Given that I’m now what you might call an exercise addict (don’t judge me; it gets me out of the house, and costs less than valium), I spent the first half of my life largely avoiding raising my heart rate. Oh, I did the obligatory netball season, which ended with the coach taking my mum to one side and suggesting that perhaps I was asthmatic. I wasn’t. I was just really, really unfit.
When I was a bit older, about 11, at a guess, I went with mum to her aerobics class. My mum was super fit in the 80s, and looked the part too, with a fluorescent leotard over contrasting leggings. In my mind, she’s wearing legwarmers, but I think my childhood memories may have got her muddled up with the Green Goddess. Anyway, suffice to say, she looked like she belonged at a keep-fit class in the 80s. I DID NOT. I was chubby, and unco, and probably wearing a bubble skirt. I twisted my ankle in the first-ever class I went to, and was carried out by the instructor. NOT, it should be noted, by my mum, who actually – and this is the truth – pretended not to know me, and just carried on grapevining.
And that was it, for me and exercise, for close to a decade, until I went to London for six months when I was 19 and got really, really fat, and when I got back to Perth mum drove me directly to the gym (from the airport), bought me a membership and handed me a timetable. And I was still shit.
I tried a step class, and the instructor took me to one side and told me that perhaps ‘exercise to music’ wasn’t for me. (In today’s body attack class there was a girl not dissimilar from the old, unfit me, who could barely put one foot in front of the other, and ended up leaning on a dumbbell and yawning until it was time to cool down, and our BRILLIANT instructor just told everyone – without singling her out – to keep moving and have fun, and I thought YES, that’s more like it. Don’t take someone to one side – or worse, shout over the microphone – to tell them it’s ‘right, forward, left, forward, arms in the air and spin’, because that sort of instruction is lost on the uncoordinated; our brains don’t necessarily connect to our limbs, so we’re left hopping on one leg while everyone else star-jumps, and you can quickly lose heart with that.)
So yes, I gave up step, but – because my mum wouldn’t let me in the house until I lost 10kg – tried a circuit class instead, which was brilliant, because the instructor, Suzie, let me bring in my own mix tapes. And that was it, really. From then on, I kind of liked exercise, and I lost weight, and mum let me back in the house, but it didn’t matter because as soon as I could get out of Perth, I did, and went straight back to London, where I promptly got fat again. But that’s beside the point. That was in 1998, and I’ve exercised pretty much every day since, give or take the occasional baby-induced breather.
Oh, there have been mishaps. Of course there have been mishaps. I was bitten by a Jack Russell as I ran around the lake once, and ended up having an actual shouty fight with its owners, who I threatened to CALL THE POLICE on after I told them to have a HAPPY FUCKING EASTER. (It was Easter, I wasn’t just shouting out random religious celebrations.) On another occasion, I got stuck under a leg weights machine in a busy gym, and had to kind of roll out sideways in front of a dozen musclemen. And I lost my knickers in a combat class quite recently. That happens all the time, right? You feel the elastic go and they slip down your bum cheeks when you do an over-enthusiastic tuck jump and you have to dash off to the loos, slide your knickers out the leg of your shorts and bin them, then carry on upper-cutting like nothing has actually happened, yes?
And who could forget the time I got into a fight with an old man while heavily pregnant in a body attack class? When I’m heavily pregnant in a body attack class – in summer – I feel I have the right to stand next to the big fan. Unless you’re more pregnant than me, THAT FAN IS MINE. Well, I can assure you that the sprightly old gent in the body attack class was NOT more pregnant than me, and I stood my ground, and he actually pushed me in the buttocks during a jump-squat to try and get me to give up my prized position in front of the fan. So I may have aimed my high kick a little more closely at his buttocks than you would normally do to an elderly gentleman in a body attack class. It was the hormones talking, of course.