Enjoying myself? Not quite


Last month Berna Cox described her first trip to the gym. So how's it going?

I wish I could report that this gym business is getting easier, but it isn't. Six weeks on from the initial humiliation I'm still a reluctant participant. I will admit to some progress - my legs don't buckle as much when I get off the treadmill and I can manage the cross trainer after only initial flailing - but I'm far from enjoying myself.

The treadmill continues to be the bane of my life. I punch in the details of my programme - time (20 minutes), level (1), incline (0), weight (ahem), speed (6.5 k.p.h.) - and off I go. It starts counting down. I try to keep my eyes off the display and promise I won't look until I have at least 10 minutes done. When I'm sure I must be nearly finished I take a look, to discover I've only done about six minutes. The seconds seem to linger for ever, and I'm convinced this apparatus is from a parallel universe where time passes more slowly.

Such is my desperation with the treadmill that I hit on the idea of checking the television guide to coincide my torture with something watchable. I timed it one day so I'd catch a bit of Murder, She Wrote. Do you know that woman can make dinner for her doctor friend, annoy the sheriff, write a book, cycle the length and breadth of Cabot Cove and discover whodunit in about seven minutes? I'm disgusted. I have come to accept that the treadmill will always be torture and that I must endure it.

On the other hand I'm doing unexpectedly well with the rowing machine. If it's possible to say I have a favourite piece of equipment, this is it. At first I thought I'd never manage it, but I have found a rhythm. I've even upped the resistance and am still doing fine. Mind you, I'm keeping shtum about it, as I'm afraid they'll notice the lack of sweat and crank it up to something akin to rowing the Lusitania single-handedly. There's a fan thing at one end of the machine that swooshes when you pull and I wonder if it's meant to replicate the sound of oars through water. I close my eyes sometimes and pretend I'm winning at Henley or something equally unlikely. Don't knock it. It works.

Progress of sorts also with the Swiss ball: I have managed to perch and roll and vice versa, then dismount without hitting the deck. I don't do much when I'm on it: I'm supposed to crunch my abs, but getting on and off with some modicum of elegance is quite an achievement for me. Still, it's progress, and I feel I'm not too far away from actually crunching the odd ab.

In the main I've been very good. I've tried to remain true to the three-times-a-week regime prescribed. I've had the occasional lapse but have tried to make up for it by keeping going that little bit longer on the next visit. I roped in my daughter a couple of times for company but have decided it's a bad idea. She promised to do exactly the same as me, but her way of counteracting her boredom on the treadmill was to up the speed to penalty-point territory.

I'm told that the "wall" should hit about now and that my initial enthusiasm and good intentions will wane. Maybe, but I wasn't enthusiastic to begin with, and I admit to a sense of achievement after every session. I shall plod on at 6.5 k.p.h. and avoid that Angela Lansbury woman like the plague.