Gyms. Ugh. Sport, fitness, exercise, even more ugh.
Me and physical activity got off to a bad start – slow, short, weedy and always the last to be picked for any team, I used to dread ‘all out’ which was the name for the period between the end of lessons and the evening meal at my (boarding) school. I presume it was called ‘all out’, because it was meant to imply that every single one of us got some fresh air and physical activity, every day…well, as far as I was concerned there was plenty of fresh air in the copses and dens where I smoked my badly rolled cigarettes, and the occasional sprint from a schoolmaster on the prowl more than counted towards my physical activity quota.
I stopped doing any kind of sport (except the mid-fag sprinting) the minute it became non-compulsory, which I suppose was probably 16 or so. I did have a brief flirtation with swimming in my final year at uni, because I got a bit embarrassed confessing that I couldn’t swim more than 10 metres – and then only on my back. So I went to the pool regularly enough that after six months, I had managed the super achievement of being able to swim, uh, twenty metres. On my FRONT! Get me!
After university, I did occasionally have a panic about my unhealthiness, leading me to sign up with various gyms promising the earth, but I never stuck with them. I felt like such a muppet not knowing how anything worked, and I hated the latest-kit-and-fake-tans crew that seemed to lurk around with not much else to do but gossip and stare pityingly at muppets like me. Also beyond a standard induction and perhaps a photocopied exercise program, there was no support and encouragement. Until I phoned to cancel my membership of course, and then the support and encouragement practically oozed down the phone line, slowly calcifying into arsiness as it became clear, that no, I really, really did not want to continue having the lifeblood sucked out of my bank account in exchange for feeling useless and self conscious in public three times a week. I can do that perfectly well enough on my own, and FOR FREE, thank you very much.
Given my track record with gyms, I don’t know what made me join Aspire Fitness when they opened in Canton back in 2008. Except that I had a six month old and a two and a half year old, and I was desperate for something – anything – that I could do to give me some time to myself for half an hour a couple of times a week. Also, just after I’d had the flyer through to say a new gym was opening, I had spied three people in their Aspire hoodies, having a coffee in Chapter. I figured they must be the owners and suspiciously inspected them from afar for signs of latest-kit-and-fake-tans-ness but there were none. Even better, one of them was definitely eating CAKE!
So I signed up for the gym, and because it seemed like a good deal, I also signed up for personal training, and then, feeling all proud of myself, I went and signed up for a bloody half marathon with my three sisters who’d all been running for ages. Of course I spent the next week bricking it about how many new and wonderful opportunities I would now have to look, act and feel like a muppet, and how long it would be before I could decently cancel my membership, and whether there might be cake available in the gym, and whether if I fed my sisters enough wine they might forget that I’d promised to run 13.1 stupid miles with them.
So I rocked up on my first session, at 6.30am, which went a little like this..
Joe:’So, why do you want to train?’
Me: ‘What?? I don’t WANT to train at all, you muppet. Why would I? What I WANT is to lose weight, get a bit healthier, and replace my pelvic door with a pelvic floor. Preferably painlessly and while eating cake’.
Well, that was what the voice in my head said. I have no idea what I actually did say. I probably mumbled something about losing the baby weight, I honestly have no idea. Whatever it was, I ended up really enjoying the training despite myself, and not only did I turn up to my next session and the ones after that, but I started going to the gym in between times as well – and, weirdly, liking it!
Going to Aspire was such a massively different experience than going to any of the gyms I’d been to previously. For a start, all the staff looked genuinely pleased to see me whenever I arrived. I’m sure they were equally pleased to see everyone who walked through the doors of course but when you’re a bit scared and a lot post natal, a friendly smile makes a huge difference. And Joe, who had (and still has) the misfortune to be my trainer, was always remarkably unfazed by my unco-ordinatedness, and had this knack of getting me to do stuff I never dreamed I’d be able to do, without me even realising I was doing it. Last but not least, the other members were not scary and certainly not pos-ey at all, and, like the staff, really friendly…I was encouraged to join the gym’s running club by a couple of them and I never, NOT IN A MILLION YEARS, imagined that I’d have the confidence to go running with people I didn’t know.
I did my half marathon – in fact I did three. Three! Me! And not only that, but I found I was enjoying myself so much that I decided to work towards becoming a personal trainer, and managed, with loads of help from the Aspire team, to actually pass the gym instructor’s exam. I haven’t managed to do anything with it yet – I had my youngest shortly after that and the next couple of years were a bit of a blur, but still – I did it, and I will at some point, when life is a bit less crazy, pick it up again. In the meantime I’m training for a 26 mile walk in September, raising money for Hope for Justice (with friends I met through the gym), I’m running the Cardiff Half Marathon in October, and I’m learning to deadlift. AND I CAN’T EVEN BELIEVE I AM WRITING THAT.
So there you have it. I really cannot recommend Aspire highly enough. If you are thinking of joining a gym but nervous about it, or you want to train for anything at all, you should definitely call them – they really do know – and care – what they are talking about, they’re lovely people, and they also do shedloads more fun stuff than I’ve written about here, from rock climbing to triathlon training. You can book a free trial in the Canton gym on 02920 23 55 23, or in the Nantgarw gym on 01685 887544 – or drop them an email on firstname.lastname@example.org. Get on it!
ps Aspire didn’t ask me to write this post, and I’m not getting paid for it. Though I hope when they read it they will feed me cake.