David Moseley

Playing the weighting game

2014-07-16 14:43

David Moseley

When I was at school we had a gymnasium. Not a gym with elliptical walkers and personal trainers who spend more time indulging their clients' laziness than actually training a person, but a proper, wooden-floored, high-ceilinged gymnasium that was an ice box in winter and a sweat box in summer.  

Ropes, rings and a rope ladder dangled from the ceiling, wooden stretch bars were built into the walls, a creaking vault that was only half as terrifying as the rusty springboard you had to bounce off on approach sat in one corner while an assortment of dusty medicine balls lay scattered in another.

There was a backroom filled with, depending on which cupboard you opened, pre-World War II workout equipment or medieval torture tool, some hard rubber balls and the tears of pupils who forgot their gym clothes and had to exercise in their underpants.

Most notably, the backroom of the gymnasium was also where we had to line up for smacks with a wooden tennis-set bat when our Neanderthal class teacher ran out of ideas, which, as bad luck would have it, was almost on a daily basis.

Every aspect of the gymnasium, bar the hidings because I knew I could at least suffer a smack in dignified silence, filled me with dread.

In 12 years of trying the best I could muster in my pursuit of gymnastic excellence was charging determinedly towards my nemesis only to abort tragically at the last minute, trip over the springboard and sink my teeth into the side of the vault.

I was quite adept at dangling pathetically from the rings, making it to, on a good day, about the third rung on the rope ladder and swinging wildly on the ancient rope a mere foot off the ground like some youthful Indiana Jones, albeit a version of the swashbuckling adventurer who is terrified of heights, ropes and completely incapable of climbing a rope.

While phys ed lessons at school were my personal, daily nightmare, I’ve grown to appreciate the modern gym for its health benefits. I’m no huge fan of lifting weights, and I’ve seen enough wrinkled geriatric penises to know I definitely won’t ever be taking my pants off past the age of 60, but I know and understand the benefits of resistance training.

Do you even lift, bro?

Prior to my wedding 18 months ago I embarked on a secret workout mission to buff-up for the big day. I thought if I could get Robyn to look at me the way she does Thor in the Avengers movies our honeymoon sight-seeing expeditions would extend no further than the hotel room. Everything was going according to plan until I injured my shoulder (through cycling, not pumping iron).

With three months to the wedding I stopped training, but carried on eating like I was working out every day. The muscle mass I had gained refused to stay in place and moved freely around my body, finally settling itself around my gut. Those aren’t smiles in my wedding photos, but rather grimaces through sucking everything in as the photographer and I play a deadly game of fat and mouse.

Now I’ve been invited back into the gym by the kind fellows at the Sport Science Institute of South Africa. It’s a challenge of sorts to launch their new Boot Camp programme.

The idea is that a bunch of eager media types (and me) will train at the gym and then participate in a Boot Camp-off sometime in August. I’m hoping the challenge requires participants to polish boots to the best of their ability, but I fear it’s something more physically demanding.

Determined to have the strongest boot-polishing arms for Boot Camp I visited the Sports Science gym earlier this week. I haven’t been inside a gym in about 18 months, and my how things have changed.

I suppose a gym inside an institute with the word “science” in its name is always going to be of the glossy variety, but some of the machines on display would be deemed to futuristic for the most recent Star Trek movies.

A few years ago I visited Nick Durandt’s boxing gym in Hillbrow. Inside there was a tattered sparring ring, a punch bug filled with the skulls of tourists who’d wandered too far from trendy Newtown and 40 tiny black guys throwing medicine balls from my old school gym at each other, bobbing, weaving or simply letting the leather-clad boulders smack them in the stomach. The windows were shut and the heat was cranked up. The Sport Science gym is nothing like that.

I wandered around for a few minutes, debating whether to hit the free weights or play with some of the new machines, none of which were labelled “boot polishing strengthener”, and one which looked so complicated I can guarantee that not one person has used it since it first appeared in the gym.

This type of machine exists in all gyms and it’s the once piece of equipment that, when you walk past, gym members and instructors alike hold their breath in anticipation of your next move. Will you be the first sucker to require the Jaws of Life on an apparatus that stretches your calf muscles in the most convoluted manner known to man.

What would Nick Durandt do, I pondered? Well, he’d shut the windows, swear a lot and make everyone do 1000 sit-ups before throwing medicine balls at us.

And with that comforting thought, I threw my gym towel over my shoulder and sauntered out thinking, “good workout, bro. Chest tomorrow, for sure”.

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