I quite like this time of year. I know that it always seems to be dark, miserable and wet, but even in a horrible stormy week like this one, you sometimes get those beautiful clear, crisp days that really seem to lift the spirit. The sun didn't quite make it out through the clouds today, and it wasn't frosty, but it was still a nice enough afternoon. Certainly nice enough that I took the opportunity to escape from my desk to go for a run, anyway.
I took my normal route out along the canal and back along the river, and as I headed back into the changing rooms, I was very much looking forward to my lunch. The changing rooms were now quite a lot busier than before, filled mostly with guys who had been working out in the on-site gym. I've been running at work now for a couple of years, and I've got to know some of the faces quite well: there's the funny looking guy who is pretty ripped and who clearly looks after his body but who never, ever showers.... preferring to get straight out of his gym kit and into his suit; there are the two older guys who are probably both in their sixties but still go running about three times a week; there are the two miserable looking chaps who spend the whole time they are getting changed arguing whose turn it is to buy lunch. None of this lot were in the changing room today. Instead, I was treated to the hardcore gym-bunnies: these are the guys who spend a lot of time in the changing rooms drinking protein shakes and discussing their various exercise programmes at great length.
"Yeah, I've had a 5% dip in performance, but I don't think that's too bad for the first session back after a two week holiday."
"Yeah? Not bad, not bad at all. I've been working on some gluteus presses at olympian intensity in supersized squat intervals."
"Sweet. What did you do?"
"About 1231. Funny thing is that the machine told me that this only just put me into the demi god category!"
"What? What the hell does that make most of the lard arses sat at their desks?"
What is it about men and their constant need to talk utter rubbish whilst simultaneously comparing the length of their genitalia? Why can they not just exercise and be done with it? Working out in the gym is not a competitive sport, is it? Am I missing out on something by going running on my own? The thing that amuses me the most, I think, is that none of these guys is particularly well-conditioned. They are just 40-something year old blokes with paunches and silly fingerless weightlifting gloves.
They appear to have a project: a new guy joined their team a few weeks ago, and they have clearly managed to talk him into coming down to the gym with them. He's a fairly normal looking guy. He's not fat or anything, but he's perhaps let himself go a bit in the last few years and is trying to put a stop to that incipient middle-aged spread. The gym boys have got him on a programme. When I first saw the new guy with them in the changing rooms, they were talking him through his first 5km run on the treadmill and asking him how he felt. Knackered, by the looks of him, but in a hurry to get off to a meeting. Once he had gone, the gym boys discussed their pupil:
"What did he do again?"
"35:23? Bloody hell"
"Yeah, but first time"
"Fair enough. How old is he?"
"About 43. He's in reasonable shape, I suppose, but he's what? 95 kilos? He's carrying a bit of weight"
"Once he works that off, his performance will really hit the up-curve"
...and so on.
I suppose their intentions are good and -- bless him -- he's as keen as mustard, but I can't quite get over the fact that these chubby, middle-aged guys are offering another chubby, middle-aged guy the benefit of their dubious experience and expertise over a completely superfluous protein shake after a short workout. Haven't you had enough calories?? Do you really think you need more?? What's for lunch??
Not long after I had arrived back into the changing rooms today, I was joined by their protégé. He looked dead on his feet. Absolutely dead. He sat down on the bench, and put his head between his knees trying to catch his breath. About five minutes later, he was joined by his advisors:
"Yeah. Just tired. That was hard. How many more did you do?"
"Oh, only another 345"
"345? Really? Christ."
"Yeah. But I've done more before. I usually do more"
Jesus Christ. Get a room so you can compare properly, why don't you?
As if that wasn't enough excitement for one day, Darren was also in the changing rooms today. You might remember Darren as the guy who insisted on engaging me in conversation whilst he was stark bollock naked.
He topped that today.
When I first came in to get changed, he tried to make small talk with me whilst he was wearing the most ridiculously skimpy pair of running shorts I have ever seen. That was bad enough, but when I came back in from my run a bit later, he was just on his way to the shower and decided this was a great time -- naked, of course -- to exchange a few words with me. To complete the set, he then decided to wander across the room for a chat after I'd had my shower. Not only was I only wearing a towel and wanting to get dry and back to my desk, but he was also wearing nothing but a really tiny pair of pants and a winning smile. A really tiny pair of pants.
Three great looks, I think you'll agree. Sadly, every time I shut my eyes, I now find one of those three unforgettable images of Darren burned onto my retina.
I think he waxes his chest.
The new normal
2 days ago