Hola! (That’s pretty much the only Spanish I know, other than “Soy una princesa de hadas”, which I use more often than I ever thought I would).
I’ve just got back from a break in the south of Majorca. Some long-overdue family time, with no worries or cares (other than the ever-present threat of being waterboarded by five year-olds).
Whenever I’m on holiday, I always try to balance out the daily tsunami of gin and cake by making use of the hotel gym. Usually, this won’t go much further than peeking through the door, seeing that the “gym” consists of a deflated yoga ball, a Henry Cooper chest expander and a dusty box of leg-warmers. I’ll then go scuttling off back to my sun lounger where I’ll spend the rest of the holiday growing fat(ter) while reading erotic space-fiction and drinking cheap coffee.
But not so on this holiday. The gym was actually pretty good; it was clean, it had air-con, and the treadmills didn’t feel as though they’d last been serviced in 1983 by an angry rum-soaked Swede who was only doing the job because it was part of his parole conditions after he’d been convicted of sexually interfering with a fax-machine in the Uppsala branch of Argos.
All was good until a couple of minutes into my first workout. I had the gym to myself and was merrily plodding away on the treadmill, when the door opened and in he walked. Around 80% of the hotel guests were from Germany, and I guessed that he was too. Whenever I’m on a treadmill, I always try to avoid the temptation of glancing over at what the person next to me is doing. As well as being rude and a little masochistic, it increases the already-incredibly-high likelihood that I’ll trip and fall on my arse. But this time I couldn’t help but notice what was happening over to my right.
He’d taken his bloody shirt off!
Seriously. Who does that?? There I was, flumping along like an asthmatic toad, while this glistening Adonis, who I quickly dubbed “El Adverserio”1, effortlessly glided next to me. Smugness just radiated off of this guy. So did sweat. Lots of it. And mostly in my direction. I tried my very best to just focus on what I was doing and to avoid being drawn into competing, but after a few sprayed facefuls of Teutonic sweat, something snapped. This suddenly became a matter of national pride and, while I could never be as fast or as graceful as El Adverserio, I could certainly wipe the floor with him when it came to passive-aggressive chirpiness.
I sped up a little from my steady jog. More importantly, I made sure that I was smiling the whole time. A contented, blissful little grin that said “I could quite happily do this all day, and I haven’t even noticed you’re there, chum”2. As an added bonus, smiling with my lips sealed tightly together meant that I didn’t have quite so much of another man’s sweat in my mouth.
And so it went on for around half an hour. A psychological war between two grown men, with only one of them actually aware that it was happening. He was still going strong but I’d made my point, and in any case, I was really starting to struggle. But then, just as I was about to reach up and hit the “end workout” button, he beat me to it.
The absolute. Utter. Bastard.
I was faced with two options. I could just go ahead and press stop on my own treadmill, but then he’d think that I was only stopping because he had, and that I’d been engaged in some sort of petty battle with him inside my own head (and he’d have been right, but that’s hardly the point). My only other option was to just suck it up and keep running, until exactly enough time had passed to bow out gracefully. I opted for option B, and forced myself through another five minutes of pain that felt more like an hour. One thing they rarely mention in the magazines is that running feels fifty times harder if you’re trying to make it look effortless3.
Wobbly-legged, I stepped off the machine just as my nemesis left the room, and I spent the next few minutes gratefully dry-heaving into a bin.
When I finally slunk into the changing room, he was there. El Adverserio. The cause of my (entirely self-inflicted) pain. My German nemesis. So you’ll appreciate that I was slightly taken aback when he looked up at me with an exhausted grin and, in a thick of Glaswegian accents, said “Hey, pal. That was bloody horrible, eh?”