“I think,” said my best friend Irene during an early morning shift thirty years ago, “that we should join a gym.”
“What do you mean, we?”
“Well you and I, it would be nice to join together, rather than just go on our own, and we can start going regularly when we finish here.”
My mental image of gyms was rooted in the spartan windowless oblong block I’d been forced to inhabit at school. Hard wooden floors, even harder blue mats, impossibly high horse things to jump over, and scores of most uninteresting bars and ropes hanging around the walls.
“Could we not just go to the pictures after work instead?” I asked, absent-mindedly munching a piece of chocolate surreptitiously abstracted from the boss’s drawer. Irene shifted her point of attack.
“No, because you have a bit of a pot on you, going to the pictures and stuffing yourself with popcorn will make it worse; the gym will get rid of it. I’ve been looking at a good one, it’s in Rowlands Gill and I’ve booked us both in for an induction tomorrow afternoon.”
Thus it was decided. There weren’t very many gyms at the time, and the ones that did exist were dominated by puffing male weight lifters, all with pot bellies even bigger than my own. I knew this for a fact because I’d seen them on Minder. I reluctantly accompanied Irene the following afternoon.
Kirsty Wade is a middle distance runner who achieved three gold medals in the Commonwealth Games, and she ran her own gym in Rowlands Gill. I looked around her premises in silent awe, like a pilgrim visiting a holy place for the first time. When compared with the fitness machines of today, the then state of the art equipment was primitive, but the people were welcoming, and Kirsty Wade and her husband took a genuine interest in their customers. I joined with Irene, and I even went back the next day, and back again and again for several years until it closed down. Afterwards, I paid membership to various local gyms, none of which I stuck for more than a couple of months, meaning the cost worked out to about thirty quid per visit. I won’t name the small independent places, but palatial establishments included the local Marriott Hotels, Blaydon Leisure Centre, and Slaley Hall.
Heather has joined the gym where she works. Growing increasingly concerned over my couch potato status, and habit of watching Jeremy Kyle all morning and the racing all afternoon, she felt cheered when I took receipt of nearly 5,000 leaflets advertising this website (rytonian.com) and set off into the fog to stuff them inside 5,000 letter boxes – yours will be one of them. Not all in one day of course, but three weeks later I’m half way through. I deliberately covered the big houses on the Main Road and Grange Road first, with their long drives, and steep steps, just to get them over with. An hour at a time increased to two, and now my leafleting stints last for three and a half hours as I progress to our surrounding villages. Heather noticed an upsurge in my happiness and general demeanour. She also noted, with equal satisfaction, that when she asked me which horse had won the 4.40 at Cheltenham, I was unable to answer. I had to look it up.
“Why don’t you join my gym?” She asked.
“Because it’s too far away.”
“There’s one in Gateshead.”
“I only finished working in Gateshead six months ago,” I told her, “I still need to have more time out before I re-acquaint myself with the place, much more.”
“Well you need to DO something, you stopped exercising, and then since you’ve been doing your leaflets you’re so much happier, but the leaflets aren’t going to last forever are they? If you don’t sort something out for yourself I will.”
At that moment I regarded myself as a martyr, whose unjust persecution equalled that of anything you would find in the pages of the Bible. Unable to think of a strategy with which to meet this crisis, I bought myself time by telling her I was giving the matter my serious consideration, and hoped she’d forget about it.
For a long time now, I’ve been dimly aware that there’s a gym over the top of the garage opposite Ryton Coop, but knowing about it was as far as it went. I’d rarely even glanced up. I’d formed the opinion (without any evidence to base it on whatsoever) that it was a place for sweaty male body builders, like the ones in Minder. Then a fellow library volunteer mentioned that she’s a member there. She is very nice, looks extremely fit, and is nothing like a male body builder. I had a look on-line at the Tri- It Gym and Fitness Centre, and began to wonder…..
Why was it? I pondered, that I’d remained at Kirsty Wade’s tiny gym for so long, but the opulent hotel gyms, with their pools, saunas, steam rooms; all held my attention for two months at the most. The answer was clear. In Kirsty Wade’s gym, you saw Kirsty herself, along with her husband. They knew everyone’s name, always wanted to know what you were doing, kept an eye on customer’s progress cards, and regularly altered them as we improved. Kirsty took us running (reluctantly in my case) along the Derwent Walk, and eighteen months later she had pulled me up to a standard good enough for the Great North Run, which I did in just over two hours. During busy times in the gym, she would hand you over her baby to hold, and nobody minded that I pounded the treadmill in my Batman tee-shirt.
So last Thursday morning, having left Mum safely in the care of Sacha the hairdresser, I ventured along to the Tri-It gym. By the time I’d got to the foot of the stairs, I’d made up my mind that I was going to take out the initial ‘one month’ option, and at the end of that I would decide whether to join permanently or not. I ascended with trepidation, put my head cautiously around the door, coiled to withdraw it smartly and run away if I saw anything disagreeable.
I didn’t run away, because everything was most agreeable, most agreeable indeed. Beth greeted me and showed me around, and as we talked I rejected the one month option, and made my mind up that I would be joining her gym for a year via standing order. Ten minutes later, after I was booked in for my induction the following morning, I changed my mind again – I would pay up front for a year. My maths are terrible, but even I can work out that for off-peak membership which is 9am to 4pm and then normal weekend hours, I’m paying just over four quid a week – not much more than a Costa coffee. The fee also covers many of the classes, including Beginners Spin, which Beth has encouraged me to join.
Friday morning I arrived for my induction promptly. Over the form filling formalities I was very honest with Beth as to what I would like to achieve. Since being ill last year I’ve put on three stone, and I want rid of it, by dieting, exercising, and now, declaring it publicly to make it harder for me to opt out.
Tri-It Gym is a happy place. Beth patiently explained how to use the machines and, best of all, at the end of the induction I got a pink card, on which is written my bespoke work out. I emerged tired and blissfully content.For full information on Tri-It Gym and Fitness Centre you can find them on Facebook by clicking here; Tri – It Gym and Fitness Centre or you can ring them on 0191 4135050.