Work It Out

I realised yesterday that I hadn’t been to the gym in a week. Lame. Could this be because I have been sitting on my bum writing blog posts every day for the last seven days? Yup.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am loving writing. I am loving having the blog. It is so energising, liberating, cathartic, cleansing, fun and different. And I plan to do it obsessively for the foreseeable future. But all this blogging is going to make for a flat ass and that simply won’t do. I need a nice juicy little behind to match my newbs (well, as much as I can have one without plastic surgery at age almost 40). Who says a cancer patient can’t have it goin’ on?

When we first moved to London in late July of 2011 I avoided working out for a few months. I had the usual excuses. “We just moved here.” “I have so much to do.” “I walk a lot so it doesn’t matter.” “I’m not sure where to join.” Blah blah blah. But all that was load of BS. Finally I investigated local gyms in October.

I did a blitz of the workout places in the hood.

The first place was the most convenient and by far the weirdest. It was a small neighbourhood gym about a six minute walk in amongst the lovely houses of Belsize Park, which is the only reason I can think of to justify the exorbitant membership fee. (No offence if you own this gym or you have worked out there since you were 12 — different strokes for different folks, people.) I walked in. The reception had a low ceiling and the first thing I saw was a cafe. Assaulted by the aroma of coffee and pastry. I don’t need to be smelling that shit when I am in workout mode.

I was taken on a tour. I cannot even describe the different rooms I went into, all on different levels and connected by various narrow stairways and hallways and doors and really just a labyrinth of British bizarreness. No way in hell I would have remembered what was where. And the cardio room, which I sort of remember, was totally 1980s and not my vibe. Even if I had been a good sport about the confusing interior I would certainly have fallen down the stairs at some point and injured myself. And the low ceilings and labyrinth thing and 80s mirrors made me feel like Alice in Wonderland on a bad acid trip. Not for me.

Then I tried the gym in the O2 centre, which had recently been purchased by Virgin. It was large and more Americanised than the little gym. It seemed to have a lot of decent equipment and a variety of classes. But I didn’t get a friendly vibe about the place — it was rather vanilla and commercial. The decisive factor really was that it was too far for me to walk to and I knew I would never haul my ass there, thus resulting in a colossal waste of funds and influx of self-inflicted guilt. Nope.

The third and final gym I checked out was a smallish place across from the Royal Free Hospital, which is an NHS hospital. This gym is housed in an old armoury and the downstairs used to be a shooting gallery. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? That’s right; I’m liking it already. And at this point I don’t even know I have cancer. The place has very high ceilings because the building is shaped like a barn. It is not shiny and new but it is clean, has a lot of good equipment and the staff is friendly. (In American staff is singular, people. I like to mix things up to keep you on your toes.)

And there is zero glitz factor. I will not be running into scathes of perfectly coiffed blonde mommies who have come to “glow” after the morning drop off. Thank God. Au contraire, there is a real diversity of people in this gym — different races and from very young to quite elderly and all sorts of physical types, folks with disabilities — you name it.

The manager explains that they are about to get a new German cardio/weight training circuit that will be centre stage. Each member who subscribes to this program will get a personalised chip card, which after an initial set-up, when stuck into each machine, will cause it to adjust automatically to your body. A cylinder of bubbling water in the middle of the circuit tells you when to change machines. Did I mention it also has pretty coloured lights that tint the water while you watch? Oooh ahhh. You are supposed to get a complete workout in only 35 minutes, the time it takes to complete two rounds on the circuit.

Well, folks, after hearing about this I’m sold. The Germans are efficient and know how to make shit and the circuit seems like the ticket for me. Oh, and I can walk to this gym in under ten minutes or take the bus and be there in five if I’m lazy or it’s hailing.

I start working out. The circuit is good. Within a couple weeks, I begin to see results. A couple weeks after that, I find my lump. I keep working out, taking a break only for Christmas holidays (you know what I did over vacay if you read my first post, Halfway Through Chemo… How Did I Get Here?). The day after my diagnosis, my husband plays hooky and we both go to the gym. I am a little fragile, but with him by my side and my body wrapped around those machines I hang tough.

Throughout the month of January, I kill it. Go to the gym and do that circuit regularly, and also throw in some yoga at an airy venue in Primrose Hill. I start to get sort of ripped. I feel strong and fit and powerful. Gearing up for war.

I decide to tell the gym staff about my diagnosis and impending surgery. (The poor manager is so shocked when I tell him he is speechless for about a minute.) The people I tell are super supportive and assure me that they will help me through it, making whatever adjustments are necessary to my training throughout the process.

My last workout is February 5, two days before surgery. It is a Sunday and I walk to the gym from Hampstead Heath where I have left the girls and Bill and two other families sledding and throwing snowballs. (What? That’s totally normal for London.) On the way I spot cute pyjamas and a bathrobe in a store window. I buy them so I can be fashionable while strutting up and down the hospital hallways. Then I go for that last workout. I kill it. I’m good. I’m in a good place.

No question that I recovered from surgery more quickly because of that German circuit. And even though I couldn’t pick up my kids much less carry a grocery bag for weeks after the surgery, I gradually recovered. Now I don’t even remember what I felt like two months ago. Because I am back there, killing it, bald as a cue ball and with my machines set to about half of what I was doing pre surgery.

But it don’t matter. I will keep going back. Through the chemo, through it all. Whenever I can. Because no fucking cancer is going to keep me from getting a little more bootylicious.

Are you still sitting there? Reading this?

Get off your ass and get to the gym. What’s your excuse?