Going to the gym for what amounts to be pretty much the first time in recent memory, is an awkward experience. Not because, at Gymbox in Holborn the staff aren’t helpful and friendly – they really are – but because it has the power to reduce you to your 11 year old first-day-at-secondary school self.
I went yesterday evening. Curiously mouse-like, I headed nervously for the female changing rooms on arrival. Except of course, I didn’t know where they were. So I did what anyone would have done in that situation and WALKED WITH PURPOSE, hoping for the best. Quickly, I spotted another girl, in work clothes who I reasoned must be on her way there too, she looked like she at least knew where it was, so I dutifully followed. But wait, I thought, I don’t know the system. Every gym has a system: where do get padlocks for lockers, how the towel rental works, where the toilets are (are you allowed to get changed in them if you don’t want to go fully naked in front of strangers?), are you supposed to wear flip flops in the shower? Questions, questions – they’d all need to be answered as soon as humanly possible, in order to minimise further embarrassment.
After asking for directions to the Box-Fit class, I headed in, panic rising, what was I supposed to do then? Assume a position at a punch bag? They all looked full – so I headed towards the class boxing trainer, Robin, with what must have looked like total fear in my eyes and he gestured for me take up a spot at a nearby bag. Gah! It was right in front of the mirror, so not only did I have to cope with the fact that a class of 30 women and 2 men would have to bear witness to my unattractive exercise-self (my face quickly turns the colour of a ripe tomato – there is NOTHING I can do about it) but I’d also have to stare at it too.
No communal chatting here – I daren’t have attempted a conversation both because it was my first time in class and obviously I’d need about three visits to work up to that, but also because if I had so much as attempted a ‘How long have you been coming to Boxfit?’, I would have fainted immediately. Plus, the music was loud, I mean illegal rave loud. The workout itself was intensely tiring (jumping and jogging on the spot non-stop for 40mins with boxing moves thrown in), and at times my punches were more like gentle caresses than the movements of a woman possessed (what I was aiming for) but I completed the class. And for my first time, that was all I promised myself I would do.
In my head, I'm miles away from the type of person that would hold a gym membership for five months and fail to ever, ever use it. Frittering money away each month, 'next week, next week I WILL MAKE TIME', I'd solemnly vow, tucking into another Chabonnel & Walker champagne truffle from my desk drawer - and I genuinely believed I would.
I didn't. I couldn't. I wouldn't. Whatever it was, it ends now. I have been weighed, measured, sized up, the results of which made me wince. So now, apprehensively, I am to take on a sporting challenge like no other: in time for the Olympic Games, I will become (an amateur) boxer. It's not the usual behaviour of a beauty director. It’s about as ludicrous as a traffic warden going joyriding. We celebrate all that's beautiful and feminine, we muse on moods and ideas – it’s the ultimate antithesis to thrashing around hitting the air and various objects (or people) in the cut and thrust of the boxing ring.
The politics of boxing, I'll get onto later, but for now, it’s the sport that I shall be devoting myself to, two or three times a week for 6 months. I need affirmative action - fast, tangible results and a means to pound out some aggression. The goal? To compete in a novice boxing match. That's easily the most absurd thing I've ever typed. The very thought of stepping into the ring against an actual opponent and not a docile bag filled with sand, makes my stomach do somersaults. But that's exactly the reason I know it's the perfect challenge. It scares me to death. I'm no shrinking violet (I was once called 'scrappy' by a friend) but I'm no tough girl either.
Still, there is no going back now - no flaking out. And by the onset of the summer, victory in the ring or not, I'll have the arms and abs to prove it.