The Gym Culture

As a regular attendee (albeit initially reluctantly) at the Cheltenham Ladies’ College (CLC)Sports Club, located about 5 minutes brisk walk from Hanover House B&B (www.hanoverhouse.org) in central Cheltenham, I have observed some of the different types who frequent the gymnasium and swimming pool. Personally I have always done ‘just enough’ to keep ticking over physically, apart from my earlier Army years when it was necessary to be very fit, and in the latter, more sedentary years, I have kept going with regular Hash House Harrier runs, approximately once a week, and since retiring, dog-walking and multiple stairs in Hanover House.  I have always thought that unneccessary wear and tear on my joints, and the excessive using up of the ‘allocated number’ of lifetime heartbeats (a perhaps rather obscure but otherwise sensible theory I think) was a good policy – this of course also appealed to my innate slothfulness!

However my nemesis came with an increasing girth as a result of a life-long love of stodgy puddings,  cake and biscuits linked to a reducing metabolic rate, followed by an ultimatum from Veronica that I should take up swimming or forego the puddings – so the die was cast.. Now, having joined the CLC Sports Club I quite enjoy the discipline of forcing myself to get up at 7am, 3 days a week, and be in the purgatorium by 7.15am. Once there I do a kilometre on the cross-trainer followed by another (nautical?) kilometre on the rowing machine before going into the pool to cool off and swim lengths for 30 minutes.

In the changing rooms I observe a wide range of personalities coming and going, some like me, gym and swim types, others only swimmers, and a large number, primarily the younger ones, gymmers only. On the whole, those doing swimming are middle to late middle aged (at this time in the morning), whereas the gym-only types vary between the lithe young men, keen on toning and grooming their bodies, spending most time on the weights and ‘stress’ machines, followed by a quick shower and spray of body lotion/deodorant before heading for work and the others. The others include amongst their number, extremely corpulent, albeit expensively dressed and well spoken, presumably business types, who only seem to come in to flap weights around. Quite what they intend to achieve escapes me as if they think they are going to become fit or build their muscles or lose weight in this fashion alone, they will need to think again. Until they lose the great masses of flesh by a combination of steady exercise and diet, there is no point on the weights-orientated exercises alone, and until they do so, they risk heart disease [etc] and significantly reduced life expectancies. However, at least these people are making a gesture towards getting fit which is better than a growing proportion of the population demonstrating the alarming increase in obesity (and fat) visible in the general population.

However, I am not an expert observer of keep-fit emporia, my primary experience coming from military gyms which were generally full of already fairly fit younger service people, either athletes, Physical Training Instructors or the boxing team, just keeping ticking over. Occasionally military wives would appear, on the whole, a bit tubby in comparison to their husbands or regaining their figures after having children.  I think that high-street keep fit gyms or salons are certainly beyond my experience and they may well have an entirely different clientele. As one may gather from my diatribe, keeping reasonably fit without overdoing it is my mantra, not because I am vain but primarily because I want to live longer (and as a by-product, not be such a burden on the NHS or the poor old tax-payer!)

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