Having moved house recently, I have had to find a new gym to frequent. It has been something of a shock to go from the spacious environs of Virgin Active to the slightly less salubrious quarters of the Fitness First situated under the gap between platforms 17 and 18 of Liverpool Street station. One receives similar looks from overburdened commuters of a morning disappearing down into this subterranean netherworld as those seeking out the intra-mural platform for the Hogwarts express.
One of the compensatory features of my new venue is that lots of the exercise machines have their own TV screens. I was very impressed with this at first, as it allows you to control what you watch (since Midsomer Murders is never the most inspirational programming to be cycling along to), and allows people with rubbish eye sight like me to watch the TV without straining and looking like a puffed-out mole on a hamster wheel.
This does, however, have its down sides. It’s all very well watching the Pussycat Dolls do their thing on a communal TV screen at the front of the gym. In fact, at Virgin, you don’t really have much choice, since every other song seems to be by the strangely attired warblers (style: compile a slutty outfit for £15 or less in Primark). When you have your own screen though, it’s a different matter. Firstly there is no excuse for watching the type of execrable euro-trance so beloved of gym music channels (sample: Basshunter; style: Beckham circa 1996 but more(!) metrosexual), since you are the only one in control of the channel. And everyone can see that you are watching the Sash megamix. For the second time in 10 minutes.
Secondly, since most of the videos on these channels consist of female dancers cavorting around in various stages of undress, this can be a little awkward. If Shakira is on one of the big screens at the front burbling about lycanthropy in her endearing Spanglish while writhing around like a nymphomaniac puppy, then it’s perfectly acceptable gym behaviour to surreptitiously keep the corner of an eye on proceedings while to all intents and purposes monitoring developments in the golf being repeated on Sky Sports News for the fifth time. This is a far harder manoeuvre to pull off (arf arf) when you have a screen to yourself. No amount of innocently looking around the gym and running really hard while looking at your shoes is going to distract fellow patrons from the fact you have what is essentially a soft porn video on a screen about a foot away from your face. It is difficult to convey with merely a facial expression that “I’m only watching this because of its repetitive beat, not all the nakedness”. Especially while slaving away on a stationary bicycle in an underground brick-walled sweat box beneath a train station. Difficult indeed.
All this is to say: it might not be particularly inspirational or even rhythmical, but I’ve come to the conclusion that running along to Cash in the Attic saves one’s blushes. Blast you Shakira and your truthful hips. Awooooooo!