You’ll spot me easily enough. I’m the one going left when everyone else is going right; breathing in when everyone else is breathing out; sitting up when everyone else is lying down.
Having decided that the gym proper wasn’t for me – it hurt my eyes (see above) – I started working my way through various classes in order to find one which was right for me. If there was an Eastern European girl’s body struggling to get out of my Irish one, I wanted to give it a fighting chance.
So I started with kick-boxing, thinking it would be some kind of aerobic kick-boxing and nothing too strenuous. I realised my mistake when three massive muscle-bound Russians walked in. The instructor (an ex-kick-boxing champion) walked in next and started shouting at us in Russian. Unable to carry off ‘Oops, silly me! I’ve gone and walked into the wrong class!’ in any language but English, I dutifully started trailing the three man-mountains around the hall, punching the air, kicking, dropping and giving him whatever number he demanded and whipping myself repeatedly with a skipping rope.
After around 30 minutes, I was exhausted but after a little hide behind a pillar, I vowed that if this was as bad as it got, I could cope with it for another half hour or so. I emerged to find the three giants putting on shin-guards, gloves, helmets and inserting mouth-guards. After a terrified look at the instructor (and a fleeting glance at the door to see if I could beat them to it), he sort of smiled at me and brought over a kick-boxing bag for me to practise on instead.
After demonstrating a few moves, he left me to it and so, while the three behemoths beat the living daylights out of each other, I punched and kicked with as much gusto as I could manage. Until I heard a knuckle crack. Assuming this would be my ‘out’, I showed the instructor my rapidly swelling hand. He showed me his knowing look that screamed ‘weak Westerner’. Of course, as an Irish girl, the last thing I wanted to appear was Irish and girlie so I punched and kicked some more. But, although I think he was actually quite impressed with me (and my black and blue hand) in the end, I decided that that was my first and last foray into kick-boxing.
After a couple of other near disasters, notably a weight-lifting class (see above) and a very painful yoga class, I finally decided on ‘Pilates Ball’, ‘Body Architect’ and ‘Ab Destruction’. If the classes are in Latvian, I’m alright. My Fox Crime vocabulary actually comes in quite handy – things like ‘on the ground’, ‘legs apart’ and ‘hands in the air’ are not only useful in arrest situations.
If the instructor switches to Russian, I switch to ‘time delay’ mode. I have to watch everyone else for a few seconds to see what’s happening… then start. Unfortunately, by the time I’ve figured out one exercise, everyone else has moved onto the next. But just to make me feel as if I’m not a total failure, the instructor cheerfully yells ‘SMILE’ at me in English every now and then.
I obediently smile until I make it to the changing rooms. Then it’s all business. My mission is to try to get in and out as quickly as possible. I decided during my first visit that I would never be using the showers there. No cubicles or curtains, just shower heads sticking out of the wall – prison style. My Irishness says no. The only things I change in the changing room are my shoes.
Dodging the suddenly gregarious naked Latvian women isn’t so easy though. Acquaintances suddenly decide that this is the perfect moment for a chat, while I look at the floor, the ceiling, or longingly at the door. Unfortunately, the way is usually barred by several others perusing the posters or notices on the wall. I don’t see why the ‘Make sure you check in on Facebook’ sign is suddenly so captivating. It’s not like they’ve got their mobiles on them. I’ve seen more of some of my fellow gym-goers than I’ve seen of myself.
Finally, feeling a bit like Indiana Jones, I make it out of the changing room and back to the safety of my flat. Until the next time.
Latvian girl’s body, if you’re in there, can you come out now please?