A Buffoon’s Guide to… the Gym

“It’s really important to supplement your running with some strength training and core work. If you only do running, your bottom will turn inside out, you’ll never get a mortgage and everyone will call you horrible names behind your back”.

I’ve lost count of the times people have said those very words to me since I started running. But while it does make sense to mix up my training (and build big strong arms in case I ever have to punch a polar bear in the face while rescuing a damsel), I’ve always been deterred by the fact that gyms can be scary places, full of judgement and bewilderment.

I know I can’t be alone in feeling like this, so this latest Buffoon’s Guide is aimed at making you an expert in all things gymmy. Real word.


When you join a gym, particularly if it’s one of the big corporate chains, it’s likely that you’ll have to do an induction before they let you loose on their precious stuff. This will involve sitting down in a little room with someone called Dennis. Dennis will have a clipboard, a polo shirt that’s a little bit too small for his arms, and a positive attitude that will make you want to hurt him. He’ll ask you exactly what it is that you want to achieve from your gym membership and, regardless of your reply, it’s unlikely that he’ll say “oh, but you’re just lovely as you are, you silly sausage”.

Men’s changing room

Brimming with alpha males who’d happily spend over a hundred pounds on a moisturising product, as long as they got to tell everyone about it. Also, no matter how fancy your gym is, the shower walls will always ALWAYS be coated with more bogeys and questionable hairs than you could possibly count in your lifetime.

Ladies changing room

Despite what they tried to tell the jury, I’ve never been in a ladies changing room, so I have no idea what they’re like. I imagine that most of them have waterfalls and the occasional pillow fight.

Spinny-round swimsuit dryer thing

If your gym has a swimming pool, it might also have a spinny-round swimsuit dryer thing. I once got halfway through a years gym membership before realising that I’d only been going in there to play with the spinny-round swimsuit dryer thing. VRRRrrrrrRRRRrrrrRRRmmmmm!!!!


Many gyms offer fitness classes to their members. These used to be quite straightforward things like aerobics and yoga, until a few years ago when things started getting a bit weird. Now you can expect to see such classes as Body Combat, Body Wombat, Mega Xtreme Ab Blast Pro Xtreme Blast Shredder, A Lovely Sit Down, Punchercise, and a new class where you have to pedal as fast as you can on a little static bike while Dennis tells you you’re worthless and pelts you with onions.

Free weights area

This is a special area of the gym where you used to go if you wanted to be tutted at by thick-necked men who looked like they could snap you in half and eat you. These days, the free weights area is home to musclebound 12 year old boys with interesting haircuts.

oh, get in the f@&£ing sea.

Cardio area

I’m not a huge fan of treadmills, but the way they tend to group all the cardio equipment in wonderfully neat little rows does hold a certain charm for me. It reminds me of when I used to collect Star Wars toys; you could keep your Bobba Fetts and your Han Solos, all I ever wanted was to get loads of identical stormtroopers, TIE fighter pilots and the like, and carefully line them up in their little units. I should probably speak to someone.

Signs and notices

Gym rule #248: The smaller and more low-key the gym, the more sarcastic the notices asking people to put the weights back after use.

What to actually do in the gym

Ah, this is the tricky bit because I really don’t have a clue. If you’re anything like me, you’ll start by wandering over to a random bit of kit and reading the instruction sticker while pretending not to. Then you’ll have a couple of goes on it before realising that it’s far too light. You’ll adjust the weight, and quickly realise that it’s now far too heavy. Then you’ll sit there and play with your phone until you’re sure nobody’s looking, at which point you’ll wander over to another piece of equipment and start the whole sorry process again.


My personal favourite exercise is the picking-something-up-and-then-putting-it back-down-again-lots-of-times exercise.

My Friend Dan who takes his gym stuff very seriously and is much bigger than I am has just told me off for being simplistic. Apparently, there are lots of different ways of lifting weights, such as squats, cleans, presses, twerks, jedwards and deadlifts. I don’t really know the difference between any of them. To me, all lifts just consist of standing there while My Friend Dan screams “blah blah blah FORM, blah blah FORM blah blah WASTE OF SKIN blah blah blah blah” at me while turning maroon. I don’t know what “form” is, but it must be very important to make My Friend Dan so cross.

The bit with all the mats and gigantic bouncy balls

No idea. Possibly some sort of birthing area?

TV screens

These will usually be showing music videos or football matches. If I’m bored, I sometimes like to switch all of them over to Last of The Summer Wine, before hiding all the remote controls and running away.

Hey lovely person who’s reading my blog, how are you? Guess what, I’ve been nominated again for the 2016 Running Awards. Yay! I was nominated for an award last year, and while I didn’t win, I did get horrifically drunk and became very excited when I found a button on the floor. Long story. Anyway, if you enjoy reading this blog, then frankly you’re a bit weird. But also, it’d be lovely if you could spare a few seconds to vote for me in the online/blog category (I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’m unlikely to win “Shoe of the Year”). Here’s the linky: Running Awards 2016. Fankoo!

Twitter? @borntoplodblog

Facebooks? Facebook.com/borntoplod

Coffee and cake? Yes please, that’d be lovely.

8 thoughts on “A Buffoon’s Guide to… the Gym

    • I’m lucky in a way, because I work shifts and have a pretty good gym at work, so I can sneak in late at night when nobody else is around. But if someone else comes in during my midnight workout, I’m likely to hide in a cupboard till they’ve gone.

  1. This was absolutely fantastic and had me laughing at my desk like a little office weirdo. I’m weight training at the moment and I have it even worse- the guys in the free weight room look at me like an alien species. (I’m pretty tiny for context, hence the wanting to build some muscle). It’s so intimidating! But also kinda hilarious.

    The personal trainers at my gym are pretty decent, but I hate that they’re always just a wee bit smug…

    • There’s nothing funnier than seeing a guy in the gym watching in disbelief as an actual girl has the audacity to lift weights that aren’t coated in lilac plastic and endorsed by Davina McCall 😄

  2. Love it! When I used to go to my old gym I used to watch CBeebies (genuinely) as it was non-threatening and all very pleasant and quite unlike the horrible reps I was having to do on the equipment.

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