I am not at home in the gym… literally. I do not, and I never have, lived in a gym. Sorry for using that archaic meaning of the word and not the new, I-need-a-word-to-make-this-boring-story-sound-a-bit-more-interesting usage. I literally pissed blood out of my eye socket the first time I heard the word literally misused.
I am not at home in the gym… figuratively. I’m not at home in the gym, at a summer house in the gym, not even at a B & B in the gym. I think the only place of residence I could stretch to would be a midday stay in a pay by the hour hotel; where I would be over-charged for something that I don’t know how to get full use out of, in the gym.
Having said that, last week I joined a gym.
In the past year I’ve given up cigarettes and meat, so laziness is next on my list. Soon all I’ll have left is booze and flatulence. One of which is ever increasing since becoming veggie. There are many obvious reasons for me joining a gym. Being overweight for 20 years and smoking for about half of those hasn’t caused any signs of ill-health yet, (sharp stabbing pains near the heart are normal aren’t they?) but it’s only a matter of time I suppose. The main reason though is that I want to spend a period of my life without breasts, or ‘moobs’ as the moobless amongst you so callously call them and my window of opportunity is shrinking everyday.
I’ve been to gyms before. A couple of false starts in Coleshill Leisure Centre lasted about 4 visits until the towel was eventually taken home, washed thoroughly, tumble dried by mum and then ‘thrown in’. I’ve always had what I assume is a common complaint of feeling out of place at a gym. Not being a happy-in-my-own-skin kind of chubby person surrounded by a range of reasonably fit to buff as fuck types makes me feel like I don’t belong. This is quite obviously cod’s bollocks! The gym is the exact place I should be until I’m no longer soft as rotting fruit.
There is a gym 200 metres from my front door which means it takes a matter of seconds to ride there on my scooter. Before Bertha and I went to join I felt more confident than on any other gym induction I’d had previously. I’ve spent around three years being surrounded by Han Chinese, some have been fantastic, some awful, most have been polite, a few have been beautiful and fewer have been communists but basically none have been physically domineering. Wuhan and Chongqing are relatively poor places whose residents don’t have a great diet or paediatric care so are mostly short and skinny. Shanghai and its surrounding cities are full of cash, this has manifested itself in the bellies of the blokes, of course the women are still slim but they don’t eat. There are of course lots of physically fit Chinese, but one never experiences that feeling of walking along a street and having to blurt out “He’s a big lad.” to make sure everyone else in the group knows you aren’t threatened by the tank coming the other way. So I felt that this gym might be a nicer place for the psychologically feeble like I.
On arrival this hope was taken from me, screwed up, positioned effortlessly between two perfectly sculpted arse cheeks and obliterated. The head personal trainer of the gym was there to meet us wearing the uniform of the vapid. NB: I dislike checked shirts. There is nothing wrong with them per se, they look good at a rodeo or on a lumberjack, but they are now synonymous with large groups of overly perfumed, barely coherent men wearing basically the same shirt in a club and whenever I see one I assume that person has a WKD side.
Well this fella’s checked shirt was cut off to the shoulders.
And his English name was Rico.
He was as I imagine most personal trainers to be: Relentlessly upbeat to a point which was unsettling. I’ve always been uncomfortable around anyone unilaterally positive and I found his encouragement very discouraging. It seems to work though because surveying the scene I could see the same awkward gait of the overly muscled one can find in gyms at home too.
After gasps of surprise about my derisible weight and percentage body fat (I have tits and a penis, what did you expect?) every preconceived notion I had of gyms had surfaced. I wanted a beer, a cig and a kebab.
Perhaps due to the vicinity of the gym to my home, or my very supportive partner, or an increased mental toughness I’ve been there 6 out of the 7 days since we joined and I’ll be going again tonight. It is actually a really nice place. Modern machines, friendly instructors and a cinema room with loads of cardio machines instead of chairs that I haven’t ventured into yet but when I get the desire to watch Twilight and build up a sweat, I’ll be sure to… do that, probably.
P.S. After writing this I looked up literally on a couple of online dictionaries and it turns out:
There a few things more annoying than a pedant, one of them is an incorrect pedant. However, I had an OED to hand which, below the real meaning under the heading ‘Usage’, described it thus.
“In recent years an extended use of literally has become very common, where literally is used deliberately in non-literal contexts, for added effect. This can lead to unintentional humorous effects and is not acceptable in standard English, though it is widespread.”
Some may find contradiction in the fact that I’ve quoted the dictionary and highlighted the relevant section to try and make my pedantry less annoying; well I literally couldn’t give a shit.
P.P.S. Part two of ‘Made in Taiwan’ will surface at some stage but with torrential downpours all week it was looking decidedly less picturesque here in Hsinchu.