Tag: gym


My first home in London was in a relatively deprived part of the city south of the river. I now live a more lively, more fashionable northern borough.

Moving between gyms, I can see the differences in the community profiles of the two areas. At my old gym, most people looked like they were there to lose weight. There were Afro-Caribbean people, Asians and White European.

At my current gym, there are only White Europeans. By and large, my fellow gym-goers are more svelte.

There are a lot of men with massive muscles. I don’t know how those muscles get that massive. The men must drink protein shakes. I also reckon they don’t have full time jobs. How else can you find the time to do enough weight training?

Men with massive muscles make me think of pillow-shaped people.


Today, I discovered a new way to torture myself.

It’s snowing here in London and I was very good. Straight after work, I stomped through the slush to get to the gym.

Then I spent 45 minutes on the elliptical trainer… watching Nigella’s Christmas Kitchen. Did my stomach growl and growl! Oh, the pavlova!

Dumb resolution

I have a lot of experience setting objectives and targets. I do it for a living and I pretty well know how to put together a target, commitment or goal that actually spurs people to change what they do.

It may surprise you, then, that I have made a dumb new year’s resolution. It’s dumb because it’s not SMART — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic or Time-bound.

My resolution is: ‘To enjoy going to the gym’.

Since coming back to the UK, I’ve been to the gym twice. Both sessions have been good — I think I enjoyed them. Does that mean that I’m keeping my resolution?

Well, it’s hard to say. It’s hard to say because ‘to enjoy’ is pretty vague. What does it mean? I also don’t know how to measure it. Am I having more fun than I had last year? Should I enjoy myself more tomorrow? What level of enjoyment should I have (whatever ‘enjoyment’ means) within three months? What about by new year’s eve 2009? Is it really possible to enjoy going to the gym or are those gym junkies deluded?

Speaking of new year’s resolutions, I brought macadamia-centred chocolates back to the UK so that my workmates could have a taste of Australia. Would you be surprised if I told you that about a quarter of the people to whom I offered a chocolate declined because they were on some kind of new year’s resolution diet?

I was astonished. How can one resist chocolate-covered macadamias?

But I shouldn’t be surprised, really. After all, I too have been on an nochocolate regime.

Back in September last year, having completed my one month chocolate ban, I reintroduced chocolate back into my diet. For a while, it was going well. I ate a bit of chocolate here and there. But then, my chocolate eating started to ramp up. One day, just as I was putting another piece of pointless-sweet-no-flavour chocolate in my mouth, I realisedthat I had reverted back to my former ways.

So I made a new resolution and that time it was a SMART resolution. I am only allowed to eat chocolate with greater than 70% cocoa content.

Specific? Yes. I know exactly what I am allowed to eat, and not allowed to eat.

Measurable? Yes. It’s a pass/fail criterion that applies 100% of the time, although I have made exceptions for spectacular chocolate cakes on three occasions.

Achievable? Yes. If coeliacs can avoid wheat products and vegans can avoid animal products, then resisting milk chocolate should be a piddle.

Realistic? Yes. It’s not like an indefinite ban on chocolate — clearly, I would fail that resolution. With this goal, I’m allowed to have the yummiest and best chocolate but avoid the incidental stuff (e.g. team mates bringing in cakes and sweets). It’s the incidental (accidental, non-deliberate, unplanned) chocolate eating that has increased since moving to London.

Time-bound? Yes. The resolution was applied immediately and lasts forever.


Textbook Joan

You might remember a while back when I was suffering neck pain.

On my second visit to a spinal specialist, he waved my MRI scans at me.

‘I knew it!’ he grinned. ‘Textbook case! Adjacent segment degeneration!’

‘I’m a textbook case?’

The surgeon explained that a third of patients who had the same neck surgery that I had when I was 12 years old developed this disease. On the scan, he pointed out the dark spots which showed that extra pressure on one of my discs was wearing the disc away faster than it could regenerate.

‘It’s exactly what I thought at our first appointment’, he said with satisfaction. ‘What I need to do is refer you to physiotherapy to strengthen your neck.’

So for the next two months, I visited Sha, a friendly physio from New Zealand. It was really great, actually. I learned from her exercises that not only reduced the soreness around my neck and shoulders, but also got rid of my headaches.

At my final session, I described to Sha a problem I was having with one of the exercises I was meant to do.

‘In the dumbell upright row, my arm is fine… but I’m having trouble with my right knee. It feels weak and I’m afraid to lock it, which makes it hard to lift the weights. I’ve had problems with this knee for a long time.’

Sha moved my knee caps around and felt them click. ‘They’re very loose,’ she commented.

She made me stand and examined my legs. Soon she started giggling.


‘You’re a textbook case!’ she said. ‘Exactly like in a textbook. See how your knees don’t line up with your feet? You’ve got flat feet. It means that sometimes your knee cap doesn’t track properly…’

‘Textbook,’ I repeated. I had heard this before.

So now I have an extra set of exercises for my second unoriginal problem. The good thing about suffering all these creaks and aches is that now I have real and pressing reasons to go to the gym. The alternative is disablement by torticollis and creaky knees.

Toe running

I did something really quite stupid. I read in one of the free London newspapers that the reason why Kenyans are amazing marathon runners is because, like the ancient humans we evolved from, they runon their toes. That is, instead of first contact being the heel (‘heel strike’), Kenyans push off the balls of their feet.

Well, there is no greater authority than the London Lite! So last Saturday, I went to the gym, got on a treadmill, and ran for 10 minutes on my toes.

It seemed to work! I really did run faster with no extra effort.

Unfortunately, I seem to have done something awful to my ankle. I’ve been limping for a week.

Today felt better so I tried doing a bit of jogging — and had to hobble home from the gym again.

I guess I’ll avoid the treadmill for a bit longer!

A new year

Hobbies by the wayside
I’ve become rusty at blogging, diary writing, taking photos and writing social emails. The time I used to spend doing those things is now spent:

a) commuting
b) cooking
c) working
d) hanging out with Damjan
e) relaxing
f) going to the gym

I would like to keep up blogging, diarying, taking photos and emailing. I guess I’ll have to find ways to make other parts of my life more efficient so that I can do what’s important to me.

This week might be a difficult one. I have a rather important report to write by the end of the week. I can do it but the amount of writing that needs to be done might mean late nights in the office. The only bad thing about this, really, is that it threatens my fledgling exercise routine.

Going to the gym
I’ve joined gyms before and have fallen off the bandwagon after a few months. This year, I’m going to try to go to the gym at least three times a week. Without a routine, I stop exercising. This makes me feel guilty.

I’m enjoying the gym, actually. It’s a good way to relax and not think about very much. The only negative is that I end up having dinner at 9 PM, which is quite late.

So that I can come home and eat dinner immediately, usually I cook a big batch of food on the weekend. Last week, I made ‘Ants climbing up trees‘. This week, Damjan and I made a noodle soup. It is definitely convenient to have dinner already made but by the end of the week, I am usually sick of it.

Differential diagnosis

My stomach hurts.

I’m not sure if it’s because I ate too much today or for dinner. You might remember from this post that I have trouble knowing when to eat and when to stop eating. I did eat more than usual today.

The other possibility is the abdominal exercises I did at the gym this evening. The instructor assigned these to me during yesterday’s induction. The exercises were very hard and I couldn’t finish some of them.

Maybe it’s a combination of exercise and food? Maybe when your tummy gets tight from exercise, you can’t actually fit as much food in…?

So I’m not sure what’s going on.

(Or maybe it’s lupus!)

Why I am an iron woman

Reason 1
This evening I put on the soundtrack for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon then ironed three weeks of shirts!

Reason 2
Again, I tried going to the gym but it was closed (I have a gym flyer that clearly states that it is open 8am-8pm on public holidays). As there was a Sainsbury’s superstore next door, I went shopping instead. Usually, my clothes are already daggy by London standards. I was slightly more embarrassed, shopping in a duvet jacket, 3/4 length tracky-daks and scruffy sneakers.

Despite my desperate lack of fashion, on the way home two people smiled at me and said, ‘Happy new year!’ It felt really nice.

I deposited my groceries at home, which brought me great joy, as signposted in my blog profile. Then I prepared to go for a walk around the local park. On an impulse, I asked Neo:

‘Hey, I’m going to the park. Do you want to come with me?’

Neo’s eyes widened and he smiled a hopeful smile. ‘Let me check with dad. I want to come.’ He rushed off to the bedroom.

Ten seconds later, Damian came out and said to me, ‘Did you ask Neo if he wanted to go to the park or did he invite himself?’

‘No, I asked him. I’m going to do a circuit before it gets dark. Neo’s welcome.’

‘Well, that’s great! Neo will get his coat on, then.’

At the park, Neo turned into my personal trainer — I sprinted after him, whenever he declared a race to the next rubbish bin. He also made me struggle up a rope jungle gym identical to this one I photographed in Cambridge. He then insisted we jog laps around the block before going home.

For the first time, I realised what it must be like to own a large dog and having to exercise its energy away every day.


Today, I looked after Neo for a few hours. We started the day by baking Dalek biscuits.

Compare them to the original:

Not bad, eh, except for us using Cheerios for some of the brass buttons.

In the afternoon, we went to the cinema to watch Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. It was 95 minutes of not very taxing viewing. I overdosed on popcorn.

I went to the gym to undo the damage caused by eating too much popcorn. Despite it not being a public holiday (and me being forced by work to take annual leave), the gym was boarded up closed.

I could have jogged around a park. I could have jogged the 0.8 km home with gusto, instead of doing it half heartedly. But it is now dark and I am a fundamentally lazy person. So now, here I am, blogging instead of exercising.

Going nowhere

Whenever I go to the gym, I think about the waste of energy. For most of history, there were no such things as gyms because people expended energy by walking, farming, doing household chores, climbing stairs. Now, it’s kind of funny thinking about all the people at the gym cycling on the spot, going nowhere. Or running a treadmill, going nowhere. Or climbing on the StairMaster, going nowhere. Or lifting weights, up and down, up and down, then putting them back exactly where they were before.

Sometimes, I think that all those machines should be hooked up to generators so that the dissipating energy could be put back into the electricity grid. Wouldn’t it be great if the roomful of people could power a laundromat? We could arrive at the gym, load up the washing machine and ride our way to clean clothes.