill and Clerkenwell without passing through Peckham. Hence no official exercise, but a lot of running about, if that makes sense.

Day 19 (Fri) Cycle, crosstrain and walk in the gym
I had one of the instructors, Claire, with me to supervise my workout this time, to check I was doing everything right and generally not being too lazy or too energetic: apparently I was fine. I was glad not to see the anorexic girl in there again, but maybe it just wasn’t her regular timeslot.

The only TV worth watching was (God help us) This Morning, which featured the abortion clinic manager who had defended women who choose to terminate foetuses on the grounds of gender (i.e. who abort girls – I know of no culture in which female babies are prized more highly than males). An intriguing debate and a highly emotive one: the picture was painted of women living in fear of conceiving a girl in case their husbands or families kick them out. Nice one, humanity. Very nice.
Day 20 (Sat)
Gym again, this time with company (Alex). Crosstrain, cycle, walk for 15 minutes each – would have done a bit more walking but they throw you out at 7.45 because the gym closes at 8pm on Saturdays.

Day 21 (Sun) Total Stretch 8/10, Class size: 6
I persuaded Alex to join me again for a Total Stretch class. Despite being the only guy in the class he bore it … well, manfully, and claimed to have enjoyed it after. It was nice to have company. Still my favourite class: low-impact, sweat-free and 45 minutes short.

Day 22 (Mon) Gym again
Today I was going to go to Pilates at Dulwich, but since the class I wanted was only rumoured to exist, and the complete lack of phone answering meant I couldn’t check if it was on, I just did my crosstrain/cycle/walk thing in the evening. Being a more frequent visitor to the gym part of the gym has really made me wish that the four TVs weren’t tuned to ITV1, ITV2, ITV3 and rolling news. It’s as though Fusion and ITV have some sort of unholy pact going on to soften your brain as they harden your body. The least worst thing to watch was Doc Martin, which gives you some idea …
Camberwell ex-Public Baths

Day 23 (Tue) Kundalini Yoga (7/10 class size: 15) at Camberwell and Swimming
Today I branched out and took a Kundalini Yoga class at Camberwell Leisure Centre, one of the sister centres of Peckham Pulse which my Southwark Fusion card entitles me to visit. Camberwell is the former Camberwell Public Baths, and is housed in a lovely old Victorian building on the quaintly named Artichoke Place. It’s a lot nicer than Peckham both inside and out, with a café and a cute vintage pool, but is also smaller and offers fewer classes. The Kundalini Yoga seemed much like the Hatha Yoga class in week 1, and was taught by the same teacher, but was mercifully just an hour long.

After, I tried out the pool – again, smaller than Peckham but a really nice feel to it, with wrought-iron viewing galleries all round and bunting strung across the ceiling in a vaguely Jubilee-ish fashion. I also went to Dulwich Leisure Centre (again, smaller but CONSIDERABLY nicer and older than the Pulse, with a lot more classes) to book my Pilates for Monday. Lo and behold, it does exist!

Day 24 (Wed) Body Conditioning (6/10)
Another class the description of which was a bit misleading. Leaflet says “low impact workout”: walking into a room full of people toting barbells, dumbbells and Step steps, I wasn’t so sure. I’m pretty sure it was also taught by the Soca instructor, who is extremely hardcore and, like a hungry lion, actively seeks to separate the weak from the herd. 

I noticed she had a nasty habit of counting the reps in order to confuse you with false hope, like this: "8! 7! 6! 5! 4! 6! 6! 5! 5! 4! 4! 3! 3! two more! Come on! 2! 1! 2! 3! 4!" (etc.) without a break, until you’ve done 20 reps while expecting to do 8. Either that or she is severely dysnumeric. Either way, not a class I’ll be repeating: as with Circuit Training, it’s a bit too upper body focused and also quite painful at times. I’m not planning to enter Ms Universe any time soon and I could do without the physical agony.

Day 25 (Thu) Boxercise 8/10
Not me.
What I love about Boxercise is that it’s enough to make you lightly moist and tired without haemorrhaging sweat. Also, the moves are straightforward and repeated at least 24 times so it’s easy to get the hang of them. I am very easily pleased, but really when I go to an exercise class I don’t want to feel like I’m auditioning for Fame while trying to complete a crossword. Keep it simple and easy to follow and they will come.

Day 26 (Fri) Zumba 6/10
The rubber pixie teacher tried some new moves on us which left us in utter shambling confusion, like a zombie army in Lycra. I say again instructors – you do this because you’re awesome at it, we do it because we want to get fit and pretend we’re having fun because it’s to peppy Latino music. Enough with the complex dance moves, we are not West End hoofers, and if we were we wouldn’t be in your bloody Zumba class.

Day 27 (Sat) Nothing
I’d booked in for Garuda Yoga at Dulwich, but annoyingly recalled that I had a plot class at City from 11am – 2pm – and there are no classes after 2pm at any of my local centres. So I’m going to do two classes on Monday instead, also at Dulwich: the short and fun-sounding Swiss Ball as well as Pilates.

Day 28 (Sun) Total Stretch again
I heart Total Stretch. I could do it every day if it were on, which alas it’s not.

Gymsperiment Weeks Three & Four Verdict: In the habit

Do I feel better, worse or the same? Physically better and fitter, less easily defeated by stairs etc. Sometimes I ache after classes but I hear that can be a result of using one's muscles. My weight has remained exactly the same, to the fraction of a kilo - lucky this wasn't a losing-weight-speriment. I assume the reason for this is that all my fat is slowly morphing into muscle (which is heavier than fat as any fule kno).

Is it worth the money? Average per visit is now coming in at £3.06, which represents a pretty good saving on most classes (which usually cost £6-10 each). And though the first month was more expensive because of the joining fee, from now on the cost will be about £12 a week, which means that I will only need to take two or more classes to make it financially worthwhile. No reason to slack off though ...

Best thing? Boxercise (most fun) Total Stretch, Swimming and Gym (lowest impact)

Worst thing? The total lack of information available for classes at other sites (Dulwich and Camberwell). The online info is minimal and unhelpful, the reception staff have no idea (and even gave me completely wrong info in one case, denying flat out that a certain class existed) and NOBODY EVER ANSWERS THE PHONE. Ever. To the extent that I’ve filled in a complaint form. Why bother having a phone number if nobody picks up?

What next? I have now run the gamut of available exercise experiences (well, the ones I want to have, anyway), including Boxercise, Yoga, Pilates, Aqua Aerobics, Zumba, Soca, Aqua Zumba, Combat Aerobics, Circuit Training, Spinning, Stretch, Swimming and all the gym stuff. Therefore I won’t bore you with repetition, but rest assured I will be doing my best to keep up the good work (and get value for my membership money) in the next weeks and months …

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