Friday, September 30, 2005

Fitness Thirst

The hotel Royal Saleem in Sousse used as a base by the One Man Crapping team provided a few surprises. Despite its quality interior, the usual faux-marble and ubiquitous soft furnishings, space age lift pods and effective air conditioning, there were a few let downs which gave reminding hints of the country's third world status. The gym, a proud boast of the hotel blurb, which I hoped would provide me with a guilt-ease and an escape from the consequences of over-indulgence, was one. The flab-checking, gentle jogs I routinely make on the '25 motivating workout' Life Fitness treadmills at my health club, could easily be transferred, I thought, into the holiday environment - a little morning regimen easily grafted onto an otherwise sybaritic existence. A little pressing, some good natured pushing, the desirous pursuit of the honing and toning; the nautilus machines would do their stuff and leave the way clear for the day's inevitable abuses. A psychological trade off I suppose.

I checked it out. The gym. The two treadmills looked like they'd been reclaimed from the corporation re-cycle centre. One trying to out runt the other in their under development: twin tatterdemalions of the fitness equipment world. For half a minute I thought they were broken-down nags from the 'run on the rollers' treadmills of the 'fitness at home' theme - no electricity, only person-power keeps them rollers rolling. But I spotted an old flex, like an old rat's tail hanging out of one of them, with bits of black tape clinging on to it here and there. I wondered, not for the first time, whether the concept of health and safety or the words 'risk assessment' would mean anything in these parts, but a glance at some of the locals - who obviously had clearance to drop in any time and play on the machines - shouting at each other in Arabic and generally looking at me as if I'd just been parachuted in from outer space, told me it would have been unwise.

I clambered onto the least unstable looking one and through hitting a random sequence of buttons, and after a few stop starts that nearly had me firstly falling off the front then nearly off the back, the thing and me wheezed into action. By now the local boys had stopped their hand clapping and raucous whoops and whistles which were centered around the one piece of machinery that looked like it worked properly -just a blurred image of metallic crashes, toilet grunts and moustaches spring to mind now, and watched, conspiratorially, knowing that my rickety efforts weren't going to last long. And they didn't. Before so much as a few hundred meters had registered on the misty, dried sweat and spittle stained computer readout, it dropped out of the race exhausted, took to its haunches, spat, and shook its head.

I was approached by a member of the 'audience'. " Theese no work, thees feenished." He was right, it didn't work and it certainly had finished, perhaps for good. And a brief hope-filled consolatory survey of the rest of the equipment which looked as if it had been dragged up from someone's damp cellar that morning - all the seats burst like old mattresses, and the 'chrome' parts, neglected and rusty like a lazy teenager's bicycle, I'd finished as well.

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