The gym was completely packed tonight. It was full of people trying to fulfill their New Year's resolutions to get fit and/ or lose weight. I know I am being uncharitable, and I do want to see people succeed in their bid to get fitter, it is just that it can be a bit annoying when the cross trainer, the rower and the bike are all taken. "Never mind, it won't last long", the gym assistant reminded me this evening. He is right. I remember last year with the gym overflowing with hot, sweaty bodies until the end of January/ beginning of February when normal service suddenly resumed. Of course there are always one or two people who stay the course, they are like the seed that falls on good soil in the parable of the sower. The rest are not going to put down roots, or they will be pecked up by the birds, or rather the allure of a night in front of the TV with a packet of crisps.
It occurs to me that the gym has aspects of a religion. It has it zealots who are scarily committed to the whole thing, it has the more faint hearted (that's me) in its number, then one or two people come just to socialise and make themselves feel a bit better about themselves without doing too much. The gym assistant is one of the zealots. I spent ages thinking he was called Justin (he looks like a Justin, OK?) then found he is called something completely different. Justin-who-is-not-Justin does all sorts of weight training, he badgers me to up my weights assuring me I won't put on muscle due to lack of testosterone, he exhorts me to "mix up my regime" more regularly and he is always up for a discussion of my diet, providing he can, in return, tell me about his latest regime of high protein snacks and regular meals. "I have seven meals a day", he confides, "I had scrambled egg whites this morning and some lean chicken, and a whey protein shake. You should up your protein to sculpt muscle." Justin-who-is-not-Justin is incredibly fit. He has extremely taut abs and once made me feel them to check out the muscle tone, but this aside he is a total diet and exercise bore.
Justin-who-is-not-Justin is great if you need to get any transgressions (health related) off your chest. Tonight I told him about my various Christmas and New Year blow outs and he assumed the grieved expression I imagine would be seen on a priest hearing confession. He was keen to lead me back to a path of righteousness and suggested that my high fat, high carb overload could be purged by a detox, a sort of equivalent to a fast with penance in the form of juicing spinach with beet juice being suggested. I nodded thoughtfully while vowing to give that one a miss. In line with confession and penance, the gym definitely offers salvation by works not faith. Calories in need to equal calories out. You have to put in some effort to get results, you have to deny yourself to get to the promised land of health and fitness. You can't afford to backslide for long. There aren't any shortcuts and the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
That's why the cross trainer might just be free in a few weeks time.