Fitness First. Escape if you dare.

I like going to my local Fitness First gym. When I watch the aerobics classes it reminds me of the massed displays they put on in North Korea:

Aerobics at my local Fitness First gym (Above) and a massed aerobics display in Korea (Below)

But joining a Fitness First gym is like the Hotel California. You can check out, but you can never leave. Deadset, if they smell any sign of weakness / profit (same thing) you will be subjected to a barrage of super-duper-ultra-enthusiastic phone calls from bouncy guys who say “Yeah, sweet” way too much.

A few years ago, before I was a member, my brother was subjected to water torture or something. In a moment of weakness he gave them my number. They call it ‘invite a friend’. A guy called Scott called me so often that I actually had his name on my phone so I knew it was him calling. I used to tell him ‘maybe in a month or so’, and 31 days later my mate would be on the phone, hassling me to come to the gym. I just about had to take out a restraining order before he would leave me the hell alone. Even to this day if I’m walking home by myself late at night I sometimes wonder if it’s my old mate Scotty stalking me, just biding his time.

So it was with trepidation that I signed up a couple of years later, but it has been a pleasure. Big, clean change rooms and lockers, and always plenty of equipment available – all good.

But last week one of the personal trainers gave me a pointer. I said thanks, and stupidly, stupidly mentioned that one day I might get a few sessions. I heard the intake of breath around the gym from other members who instantly recognised my mistake, but continued to cast their eyes downwards for fear of making eye contact with a personal trainer and being inexorably drawn into their sphere of influence, like the Millennium Falcon to the Death Star.

In a moment his business card was thrust into my hand. He tried to dazzle me with his number-trickery about multi-session discounts. And when I came in the next morning, he was standing AT THE RECEPTION, just looking at me, like this:

And then today it happened again in exactly the same way. I’m telling you, at the interview to work at Fitness First they put 20 cents in the balls at Ikea. If you find it in less than 10 seconds, you’re in.

I know now that my life at Fitness First will never be the same. I will be a shell of my former self, a marked man, a walking warning to others. Members will step aside when I pass, afraid of being tainted. They will whisper in hushed tones to each other: “Look how he runs on that treadmill, poor bastard. Look how fast he goes. They say he is running from a staff member who heard he might have more money to spend. But he cant get away. He just runs on the spot, forever chased.”

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