The Sunday Soapbox – The Cult of Step

The music was on full blast – it was 90’s dance music- in front of me an army of robots bobbed from side to side, moving in strange and contorted ways, while their commander barked orders from the frontline…

But before we get into the specifics….let me tell you how I ended up here.

I looked disconcertingly from one pile of clothes to the next. Pile 1- clothes that fit me. Pile 1 was small. Pile 2: clothes that do not fit me. Pile 2 was a mountainous thing that sat there cracking jokes at my expense.

“You bastard” I said, “You bloody bloody bastard” It screeched an evil giggle back at me, “Right, I’ll show you, I’ll wear you to death motherfucker! I’m joining the GYM!”

‘Gym’ to me is a dirty word – it smacks of egocentric self-lovin’ and exclusion aside from the very fact that I’m not exactly a massive fan of exercise anyway. I’d happily carve a niche out for myself in a comfy sofa and watch shit reality TV and cooking programmes until the turn of the next century. Unfortunately, this little habit of mine is exactly why I could make a life-sized model of Rick Waller out of Pile 2.

So reluctantly, I went to my gym induction and I feared the worst. But could my stereotyped idea of what a gym is like actually reflect real life!?

With me in my induction group was a very tall, very muscular young man and a very small, very slim girl. At this moment in time all I could think was, “I need a fatty, for once in my life I just need a fatty right now”. Unfortunately it seemed that everyone who was actually already at the gym was fit, healthy and was probably made out of reinforced steel.

I’m not sure if it was my imagination (actually, it probably was my imagination) but when I walked in to the gym I could’ve sworn that I got at least a few dirty looks. All the muscly people, the odd machines and the constant beeping – it was like a dystopian universe filled only with those who have very low blood pressure.

To make matters worse, the induction tutor made me ‘demonstrate’ how the treadmill works in front of the group…he made me run up a steep incline on full pelt. When I came off that torturous device I found it difficult to disguise the fact that I was actually having a heart attack and that I was on the brink of a cerebral aneurysm. I think they bought it though.

Then, as I attempted to exit the gym after the induction I was left completely flummoxed by the electronic door. My brain turned to mush and my hands became jelly, my tongue lolling from my mouth, as I stood there and pawed helplessly at the door frame. “Help!” I thought, “They’ve kidnapped me and they won’t let me go until I’m a robot. Help! I’m too young for this!” As I was in the throes of blind panic an impossibly beautiful gym-goer sashayed past me and opened the door…the door to freedom! I could taste that sweet, sweet sweat-free air.

And don’t even get me started on the exercise classes….FUCK ME.

I literally thought I’d wondered into some kind of Jonestown Massacre-esque Jim Jones lecture, where everybody is whipped up in to such a blind exercise-fuelled frenzy that you could probably ask them to stick their own elbows up their assholes and they wouldn’t even question the legality of such an instruction.

The exercise tutors range from the supremely patronising (“Well done guys, that is absolutely amazing! Give yourselves a clap and a pat on the back!”) to the downright terrifying.

One class left me virtually paralysed after the steroidal female instructor was snarling at us to “USE HEAVIER WEIGHTS YOU PUSSIES!” and “SQUAT LOWER, LOWER, LOOOWWEEERRR!”

And Step class (this is where you literally spend an hour stepping up on to a box) left me feeling confused, empty and unable to climb stairs. Everyone was so enthusiastic and so in time, it was horrendous. There were girls there that looked like they hadn’t eaten carbs since they were weaned off rusks as a babe.

And the sad thing is that although I feel that the gym violates me morally, physically and mentally (which probably says more about me than the gym) I need to go really – I have to keep going. Mostly because I can’t afford to buy new clothes to replace Pile 2. So crack out ye lycras, don ye trainers and paint that fixed smile on ye face…they might make a robot out of me yet, my son.

Words: PM

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