My bones...my aching bones! It has been a long, long time since my muscles last saw the inside of a gym. In fact in think the last time was when Margaret Thatcher was in power...and now she’s long gone. They say that the hardest part of a thousand mile journey is the first step, it’s true, I have taken the first step. Thanks to the fact that a well known hotel brand has opened literally on my doorstep I had no excuse. Carpe diem, I joined their fitness centre.
In fact the first step in this occasion was relatively painless. I paid my money, got my membership and I was ready for action. Quite often gyms look like ancient middle age torture dungeons, at least to me. A vary of strange, and quite possibly painful devices greeted me. “What the hell does that thing do,” I wondered looking at a contraption with levers and arms pointing off in all directions. I could just imagine a witch being tied to this whilst her head was slowly extracted from the rest of her body...that one is not for me. As I was alone in the gym I a)couldn’t embarrass myself and b)didn’t have anyone to ask. I took the safest option and jumped on the running machine. It soon became obvious that the running part would be the easiest part. I struggled for a good ten minutes with the computer display in front of me and all I had accomplished was to be watching “Only Fools and Horses” on the mini television in front of me. Quite an apt choice of program really, maybe this running machine was playing with me...and then in a flash it started. “How far would you like to run today,” was the option blinking on the screen. “To the couch,” was my first answer. Off I went running along, pounding the spinning rubber mat, whilst Del Boy joked around...possibly laughing at me. Straight onto the exercise bike, at least I could sit down on this machine. I glanced through the options, there didn’t seem to be one to go downhill! A few kilometres on the bike and my legs were starting to feel heavy.
Right lets work my arms. I strapped myself into one of the torture devices and pulled with all my might. The machine stayed firmly where it was and I went up in the air...I am doing this wrong. Checking the amount of weights on the machine it became obvious that the last person to use this machine must have been was Arnie or Stallone. Enough of this I am off to the sauna. My aching muscles could do with some heat...ah what’s this, a steam room...that sounds like fun. The moment I entered the room I wanted to go out. It was like walking into the Sahara in the middle of summer. I couldn’t breathe...can someone open the window. It was then through the steam that I heard a voice, an English voice, I wasn’t alone in this steamy hell. “Are you on holiday as well,” asked the steamy silhouette.
I still could hardly make out his face. The last thing I wanted was a conversation; I just wanted to find the door. “No, actually I live here,” I replied. Big mistake! Why didn’t I just answer in Croatian and say I don’t speak English, now I was stuck, I had to be polite and make small talk. The next ten minutes were the longest of my life as Mr. Steamy, as I named him, took me through his complete schedule on holiday in Dubrovnik. Half the time all I could see were his two red cheeks glinting in the semi-darkness. I nodded here and there as buckets of sweat left my body, “if I don’t get out soon my whole body will flow down the drainage,” I whispered. “I was born in Newcastle, have you ever been,” the questions kept coming and my sweat kept on leaking. “It is lovely in the summer,” he added. And then I saw a natural break in the conversation, I jumped in “anyway nice to meet you,” and stumbled towards the exit and safety. Just then the door swung open, some steam escaped and a woman appeared. “Oh, I would like you to meet my wife Janet,” exclaimed Mr. Steamy. I don’t believe it, Mrs. Steamy! The hot and sticky nightmare continued. At this point I felt like a teabag that had been soaked in a cup of boiling water for an hour.
Finally Mr and Mrs Steamy released me from their clammy grasps and I escaped, not after leaving most of my DNA on the floor of the steam room. Note to self – make sure that the steam room is empty before entering again. “Oh your skin is nice and soft,” said my wife as I came home. “I am not surprised I left the first three layers with Mr. Steamy,” I shrugged. Bloody Janet!
Text - Mark Thomas