Gym Class Zeroes

My life has turned into a Channel 4 documentary. It is called:- Pimp the Wimp. The premise is simple: take a skinny, directionless, unhealthy and generally defeated call-centre worker- the wimp [that’s me, if you didn’t guess] and force him to join a gym. The wimp, finding himself in such an alien world, is subjected to ridicule and experiences a severe state of anomie. The hope is that through overcoming the various hardships he faces, the wimp will transform his body and in turn his life in an entertaining and uplifting narrative arc.

My good friend, Ben, and I have taken it upon ourselves to join the gym and get buff. We are two indie boys in our mid-twenties suffering from what ever ails indie boys in their mid-twenties. I have always presumed the skinniness of my frame was as much a part of me as hippies and travellers were a part of Glastonbury festival. Ten years down the line and I’ve got a beer belly and chunky thighs, and the middle-classes have picnic-hampered Glastonbury into a tame playground for coked-up toffs on a jolly. Having danced to nothing more vigorous than Belle and Sebastian for several years, and only ever felt my heart rate increase when I can’t locate a rare Hefner seven inch, it is no wonder my body is turning to shit.

The plan is to work on our upper-bodies exclusively; sculpt them into a state of vein-popping rippedness. Our spindly legs, we shall preserve, doing nothing to aid their development in any way. Our top halves will be injected with steroids, pushed to bursting with protein shakes and weights, and sun-bedded to fuck to achieve a deep brown-orange leathery texture. I want to be massive like Conan the Barbarian, like Lex fucking Luger. As our torsos consume all the performance-enhancing, muscle-boosting, chest-bulking steroids, shakes and supplements we can possibly ingest, our legs will waste away to limp strands of bleached spaghetti. We will look hilarious. We’re so cool, even exercise is post-ironic. It is what drives me.

Oh and the fable of Mike the Eyes; that drives me too. Some time ago, in a place called the Oasis Leisure Centre, I went swimming with a kid called Mike the Eyes, a nerdy streak of piss. He was called Mike the Eyes because his thick glasses magnified his eyes so that when you saw him, you thought ‘eyes’. I couldn’t wait to see Mike in his trunks. It was going to be a hilarious. A skeleton in Speedos with those eyes – it was too much. In the changing rooms, Mike removed his shirt. My breath left my body very quickly. I was shocked and horrified to see a washboard stomach with a well-defined six pack. Suddenly my pot-belly didn’t look so good, my shoulders less broad. In fact, this archetypal nerd looked like Peter Andre compared to me. I felt a mixture of jealously, disbelief and embarrassment. I want to inspire this reaction in everyone I meet from now on, ten-fold.

Now here I am, in another changing room, feeling suitably ill-equipped. I have no sports shoes; only some white daps. I have no sports shorts; just a pair of swimming shorts I last wore snorkelling on the Barrier reef – I say this, not to sound well-travelled and cultured, but to give you some idea of how salt-stained, crusty and generally embarrassing these shorts are. I have no sports T-shirt; just a tight-fitting blue v-neck. I get changed, conscious that I look like a nineteen-seventy’s tennis player; an out of shape one at that.

Finally plucking up the courage to leave the sweaty confines of the changing room, I head to the treadmills, the least intimidating of all of the machines before me. Soon I am running on the machine and staring straight in front of me at a TV. I am trying to concentrate on the screen in order to take my mind of the pain stretching across my chest. Unfortunately, the TV is showing the weather. I imagined gyms to be different to this. I mean, what was it exactly that I was aspiring to – an anti-cyclonic front pushing in across the West; increased sunny spells on Wednesday. This is not what I had in mind when I parted with my thirty quid. I imagined mirrors so I could watch my body bloom. I wanted hard house music and images of beautiful, sexy people. I hit the speed button and put 2 loads of incline on the running machine. I am running up a hill, in a room with ten other people panting, all staring at the weather.

After running for two kilometres, I finally figure out how to stop the machine. With the rubber treadmill coming to a stop beneath my smoking daps, I step off and start to walk off, out of the room. My legs are like jelly and I can feel my pulse in my forehead. I walk through some double doors and see twenty ultra-buff men bench-pressing serious weight. Although this is what I aspire to, I am nowhere near ready to even meet their beady yet scarily focussed eyes.

In front of me are another pair of double doors. The gaps around the door frames emit a strange electric-blue light. I enter through the doors and find myself in a dark room that smells like Laser Quest and is full of strange machines. There is a huge screen that stretches the entire width of the room. There is a music video playing on the screen; it is a Dario G song called something like Music for Bikini-Clad Girls to Bounce Around To. I jump on to the treadmill and crank it all the way up to eleven. I thrust my arms out in front of me in time to the house beat. Fuck the weather, this is more like it, pimp the wimp, pimp the wimp, pimp the wimp…..

After approximately fifty minutes of aimlessly moving up and down on odd plastic machines, Thomas went home to eat a whole crispy duck.

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