Things I’ve learned from going to exercise classes.
I was there yesterday – leaping up and down like a good ’un – wearing a look of grim determination and some sweat.
I suppose I must enjoy classes, I’ve been doing them long enough, but I really hate that big mirror. There’s just nowhere else to look and nowhere to hide.
From the mirror I learned that my body has managed a clever trick of being scrawny at the ends – neck, hands and shins - while maintaining a bolster-like lump in the middle. Nice.
That set me thinking of all the things I’ve learned since I first went to a class – around 1988 in Aberdeen’s splendid Beach Ballroom. Swedish Exercise, no less.
Aerobics (or whatever it’s called these days) is a competitive sport. The instructor will inevitably say “work at your own level, don’t worry what other people are doing”. Like hell. You pick someone about the same level of lardiness and make sure you do more, go harder and grumble less that she does.
Legwarmers are nobody’s friend. They look silly, go under your shoe and make you slip and, really, what’s the point of warm ankles when you’re about to get hot all over?
You will never, ever achieve your physical ideal so get over it. Marco’s Gym, Edinburgh. The instructor was a glorious specimen with long lean muscles and such firm abs that she may well have lacked any internal organs. My efforts to emulate her ended with sore knees and calf muscles that would have been more at home along the road in Murrayfield.
Exercise alone is not enough. Kelvin Hall, Glasgow. After a certain age – 26 in my case – leaping up and down will not keep the girth down. Eat less, that’s all.
There are some women I will never be able to be friends with. A gym in Southampton I’ve forgotten the name of. Two days after Diana died one woman announced: “I’ve been at the doctor’s with an infected tear duct. He said it was because I’d been crying so much. I just couldn’t stop.”
And a week or so later another woman is horrified about her German au pair: “She looked lovely in the dress she’s going to wear to the (posh social function) but when she lifted up her arms there were her pits – unshaven. It was disgusting, I felt sick. How could such a beautiful girl be like that?”
Crèches are marvellous. Linwood Sports Centre. Boy Two loved it. He had so much fun and I learned that he’d be just fine in nursery.
I am not a whooper. I don’t really like it when the instructor whoops, oh yeahs, uhuhs with the sheer joy of exercise and I hate to do it myself. In fact, I can’t so there’s no point in shouting at me to do it. Likewise, I don’t want to smile, sing or count out loud.
I’ve got quite nice hair. Bowfield Country Club. In an attempt to avoid eye contact with my chicken neck, spare tyres or VPL I light on my head. That colour still looks OK and it’s weeks since it was done.