It’s good for you isn’t it, exercise? Oh yes, all that running about, squeezing things, pushing things, pedalling things, jumping up and down, going puce. It’s healthy! Muscles get bigger, bums get smaller and one emits the smug glow of someone whose endorphins smell of raw achievement.
I hate exercise. God, I hate it. Unsurprisingly I’m quite lazy by nature. I find it hard to motivate myself to do anything you’re ‘supposed’ to do, anything tedious but essential or anything that’s going to leave me feeling as though someone has doused my muscles in Deep Heat then run me over with their Land Rover.
Ever since school people have said ‘You just need to find something you enjoy! Then exercise won’t seem like such a chore!’ Generally these are people who have as much need for a sports bra as a hedgehog does for a provisional driving licence, go baby pink when they exercise instead of ecclesiastical purple and count fruit as carbohydrates. Or they’re my mother.
Well I’m sorry but I have yet to find any form of exercise that doesn’t make me want to claw my face off with boredom. For a start I was always rubbish at games at school. I’m tall and quite strong so on Sports Day I was always forced into discus, shot put or javelin which I was fine with as I didn’t have to run anywhere. I just stood and chucked things with varying degrees of accuracy and injury to spectators. In the fifth year I was inexplicably signed up for the 1500m race. 1500m! Do you have any idea how far that is?! Well obviously it’s exactly 1500m but in terms of the number of times round the track it was close to a million (give or take). When the day came I turned it into a comedy event. I walked it, making faces at my mates and taking exaggerated bows every time I did a full circuit of the track. The event had finished and they were setting up the hurdles by the time I sauntered nonchalantly over the finish line. I couldn’t have run 1500 metres if there’d been a pack of rabid dogs chasing me.
Over the years I’ve tried netball (rubbish at team games), basketball (ditto), volleyball (can’t hit straight), yoga (boring), pilates (boring and farty), swimming (lung capacity of a toddler) aerobics (fuck off) and have been a member of several different gym chains. One of my major issues is having the coordination of an epileptic elephant, so when it comes to doing aerobics I’m always the one going the wrong way and knocking my lycra-clad classmates over like dominoes. I once did a step aerobics class and was so out of time the teacher took my step away because I was putting the others off their rhythm. I continued the session stamping away on the floor like a drill sergeant in a tap class. I was mortified.
Gyms completely intimidate me. The smell of sweat and envy heavy in the air as all the really toned people stretch and flex in front of mirrors. The girls with their perfect ponytails swinging in time as they pound the treadmill or swish their legs about on the cross trainer. The matching lycra, complimentary rucksacks and ear-splittingly loud music. I would sidle in, clad in my gigantic man’s t-shirt and tracksuit bottoms and do an apologetic half hour workout before dashing into the changing rooms to have a panic attack in a cubicle before going home.
I don’t have the stamina or attention span for running. Pounding mindlessly along a pavement, your skeleton rattling with every step, sweat plastering your hair to your face and motorists pointing and laughing…OK so not that last one unless you’re really unlucky but the rest is right. Besides, who wants to go out running when the kettle’s just boiled and Columbo’s on?
The truth of the matter is, I wish I wasn’t like this. I wish I loved exercise, that the memory of the endorphin high post-workout was enough to keep me coming back for more. I wish I cared less about what people thought so that looking like a beetroot having a stroke didn’t bother me. I wish I was coordinated and energetic and enthusiastic instead of clumsy, lethargic and cynical, but I’m not. This is, unfortunately, me. I am destined for brittle bones, clogged arteries and a heart that will probably require a bypass by the age of 45. Unless I can motivate myself, find the spare money every month for gym membership and find the time to travel the three hour round trip to a gym where no one knows me, then perhaps it’s not too late to discover a love of exercise. I’ll just put my feet up and think about it.