Last summer I joined a gym. There, I have admitted it. I shall not bore you with how much I agonised over whether I could justify it, not financially – it is a very basic (aka cheap) gym – but from an environmental perspective. Suffice it to say I had a number of specific health objectives and realised that pounding the pavements would not be enough to achieve them.
I quickly discovered that gyms have changed quite a bit since I used them over a decade ago. Back then I would pitched up at a sports centre, pay the class or gym fee and get to work. Nowadays, taking part in any class seems to involve logging onto a website to register for one of the spaces. As someone who has traditionally been very gym/exercise shy, putting a password protected website between someone and their workout strikes me as madness, but it seems to be de rigueur these days.
As soon as I joined, I worked out which classes would support my goals. I avoided anything involving complex routines or co-ordination. Old fashioned circuit training and snoringly dull free weights were about my mark. And as for the spin studio… I knew it offered a high intensity cardiovascular workout but I gave it a very wide berth. After all, I had read about this modern-day torture chamber. How people almost pass out or vomit during such sessions, how they cannot walk for three days and how the saddle can bruise the rear… I was committed and keen but not mad!
By late autumn, with my fitness steadily improving, I started to toy with the idea of trying a spin class. I occasionally got as far as registering for one on the pesky portal, only to get cold feet and de-register with a few hours to go. I was still terrified of that small loud sweaty corner of the gym.
Then over the twelve days of Christmas, as winds and rain lashed the south of England, I could not face another run on the treadmill so I bit the bullet. I registered for and actually attended a spin class.
I walked in sheepishly, fearful of what lay ahead. The instructor talked newcomers through setting up the bike height and then we started peddling. We peddled some more and then started ramping up the resistance. Before long we were out of the saddle, climbing an imaginary hill; then the resistance dropped down and we sprinted down said hill before heading up it again and again… And before I knew it, the class was over.
I had worked up a good sweat but did not find myself in an embarrassing puddle of it. My heart rate had bounced around my anaerobic threshold but no more so than it does during a good tempo run. And as for my backside, it had barely noticed a saddle that was positively comfortable compared to the one on my city-run-around bicycle. I stretched sensibly, as I would after any run, and headed home.
The next few days I expected my muscles to feel leaden but nothing. After all that procrastination and doubt, the only ill effects were two stunningly purple bruises just above my knees from not adjusting the handlebars properly!
Since that first session, I have included a spin class in my weekly routine as it proved to be an invigorating workout that is considerably less soul destroying than a speed session on the treadmill.
My procrastination over spinning is of course much like my fear of an empty page (which I still experience, especially academically) or dread of a blank form. So, buoyed by an invigorating, rather than painful, first spin session, I have sprung into action on some matters that have sat in my in-tray for too long, mostly because they involve internet passwords and electronic forms.
This week I gathered up all necessary information, ploughed my way through the forms on the HMRC website and filed my tax return with a fortnight to spare (rather than my normal hours). I have also dug out a clutch of pension plan statements and am now enquiring about amalgamating these into something a little less trivial and ad hoc. And after Kafkaesque meetings, calls and emails with the English and French branches of the same international bank, I finally have access to both branches’ internet portals and can wrap up outstanding financials issues from my time in Paris. And most importantly, I have started to put pen to paper on my dissertation proposal rather than read yet another scholarly article first…