Saturday night, Sunday morning.
They’re not meant to go together. Not when Sunday morning becomes the time to do exercise.
I’m a fan of the Littledown Centre. As much as people defect over the road to The Village for its Starbucks coffee and its swimming pool you can actually swim in, I think the Littledown flies the flag for municipal sports facilities pretty well.
You’re already thinking I’m taking the pee, right? The same pee it takes five hundred gallons of chlorine to sterilise the idea of in the minds of swimmers in the main pool, right?
Well, no. I speak as someone evidently unschooled, skilled or motivated in matters sporting, of course; Laurent Garnier’s The man with the red face is not my favourite workout track for nothing. But this council-run sports centre has created a nice enough vibe to keep me coming back. If only because they need my money a little too much to throw me out of the classes as a hazard.
Sunday was its 20th anniversary. To celebrate, they’d apparently decided to have a day of ‘1989’-style activities and prices and Adrian announced at the end of Thursday’s circuits class that he was holding a special version of one on Sunday morning.
For some freakish reason, I decided to go.
To the sports centre.
On a Sunday morning.
The guy so not cut-out for sporting prowess that his only emergency asset in the gymn – his personality – is emergency over-ridden by blood flow and some autonomic safety reaction when engaging in exercise. All I have in there is Funny. Only it stops working after five minutes of running, leaving me floundering like a flipped turtle in my panting exchanges with Actually Fit people as they spring past. Cheeky smiles become villainous leers, amusing quips become spittle-repeated weirdo remarks to strangers, and boyish confidence becomes stooping, sweating, staggering, purple-faced vulnerability.
It was a gorgeous morning as I pulled on my shorts and irreconcilably-deformed sports shirt. And it felt odd as hell doing so.
Pulling up to the swooping shape of the Littledown, I felt a hint of the same kind of trepidation I felt going to a pre-term summer sports week, before I started big school. Everyone laughed at my Super Saints sports bag, I recall. Thankfully, I knew so little about football even then, it didn’t scar me.
Who else would turn up to this? And why couldn’t I think of a place to get a sweat band?
But, as I approached the windows overlooking the main hall, I found myself grinning. Adventure play today, kids.
The middle station included some spongy stairs and crash mats, a spongy hole-in-the-wall and some crash mats, some more crash mats to run along and some beams to leap under and over, without crash mats. Fun, in other words. And a legitimate reason to waste time experimenting with amusing comments in the heat of exercise. Like comedy boot camp.
Adrian was, as I’d have place money on him being, wearing sweatbands. I ruminated as we started the warm-up run that this was the one occasion when I could have legitimately held my stupid floppy hair out of my face without unspoken pity – in fact, with the jump-started pride of a man Evidently Amusing – but I’d missed it.
The thing was. Yeah. That thing.
Working out to eighties music is weird. I couldn’t work out whether we were all secretly energised by Eye of the tiger or whether, by the time Living in America was bouncing off the high walls, we were all feeling very uncomfortably like we were doing Robert Webb’s now infamous Flashdance routine.
In my head, I could feel the cling of lycra and the inexplicable ankle heat of leg warmers. I could feel myself starting to mince-skip, between stations. By the time There’s no stopping us (no stopping) from the original soundtrack to Breakdance II: the electric boogaloo had me side-tapping my head and singing along, its 808 beat marking my jogging steps, I was beginning to just feel dirty.
It was a feeling subsumed, I should continue, by fatigue. That adventure playground was no playground. Those spongy stairs weren’t for softies. Crash mats? Crash and burn mats, baby.
Obviously all the fittists took it seriously. I however, after one lap of running through what felt like treacle, found myself draped over the high bar like, in my wife’s worryingly-immediate words afterwards, “one of the 118 blokes”.
I know at one point I opted for the positive alternative of shouting instructions and encouragement to the people still actually using the equipment for exercise. “Come on. Yep – nice one, keep going. Now over the mat. Good – knees up…” You get it.
I think I ended the session on my back, spilling out of either end of the spongy hole-in-the-wall. Cheering in a very can-do fashion, so quietly that no-one could hear.
To be fair, some of the Genuinely Fit People almost made to invite me to come to the normal Sunday morning class, sans spongy toys. But I think it will be a while before I do anything reckless with my Sunday mornings again.
I really should have put this to good use and at least been sponsored for Comic Relief.