Loads of people join gym’s, don’t they? Particularly in January after families have gorged themselves on enough meat, vegetables and liquor to sustain the population of a small island off the coast of Costa Rica. Well, it’s British tradition, isn’t it? Consume a volume of food that you wouldn’t even entertain at any other time of year whilst “Do They Know it’s Christmas?” plays in the background. The British do “irony” pretty well, also.

So, you’ve eaten so much food you know how “Gluttony” felt in Se7en, and you haven’t had a non-alcoholic beverage in your hand in almost a week. Your eyes have developed a seemingly natural pinkness and the inside of your mouth feels like it’s coated with grease, matched with a furry tongue. In your guilt from the back-to-work hangover you decide that the best idea is to join a gym and lose the pounds.

Fast forward to February and you’ve probably been half a dozen times. You were given a tour of the facilities by an attractive and athletic person with “trainer” written on the back of their polo shirt and you promised yourself that 2013 was the year that you were going to do something. And then you promptly forgot about the whole thing, because life has a habit of getting in the way of things. If life didn’t demand so much of your time you really would get your flabby arse to the gym 3 times a week

That’s where I don’t have to worry, you see? I don’t have a life. Well; not enough of one to get in the way.

I joined the gym at the beginning of December, and there were a few reasons. I’m 36, which means that I am at that ‘not getting any younger’ stage that’s annoying to other people who think you’re overreacting. Even the people that do it themselves. I am not, and have never been, into any form of exertion. I do not do, like or follow sport. It strikes me as a silly thing to get enthusiastic about, but each to their own. Most people think I’m odd because I collect comics, watch science fiction and have superhero tattoos. Well, those things and others. My obsession with stationary in general and pens in particular, to start with. And the whole correcting grammar and spelling. But apart from those things I am perfectly normal. Okay, so I have specific radiators that I have to put my boxer shorts and socks on, but everyone does that. And staples must be done at a 45 degree angle or I have to pull them out and re-staple. Other than that, I am just like everyone else.

So I am middle aged (the average life expectancy of a bloke in the UK is about 77, so I’d say I’m in the middle of that) and unfit. Already 2 good reasons to get physical. Add to that my new lifestyle and circumstances which basically meant that my entire existence involved getting up, going to work, coming home and going to bed, where the highlight of my day is speaking to my kids at 8am and 7pm, and having them a couple of times a week when my bastard of a job lets me. Other than my kids, who are amazing, it’s wasn’t the most fulfilling of lives. The gym, mainly, is my attempt at doing something new. Something that’s for ME. To keep me sane and make me feel better, and it’s working.

Step A: Join the gym. Step B: GO to the gym. It’s that easy really.

Well, it is when you’ve got a meat head dragging you there by the scruff of your neck. Did I not mention that? No? Another reason that I ended up with a gym membership is because a colleague of mine goes 5 times a week. We had a boring afternoon at work once, so we started measuring body parts (not like that, you filthy swine, you). His thigh was 3 inches smaller than my waist. His bicep was the same size as my head. He’s a big fella. In addition to these statistics he’s also a sadist. After the first week I could have quite cheerfully never gone back again, but that big bastard just kept on dragging me there.

I used to joke about gyms – that the one thing stopping people like me going was the fact that they were already full of people that looked like they belonged in a gym, whilst I… didn’t. I always said that what was required was a pre-gym gym, where people like me could start getting into shape and learn what the fuck they were doing without looking like a complete plank. I imagined a scene like Deliverance, of me walking into a proper gym and suddenly everyone stops what they’re doing and slowly turns to look at the fuckwit that has just walked through the door.

It took me a few weeks to realise that I was completely wrong. Sure, there are men there that look like they spend more hours of the day working out than sleeping but, when it comes down to it, no one gives a fuck what anyone else is doing. Every person in that gym is concentrating solely on doing what they’ve got to get done. They are too busy doing their own shit to be distracted by my matchstick biceps.

Of course (perhaps inevitably since it’s me) I fucked up a little on a few details. I was wearing ‘the wrong clothes’, apparently. I figured that a pair of trackies and a t shirt was more than suitable, and I was right (sort of). It was the rest of the ensemble that was the issue. My wide-brimmed hat to start with. Every self respecting geek has a hat like it because, deep down, it makes us feel like Henry Jones Jnr. My hat gets regular criticism from my colleagues, and has for years. They will be happy to know that it is being retired at the end of the month.

My XL cardigan was also a matter for discussion. I am medium build and it can wrap around me at least half a dozen times but, DAMNIT! It’s comfortable! Not very cool, but comfortable. Then there was my footwear. I bought a pair of trainers specifically for the gym (I think it’s a rule, or something, but I’ve never really asked anyone about it), so I wear my boots when I go up there. It’s winter, and a pair of steel toecaps with good grip is sensible. I also have a denim jacket with a fur lining that I have worn day in, day out, for the last 5 years and a seven foot long black and white scarf that frequently makes people shout abuse at me in the street for being a Newcastle supporter.

So, to recap, my gym ensemble was: Indy hat; scarf; denim jacket; cardigan; t shirt; trackies; steel toe capped boots. In short: I looked like a bag of spanners. Even I had to admit that I prematurely looked like I was preparing to sleep on a park bench somewhere. So the moral of the story is that even if, like me, you don’t really care what people think about your fashion sense there’s no reason to go around looking like an incontinent hobo.

My aim in going to the gym is to get fitter, lose the last of my belly and build a bit of muscle. This boils down to Cardio’ and weights. I tend to jump on the Cross Trainer for 20 minutes when I first get there to get my heart rate going, warm up and get a sweat on. If you go on a Cardio’ machine and you’re not sweating like a bastard when you come off then you’re doing it wrong. Also; make sure you have either a towel or you grab some of the paper roll that should be around somewhere. No one looks good dripping in sweat and the person using the machine next will NOT appreciate it.

The gym that I go to is split into 2 main sections (plus a swimming pool). I have no idea if this normal as my experience of going to a gym is limited to the last couple of months. Downstairs are the Cardio’ machines and the weights machines whilst upstairs is the ‘Big Boys Area” where everyone does free weights and the equipment looks like Torquemada himself would have approved of the design. I’m not really comfortable upstairs for a few reasons. I got very drunk last year, punched a wall and broke 2 bones in my right hand. 2 lots of surgery later and I haven’t got the best grip in the world – my pinkie finger is pretty much immobile from the knuckle. This makes some of the exercises (particularly with free weights) a little tricky and a few impossible. I’ve also got to admit that it’s a little intimidating to walk into a room full of muscle freaks where the only other ‘normal’ guy is a skinny ginger fellow with a goatee beard. He looks like Shaggy from Scooby Doo and can lift twice as much as me, the bastard.

The main reason that I don’t venture upstairs that often is the noises that people make. It’s hard to concentrate on maintaining your form when a guy across the room is making sounds that I’ve only heard before on a Norewegian porn movie. Seriously. The guy could make a fortune dubbing those things into English. What made it worse is that when I looked over he was using lower weights that I was. I don’t make noises like that. The chap that first started taking me there (his name’s Jamie, by the way, and he has a wicked sense of humour. He descibes himself like this: “I’m black, 22, don’t drink, don’t smoke, I’m from Oldham and I don’t have any kids – I think I deserve some sort of recognition for that”) doesn’t make noises like that and he can bench press a small car. Not a Smart car, a proper car. Like a Mini or a Beetle. He could do a Robin Reliant with one leg.

Jamie is a cruel taskmaster. For the first few weeks I only went with him so I could get used to the place, feel comfortable and learn how to use the machines. He also made sure that I wasn’t lifting “pussy weights”, although he describes the face that I pull when I’m struggling as “a ferret having an orgasm”. I’m not sure how he knows this, and I haven’t asked. How does he know the ferret wasn’t faking it for a start? The first time that he had me doing my legs was a highlight of hilarity for him as, when we had finished and were going back downstairs, they completely gave way on the first step. I had to use the handrail the whole way. When I was halfway a couple of guys started coming down behind me and, I have to admit, I pretended that nothing was wrong and tried walking normally. The result was a spasmodic gait that fooled no one and caused J to cry with laughter. I also couldn’t walk properly for 4 days after, which tickled my colleagues no end.

So I’ve been going for the last couple of months and that’s why I feel confident that I can keep up with this new part of SINGLE GEEK DAD because, and I never thought I’d say this, but I really enjoy going. Subsequent posts will be shorter as this has kind of gotten away from me. It’s going to be part diary, part observation and hopefully it will have a couple of funny jokes in each post.

Thanks for reading and GEEK IN THE GYM will continue next week.

Owen

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