One of the big differences between Katie and me is our historical approach to exercise. I have ridden my bike, historically, for utility, and for the joy of travelling, more than as a form of disciplined physical training. Katie, on the other hand, was not so long ago a competitive rower, in the gym six days a week, on the river at least two days, cycling a fair mileage to do so. She had a trainer emailing her to dictate our diet; a fit ball long before she was pregnant. Weights. Eating and drinking strange concoctions in tins.
It gave me something of a fright, then, when, after a happy summer's cycling but with an eye on our expanded waistlines (and my plantar fasciitis, and my dicky knee, and my total lack of core stability) and to get the girls swimming, Katie announced her intention to investigate joining a gym.
It's funny how you can get to your thirties and still have never done, even once, certain things which others do every day.
- I have never been inside a bookmaker's shop.
- I have never, even entered a high street travel agency, let alone sat down in one to have someone wearing too much makeup operate a computer for me, to show me misleading pictures of places they've never visited themselves.
- I have never eaten a KFC meal. Not even the chips.
- I have never paid someone to wax, pierce, doodle on or chop off any part of me.
I was going to say I haven't eaten horse, but I once ate a Tesco lasagne and I don't want to mislead; I have been to Nando's, once. Popular as it is with Alan Partridge and Glen Ponder, I'm glad I don't have to go again.
So when Katie chirped up that she was looking at a gym membership for us, the alarm bells went off. I have never entered a private gym. I've seen enough Facebook status updates and #epicfail videos to put me off. I've watched the 'Brittas Empire'. Why, I reasoned, would anyone drive to a building, to pay to ride their bike or run on the spot, before driving home? That's potty. Why would I do that? I could just ride my bike to the gym, save a fortune by not going in, and ride home again.
It was with some, trepidation, then, that I decided to 'stand on the wasp' and pay a visit to one of these hitherto bewildering institutions on Saturday evening.
An hour later, and with both girls having pooped in the nice man's office following the tour, I came out having ticked something off my list. I'd seen a swimming pool that looked more like a hotel's than a municipal leisure centre. I did see, as I feared mirror-walled rooms full of what looked like instruments of torture. I saw people of both genders and all ages in neon clothes, doing the oddest things whilst watching TV.
I was shown the 'spin room', which is nothing to do with the impending political party conferences, where fifty people can ride without anyone crashing, puncturing or even being overtaken. Not that I would be sure to be able to do so, because the seat doesn't go very high on the bikes. My enthusiasm was evaporating in the presence of all these people working hard to go nowhere.
I did, however, amongst the predictably intimidating surroundings, identify a glimmer of hope - something that might offer me a familiar(ish) way in to this strange world. It had a seat and bars that looked like a road bike's. I threw the seat as high as it would go, to try it for size, and discovered it had SPD pedals and actually felt strangely familiar. This was the 'bike that's not a bike' that could tempt me away from my reluctant and uncomfortable stints on the turbo trainer in the lounge. If it's good enough for Mark Beaumont and developed with British Cycling, then I shouldn't turn my nose up at it. It was a WattBike.
A WattBike could be mine for about £30 a week, but for a fraction of that, taking advantage of the facilities being quieter during the day, when I would be most likely to go, I can indeed drive ten minutes from the house and go for a structured training ride whatever the weather is doing - well, it will if I spend £99 on a longer seat post to take with me!
I still feel like I am never going to be one of the 'gym set', and I am unlikely to be seen lifting weights or drinking protein shakes any time soon, but ,aybe, just maybe, taking the girls for a swim and then dropping them off for just an hour will cause me to ride in a more structured way, to reclaim some sustainable long-term fitness in between touring outings, and not to blame the multitude of familiar excuses (some of them good ones) that can stop me getting out on the bike more often than I do.
Do you, and/or your family use a gym, or do you train at home and on the road? What do you think we should do? Leave us a comment below!