My right to bare arms

001Oh shit. Shit shit shit shit shit. It’s nearly summer, hey.

Which is actually ok by me, despite my repetitive profanities.

Now you know I’m not really a winter person. It’s like beach or countryside. Tea or coffee. Country or western. We tend to be either one or the other.

I’m more your summer person. I like to swim, eat outdoors and drink white wine that is almost sub-Arctic in temperature. I like to sleep with the scent of my jasmine vine wafting over me. Gawd that was almost poetic!

My birthday is the 25th of August and people are often perplexed as to why an imminent birthday causes me no grief. It’s because once my birthday is done, there’s literally one week more until winter is over. Literally. Praise to you Lord Summer.

For a brief moment every year, I pause to consider whether I would like to change teams and become pro-winter. Like voting for Clive Palmer. I think that one day I’ll be all nasty and menopausal and wanting to put my head in the freezer. Brisbane summers look like they could be somewhat brutal to menopausal women.

Or when we got back from a few weeks in the UK, where I wore 5-metre long scarves in some ultra-chic Elizabeth Hurley way, and slept under massive goose feather doonas, and drank wee drams of whiskey by the fire… Yes then I think I might like to be a winter person.

That is, until it’s time to go back to work and I’m standing at the train station at 6:45am and it’s freezing. [Read more…]

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I’m spinning around, move outta my way

Each month a sum of cash finds its way from my bank account to my local gym’s bank account. The is an arrangement that has been going on for some years now and both of us abjectly lack any valid desire to change this set up. Even though most times, my money sees more of my gym than I do.

The reason I never change this arrangement is due to one word. Summer. Ok, make that two words. Summer and bikinis.

Which is how I found myself back in the gym around mid October. When I walk in the door for the first time, I noticed the staff had changed from last year. The last lot probably finished uni and got real jobs as public servants or stand up comedians.

They greet me with enforced joviality and care. Really they’re thinking, oh crikey here comes another one that we need to forklift onto the treadmill.

“Good morning,” they beam, all fake white teeth and spray on tans. “Is this your first visit?”

“No,” I dourly reply, “but the last time I came, you were still being breastfed.”

I am fortunate in that my gym has a pool. A decent one at that – 25 metres long and eight lanes wide. Think Olympic and halve it. Twice a week, I join the aqua aerobics class. I love this class. At 46, I’m the youngest. They think I’m their adopted grandchild. Last week they brought me bags of lollies and told me to make them last till the end of the week. The week before, one of them gave me a dollar and told me to put it towards something I was saving up for.

Get the picture?

I like aqua aerobics. You can work really really hard if that’s your mood. Or you can just splash about a bit and have a giggle with Dot and Pam, the two oldies who hang around the end of the pool pretending to work out but in reality hoping to pick up. Seriously, Dot has her eye on Alf, but Alf, as can be typical of men at times, has no idea she’s interested. Who needs Bold And The Beautiful?

After a week or two in the pool, I realised I needed to add diversity to my exercise program if I was going to make it into this year’s Bikini Olympics. Mmmm, I thought, what other group exercise can I do?

Definitely not Body Attack or Body Combat. No way. Not only is there all that unsightly jumping and running (I’ve got boobs, for goodness sake) but if you miss a step, the rest of the class trips, you feel like a bozo, and everyone immediately knows you’re both unfit and unco.

Which is how I ended up in a class called Spin. It has nothing to do with darning. Which is good. This one time I tried to sew up a hem, but ended up sewing my finger to it, so I now get qualified people to do my mending.

In a Spin class you hoist yourself onto this new age stationary bicycle and pretty much move the pedals around and around for 45 minutes. Wherein you get off, fall over, and crawl on your belly to your car.

Spin has two very endearing features. First of all, you do it in the dark. Or as close to dark as possible. You wouldn’t even have sex in this sort of light. I think they make it dark so that we keep our senses alert. Which staves off the boredom of pedalling around and around for 45 minutes.

It also means that if you slacken off a bit, no one can see. Not even the instructor.

The second endearing feature is the little knob in the centre of the bike that increases tension thereby making your workout harder.

You turn this little knob to the right and suddenly it’s like you’re riding your bike up Mount Everest after a heavy snowfall. Turn it to the left, and it’s like you’re riding your bike along Santa Monica Pier with George Clooney catching your tail wind.

And much as I try to keep that knob turned to the right, it all gets a bit much for me, and I have to knock off Everest and go back to Clooney.

And because it’s dark, nobody knows. Yesterday, while pedalling away, and trying to shift my mind away from the glaring monotony of pedal, pedal, pedal by thinking of interesting things, such as the players in the 1975 Australian cricket team, I had a thought.

What a relief that all our knobs don’t carry sensors, with massive reporting boards on the balls of the room. Imagine every time you knocked it back a few degrees, a bulb would flash or a siren would go off. The instructor would position her headset and shout, “Bron, gear it up, no slacking off” and I, of course, would immediately arrange to change my name. And my gym.

Tomorrow is Body Pump. I hear that has nothing to do with sex. Apparently it’s about weights. Heave-ho then…

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Up close and personal

Once I worked with a lady who hired a personal trainer. Buff young man who ran marathons to relieve boredom. Personally I thought he was putting the “fun” back in dysfunctional. For a few weeks, maybe a month, they got along swimmingly. Exercise pun totally intended. He’d rock up at her place at 6am every Tuesday and Thursday and off they’d go to box, or jog or cartwheel.

Until one morning she didn’t want to do it. Late night, too cold, too tired. He knocks on her door, she opens it in her pjs, hands him the $50 fee, closes the door and goes back to bed.

Exercise. The poor person’s plastic surgery.

I’ve tried a few personal trainers in my time. My gym had a 20 year old energiser bunny called Charlie who taught me my fear and loathing of squats.

Then, similar to my workmate above, I had a fellow present at my place two mornings a week. It went well, until I realised that he was costing me almost as much as my mortgage and I decided I’d rather have another house than a 25 inch waist.

Sometimes, I try and engage them in a conversation in order to delay the inevitable pain that will come when they make me do 100 lunges.

I whimper at length about my fitness goals. How I really don’t want to be fit and strong, I just want to look good naked. How my boobs hurt when I jump, and how I think triathlons are a mental sport because you’d need to be insane to do them.

Of course, what I never realised, is that the only time (and money) I’m wasting is mine. This fellow probably couldn’t give a toss if I wanted to discuss the merits of holding a Mardi Gras in Brisbane. Or whether amphibians need to wait an hour after eating before they get out of the water.

Sure honey, he’d think, chat away, I’ll just pop down on the grass beside you and join in. Ooops, there’s your hour up. $80 thanks. Chat again Thursday.

Eventually I made my iPod my personal trainer. She and I go for long rambling walks along the Brisbane River. She only plays the 80s songs I like. When I want to put some grunt into my walk, maybe even a faux jog, she makes sure “Eye of the Tiger” is next in the song queue. When I am stretching she spins “Total Eclipse of the Heart”.

And I only had to pay her once.

But seriously, I would exercise more. Only I’d spill my wine.

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Gym jams

It is well documented that for every mile that you jog, you add one minute to your life. This enables you, at age 85, to spend an additional five months in a nursing home at $5,000 per month.

That’s ok by me. I don’t jog, it makes the ice jump right out of my glass. In fact, I don’t exercise much at all. Exercise wouldn’t be a problem for me if I had a different body to do it with. And if God meant us to touch our toes, he would have put them further up our body. If it wasn’t for car parks, I don’t think I’d walk at all.

Books on exercise sell by the thousands. And there’s a reason for this. It’s a lot easier to read than it is to exercise.

But I know I need to exercise. So I got together with some girlfriends to lament my platitudes over a restorative plate of gnocchi boscaiola (extra cream in the sauce thanks), garlic bread (double serve, do you mind?), house red (actually we’ll just get a bottle, much easier), and lattes (do you do them in a mug?)

Jane started. “I’ve got to exercise. I rang up yesterday to hire a treadmill. Great idea, doncha think? I was going to put it right in front of the television. That way I can watch The Biggest Loser and exercise! The one I saw advertised even had a drink holder. I don’t think it was for a wine glass, I think it was for a bottle of water, but you can’t be too sure. I’ll get them to confirm that.

“Anyway, get this, I rang them up, and they don’t have any left. None. No exercise bikes either. No cross trainers, whatever the hell that is, a float for the Mardi Gras in Sydney perhaps? I could get a fitball but I’d have to inflate it myself,” she said as she drew back on her cigarette.

Collective panic set in around the table. Clearly we weren’t the only ones desperately seeking absolution for our orange-peel thighs. The questions started. Did she ring other hire places? Were they out of stock too? What about going on a waiting list? How much are they to buy? Have you checked eBay?

“What if we join a gym?” I ventured, adding yet more Parmesan to my meal whilst deliberating whether I’d have caramel or butterscotch sauce on my sticky date pudding. “You know, ask for a corporate membership, government levy discount, personal trainers, stuff like that? Thanks doll, I’d love some more red.”

Sounded fab, except for one problem – commitment. I can’t commit to a dinner service pattern. Or a long distance mobile phone carrier. Or a man. How am I supposed to commit to a gym?

Gyms across Australia make their annual budget from women like me. They join a gym, sign up for a year and elect the premium membership package.

Then they forget to go. Forget that the key factor is actually visiting the establishment and moving about in some form on the equipment. These people are known as gym-donors. The bread and full-fat butter of the gym industry. They hand over money without setting foot in the place. They keep the wheels turning but never get on the bike.

“I know, we’ll just go walking. It’s free, it’s available 24/7, and we can go for as long or as short as we want.” Sighs could collectively be heard. Easy solution to a complex problem.

Ok,” I said, feeling very zealous and motivated. “We’ll start tomorrow at lunch time. We’ll meet outside my building at 12 and walk around the City Gardens.”

“Lunch tomorrow’s no good for me,” said one of the group. “I’m meeting my mother for coffee.”

“And I’ve got a meeting that will go till 2,” said another.

“No worries,” I said, steadfastly holding on to a mental picture of me in togs once winter was over. “What about after work?”

I’m meeting someone for drinks.”

“I’ve got to pick up the kids early

And so it goes.

I can’t say for sure whether that walking group will ever convene, or if any of us will ever get to that gym, but I can say one thing for sure. Come this time next year, we’ll still be talking about it. How do I know? I’ve already booked the table and asked the restaurant to open a bottle of red.

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