I discovered my inner Super-Hero at the gym yesterday

Yesterday was a great day. It was also a crap day, but I am focusing on the positive. To begin with, I had my usual stress-filled-getting-kids-to-school nightmare. To add variety, that morning instead of yelling constantly at Son to take the dog out and Daughter to get dressed, my focus was on a half-eaten Apple core which was lying in the middle of the sitting room floor.

Both children denied responsibility. Son tried to blame Dog until I pointed out the very much CHILD-SIZE teeth marks in said browning fruit.

Why leave it on the floor? Why not even put it on the side? I can understand putting it in the bin is a tiresome chore on a par with being asked to climb Mount Everest in bare feet, but surely not leaving it on the (cream) carpet is not too much to ask?

Keeping to my new resolution of not hassling Daughter and leaving her to get ready without me shouting at her, I tackled Son who was glued to his PS4. I couldn’t fault him as he was fully dressed in uniform complete with shoes and freshly brushed teeth.

He had, however, completely neglected to brush his hair. Son likes to sport a cool, tangled, falling-into-eyes blond ‘do which is very much his signature look.

Unfortunately, now he is getting older the thickness and length of his hair (combined with rugby and football generated sweat grease) forms itself into bizarre peaks which makes him look like a 12 year old cockatiel.

Wresting the PS controller from his hands and trying to find the right button to turn the damn machine off I flattened his hair at the same time with a damp brush.

The screams that emitted were loud enough to rouse Rob who was enjoying a lie in. He stumbled into the sitting room, still in his pyjamas, sleepily scratching his chest and asked why I was trying to kill Son.

I shot him a murderous glance and asked brightly if he could check on Daughter as I wanted to leave in five minutes.

Son finally managed to wrench himself free from my grasp and started to complain he felt sick. I checked his temperature and he felt fine. ‘Have you had a poo yet?’ I always ask this as 99% of the time this is why they have a stomach ache.

He rolled his eyes and reminded me he was, ’12, Mum! Jeez!’ He looked a bit pale but I blamed it on a bad night’s sleep. ‘You’ll be fine!’ I said breezily. ‘Come on let’s go.’

When we walk to the car Daughter is wearing one shoe and holding the other one. I don’t know why. She is also holding her jumper. We stand by the car. It is absolutely pouring with rain. The car won’t open. This never happens as the car senses the keys in my handbag and magically opens.

The car doesn’t open. The rain continues to fall. In an act of heart-breaking generosity Daughter throws her school jumper onto my head in an attempt to protect my day-old blow dry from the elements. Voice muffled by swathes of blue jumper I yell, ‘WHERE. ARE. MY. BLOODY. KEYS!?’

Son remembers he took them out of my bag for some reason he couldn’t explain. He also couldn’t remember why he didn’t put them back. The rain continues to fall. The jumper is getting soaked and my hair is a second away from getting wet. Frizz is becoming a serious possibility.

When I described my morning to husband he drew this picture

I am beginning to quietly steam with rage. Son stops talking and runs back to the house as fast as he can to get the keys. Ten minute later I drop them at school just in time for assembly but get stuck behind a bin lorry the entire way home so it takes me 30 minutes to travel 1 and a quarter miles.  But my hair is dry.

Two hours later I am driving back up to the school as the medical centre has phoned to tell me Son is currently vomiting into a sick bowl. They don’t actually say I am a bad parent, but I hear it in the tone of their voice. Oh I hear it…

Poor Son is grey-green and  I can tell he is really poorly because he doesn’t argue with me all the way back and leans sadly against my shoulder when we sit on the sofa at home. The guilt! The guilt!

I get Son to bed, he is now rocking a nasty temperature so I dose him up with the scraped-from-the-side-of-the-bottle dregs of the 6+ Calpol. As I am getting Son a glass of water I receive a text from Rob. ‘Feeling absolutely rotten. Coming home. Can’t work.’

Now this is a disaster. If Rob is ill I will have to go to our personal training session on my own. If you go on your own there’s no escape. No having a quick breather while the trainer is attending to Rob’s posture, no sneaky lying flat on the floor mid-crunch when she has her back turned.

Five times I pick up my phone to cancel my gym session. Five times I put it back down again. I remember how much cake I have eaten over the past week. I wince as I remember the wine-fuelled-twiglet-frenzy of the night before. I get into my gym kit before I can change my mind and head out of the door. Rob and Son with matching green faces send me off with weak little waves.

My trainer, let’s call her Jet, met me at the door with a dangerous light in her eye. ‘I’ve managed to book the weights and conditioning room!’ She announced.

‘Yay!’ I said, as this seemed to be the reaction she was looking for. My heart sank. The only thing in that room was weights.

Now I hate everything to do with exercise. I hate the cardio, I hate the weights, I hate the elastic fitness bands, I hate the stupid triceps split rope thing and I hate the wobble board. I hate the smell of gyms. I hate the smug gym people who grunt a lot and leave bum-prints of their sweat on all the machines.

But I go because, you know, health, old age, staving off diabetes and all that jazz. The ONLY thing I don’t really mind doing, and I still don’t particularly like it, is going for a jog with the dog. And that’s only because the way she gallops past like a horse, with her mouth wide open and tongue flapping about,  makes me happy.

I have been going to the gym regularly since February 2017. I got a special deal to have a personal trainer once a week and I go with Rob so we pay half each. I then try to go two more times but usually only manage one more session on my own.

One of the most dispiriting things is that you never feel you are getting any better. No matter how often I go and no matter how hard I try, at the end of every session I am pantingly out of breath, dripping with sweat, and purple-faced with exhaustion.

Outside the gym I feel stronger and I can tell I am fitter but those sessions don’t get any easier.

Well yesterday I realised this is because Jet just keeps making it harder! I don’t know why this hasn’t really crossed my mind before. This session was one of the toughest yet. Jet introduced me to the big boys. The proper weights. The ones with bars that go across the shoulders. This kind of thing…

But not with very heavy weights. About 20 kilos I think. So after running around the room a few times and getting nice and out of breath with heart pounding out of my chest, Jet decided I am warmed up and ready to do 100 squats.


And not just one hundred squats, but one hundred squats carrying a bar with 20 kilos on it.

OK it may not have been 100 squats. But there were a lot of repetitions and I was pretty much doing them for 30 mins. So I reckon about 70 at least. I was just getting to that stage when I couldn’t feel the muscles in my legs any more when Jet pulled this out.

Doesn’t look like much does it? A big square box made out of heavy padded foam and between 18 inches and 2 feet high.

Jet looked at me. I looked at Jet. She smiled. I continued to pant slightly and waited for my heart rate to calm down after the squats. I licked my lips.

‘What do you want me to do?’ I asked.

‘Jumps.’ She replied.

I couldn’t help myself, I laughed. ‘You’re joking.’ I said.

‘Nope. Come on. Start with 5.’

I laughed again. The woman was delusional. The box practically came up to my waist. I felt slightly hysterical. No, completely hysterical.

‘You want me to jump up onto this?’


‘From standing. Both legs. Up onto that?’

Jet was starting to look impatient. She nodded.

‘I can’t’ I said simply. ‘No way.’ As I felt my eyes darting from side to side, looking for an escape route (could I fake a faint?) I tried to remember the last time I ever jumped. Like properly jumped up, rather than over a puddle or something.

I couldn’t remember. I had a dim memory of doing French elastics in the playground, which I think had an element of jumping, but not with both legs at the same time straight up.

I looked at Jet again. She wasn’t backing down. I examined the box. I tried to work out what instructions I would need to give my body in order to levitate it upwards so that I landed on the box.

Visions of twisting knees and turning ankles filled my head. I very vividly pictured catching my foot and flying forward flat on my face. I  double-checked the first Aid kit was on the wall next to the defibrillator. I thought about the humiliation I would feel if I knocked myself out and then was too embarrassed to admit to how much it hurt, resulting in me dying of concussion on the drive home.

My thigh muscles were sill twitching from the 100 (70) squats.

This was when I realised I was more scared of Jet than I was of physical injury and potential embarrassment.

I fixed my gaze on the box and looked at my feet. I crouched. I looked sideways at Jet, she gave me an encouraging nod. I shifted my weight from foot to foot and flexed my thighs a bit. They winced in protest. I tried a little hop but my feet didn’t leave the ground. My mind boggled. I couldn’t even think of where to start. I tried to picture how to jump and failed. I paused.

Then. Do you know what?


I sailed up in the air like the FUCKING warrior I am and landed BANG with both feet firmly on the box.

I cannot tell you the exhilaration I felt. It was as if I’d gone sky-diving, bungee jumping and mountain climbing all at once.

I had no idea that after nearly a year of squats, planks, climbing machines, arc trainers and the like I had built up my leg muscles enough that I was able to push myself up into the air like I was in a fucking computer game.

Jet took this all in her stride, she obviously knew what she was doing but I was incredulous.

I think it’s because I have felt so old in the past I thought I was over the hill, weak and frail. I had stopped pushing myself and had got used to avoiding any physical exertion. I had grown fat, and lazy.

I had got it into my head that if I exerted myself I would fall down dead of a heart-attack, or suffer a stroke, or fall and break my hip. This day reminded me I am 48. (Shit, 49 now) not 70. I am still relatively young and can still work on my strength and fitness.

If you’d have asked me to jump on that box a year ago I simply would not have been strong enough to do it. Jet laughed when I said this to her. ‘Of course you couldn’t have then, but you’ve been doing this for a long time now. You’re much stronger.’

And that’s when I realised I was no longer a beginner at the gym. The work out Jet had devised for me was for an intermediate. I wasn’t getting less fit, the session were getting harder. I know. I can be really thick at times.

I spent the rest of the day walking on air. Before I went to sleep I played the movie of me leaping into the air to a dizzying height before landing BLAM! feet strong and secure on the box. In my head I leaped five feet in the air. I couldn’t stop smiling.

Rob wasn’t overly impressed – he still wasn’t feeling  well poor thing, and when I showed him how high the box was he pointed out I’d added about a foot to how high it really was. But I didn’t care. I was on cloud 9.

I didn’t even stop smiling when Son vomited into the sick bowl the nurse had given him. The sort of sick bowl (made out of a weird cardboard) which seems deliberately designed to ensure that when the sick goes in one side, it hits a hollow which projects the sick in a neat arc back out the other side. Right over me.

Ironically I had done the exact same thing to a midwife. I’d just hit that transition point giving birth to Son and I vomited into the bowl and soaked the poor woman. Karma I suppose.

He’s much better now and back to school, thank goodness.

And I can’t wait to jump on that box again.

PS today I am writing this from the sofa because I can’t walk up or down stairs, bend down, or pick anything up because every single part of my body hurts, except my face. Hoping a hot bath will help. But still. Worth it.

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