Yes, I’ve joined a gym... but it seems such a waste of energy

I just find the gym so joyless, says Kathriona Devereux in her weekly column
Yes, I’ve joined a gym... but it seems such a waste of energy

All of us, but particularly women, need to maintain muscle mass as we age to prevent frailty and protect bone health. Stock/PA

THERE are consequences to eating a mince pie with whipped cream almost every day for the month of December.

Sluggishness and a general sense of “meh” are typical January feelings that can be partly blamed on Christmas over-indulgence.

At the start of the year, I generally eschew anything that is going to make the dark days of winter any harder. To my mind, January is not the month to start a diet of lentils, grass and stones or set impossible to achieve fitness goals, it is a month for meeting up with friends, having a glass of wine with dinner, and polishing off the last of the Christmas pudding.

That said, I’ve joined a gym. Not to start work on my beach bod, but as an insurance policy for my future health.

I’ve tried to use gyms two previous times in my life. Once when I started college and thought going to one was something you did if you were a grown-up (I was pretending hard to be one). And again after my second child.

Both were short-lived experiences, I just found the gym so joyless.

Thanks to pregnancy and child rearing, I hadn’t properly exercised in years, apart from one over-developed left arm from carrying a small child continually.

I’ve joined the gym now because my GP told me to start lifting weights.

Everyone, but particularly women, need to maintain muscle mass as they age to help prevent frailty and to protect bone health. 

Weight bearing exercise is crucial as we age because we lose a small percentage of muscle mass a year. Over a decade, this can add up to 5-10% of lost muscle!

The decline can begin in the mid-thirties, so if you plan on being a fit and active 80-year-old (I do!), then maintaining muscle mass is crucial.

But my god, lifting the heavy thing and running on treadmills to nowhere all seems so futile.

I watched a mother and daughter pair power-walk quite intensely on a treadmill for a half an hour and wondered where a walk outdoors would have taken them. Could they have run an errand or walked someone’s dog in the time spent pounding the conveyor belt?

They seemed perfectly content. It’s just me that finds the gym a strange use of time.

I understand all the advantages of exercising in a space where you don’t have to worry about traffic, or car fumes or stepping in dog poo, but surely someone can come up with a better way of harnessing the physical efforts of so many humans to get some actual work done.

Human fitness used to come from the physical labour of growing food, collecting fuel, building something from scratch, or running away from threats. Now we need to replicate those movements with overhead press machines and treadmills.

I’d like to be strong and fit to do something tangibly useful or impressive with my strength.

I went to the Fossett’s circus over Christmas (magical entertainment - I thoroughly recommend it the next time it’s in town!) and was astounded at the strength of the performers. A woman hanging upside down from a suspended hula-hoop holding a man by his wrists while spinning around the ring. I can’t even do the monkey bars in the kids’ playground!

I want to go to a handy ‘gym’ where someone asks me to spend 30 minutes loading big bags of potatoes onto a flatbed truck, or carrying bags of gravel to where they’re needed on a building site, or wielding an axe to chop wood for old age pensioners. Something, anything, that feels like a more productive use of my time than 30 seconds lifting 30kgs on the seated row machine.

I’m not alone in my feeling of the futility of expending energy for nought. There are gyms in the U.S that harness the energy of people’s workouts to generate electricity to power the building.

Sweaty people on exercise bikes won’t meet the total energy demands of a building, but transforming a gym into a mini-power plant is something I could get on board with.

In the meantime, I’ll keep envisaging my sprightly 80-year-old self as motivation to keep lifting the heavy things. Or maybe I’ll keep working out just so I can join the circus!

Covid vaccination

Ah it was like old times. The North Main Street Vaccination Centre was doing a brisk trade of jabs last Thursday when I attended for a second booster.

There seemed to be a lot of couples (possibly parents) who I speculated had dropped the kids back to school and made a beeline for a vaccination centre in hopes of avoiding a New Year dose of Covid. That’s what I was doing anyway.

The struggle to juggle at the start of the year is enough without a bout of coronavirus.

The lovely nurse (how are they still so friendly and kind) told me North Main Street had been busy over the Christmas period with returning Cork exiles availing of the convenient walk-in service.

There aren’t any walk-in vaccination locations in Dublin (yet another reason to move home!) so visiting Corkonians were taking the opportunity to vaccinate on their holidays.

Given the sorry state of the health service again this winter, and the severe burn-out of healthcare staff, getting vaccinated is a small thing we can do to alleviate pressure on the system.

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