My very first Gymmiversary

“Gymmiversary,” you’re thinking, “is the worst possible neologism, Derek, and I’m disappointed in you.”

It’s okay, I have an excuse for my execrable lack of creativity. Two, in fact. One: I work in, or adjacent to, the press. I have an NUJ card and everything (it’s good for free drinks and pay negotiation which, considering my current salary, tells you a lot about how much worse things would be without unions. JOIN A UNION). Two: All of my energy is now spent on lifting lumps of painted metal while grunting.

Admittedly in the year preceding my foray into being a representative of the gym-membership-owning classes I already had weights in my house (and still do) for the purpose of clogging up the bathroom every morning with my heartfelt struggles with dumbbells, but since January 8th 2017 I expanded my repertoire to include things like “failing to complete the NHS Couch to 5K programme” (I got to about week six, lost count, got a dodgy knee owing to the complete absence of knee cushioning on one side, thank you 2006-self and your belief that you could do a paratrooper landing on paving slabs, minus the parachute; also lost most of the skin off the back of my foot, a condition I am currently imitating thanks to NYE, borrowed brogues, and champagne. And champagne’s insistence that I can definitely get my knees up to my nipples while skanking. But I digress; oh, how I digress).

I think the purpose of January is probably introspection, reflection, good intentions, repetentitive digestion (so many ascetic dietary changes that don’t last the month), and a purge of all things connected with the previous year. A spring clean for the body and mind; and souls, if you believe in them, which I personally don’t. Leaving more time for things like “what the fuck are you doing with your life” and “why can’t I see my own knees over my stomach”.

Structure is a panacea in a complicated life, or the four or five complicated lives I suspect everyone feels like they’re actually living. Finding the right structure for me has been A Challenge which is still ongoing; no sane person goes to the gym 7 days a week but to begin with I did attempt that. Since – with one blip for a hideous cold – I’ve settled into a happy routine of four days a week, although the year has seen varying tinkering with how long I need to be there (hint: not the TWO TO THREE HOURS I got stuck into for a while), what I need to be doing while I’m there (hint: dear autumn self having a panicked eating disorder relapse after some unexpected weighing-in at a doctor, you don’t need to do 1000kcal+ workouts. You definitely don’t need to try to burn off your entire day’s calorie allowance in the gym. That’s crazy person behaviour), and which exercises were going to make my knee feel like it was falling off.

I’ve been bullied by my own muscles into accepting that stretching, yoga, and foam rollering are not optional but compulsory if I want to be able to move at all the next day; I’ve undergone the mandatory metamorphosis in thinking of breakfast as a huge macronutrient-heavy hit required to fuel whatever’s happening in the gym instead of a skippable nuisance occurring sometime before an abstemious lunch (something the generation which birthed mine is still struggling with: lunch is a meal, not a collection of depressed snacks served at a table, you dysfunctional hippies) and the translation from “cake is bad” to “cake is a really effective way of being able to deadlift 120kg”. I’ve successfully acquired blisters on: my heels, my palms, my armpits, my thighs, my arsecrack, and other areas even less suitable for mention in a publicly-readable blog. My gym kit smells like death pretty much constantly. I know every single song on the gym’s playlist and there’s a massive overlap with G-A-Y Late; I know what all the regulars look like and which equipment they’re not going to put back and which of them is an obvious lunatic and which one is definitely going to be in prison again soon.

I’ve also signed up for multiple “protein filth companies” (terminology © the people I live with, one of whom is allergic to the entire concept of the gym and the other of whom signed up at the same time as me and goes about once a month a most) and have acquired a worryingly encyclopaedic knowledge of which vegetables have more protein in them than carbohydrates.

For a while I was convinced this was having no effect, as one often is when things are difficult. Then I ran to catch a bus and didn’t die. Then I started marching up the large hill by my house without really noticing it was there. Then, in December, I went for a 19-mile walk purely to see if I could (I can: I regretted it immensely because it was extremely cold and that many hours alone with your thoughts is Not Healthy). I’ve watched in the mirror as my silhouette changes and changes and considered the possibility that my inconsistency, oft-lamented by so many caretakers in the dawning of my life, might actually a blessing after all: the proper term is “chameleonic” when someone changes drastically and frequently.

Aside from all that, time spent grunting around with lumps of metal (and semi-clad sweaty men, let’s not forget) is a refreshing break from being barked at by the news, time when I can’t berate myself for not working on projects, time when my mind is free to concentrate on other things, like how intensely much my shoulders hurt and good grief that man’s biceps are the size of my head.

It’s slow going so far. I’ve only been doing it for a year, and my additional interventions have been few. I don’t – can’t – run much with a buggered knee. I’ve never been a particularly strong swimmer and since exchanging fat for muscle I don’t even float very effectively. My bike’s hidden behind clothes in my wardrobe thanks to some Altercations with the people who own our building regarding whether or not a bike standing out of the way in public storage space constitutes a fire hazard. And I can’t afford as many dance classes as I want to take, or club nights as I feel are my right as an ageing homosexual with no dependents and a flexible work schedule.

But still. I can lift much heavier things than I could before, and less of me wobbles, and I can touch my toes, although with the state of my trainers, I cannot really imagine why I’d want to.

Onwards to Year Two of the Gym.

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I’d apologise but I’m going to keep doing it

Hello, internet land. I’ve been very busy which is one of the many reasons I haven’t been updating here much, that and the overwhelming horror of the world and a complete lack of motivation…

What have I been doing?

Since the start of 2017, which I ushered in using the “start as you mean to go on” method of dancing drunkenly on a stage in West London, half-naked, covered in gold glitter, with at least one Radio Four comedian (how and why? Who knows), I’ve been engaged in a determined battle against middle-aged spread using the NHS Couch to 5k plan and various other gym-like things, having finally succumbed to Modern Life and begrudgingly forked out for a gym membership. This is partially mitigated by my workplace paying me some of the cost back (part of their attempt to encourage us into healthier habits than spending all night necking coffee and attempting to fight each other, which… we’re still doing), and partially by the fact that I’m very definitely getting my money’s worth.

Owing to a spectacular wobble in which I managed to get a wretch cold, bugger my Achilles’ tendon and inflict a fetching chest haematoma on myself, I’ve been stuck on Week 6 for what feels like eternity, but progress has been made on this front.

I’ve attended one (1) dance class, and learnt some of the basics of the Charleston, which I like to practice at the bus stop after work at around 5am, to the amusement and occasional horror of anyone else travelling at the time; my place of work has moved from the cosy hipster environs of Shoreditch to the alarming identikit irrational platform-borne archipelago of Canary Wharf, which is full of people I would ordinarily cross several roads to avoid and who, judging by the restaurants available, have the blandest and most middle-of-the-road tastes my snotty hipster palate can imagine.

I’ve been to a tribute club night for the late, great George Michael, seen two Oscar-nominated movies, both excellent (The Eagle Huntress was sweet and uplifting; Moonlight was emotional torture, both were An Experience), had a sushi-and-matcha afternoon tea at Tombo in South Kensington, and taken a a Finnish friend to Chinese New Year celebrations and an accidental drag queen pub quiz over dinner in Soho. So far, Mission: Try To Live A Full Life Before I Am Inevitably Murdered By Nazis is a success.

That doesn’t mean I’ve been entirely slack on the creative front, although due to the constraints of employment, physical needs, and the linear nature of time I haven’t been as awesomely productive as my hallucinogenically ambitious 4am self thinks I ought to be: the year to date (and indeed the majority of December) has involved laborious attempts at editing 2015’s NaNoWriMo project Heavy (a semi post-nuclear apocalypse military espionage novel about the unreliability of memory, mutability of truth, and the intersection between loyalty and gaslighting, which seems horribly prescient now); what the late Terry Pratchett cheerfully refers to in his nonfiction collection A Slip of the Keyboard as “blind research” for the next project (working title: Tourist’s Guide to the Ideal London) and outlining and brainstorming thereof; two short stories under my queer-romance-writing pseudonym Melissa Snowdon, one commissioned but not-yet-published blog essay under an entirely different (anonymous) pseudonym which ended up running to around 3,000 words…

Let’s just say I’ve been keeping busy, and intend to remain that way. Exciting news may shortly be arriving on your blog feed. Eyes peeled!

Morning Rituals

For “morning” please also read “when I get up”, which on work weeks is halfway through the afternoon, because I work (ostensibly, I usually start earlier and finish earlier) from 10pm until 6.15am.

Rituals and routines help shift a lot of work without making decisions, a handy factor when you’ve just woken up and your brain isn’t actually working yet, or if you have some kind of executive function problem; you can just run the automatic process and don’t have to decide on anything (I’m not saying that solves executive function problems but it can help ameliorate them). Also very useful if, like me, you spend 7 days out of every 14 at minimum running on an increasing sleep deficit.

Many people have morning rituals; reading the newspapers over coffee, using the same three swearwords over burnt toast and aggressive hair-straighteners, grabbing an ostensibly healthy smoothie while running to the station because their morning ritual involves being late, doing yoga with the sunrise because their morning ritual involves being smug…

The longer things are incorporated the more set they become. It’s why you’re encouraged to take medication at the same time every day (I mostly manage this, although apart from the citirizine hydrochloride they’re not really mandatory so much as “recommended”), or why people trying to improve their fitness levels squeeze in their morning run at the same point every day (past me, on my way home, while wearing more and more swanky workout gear).

So far I’ve got the hang of things like “eating breakfast” and “exercise” because of morning routines; boarding school taught me exciting things like “consistently showering” (which depression then completely undermined for years; nothing like “smelling of stale sweat” to increase your sense of no self-worth, compounding the shiteness of depression, weighing you down, and making it ever-more unlikely you’ll find the strength to fix even that), for a while I had the morning ritual of make-up, for a while I had the morning ritual of “removing yesterday’s make-up”, for a while I had the morning ritual of “a hangover every single day”, which was not what I would call Peak Achievement.

These days it goes like this:

Arise thy ass from bed.

Go at once to the kitchen and make tea. Acquire ye water.

Ingest with thy water the selection of pills demeaned necessary to prevent cholesterol from overpowering thy body and the country’s blatant absence of sunlight from turning thy bones to dust. [Summer variant: fling in some anti-histamines or spend all day scratching your visage and sneezing mightily]. Brush the enamel-coated protrusions of bone into thy mouth until they stop feeling like a goblin climbed into thy mouth in the night and wiped its unholy ass all over them.

Prepare thou thy breakfast and consume it. On a good day, Instagram the breakfast photo, because “putting pictures of what I eat on Instagram like a kind of Gallery of Shame” stops me eating so much carbonated assfart.

Enter into the bathroom and consume a cup of tea while sitting on the bog and browsing thy social media profiles on a tablet, which is going to be the single most 21st-century thing I do all day short of complaining at TfL on Twitter while on one of their buses about how the bus isn’t working. Which is in all reality just a very quick version of the Letter to the Times beloved of my stroppy ancestors [Sir, I waited three quarters of an hour for a bus which the LED display reliably informed me, the whole time, was 6 minutes away; when the bus arrived it promptly terminated. Is this some sort of psychological experiment and what does it say about me that I reacted to this by throwing my umbrella into the road and buying a Shitty Chicken Meal?]

At a time judged by the Sacred “I Ran Out Of Internet And Am Now Browsing Food Tumblrs”, ascertain that the calories within breakfast have been assimilated into the bloodstream and the Foul Human Carcass will be capable of completing its morning workout.

Bizarre routine of stretching and warm-ups which is cobbled together from logic, necessity, half-remembered yoga and even more hazily-remembered ballet warm-up.

Whichever of the four entries of specific work-out is earmarked for that day [this took a lot of fiddling, twiddling, and input from three separate fitness-authoritative friends, one of whom can deadlift approximately 300lb and has bright blue hair because she is the coolest being on the planet; it will probably continue to be fiddled with, but I would be kidding everyone if I didn’t explain that it took several near-shouting matches before anyone could convince me that three recovery days a week is preferable for muscle growth and improved strength and that talking me down from six continual days of weight-lifting out of every seven is not, as slightly mental-ly asserted, “a conspiracy to make me remain fat and useless forever”]

After the completion of thy whatevers, post FITSHAMING results on Facebook for maximum accountability [if I were more organised/had space on my tablet for more apps I’d do this on a fitness tracker].

Waste slightly more time on the internet until thou hast regained thy breath.

Slather thy face with cleandirt in an attempt to prevent it from turning into a major oil well. [It will do this anyway. I am on a shot of Sustanon 250 every just-under lunar month – about 26 to 27 days – and it is doing the predicted in Making My Skin Turn Into The Before Shot In A Clearasil Advert. I am assured it will get worse. I cannot wait.] Remove the dirt from thy skin. Remove the dirt from thy sink.

Enter the cleansing cubicle and use low-pressure boiling water to strip thy skin from thy flesh with the aid of whatever weird smelly goo was cheapest in Morrisons recently. Potentially try to remove some of the several months of accretion of glitter from thy over-bleached and wispy hair.

Exit the cleansing cubicle and remove water from Foul Human CarcassReapply The Shame BraceletApply whichever scented unguent seems most likely to prevent thy armpits from smelling like grilled hobos by the end of today.

Industriously apply unwise quantities of glitter suspended in moisturiser. [Because I won’t moisturise otherwise, I put glitter in there. The next step is to bribe myself into using suncream via the same method. If you don’t have to coax yourself into responsible adulthood behaviours by treating your own brain like the truculent four-year-old it actually is, congratulations. If you do, check out my guide to tricking yourself into eating vegetables.]

Optional: Attempt to insert contact lenses with deleterious quantities of glitter gel on thy fingers, because thou art a fucking idiot and never remember to do this FIRST.

Hide the wretched flesh prison from the prying eyes of the world with the application of cloth. 

NOW I AM READY TO SPEND ANOTHER THREE HOURS DICKING AROUND ON THE INTERNET.