I went to the gym this evening.
I suppose this isn't really all that remarkable an event in that I go to the gym at least two or three times every week, but this was different: I didn't just go for a swim, oh no. I went to the gym and I got changed into some lycra and I went upstairs and I actually used some of the scary machines.
I used to do this all the time, and in fact I have been member at this gym for something like seven or eight years. I've never been particularly into weights (as witnessed by the punyness of my arms), but for at least the first five years of that time, I could regularly be found in what I believe is called "The Cardio Theatre", thrashing my heart and lungs and generally dripping sweat onto some of the expensive machinery. A couple of years ago though, I started making a real effort to go running outside (an activity that had previously been confined to Saturday mornings). As the climate in this beautiful country usually means that it is either dark or pissing with rain or both when I leave the office, I took to getting away from my desk in my lunch-hour and running alongside the river Trent. As I was now getting my exercise outdoors, I only needed to go to the gym for a swim....and the pool is nice enough that I still consider the membership fee well worth paying. The cardio theatre kind of went by the wayside and wasn't really missed at all.
On the whole, I much prefer running outdoors. It's much less boring, for starters, and it somehow feels as though it's doing me more good actually running properly and not pretending to run on one of those spongey machines. I now go whatever the weather, and although it's sometimes a bit of a struggle, I love the righteous feeling I get for having done it and I relish the chance to get away from my desk to blow all the cobwebs away.
For one reason or another though, I found myself back in the main section of the gym this evening........ Oh my goodness, how things have changed. I felt a bit as though I had been taken out of cryogenic freezing and brought back to life at some point in the distant future. The machines have all changed. I just about recognised the bikes, but even then the controls had changed to an extent that I sat there for a good 2 minutes trying to look like I knew what I was doing before I actually started to pedal. The running machine and the elliptical training thing were basically the same I suppose, but the steppers now have people moving their knees at really weird, wonky looking angles that make them look like they're mincing (well, they are on a stepper, for heaven's sake....). As for that odd stepping/walking thing that looks a bit like it has a mini treadmill for each foot that moves independently of the other.... well, I was curious enought to try that one out. It seemed simple enough, but as I confidently upped the speed, I nearly went flying off the back and had to press the emergency stop button. Hmmm. I decided that discretion was the better part of valour at this point and beat a hasty but (I trust) dignified tactical retreat.
Some things never change at the gym though, and as I headed down to the changing rooms and a well earned sauna, I was very pleased to see those tubby looking blokes with moobs and fingerless gloves still desperately trying to lift weights that are clearly far too heavy for them.... yeah, best have a rest for a moment and a sip of that protein shake as you've clearly not had enough calories already today, and that curry is still an hour away in the future.
I think I'll go to the gym again tomorrow, actually..... but I reckon I'll just slink off back to the pool this time.