I have never managed this. It is a skill I shall never acquire, much like ice skating or remembering I don’t like omelettes. There are so many factors working against your quest for coolness in the gym, that I really don’t understand those lucky few who manage to remain smiling, poised and gorgeous.
While using my free 7-day pass at the very flash Nuffield Health Gym in Surbiton this morning, which is a very beautiful gym filled with very beautiful people, I committed pretty much every uncool sin going. Here they are, in no particular order:
1) Trying to Drink Whilst Moving
I can barely take a sip of anything without chucking it down myself at the best of times, but when I’m bouncing along on a treadmill it’s a damned nightmare. One carefully-maneuvered glug of Lucozade resulted in Lucozade in my eye, Lucozade down my chest, Lucozade up my arm, and Lucozade on the treadmill control panel. All I could do was run blindly on and apologise to the lady on the treadmill next to me for getting Lucozade on her.
2) Pretending You Know How to Use a Machine
No one wants to study instructions in a gym – everyone’s way too cool for that. You are supposed to have an instinctive knowledge of how to operate the most complicated-looking machine in the world. As I don’t have this knowledge, I have to employ tactics. These tactics involve walking slowly past the machines whilst drinking from your bottle or studying your iPod, and giving very discreet sideways glances at the instruction panels on the machines.
If you need to stop and read the instructions more closely, you can do one of two things: stop and stretch, as though you’ve suddenly realised you must stretch your calf muscle RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE, and discreetly run your eyes over the instructions – or stop and ‘gaze’ at the machine, as though you are lost in a daydream about how wonderful it is to be fit and healthy and how you’re taking this whole gym thing totally in your stride, but secretly you are frantically reading the instructions and trying to work out where in the name of Superwoman’s support pants are you supposed to sit on this ruddy thing.
I went for the stretching strategy, but made the fatal error of sitting down too soon on the machine, meaning I had give up the whole thing and just sit there and read the instructions like a big sweaty loser. As I was doing this, however, a skinny young lad walked past drinking very intensely from his water bottle, and I clocked him sneaking tentative sideways looks at the machines, which made me very happy indeed.
3) Thinking You Know How to Use the Machines
A variation of the above. I clambered onto what I knew was a back-strengthening machine, but as I got halfway onto it I couldn’t for the life of me work out where I was supposed to put my legs. After a few make-or-break seconds of desperately searching for an answer, I gave up, assumed an expression of ‘Oh I’ve just remembered I much prefer that machine over there’ and sloped off.
4) Getting Stuck in a Machine
A particularly bad one. I got my leg caught in a leg machine. As my calf caught between two rollers and I tried to walk off, I did the half-fall half-hop thing, nearly breaking my ruddy leg in the process, and eventually yanking my leg out and stumbling into a fitness instructor who was obviously trying to conceal a smirk.
Could’ve been worse I suppose.
5) Leaving Sweat Patches the Size of Germany
A common one, and it happens to everyone in a gym, but it’s so not cool. And every single time, you think ‘Well, maybe there won’t be a sweat patch – how much can my bum sweat while I’m doing some gentle shoulder presses?’ And every time the answer is: a lot. No matter how you attempt to get round it, whether you slide off the seat to try and spread the sweaty puddle so it looks like a harmless darker seat-covering, or whether you just leap up and immediately scrub at it to try and make it disappear, it’s always there, there’s no hiding it: a glistening back-end of a hippo that screams
YOU HAVE AN ENORMOUS SWEATING BOTTOM.
I’ve just got to accept that I shall never be one of those cool people who manage to handle the gym as though they are out for a spin in a limo with Tom Jones. It’s a skill I shall never possess, and I take my hat off to them. My horrible, sweaty hat.