Observing life: Judgemental gym depresses me despite my fitness efforts

Since this horrific system was installed, no matter what happens, whether I feel faint or that my mascara has run down my face, I am dead last.

“Ann Marie, you’re losing!”

That’s what the RPM instructor bellowed out at me during the apex of a recent class in Abu Dhabi, right at the point where I am usually so angry and tired that I hate the world.

At least that’s what I think she said. The music is always pounding in these weird stationary cycling classes and the teacher is always saying something, but all I can usually make out is “turn it up” or “turn it down” or “stand up” or “sit down”.

There are also those moments when the teacher will pick up on vaguely inspiring lyrics laid over a pulsing pop soundtrack and try to extract and apply some relevant meaning from them in a cringe-worthy and overly dramatic fashion. For example, right after John Newman sings “I’m not giving up”, they say: “We’re not giving up! No we’re not, even though we might want to!”

“Shhhh,” I think, followed by an expletive.

You see, this particular studio, like so many these days, is riding an obsessive wave inspired by the Quantified Self movement.

In this app-happy world, it seems, everything must be measured – even if you don’t want it to be. The owners have installed a “smart board”, a soul-dampening TV screen that corresponds to a number on each bike. And here is my downfall. There is no way to opt out. Some keeners have even spent upwards of Dh200 to buy these special monitors that also record their heart rates and calories burnt.

Despite never knowing what she is saying and wishing she would be quiet, I am pretty sure the instructor told me I was losing. And the truth is, I was losing.

My new depressing reality is that while I used to win just by going to and completing an RPM class, now I just lose. This is a new thing for me, losing by doing an extremely hard workout that can burn up to 600 calories in 45 minutes, that leaves me jelly-legged and vacant-headed and that last year helped me drop a quick five kilograms just by going faithfully three times a week.

Since this horrific system was installed, no matter what happens, no matter how hard I work, whether I feel faint or like my chest is going to explode or that my mascara has run down my face, and these three things always happen, I am dead last.

Only on the rare occasion that someone slow and weak joins do I manage to edge into second last. But mostly there is no coming from behind. I live in behind, and so now instead of spinning in a vortex of hatred at the sport until the endorphins kick in, I notice I am last again, and lapse into a state of vague, sweaty despair.

And where I once left RPM feeling a) proud of myself and b) pretty good, I now leave giving myself a sad pep talk, swearing that the minute my class card is finished, I will find a less judgemental gym.


Published: May 31, 2014 04:00 AM


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