Yesterday I made my first visit to the gym since being given the all clear to resume physical exercise after my steroid jab for the osteoarthritis in my hip. It was not a success.
The cardio-vascular room, which overlooks the swimming pool, has a bank of five televisions high on the wall, so that – by means of ear-plugs and a device you can take to the apparatus you’re using – you can tune in to the channel of your choice. To make use of this facility is practically essential because the establishment has decided that simultaneously the gym will be constantly shaking to the sounds of thumping music at high volume.
My first problem was that, having negotiated my way up the stairs and taken one such device to my stepping machine, I discovered that I had left my earphones in my changing room locker downstairs.
Having retraced my steps and returned to my former position, my next issue was that it was a new model of stepping machine on which (inevitably) I couldn’t work out how to programme to my desired ‘interval’ setting. Looking around the room, the only ‘old style’ equivalent – which I do know how to programme – had been ‘bagged’ by the only other person present, an old gentleman currently struggling on the next-door cycling machine, by the means of placing his walking stick against it.
When I use the description ‘old’, there is, of course, old … and ‘old’. I readily acknowledge that I’m old myself, but this chap was positively ancient, at least ten years my senior, i.e. definitely not long for the scrapyard.
Often in life, increasingly so in my experience, one comes across another human being who, for no specific reason you can identify, instantly irritates. Yesterday the old gentleman immediately qualified under this heading. The walking stick was a bit of a give-away. He was ‘going through the motions’ of taking exercise, presumably to ward off old age as long as he could, but it wasn’t working. He moved at funereal pace at all times and, when he stood up – fat and balding – he looked about as fit and weak as an amoeba. His legs went straight down without definition, his ankles as broad as his thighs and packed with varicose veins.
Abandoning my cardio session in the circumstances, I decided instead to nip downstairs to the weights room. Somehow the old gentleman made it to the stairs first and I had to dawdle behind him, deeply frustrated, as he descended, one step at a time, all the way to the bottom. It then became clear he was also heading to the weights room, so I went off to take a drink of water before following him – this option being preferable to enduring the pain of waddling behind him along the corridor.
In the weights room, he then systematically occupied in turn every station that I wished to occupy. After ten more minutes of fuming, I decided to cut my losses and go for a sauna. A swim was out of the question, both because the water was full of young kids in lanes being given swimming lessons and because, had I chosen to join them, I might have risked being suspected of paedophilic tendencies by the cohort of yummy (and not so yummy) mummies lining the side of the pool.
Two ten-minute sessions in the sauna, coupled with two ten-minute sessions in the jacuzzi, were all I could be bothered to undertake before retreating home down the hill.
There are two ways of viewing this episode. Firstly, that it was a complete waste of time. Secondly, that at least it ranks as a visit to the gym, however imperfect.
Ah well, at least today is another day.