As I sat watching Kickboxer, I could feel my brother staring and stifling his laughter.
It wasn’t the questionable plot, Van Damme’s excuse for having a Belgian accent, or his badass dance moves. No.
Visual reenactment. Thanks to Piers for the use of his pale, but effective forearm.
Yes, it was a bit big.
I had been feeling like a new arm would burst out of it any day now, and wrestle the old one to its death. But you know what some girls are like when they lift a 1kg dumbbell.
I’m always saying “I’m getting huge,” forcing some poor fella to search bemusedly for a bicep muscle, and then being reminded of how diminutive I am when they show me what a real bicep muscle looks like.
My brother put his forearm next to mine, and fell off the sofa laughing.
This time it was no exaggeration. My forearm belonged to another person.
I’d been ‘working out’, since I came back to London five months ago. Fat burning, cross training, running 5k a day. I had been taking a 30 minute train journey to run inside on a treadmill, when I lived next door to a park. Why? Love.
It was idiotic.
I would meet my ex at the gym and run, when I could have easily have done laps around the park for free. I guess it was an easy routine to slip into. I didn’t have a job. He finished work and headed straight to the gym. If I wanted to see him, that’s where I had to go.
The one time I suggested doing something different, he had a perfectly timed foul mood. The evening was a disaster. It ended with his wise observation that “We should have just gone to the gym.”
His gym was like Cheers, where he could walk through the door, everybody knew his name and he could start a bit of banter with the trainers, other members. I would be constantly told how nice it was to meet the girlfriend that they had heard so much about, and proudly shown around.
It took me a while to realise I was effectively walking him to the gym and home again with 30 minutes cardio inbetween. This wasn’t quality time. It was me slotting myself into his life.
When I told him I wouldn’t go with him to the gym in the afternoons, it was the beginning of the end really. He wasn’t going to change his schedule. We saw each other once a week. If that.
After our breakup, if ever there was a place where I felt like I would be judged and unhappy it was his gym. But he’d already convinced me to sign up for the year. So as part of my whole make-yourself-happy face-your-demons style of life, I decided to go there.
For 3 hours.
It made perfect sense to an insecure masochist.
I think everyone has their own body issues. I have always struggled to be happy with the way I look. When I had been going out with my ex, I had felt somewhat unattractive in comparison, through no fault of his own. He was someone who was in great shape, took care of his appearance, wore the right clothes and groomed himself carefully.
I was someone who often had crumbs in my hair, wanted to eat my body weight in cheese and then blog about it.
There was nothing wrong with either. But I guess when you’re not happy with who you are, you lose yourself in what other people want for you. Every suggestion starts feeling like a put down.
Growing up, I was quite underweight as a child. My mother would pinch my nose shut and make me swallow raw eggs to fatten me up. Edwina Curry saved me with Salmonella. I could have been a far rounder child.
Raw eggs were replaced with using me as a human garbage disposal, and the Indian ‘just one more’ sneak attack, in which food is shoved into your mouth when you open it to refuse.
This typically asian way of showing love, was then confused by calling me ‘moti’. ‘Moti’ meaning fatty in an endearing way. Only the latinos and south asians could possible think calling someone fat was endearing. After being plumped up like a French goose, moti was my reward.
It’s easy to see why I might take extra time to be healthy and active. Also why I have always given too much time to mindless comments about my body. Helpful observations on how the right diet and a couple of hundred crunches could boost my sexual capital from an 8 to even a 9 or a 10 have always increased my self esteem.
It’s nice to know you’re a fixer upper.
Regularly going to the gym always helped me to get out of my head more and into my body. This time though, I wanted to get into the body I had, not some supermodel’s body that I would never have.
When I came home with the 4 page training program, I asked for my brother’s help in figuring it out. He took one look at it and burst out laughing.
“He wants to destroy you.”
I had made it pretty clear to Paulo that I wanted to tone up. Be stronger. I didn’t want to body build or get ‘swole.’ Paulo had other ideas though. In his mind I wanted to build my body. I wanted to build up muscle. That was the definition of body building.
Gold’s Gym was Arnie’s gym. Now it’s mine.
When you say “Body builder” the mind will go to the magnificent photo of Arnold Schwarzenegger, striking a pose and showing off his hulk like muscle definition. He is the archetypal Mr Universe. Now type Miss Universe into google and you may happen to see the most beautiful girl in the world…
I have spent my life, like many other women, being convinced that my body will look like Rihanna’s or Eva Mendes’ body when I work out. Or that I will develop a generic Barbie like body, because that’s what we can all look like. What we should aspire to.
I remember Jennifer Lawrence saying that she trained hard for Hunger Games because her character was meant to be someone young girls would look up to, without wanting to skip dinner. Not sexy, marriageable, or someone a man would be happy to wake up naked next to. Someone healthy and strong.
My fears about being laughed at for my light weights, or using the weights incorrectly were ignored by Paulo. He would help. If he wasn’t there someone else would. I had to use the weights area. I paid for the gym, I used the gym.
If I was worried about being judged on appearance, I may not have been the only one. But there is no time for it. Thinking about other people messes up my reps. The less I think about anything other than what my body is doing, the better I get. The better my time gets. The happier I feel.
I judge too quickly. After a few weeks of pushing the ‘What will people think?’ anxiety out of my head, I can see that now. It’s why I think I’m always being judged. It is something I am working on.
My worries about being in my ex’s gym, surrounded by his peers were quickly dismissed. Once again, there were more lovely supportive people in the world than those that were out to hurt and judge me.
I now know all the trainers and have a chat when I see them. I can’t say everybody knows my name, but they recognise my face, say hi and help out if I ask. I am able to laugh at my mistakes with them. I will forever be known as the girl that was doing three times her work out because she can’t do maths.
I may be an idiot, but I’m one that can do 72 barbell squats in under five minutes.
Who knows what I will look like at the end.
Someone happier I hope.