My Life in Lycra

It’s about that time of year when I start making rash promises to myself to drink carrot juice for the rest of my life and join a gym. Togs season. I went to a gym once. Actually I even went to an aerobic class once – even funnier – I once watched a woman try to teach an English lesson to a group of Somalian refugees (from memory she was trying to demonstrate imperatives) by dressing up in a leotard and shouting at them to follow along. All three exercise endeavours ended badly. At the gym it turned out I had booked myself into some macho den of testosterone and due to some ridiculous eighties feminist philosophy I felt it below me to ask anyone how to use any of the gear. I followed this guy in undies and a wide belt around trying to copy what he was doing (yes – it is even creepier than I have words for) which is how I ended up on a bench press with 2 million kilos to push up. I got the bar – pole thingy about 2cm above my nose and then it fell back pinning me – on my back and in a very compromising position with the weight of an elephant on my throat. I decided it would be better to die than to have the humiliating task of asking Mr. Wonder Woman outfit to come and lift the pole off my neck and so I wriggled helplessly in a vain and undoubtedly undignified attempt to free myself. Then I really did think I was going to die and so managed a feeble strangulated squeal. I swear undie guy was smirking as he came and took the pole off my now purple neck and I was oddly satisfied that he did not find it easy either. Slinking out the door I quietly acknowledged that I had experienced my first and last bench press. And that was the gym.

Then I decided to give myself a permanent wedgie and try aerobics class. There was definite pink lyrca involvement (the saleswoman called it ‘cerise’ and it was the eighties – give me a break.) The big haired gal at the front of the class looked normal enough – until the music started. And then it was like Olivia Newton John had some vile army sergeant’s evil offspring and then gave her methamphetamine and unleashed her upon the world to teach jazzercise to the slackers that didn’t know what to do with their limbs in their free time. I’m still traumatised and so have blocked a lot of the detail from my consciousness but there was an awful lot of shouting and bumping into people going the other direction to me. We were also encouraged to think of all the people we hated that had pissed us off during the day and we could then spend 10 minutes punching the air and pretending it was their face. I could do a whole lot better now but back then I just couldn’t feel the hate. I was at a loss and told evil jazzercise empress that I’d sit this one out partly because I actually liked everyone I worked, studied and lived with at that time and partly out of some deeply embedded Buddhist idea of not sending out too much that you didn’t want to come back and bite you on your lycra-clad butt. And that was aerobics.

The English/ jazzergetics lesson nearly got me expelled from a teacher training course which just goes to prove how dangerous exercise can be. We were supposed to critique each other’s lesson plans and give pitfall preventative feedback. The woman in question was a radical Christian fundamentalist and was about to go forth and teach English as a way of bothering just about everyone. When I saw that she was about to get up in a leotard in front of a group of radical Islamic fundamentalists, whose wives (all at home and kept wisely away from our lunacy – but who all wore burqas) and get them to do a jazz ballet class I realised I had no choice. I encouraged her. Which is truly the only time I can say that exercise has been such huge fun.

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