4 September 2009
So, almost two weeks of gym use so far and I do feel better, even if it's more for psychological reasons than through any improvement in my physical being.
I've put on a pound, and the nicer people I know claim it's because muscle is starting to develop and that weighs more than fat. They are saints. They have stopped me from bursting into tears, cancelling my membership and collapsing on the settee with a large Cooplands custard pie.
I've grown to enjoy the treadmill, and a good thing too as I have already vowed never to use a cross-trainer or stepper again as they are the devil's exercise machines. I'm up to doing 30 minute sets at between 6 and 7.5kms an hour, and now with an added incline of 2m. The time drags by unless you have music you like wiling away the time in your ears, as the gym is still playing 4Music constantly, and therefore we get Daniel Merriweather and Beyonce on dreary 35 minute rotations. I have really got into the Empire Of The Sun album via my iPod, and it's all thanks to the treadmill.
On one occasion while milltreading, I took the speed up to 7.5kms, the fastest I've ever managed. I walked in that mincing manner that race walkers use, and really went for it. Then I clutched the heart-rate handlebars, more for respite reasons than any interest in my cardiac exertions - and was promptly warned that holding these monitors was "not advisable when running". It appeared that I was walking at a speed which the treadmill only recognised for joggers. I must have been doing something right if I was able to walk at a speed regarded as above the norm for an extra-brisk stroll. But I really can't run, and refuse to. I'm told running is easier than fast-walking. It bloody well isn't.
The settings I use for the treadmill also counts the calories I shift in a 30 minute session and as I staggered off, a female trainer on duty in the health suite asked me how I got the calorie count up. She worked in the gym and yet I, the total novice, knew how this was done and she didn't. She'd been working with a middle-aged woman who was slow-walking on the treadmill next to mine and had, apparently, been moaning that the machine didn't count the calories, prior to noticing mine. I suspect a restart course is in order.
I've no idea what the various weights apparatus are called, but there's one where you sit down and pull a wide handle down to your chest and then let it back up again. Well, use of this piece of kit has, thanks to the aching sensations I experienced for the following 48 hours, woke muscles in my shoulders and chest I never knew I had. The fact that I am still using this gear and those muscles no longer hurt must mean something is clicking into place somewhere.
And I have been back in the pool. I did 500m in 45 minutes, mainly a medium-paced breaststroke, as it was a public session and it was quite busy and much zig-zagging needed to be done. Most of the swimmers were what the assistant manager of the sports centre, an old competitive swimming buddy of mine, calls "hairdo swimmers" - women who do very slow breaststroke for half an hour without getting their hair or face wet. This makes someone like me feel mildly guilty when doing freestyle (front crawl) as there is severe splashing potential, so I waited until a few had got out. I decided not to do any butterfly...
The pool is one I first entered as a toddler and was where I learnt to swim in 1979. The walls, floors and spectator benches are the same as they have always been. Within my swim I did a couple of my own "hairdo" lengths in order to take a look around the place. It's heartening to see that the classic "Will patrons kindly refrain from..." notice is still in use, albeit given a facelift from the one I remember. So iconic did it become that it was soon made into a T-shirt. Looking back, I reckon I broke every one of those orders within a pool environment except for smoking...
It's also far less heartening to see the "No Photography" sign which councils everywhere have now installed in their pools, supposedly in an effort to stop perverts getting pictures of semi-naked kids but in reality merely preventing proud parents and grandparents from getting souvenir snaps of their child's achievements in the pool.
Anyway, I'm settling into a routine, at the moment, of three gym sessions and one swim a week. Once I feel up to it fitness wise, I might yet go back to proper Masters swimming training, though I think that's a while off yet.
There's a sauna at the gym, by the way. I've only ever been in a sauna once in my life and found it deeply uncomfortable, yet some people turn up purely to go in it, then go home again. Why?