Which is worse? The fact that my mother nagged me non-stop for a month, or the fact that it turns out she was right?

I’ve never been a “gym girl”. I just don’t feel like I fit in. I look like a retard in a leotard, I have no idea how any of that fancy fangled equipment works and I really don’t understand the culture.

I mean, every year thousands of South Africans spend the GDP of a small warring third world country on gym memberships. Then they circle the parking lot in their cars waiting till a parking bay closer to the door becomes available. Only so they can go inside and spend forty-five minutes walking on a treadmill.

It’s not that I’ve never been fit or sporty. In fact in high school I was “Sporty Spice”.  I walked to and from school every day and I even played hockey, water polo and tennis.

But ten years on and these days I’m more like “Lie-On-The-Couch-And-Eat-Chips Spice”. I rarely exercise, and if I have to park more than 100 metres away from my desired destination, I consider calling a taxi.

That is of course until recently, when my mother nagged me so severely that I was forced to start going to a personal trainer. It was either that or cut off both my ears.

You see she started with a personal trainer after a nasty cancer scare a couple of years ago and it changed her life.  And once you’ve changed your own life the only thing left to do is to move on to the lives of your nearest and dearest.

So I decided to go along and check it out to appease her. I thought I’d go, sit on a bike for a session or two and then gently phase it out. Much like I did with the pottery classes and the Spanish lessons. But two sessions later I was hooked and now three months down the line I think I fall into that irritating category of people whose lives have been changed. I admit it hasn’t all been a walk in the park. More like a long sprint through the park being chased by vicious rottweilers!

During my first week of training I discovered I had incredibly sore ankles.  A number of possibilities crossed my mind. Shin splints. Rickets. Polio (that affects your legs doesn’t it?) or worse, maybe I had giant cancerous tumours

on both ankles? Just imagine the trauma? How would I buy shoes if I didn’t have any feet?

Nervously I mentioned my symptoms and my fears to Ian, my new trainer. He took a closer look, and then suggested that perhaps my shoelaces were too tight. (You can’t see me, but I’m blushing just writing about it.)

And so I blushed and sweated my way through the first month or so. The fact that I’m entirely non coordinated and totally unfit didn’t help at all.  Even a brisk 20-minute walk culminating in a bit of a hill rendered me breathless and sweaty, cursing through gritted teeth.

But I persevered. I shocked my friends. I shocked my mother. I shocked myself. I even shocked the people who’s flats overlook my gym’s swimming pool. But that probably has more to do with the sight of me in a cozzie than me actually doing laps!

They say it’s all the endorphins and fresh air that makes people who exercise so irritating. Sometimes I even irritate myself. My mood is better, my cheeks are rosier and my eyes have lost that unhealthy yellow tinge. I used to hate people like me. People who actually enjoy exercise. If you know me I hope you’re sitting down while you’re reading this. I’d hate you to pass out from shock!

Let me tell you a little more about the man who’s responsible for all this irritating behaviour. Ian is the McGuyver of exercise. Give him a clothes hangar, a hairpin and a stick of gum and he’ll fashion an instrument that, if used properly, will give you rock hard abs in a month.

Seriously. Phone books, empty mineral water bottles, broomsticks… all have a place in my exercise routine.  Together of course with the more traditional instruments of torture: the bike, the treadmill and the dreaded stepper. (Like The Rack, only worse.)

And the best part is that nobody sees me sweat. Fortunately my trainer works out of an eensy weensy little tiny private gym on the sea point beachfront. Where there’s always parking, you don’t have to wear the latest gear, and there are no depressingly perfect 6 foot tall blonde’s mincing around in perfectly fitting lycra g-strings.

But I suppose what really keeps me going back three days out of seven is the results. These days that walk and that hill is a doddle and I laugh in the face of steps. My ass is firmer and my waistline slimmer. What more could a girl ask for? (Besides a 50% off sale at Preview of course.)

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve still got an awful lot of work to do before I reach my dream weight and fitness level, but at least I’ve made a start.

In fact I’m even considering doing a fun run one of these days. I’m a regular Zola Budd. The only difference being that I wear takkies. With the laces loosely tied of course.


(Insert details of personal trainers around the country here)

Ian Waddell/Moira Mahon – 0834500768

The Peninsula Timeshare Resort, Cape Town

By: Paige Nick

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