The quest to firm up my assets

2009-03-18 00:00

So here I am again — working up a red-faced sweat, pushing and shoving and grunting and puffing.

And no, I’m not giving birth, washing the dog or doing my month-end grocery shopping — I now belong to a gym.

Well okay, I don’t really belong there at all, but I go anyway.

Every so often, usually when I’ve gotten too wide for my bedroom mirror, I survey the current fitness fads and enrol in the one that seems the least exerting and the most exciting. And by exciting, I don’t mean I get my thrills ogling (or being ogled by) muscle-bound macho men in straining Speedos. In fact, I’ve joined a gym for women only, where I can jiggle my wobbly bits in pastel-painted, perfume–scented peace.

This may sound very uninteresting to the young at heart and body, but frankly the notable lack of testosterone swilling about the place suits me fine.

In my lithe-bodied youth, wearing leopard-print gym togs and getting the best view of the weightlifting fraternity was part of the package and essential to the experience, but my days of prancing about like Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, are over and I’d need my glasses to look at the view.

I’ve enjoyed a love/hate relationship with gym for many years.

In the eighties, I tied a bandana around my perm (another popular fad of the day) and plugged Jane Fonda’s workout tapes into the video machine. Unfortunately, grovelling around on the lounge carpet in footless tights and knitted legwarmers did little for my figure and even less for my perm, so that particular and rather unglamorous phase was short-lived.

Next came the hugely fashionable, high-impact aerobics classes, where squeezing oneself into skintight, psychedelic spandex was almost as exhausting as the leaping about to deafening disco music.

G-string leotards and luminous leggings were the order of the day — along with positioning oneself so that the Arnold Schwarzenegger wannabes couldn’t cop an eyeful of one’s bouncing backside.

But the “no-pain-no-gain” motto of these sessions became a little too stressful, especially when the slither of spandex caused enough discomfort on its own.

It was thus several years before I summoned the courage and the energy to flex my muscles again and joined a callanetics class.

Although relieved that pouring oneself into lurid lycra had become passé, standing around in tracksuit pants twitching one’s muscles in time to soothing music seemed an odd way to fight the battle of the bulge. It was so uninspiring, in fact, that the following morning, I was most surprised to find myself feeling like I’d actually been doing battle.

A short stint at a traditional gym followed the muscle twitching classes, but I found all the heavy equipment, most of which had been well “oiled” by the previous user, a little off-putting — that, and a rather embarrassing incident involving a treadmill …

And then home gyms came into vogue and the spare bedroom was duly equipped with dumbbells, a chest expander and some sort of mono-wheeled monstrosity, which guaranteed one’s victory over cellulite and a fat bum in general.

For the best results, however, this apparatus must be used for what it was intended, even though I can attest to the fact that it is equally handy as a doorstopper and a clotheshorse.

So in my latest quest to fight inflation and firm-up my assets, I have joined a women’s-only gym — no oiled muscle men, no heavy machinery, no shiny spandex and hopefully within a few months, no fat bum.

• Heidi Steyn is a freelance writer who lives in Pietermaritzburg.

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