Further tales from the gym

As a man of mathematics and science, I know that you cannot derive a pattern from two events. However, my positivity tells me that, after my second gym session, I feel a routine emerging.

If I am afforded a moment to catch my breath and gather my thoughts about tonight’s session, I have a number of observations to make, beyond my own performance.

1. It is a testament to the clientele of our gym that there is such an early developing farce regarding parking cars outside. Considering the fact that you are going to a gym in order to try and keep fit or maintain a healthy lifestyle, who do you all try to cram into the tiny front car park – or dump cars on the pavement next to the entrance – instead of driving literally 50 metres further away and onto a large, half-empty parking area? Seriously, it is embarrassing and anger-inducing.

2. There are certain categories of gym-goer present at this early stage:

a) The bulk, of which I suppose I am one, is the new gym user. They are all either slightly or very unfit, and are sporting a wide variety of outfits which mainly consist of old holiday shorts and faded sports tops from the mid 90’s.

As an addendum to this category is a band of rather amusing young lads I saw. They were no older than 18, sporting the build of Mr Muscle (the kitchen cleaner) and wearing brand-new weightlifting gloves, wandering around the gym floor, flexing their fingers and seeming to eternally think about lifting some dumbbells, but never actually doing so.

b) The next group is the hardened gym goer, which are already being very possessive over certain items of equipment. The free weights area, as I predicted, is already a sweaty hive of testosterone. I wouldn’t put it past them marking their territory with urine.

c) Next, we have the attractive (female) gym goers. These are similar to the hardened gym goers, and clearly have transferred from other local gyms. However, they are very fashion conscious, fake-baked and preened. Most of them don’t seem to do an awful lot. I keep seeing a lot of these girls out of the corner of my eye just sitting on the resistance stations yawning and staring into their phones for minutes on end before attempting one rep on the lowest weight setting. And then getting back to their phones. These people are either many months into a regime, and are currently enjoying a relaxed period, or (more likely) too young to feel threatened by excess weight, and think the gym is fashionable and not necessarily a place they need to try very hard.

d) The final group would be what I would appropriately brand “the hopeless”. They are very overweight and, being from my local area, are likely not to have the willpower to spend many, many months gradually burning off their spare tyres. I can’t see the same “hopeless” ones being with the gym very long, and will soon be replaced with fresh meat.

3. The gym uses a PIN code to allow access to the building, as well as the changing rooms. This is instead of handing out flashy gym membership cards and reflects in the low monthly fee. It is 8 digits long, and whilst initially I had my own reservations over remembering it, I quickly noticed that the last four digits are your birth month and year (MMYY). So it’s a case of remembering four digits, the same as a cash card. No problem. But of course, it seems to be a problem for most people, bumbling around and frantically reaching for their phones every time they encounter a door. And seeing as there are only two – very slow – entrance and exit capsules to the building, this does cause some slowdown.

Anyway, so tonight I used my new Nike+ sportsband on the treadmill, and was rather pleased to clock up a 5km in a new personal best time – 29m58s. It was rather jarring at first to not immediately hear Paula in my ear offering me her best, but the watch is somewhat brilliant in its simplicity. Something good that I noticed was that it – unlike the Nike GPS app – offers “live” pace information, as opposed to average pace over the last kilometre. This means that, when you aren’t on a treadmill, it should (in theory at least) be straightforward to work out if you are running too fast or too slow.

The treadmill experience at the gym is a bit better than my own kitchen, but it does still result in the same problem with sweating. The posh treadmills have a little fan built in, but it’s more of a gentle waft across your face and chest than the airflow you get against you outside. So I’m looking rather shattered after a standard run indoors still. I certainly don’t fit in amongst the attractive ones, but Sarah did comment that I looked rather good running along at a fair speed. So that’s all good.

I think that’s about it for tonight. I don’t plan on giving you a blow-by-blow account of everything I get up to at the gym, but whilst it’s new and exciting, I’ll keep you posted. Especially if those fake-baked girlies actually do anything.


The £300 Man

Speaking in purely ballpark figures, I think I’ve spent roughly £300 on “enhancements” to my basic body in pursuit of this quest. The way I see it, that would appear to be excellent value compared to the $6 million man, even when we ignore inflation since the late 70’s. Granted, I have yet to achieve superhuman abilities – or emit a na-na-na-na-na-na-na kind of sound when I try such acts – but I think I’m a wise investment.

That £300 includes my latest enhancement – a birthday gift in the form of a new Nike+ wristband. Sorry, wash my mouth out, sportsband. 

Note that my version is in a far more masculine grey/black. Fluorescent yellow is so 2009.

Said sportsband is the missing link between me recording my runs via GPS on the road, and getting similar statistics when running on the spot in the gym. Courtesy of the good old Nike sensor that sits in my shoe (or in the case of my non-Nike shoes, a little pouch strapped to my laces), some rather clever science comes into play, and that bit of plastic notices what kind of stride I have, how many times my foot falls per minute, and then tells my sportsband what my distance is. The sportsband then does the rest and marries it up with the overall time, my pace based upon said time, and calories (based on my stats synced to the sportsband via Mac/USB).

In conclusion, it means that my data-hungry mind will continue to be bombarded by statistics regardless of where I am, and every run will “count”. Which is all good.

And the $6 million man didn’t do that, did he?

However, I do look a lot like this with my iPhone and sensors dangling everywhere...


Yesterday was my birthday. The big 2-8.

Well, actually, I find nothing really all that spectacular about the age of 28. 30 is looming, but it’s still far enough away to not appear on any radars, and I can’t say I feel like I’m in my twenties any more. This is series 2-3 of Friends (no, really, that’s how old the characters apparently were). I’m not sure what that means really – I’m at the age that, if I were Ross, I get Rachel? Hmm, not very helpful, TV calendar.

In terms of running however – which is what this all should be about – I see my age as an opportunity to right some wrongs before my fourth decade kicks in. People assure me I have a young body, and that it has the potential to look like those blokes on the front cover of Men’s Fitness every month. So I owe it to those delusional people to at least try. Before 30 hits, and I start ranting about the cost of my mortgage and other dull issues.

Well, I can’t really say that I approached Day One of my 29th year with the same positive attitude towards sculpting the body beautiful. No, my birthday called for a night away in Manchester. And that spelt gluttony. Specifically, a rather heavy Italian lunch, followed by a big, creamy coffee at Starbucks, a lion’s share of a bottle of champagne in the hotel room, a rich and romantic evening meal in the hotel’s fantastic restaurant, and finally a champagne breakfast in bed the next day.

I would dread to think what sort of calorie count the last 24 hours have spelt. No doubt it cancelled out all my hard work since I started writing this. But you know what? I set out with this quest with a specific clause written into the guidelines. And that clause was that I was not going to become some grey shape that sucks on celery sticks for pleasure. I wasn’t going to start fainting like my Nemesis. And I wasn’t going to miss out on the joys of good food and drink when the fancy took me.

So, here I am, the morning after the night before, ready to get back in the saddle and hit the gym later. Perhaps much later, once my body has managed to digest everything.