Gemma Warren loses pound;and lbs at the gym

26th May 2000 at 01:00
I am typing this dressed in my tracksuit. My flatmate has just put his head round the door and asked if I'm ill. "Piss off," I tell him. "I've just been down to the gym." He is now having hysterics. The cynicism of the uninitiated.

I have taken the plunge and joined a health club. It all started when I was away on a walking holiday with my Year 9s. As they streaked up a mountain, I lay gasping for breath at the bottom, hardly able to lift my rucksack, let alone shift myself up this bloody great pile of rocks. I didn't think that much about it, until I took a group of Year 7s round the Sports Science exhibition in London. Theyhad one of those speak-your-weight machines. In the name of education, I got on. "You're supposed to put your bag down first," said one of my colleagues, when it boomed out my weight to the assembled crowd. "I have put it down," I hissed.

At an in-service the other week we were asked how we can expect to look after others when we never look after ourselves. According to the speaker, all people have different metaphorical pots that they're supposed to dip into. Things like the relationship pot, the happiness pot, the creativity pot. We have a work pot, of course, and unsurprisingly that's the one that teachers have got stuck on their heads, and find difficult to remove. We also have a fitness pot, and I feel it's time that I started to visit it a bit more, rather than the biscuit pot, where I seem to spend most of my life. So, having dug quite deep into my financial pot, I am now a gym member. My healthy-eating plan should be no problem at all, because I now can't afford to buy any food.

I'd like to see what the statistics are for unhealthy teachers. I'm sure that we must be scraping along the bottom of the profesional list. I had always naively presumed that I was quite healthy, seeing as my bum never seems to touch a chair all day. I thought that rushing along corridors for hours on end would be a good way to keep the pounds at bay. But, apparently, it only does that in a financial sense. To achieve good fitness, according to GI Jase, my fitness instructor (who's never been a GI; it's meant to be motivational), you have to raise your heart rate. At the moment, all I'm doing is raising my stress rate. I wonder: if I started to call myself GI Gem, would my Year 11s be motivated?

I had to write out a list of everything I eat in a day. At first glance, this seemed quite encouraging. I faithfully take a salad to school and put it in the staffroom fridge. I have a herbal tea at break time, and a cereal bar at lunch. That is, of course, alongside the three Mars Bars and 14 Diet Cokes that are a prerequisite for getting through an eight-period day. That is without the biscuits that come round at parents' evening, and the buns that get handed round on the last day of term. That is without the eight cups of coffee that I need to keep marking at night. And that's not even counting the brilliant new marking system I've devised: mark an essay, eat a Pringle. Mark a set of essays, eat a box of Pringles.

No, the average day of a teacher is not conducive to good health. We all spend our time planning what our children eat; what about their teachers? How can I give to others if I'm not giving to myself? So feel free to join my fitness campaign. If people want to complain that our education system is flabby, at least it won't be down to our super-fit teachers.

Gemma Warren teaches at the Latymer school, north London. e-mail:

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