Friday, 7 January 2011

Warming up while it's cooling down

Flip me, it was a bit nippy out there this morning, wasn't it? I felt literally chilled to the bone as I stood waiting for my buses to work and indeed sitting on said buses. So cold, in fact, that my first task of the day when I switched on my office computer was to check on the temperature. Apparently, according to Wunderground, it was -7°C in Belfast Harbour (the City Airport to me and thee). I knew it! Very chilly indeed! The same source reliably informs me that it's now a toasty 1°C in comparison - typical, now that I can sit indoors in fleecy pyjamas with the heating on instead of turning slowly into a human icicle waiting for the delightful sight of a big pink bus appearing on the horizon!

Further freezing temperatures are supposedly expected over the weekend, so I'm glad there's no match on at Seaview this weekend to shiver through. Instead I shall be staying in my fleecy jammies and watching Arsenal v Leeds (come on the Leeds!) in the FA Cup tomorrow afternoon and then baking a Victoria Sponge Cake - so pretty much my usual tomboy/girly-girl mixed up kind of weekend then!

The Yorkshireman and I may also return to our new gym sometime over the weekend. We've just joined Pure Gym, a 24/7 gym which has just opened its first Northern Irish branch in Belfast. We used to go to our local Council gym but the opening hours weren't really ideal for us, so it's quite exciting to think that we could now just pop down the road for a bit of a workout at 3am should we choose, although I must admit to preferring my bed at that time, whilst my naturally nocturnal husband would probably prefer watching a good NHL game and meandering through the Internet. Besides, we're reliant on public transport and unfortunately late night/early morning buses in the City are an area Translink could do with improving upon greatly! If you want to go anywhere between 11pm and 6am, you're kinda screwed.

We made our first visit to our new gym this evening to check out what we'd actually signed up for. I must admit I was quite cynical about the website's promise of over 170 pieces of equipment ("yeah, are you counting each dumbbell individually there by any chance?") but I was actually quite impressed. It really is a pretty big facility and they have loads of equipment, all new and shiny-looking. The first thing I saw when I entered was a veritable sea of treadmills (I wonder what a large group of treadmills should be called? A flock? A herd? A murder, like crows, seems most appropriate!) and then as we ventured further in it was like a magical land of fitness! There were rowing machines and strength machines and loose weights and even more treadmills and cross-trainers and every type of exercise bike you can imagine, including some with arm rests that I will be intrigued to try next time.

Please don't get me wrong here: the Yorkshireman and I are not gym bunnies in any way, shape or form. We do not have sculptured abs or flat stomachs (far from it indeed!) and our fitness levels are probably akin to someone in their 60s. With asthma. And sciatica. I also find exercise quite tedious and fail to understand why anyone would actually enjoy hurting themselves or getting out of breath. However I would quite like to be a bit healthier than my usual sickly self and, y'know, live for quite a long time to come and stuff. Popular medical opinion seems to suggest that exercise is required to achieve such goals and therefore is unfortunately a necessary evil. Realising this a couple of years ago, I decided to give our local Council gym a try and the Yorkshireman followed suit soon after when I came home declaring it "not that bad actually" in a surprised tone.

It was the first time either of us had ventured into such a place but we soon realised there was something about the gym that appealed to us both. Namely, our competitive natures. We didn't often compete against each other (because I would always lose and I am not a good loser... except for the leg press - I can out-leg-press any one of youse - bring it on!) but we're both sad individuals who like to compete against ourselves. Every visit we would try to burn more calories than last time, or run faster, or run for longer, or increase the weight, or crank up the level. It was a good challenge and sometimes was the only thing that kept me interested during the mundaneness of a 15-minute treadmill session.

The other thing that keeps me going is, of course, a good soundtrack. I mean, imagine jogging on a treadmill. Actually picture it in your mind - all the sensations you would experience, jogging along on the spot, your limbs gangling around, maybe struggling to keep up. Imagine the whirring noise of the belt beneath your feet and the sound of your own ragged breath. Imagine looking at a wall or at other gym equipment while you're running, the dreary scenery unchanging. Imagine looking down at the screen thinking "surely it must have been at least 10 minutes by now?" and realising it's been 2 minutes and 35 seconds and you have another 17 minutes and 25 seconds left. Yawn. It's all so bloody boring! But! Now imagine jogging along with the theme from Chariots of Fire playing loud in your ears:

You can feel the inspiration. You can almost imagine you're running, wild, young and free on a beach instead of on a machine in a room full of machines, going nowhere. The imagination is a powerful tool after all.

Personally any upbeat song will get me going, be it rocky or cheesy pop... even classical can get my blood pumping. I was practically doing jazz hands walking along through the City centre this evening listening to 'Maybe This Time' as sung by Kristin Chenoweth and Lea Michele in Glee. So some good music is an essential part of my workout routine. The only problem now is that I can't find my ye olde first generation iPod Shuffle from the last time I was at the gym about 700 years ago and so I fear that I may be musicless on my next trip to the gym! Woe and alas!

Still, it gives me a chance to work on an updated workout playlist. We No Speak Americano has to go on there, as do most of the Glee songs (shush, I am a Gleek and proud of it!) and the Avenue Q soundtrack. I'm only sorry that the festive season has now passed, as I quite fancy cross-training along to Marshmallow World or Dominick the Donkey, but there's always next year!

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