Five ways to be the boss of your gym class

In a quest to become fitter, leaner and tougher I have been attending exercise classes since I was around 16 (although this is very much an on and off relationship – think Ross and Rachel.) Seeing as classes and I seem to be going steady I thought I would write a how-to guide to help those just starting out.

  1. Be on time

You may think being on time means arriving at the time the class is due to start, my child how wrong you are. If the class involves any sort of equipment (weights, bikes, steps), then being on time means being at least ten minutes early. And on a Sunday morning, when there are no excuses left to wangle your way out of attendance, meaning every gym member descends upon their chosen establishment you really need to be 20 minutes early. As my mother is wont to say, life: it just ain’t fair.

  1. Do not go on your mobile phone

There is nothing, and I mean literally nothing in this world that annoys gym instructors more than you going on your phone. Once spotted they will huff, make a face and then unleash the fury of a thousand suns. You will feel humiliated and spend the rest of class thanking the gods that it really isn’t possible to flush during an intense cardio workout. And whilst they may forgive you for this indiscretion exercise instructors will never really forget. Do yourself a favour – leave your phone at home and avoid any temptation.

  1. You get what you give

When I was younger there was a slogan prolific on T-shirts and other such merchandise, it read “dance like nobody’s watching.” I believe many of my peers felt this to be of immense significance and to be particular poignant. I’m not entirely sure the reasoning behind this given that most of their dancing was limited to clubs. And their grinding, swaying and gyrating was all done precisely in the hope that somebody would be watching. However, the one place this motto does work is in an exercise class. When I was younger I was nervous of seeming too enthusiastic, too energetic, and far too fearful of judgement. Now I realise nobody cares, everybody is just trying to get through the hour the best way they can. So jump, skip and grunt like no-one’s watching, because frankly they most certainly are not.

  1. Get the Kit

The more legit you look the more exercise ready you will feel. Coming equipped with a pair of converse, your ex-boyfriend’s old T-shirt, that you aren’t quite ready to let go of, and Topshop leggings is not going to motivate you in any way, shape or form. Frankly it’s far more likely to cause an injury. Invest in a decent pair of trainers, some sporting leggings and a breathable exercise top. However, men – I implore you not to buy sweatbands, there are just no words to describe the travesty that is this particular article of clothing.

  1. Channel your inner teenage angst 

Choose the best, most hard-core gym fanatic in the room and make her the epitome of every girl who made you cry and every boy who broke your heart. This girl is the cause of all your tutored, broken teenage angst. So your jumps must be more energetic, your knees higher and your kicks stronger. If that doesn’t make you sweat then nothing on this planet could.

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Five very good reasons there needs to be Facepalm emoji.

     1.  What on God’s earth is your name? I have met you multiple times, at social events I was probably coerced into attending either out of guilt or a sense of obligation. I recognise your face, and I even remember what we spoke about- your university, current job, hopes and dreams for the future. But in the name of all that is holy, I cannot remember the very first thing you said on meeting me. If I think really, excruciatingly hard I can remember your arm outstretched, your welcoming gaze, but I have completely and utterly blanked on your name; instead all I hear is my panicking brain desperately searching for the information and myself say, incredibly awkwardly, and exceptionally pointedly- oh hey YOU, gosh it’s been so long.

  1. The Thing you knew that would happen  

Life is an unpredictable mess (well mine certainly) and we are basically just buzzing around trying to deal with the obstacles, frustrations and difficulties that make up our existence. However, there are moments when certain things happen in a friend’s life and you really could have placed bets on the conclusion. Given we are outside looking in we have a much clearer perspective. So whilst the breakup, to them, was a sharp, shocking stab to the heart, we all knew the writing was on the wall. And whilst being sacked, was for them, a monumental injustice we simply wonder how they lasted so long given, from what you could see, they spent most of their day on whatsapp. We obviously feel bad, but whilst the words coming out of our mouths connote shock, horror and disbelief- we really want to sit them down and draw a detailed table of the reasons this was really always going to happen.

  1. Shops not accepting your money

You get to the front of the queue, hand your credit card to the cashier for them to look you in the eye and say, “sorry we don’t take card under £5.” I’m sorry, am I hearing you correctly, you don’t want to accept my money? We live in the twenty-first century, who in this day and age carries cash with them? Don’t you understand that if I use my card it doesn’t feel like real money? And moreover, do I look like I want to trek down the road to the nearest cash machine? No, I want to purchase my Pepsi max and cereal bar and eat my breakfast in peace. Of course, for those establishments who want to charge me an additional 20p for the privilege of payment, they will find an abandoned Pepsi and a me shaped hole through their wall.

  1. The Emperor’s New Clothes

You have bought a new item of clothing, and this is it- this is the item that hides all bulges, lines and wobbles whilst simultaneously clinging to all the right places. You feel basically, like Naomi Campbell, and inspired by your latest purchase have decided to stop watching Netflix and venture outside of the comfort of your bedroom. You walk, no- you saunter to work, you glide onto the tube and stride into the office with all the confidence you can muster. And yet, no one comments, you get a few cursory nods and pathetic greetings, but that is it. If your life was a cartoon you would be drawn as a deflated balloon image of yourself. And that’s basically the day ruined.

  1. Saying No

You can feel it coming- the random Facebook message from someone you haven’t spoken to in years. Or the long rambling preamble which doesn’t really make sense, but which hints at an imminent favour whilst being littered with far too many conjunctions, hypotheticals and conditionals, “erm, so you really don’t have to….but if you wouldn’t mind lol, I obviously wouldn’t ask, but feel free to say no.” They then proceed to ask you a not completely ludicrous, but relatively annoying favour to which social nicety dictates you say yes. So whilst your brain screams no, no, no you don’t have time for this, you find your fingers typing, “yea sure babes,” with a smiley face- just so they can see how chilled you are. You then spend far too much time thinking of different ways you can get out of what you have already committed to, before finally acquiescing on the proviso that this time really is the last time you will be guilt tripped into this sort of ridiculous situation.Of course, the fact you made that internal promise countless times before is neither here nor there.

The Five People You Will Meet At The Gym

I go to the gym on a semi-regular basis, though the verb go doesn’t really do justice to the immense internal battle that forces me into my gym clothes, out of the house, and down the hill where my gym is conveniently located. It is so close I pass it on my daily commute to work- its towering presence a constant reminder of the £50 I lavish on this unfortunate and unenjoyable task.
The list of things I would do rather than go to the gym is honestly so long it could stretch from my flat in North West to London all the way to Australia (and probably swoop back and reach America.) Of course my primary alternative activity would be eating. Ideally something fried in oil, dripping in sauce and oozing with enough calories to triple my own body weight. And this is precisely the reason I force myself, by using similar methods as those used to assuage an unruly toddler. I essentially have to threat, bribe and plea with myself to go to the gym. I have also, given my rather poor excuse for a wage, started using guilt as a tactic. This sometimes works. Other times it just makes me feel even guiltier for having a piece of cake. Say what you want about Marie Antoinette, but the gal knew there really is nothing like a slice of rich, luxury decadence. In any case back to the matter at hand. On the occasion I am able to force myself to attend the gym (which in the summer has the unfortunate disadvantage of being extremely smelly) I have noticed some distinct categories of people. Which in my benevolence, and for your amusement, I shall review in the form of a list for your reading pleasure.
1. The Made up gym-goer
Now do not get me wrong. I am not a feminist warrior combat who feels the need to defy conventional norms and wear baggy, unflattering clothes. I like dressing up; I have a bulging bag of makeup, far too many dresses (and yet wear the same one on every date I have) and own numerous pairs of heels. However, there is a time and a place for all things and I can assure you when moving, sweating and grunting my way through exercise classes I feel no need to have glossy lips, bronzed cheeks or long lashes. And yet I see women looking as if they are going to rush straight from the gym to partake in Pimms with Princess Anne. When in reality, well if they are anything like me, they are going to jump in the shower and then sit on their bed in a towel for half an hour.
2. The Toned gym-goer
These women have my respect and admiration. They look fantastic and clearly work extremely hard to ensure their physiques. I see them giving it their all in classes, rising early and retiring late all to ensure they retain their enviable bodies. They are what I aspire to be like (note the use of the conditional verb to aspire.) I suppose it is good to have a dream…
3. The January gym-goer
Come January 1st the gym is packed with women who have suddenly decided this year is going to be the year they finally beat the battle of the bulge. So off they trot to their local exercise establishment with an intense passionate dedication. This annoyingly means that for the first two weeks of January accessing the treadmills is a game of luck and chance. Thankfully their fiery determination normally wanes by the 10th of January, returning only for a very brief moment in July as the bikini fear becomes real. They are, however, present a perfectly legitimate excuse not to go to the gym for a few days.
4. The doing it for love gym-goer
I have friends like this, they go to the gym because they genuinely love exercising. These woman also prefer eating healthier food options and rarely feel the need to gorge on obscene amounts of food. It goes without saying that I cannot even begin to understand the way their minds work, but I wish mine was just a little bit more like theirs.
5. My favourite ever gym-goer
There is a woman at my gym who is clearly pretty old, she could almost certainly have grandbabies. Yet, every morning at 6am she is at the gym pounding, pumping and punching. She does all this wearing a fanny pack. She is essentially my role model in life. I do not know why she feels the need to indulge in an early morning workout nor do I know what she puts in her fanny pack. However, I honestly believe she is just absolutely fabulous.

Keeping Up Appearances

I grew up in the nineties when grunge was the order of the day. The perfect look was ripped jeans, slouchy shirts and messy hair. Meanwhile celebrities pretended to eat pizza and chips as if this was what formed their rock hard abs and enviable, toned limbs. (As someone who on leaving home gorged and devoured their way through Freshers. I can assure you the eat and pray you won’t get fat tactic never ever works.)

However, times they are a changing. My Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are all filled with pictures of Kale Juice and selfies in the gym accompanied by insanely annoying and self aggrandising hashtags like #healthyliving and #detoxday. Just once I would like to see an honest Instagram: here’s a picture of the undersized portions I ate at the overpriced restaurant before going home to gorge on actual food groups #fatlife #ilovefoodmorethanmen. However, this subliminal messaging is having an impact. We can no longer pretend as if looking good comes naturally. I personally blame reality T.V (as I am wont to do for any decline in society) for exposing the truth. Looking good takes hard work, dedication and (as I am painfully realising) investment.

I am constantly on a diet; I have tried nutritionists, Slimming World and Weight Watchers. All of whom I have paid in the hope they would be able to teach me the secret to declining marshmallows (the true love of my life) and eating chocolate in moderation. I also follow a variety of people on Instagram whom preach mantras such as #cleanliving and #eatpraylove. Whilst, frankly, the portions that these people eat genuinely amaze me- as if three rice cakes is a breakfast! And the fact they have time to arrange their food to resemble flowers or to do anything except shove it on a plate and then into their mouth simultaneously shocks and amazes me. However, there is no arguing that these people are extremely healthy. So I feel compelled to buy ingredients like goji beans, coconut oil and an odd category of food named “superfoods.” Not only are these food products about as filling as a spoonful of dust, but they also quickly drain my resources. Not only do I really just want a pizza and chips, but it is also a hell of a lot cheaper.

In a further aim to look good I am a member of my local gym. Living in London this, of course, means I pay an extortionate amount per month. I have plenty of complaints against my gym: I could rant and rave about the cramped, overheated classes that make you feel as if you are exercising in Dante’s 8th circle of hell. I could also pontificate on the fact that despite paying membership fees if I will never be able to afford a personal trainer. I do, of course, watch their classes in the hope of picking up tips, but this does not have quite the same effect. However, I think what hurts the most is the clapping. I believe there are two types of people in the world: those who enjoy and those who hate exercising. And despite all the inspiring Pinterest posts that preach its virtues accompanied by uplifting mottos and funky info graphics I hate going to the gym. So why I am forced to clap after spinning my legs so fast I am unable to walk properly for the rest of the next day I do not know. Further to the point, not only am I paying so as to avoid weight gain, but the only tangible benefit as far as I can see is the one-time-only free water bottle (that I promptly lost). Furthermore, since reading an article that explained how burning 400 calories on the treadmill does not mean I have nullified the bag of marshmallows I ate the day previously the experience has never been quite the same.

And yet despite spending all this money, time and effort on trying to achieve the legs of Blake Lively and the arms of Michelle Obama I am still far away from my goal. I suppose my one solace is that they weren’t published in the Huffington Post #justsayin.

My Job Application Theory

Dating is a complicated and convoluted game, and not one I particularly understand. Given my inherit lack of patience and my past experience being based on what I fondly refer to as the ‘hurricane,’ I am not exactly an expert. However, I have friends whom seem to have it down. They understand implicitly and intuitively how to long to wait before replying, the power of playing hard to get and can advise on what height of heel to wear on a first date. So I turn to them, pester them with questions and badger them until they have bequeathed their knowledge onto me. I am fastidious in my learning, and although, I suspect I will never truly master the art I am guided by my superiors.
The reason, for that, somewhat, protracted rant, is because it seems to me to be the perfect analogy to describe applying for jobs. See, I was smug when I left University, I had a job by March and whilst the rest of my peers faltered and floundered I was secure, safe and satisfied with my post-graduation options. I had a stable relationship whilst everyone was searching. (Namely I got the only job I applied for and the only one I wanted). However, my job is coming to an end and for the first time, essentially in my life, (not to be over dramatic), I have no idea what is going to happen next. I am like one of those girls who is single for the first time since entering a weirdly intense relationship at a young age.
Being at University carried with it a certain level of instability (especially given my particularly crooked trajectory) that saw me, in three years, live in three cities. However, being a student there was no pressure to earn money, pay rent, bills or student loans. Now I am a fully fledged graduate, and a soon to be an unemployed one, and so every night I come home turn on my computer and apply for jobs.
However, my dream of being a copywriter (as my friends are surely tired of hearing) is not an easy one to accomplish. To begin with it is not the most common job, my parents know plenty of lawyers (and my dad was a solicitor, though I am still unclear on the difference.) I know Doctors (according to my mother the holy grail of occupations and if I am not going to be one I better endeavour to marry one.) There are a plethora of occupations my friends, family and extended contact base have, but no-one is a copywriter. And my attempt to use Linkedin to create connections resulted in a rather strange individual offering to be my “mentor” and then proceeding to ask me out; not quite what I had in mind.
I am wading in murky waters I don’t fully understand and applying for jobs with a C.V I hope and pray is impressive. Applying for writing jobs I feel every application should be creative and innovative, but there are really only so many ways you can tell the same story. And, much like the dating scene there are moments when I know I am just batting out of my league like a fat, bald octogenarian hitting on a twenty-something in a bar. If I accidentally click on a job that offers a salary in excess of £25,000a year I quickly retreat, pressing the back button as quickly as my fingers can work. The same goes for any job that requires two years experience, knowledge of photoshop, SEO, google analytics, graphic design, basic coding or video editing. That still leaves me with, an admittedly, limited range of options, but even given that I am only applying for the jobs I believe myself to be both qualified for and well suited to. (Having spent an ill-advised period interning as a data analyst I understand the importance of playing to one’s strength.) I have yet to have any response. Of course, much like in dating, I have no idea how long I should wait, if these companies will ever get back to me, if I am doing something wrong in my application or if they are simply inundated and accepting only those who did their undergraduate at Oxford, masters at Harvard and interned at the White House with President Obama listed as their referee.
At least in dating I can moan to friends, and if nothing else, I have accumulated some rather amusing stories to tell at parties. But, I missed the boat; my friends all dealt with unemployment in the months immediately after University. Even those who took slightly longer than the rest have all now gained meaningful employment. So I am off to take my considerable levels of frustration out on the cross trainer, and pray that just one of my considerable applications gets back to me….

When I Grow up I Want to Be

When I was younger I wanted to be everything; growing up in an academically motivated house (from the ages of 8-18 between March and June my entire life was given over to a strict regime of revision and studying) meant I was fluent in university prospectuses whilst my peers were flirting, partying and sleeping. Even watching T.V became a gateway into new and exciting jobs outside of the lawyers, doctors and receptionists that surrounded me in my Northern cocoon. This meant, growing up, on any given day, I wanted to be a forensic anthropologist, a speech writer at the White House, a doctor, a high powered attorney living in New York who still has time to see her friends and live in a small yet tastefully furnished apartment on the Upper East Side. I made proud declarations, oscillated spectacularly and had a new career plan at least monthly. However, then I went to university and suddenly the immense competition of the working world and the swirling unknown of the dark and, now, confusing future loomed large, creating shadows and darkness where before there had only been light. The future was neither bright nor was it orange. So I spent University trying to get good grades (which proved difficult given that in an subconscious surge of masochism I chose a subject I had hated for my entire school career) and on graduation got a wonderful job which unfortunately has very little career progression. However, the past six months have really made me think about what it is I want to do. I love my job, but it will never be my career and whilst I want a career I also want a life; I do not want to slave over my computer every day and night, eyes made blurry by data and confused by spreadsheets. And my only real talent, is writing. I love words- reading them, speaking them (as my friends will exasperatedly assure you I fit more words into a minute than most normal people) and writing them. I believe words are important, that they can have a deep, meaningful and intense impact on the world. It’s why I am inspired by Aaron Sorkin and exasperated by Take Me Out (a show that surely suggest a decline, at worst, or a stagnation, at best, in human evolution since cavemen.) So I want to be a copywriter. Now, I know this does not sound particularly glamorous, but it’s a job where I will be paid to write well. To advertise, to promote and to be creative with my words. I can elaborate, suggest, and pontificate. It’s nice to, at least, have an idea. Of course turning this idea into reality is, unsurprisingly, difficult. Top-selling, number one singles are made with a guitar, a microphone and YouTube, artists can make millions with raw talent (and, ideally, a slammin’ hot body.) I’m hoping for a livelihood, enough to raise a family, live comfortably and perhaps even an abroad summer holiday. But, copywriting firms are clever- they don’t want to pay me for my work, rather they went a minimum of six months free where they, in their benevolence, will pay my travel expenses and lunch. However I am undeterred, I searched for inspiration on Pinterest and Instagram last night and I now feel fully prepared to fight this battle. For I have a dream, no-one can hold me back anymore and apparently I should have nothing to fear but fear itself. (I think it says a lot about Americans that the country with the highest obesity rate in the world also seems to have produced the majority of the world’s inspiring quotes, but I digress.) So wish me luck, let me know if you know of any copywriters I can pester and don’t stop believing!

The Unrealistic Expectations set by Television

It has been a long time since I have written a blog, I have stared in front of a blank screen a few times, but nothing exciting seems to have happened in the past month and a half. I sleep (though it is never enough), I cook (on what seems to be a constant cycle of peeling, chopping and cleaning) and I go to work.

The more noteworthy incidents of the month of January included a man on the tube offering me a seat. And whilst I was decidedly offended he thought I was pregnant, I, for no apparent reason instinctively placed my hand protectively over my stomach. My anger at skinny people in the gym who walk around taking up space and simply staring at the equipment, whilst I red faced and suffering try to defeat my unmoving excess pounds. And my happiness on getting a new work phone!
In thinking over the month of January it made me release something very obvious, I have been ruined by television. When I write, I feel that every word must be infused with drama, laden with hidden secrets and worthy of four seasons starring a scarily beautiful cast. However, my life cannot compete with this level of intrigue. So instead of writing about my pleasant if, unexciting life I shall moan about the things that never ever happen in reality.

1) Excess

In Skins (for the four people who read this blog outside of the United Kingdom, this was a popular British television show), the characters, whilst sitting their a levels, engage in the most obscene, shocking and sordid behavior imaginable, evocative of the last days of Rome – these characters smoked, snorted, cavorted, inhaled, drank, stripped and flounced their way through year 12 and 13. Now, admittedly year 13 was exciting because I had a car, but the most noteworthy thing I did was get a ticket for driving in the bus lane and my rebellion was having a takeaway in said car (something my parents would never have approved of) and I still proudly have the hoi sin sauce stain as a fond memory. I also worked extremely hard in year 13, whilst juggling an early Sunday morning job in a local bakery and going to a smattering of house parties. And quite, frankly, I suspect my experience was similar to that of most of my peers- unlike the Bristolians in skins who made Pete Doherty look sober and Mick Jagger tame.

2) On/off relationships

My teenage years were punctuated by the on/off couples that invaded the TV screen- Ross and Rachel, Blair and Chuck, Seth and Summer, Meredith and McSteamy, Joey and Dawson- the list frankly is interminable. Eventually, you knew they would end up together, but the high drama, the intense arguments and complicated plot had you riveted. This is in no way reflective of real life. Of all my friends who have gone through heart breaking, earth shattering, painful breakups it was because one person no longer wanted to be with the other. This illusion of true love being strewn with thorns (I’m looking at you Shakespeare) is just not true. It’s neither romantic nor is it more authentic than couples who date, get engaged and then married without a hiccup analogous to hurricane Katrina tearing them apart.

3) I’m just naturally skinny/I lost weight without trying/I was too busy to eat

This is just not real life- the battle of the bulge is a daily struggle! I literally have one friend who can eat what she wants and not gain weight (the fact that I am still friends with her is a testament, frankly, to her character.) The rest of my skinny friends have a good figure due to hard work, determination and self control, they eat less and exercise more. Furthermore, no one loses weight because they are “too busy to eat” we do not live in a developing country. On my walk to the bus (which takes approximately five – ten minute minutes depending on if I am going with sensible dull shoes or wonderfully unwalkable heels) I pass no less than seven food outlets selling food in a variety of forms. We all know the actresses who play these characters are eating yoghurt for lunch and snacking on carrot sticks and air.

4) Eating out all the time

In TV shoes the characters all seem to congregate in a food establishment on a daily basis. Puh-lease. Are these people simply sitting on wads of unspent cash? Eating out is expensive, time consuming and a luxury. Why do I never see these characters stare into an empty fridge- shake their hands, insist to themselves they must be more prepared and then bung a potato in the oven, open a tin of tuna and shovel it into the mouth whilst reminiscing on the much tastier dinner they could be having had they only used their Sunday productively rather than watching back to back episodes of the West Wing.

5) meeting a guy in a coffee shop/book store/library/gym

I go to the library at least once a month, the gym three times a week (in theory at least) and I frequent a variety of coffee shops in a differing places (I travel a lot for work.) And I have yet to look up from my book, casually glance up and see Mr. right staring back. And whilst the girls in TV shows seem to be able to pick up guys in the time it takes me to write a blog post, this just doesn’t happen in real life. Though I do wonder if I looked like Blake Lively if my life wouldn’t contain a lot more of 1, a bit more of 2 and a dash extra of of 3…