Shamed in the gym by two little old ladies

30th May 2008 at 01:00
You should join a gym, said my physiotherapist

You should join a gym, said my physiotherapist. As he was busy preparing to give my back what he called "a little stretch" at the time, I wasn't really in a position to argue.

He had just told me that my jogging days were over - and that jogging may indeed have contributed to my needing his services in the first place.

Dutifully I trotted - should that be limped? - along to my nearest gym and signed up for a trial period. What happened next was more than a little chastening.

The episode came to mind when reading in FE Focus about how colleges are getting a foothold in training the trainers - the fitness gurus who bully the rest of us into shape.

The part which particularly caught my eye concerned "the need for instructors to be trained in how to cater more appropriately for vulnerable people, who often need to take a more cautious approach to using exercise facilities and equipment."

Given the state of my body at the time, these words had a particular resonance for me.

First I had to go through the induction course. Easy, largely because I was only expected to watch others using the machines.

Next, I had to do it for myself. It was mid-afternoon and the place was quiet. The way my back felt right then, all I really wanted to do was go back home and lie down, but that really would have been feeble.

Up ahead I spotted a couple of little old ladies chatting away as they rode their exercise bikes. There was a third bike not in use. It looked like a gentle place to start.

But how appearances can deceive!

Before I could get on, I had first to adjust the saddle. This required some painful bending over.

Seeing me struggle, one of the women hopped off her bike and came over. "You need help with that, dearie?"

No doubt it is good for the soul to confront one's own negative stereotyping; but at that moment such philosophising was beyond me.

I mumbled an embarrassed "no thanks", and beat a hasty retreat.

To my shame, I never went back.

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