A commercial gymnasium is almost an artwork in its symbolic representation of all that’s wrong with society. Walk past one of those city centre ‘health clubs’ which affords passers-by a ‘tantalizing’ view inside, and you’ll see life as it’s lived in the modern world. Rows of knackered citizens, slogging away on treadmills, running as fast as they can, going nowhere, and wanting the whole world to watch them do it – while someone milks as much cash out of them as is humanly feasible. There couldn’t be a more accurate microcosm of contemporary Britain.
The link between gyms and fitness is actually a myth. Gyms don’t make you fit. The only thing that makes you fit is exercise – and you still have to do that yourself. In reality a gym is just a social club for people who haven’t realised it costs nothing to exercise. Or people who have realised it, but have more money than sense and so want to pay to do it anyway. Or people who seriously believe they can buy a flat stomach with a credit card. Or people who think the very fact the club says ‘Fitness Centre’ on the frontage, means that everything they do after walking through the door will somehow eradicate pounds of flab from their eminently lethargic corpus – even if it’s merely gulping down an overpriced health drink.
Some gym members are even getting fatter as a result of joining the gym than they would had they slobbed out on a sofa all day watching ASBO dads hitting each other with chairs on daytime TV. Why? Because it gives them licence. Since they’re going to the gym tonight, they can have a bag of chips and a Curly Wurly. A blow out won't matter because they’ll lose the weight. Except it will matter, and they won’t lose the weight. Because when they finally creep into that doghole of a fitness centre (in many cases marginally less pleasant to frequent than the recycling plant), they’ve got the bellyache. Or a migraine. Or a stiff toe. It’s okay though, ‘cos they’ll make up for it next time… But of course they never do. In fact they don’t even go to the gym next time. It’s no big issue. They’re still a member. There’s always next week. Or next month… It’s just promise to self after promise to self. "I will get fit because I’m with the gym. The membership’s valid. I can eat Creme Eggs."
The people who run and work at the gym are not serious about fitness, and neither are many of them fit. The health consultants are not real health consultants either. They have no affiliation with the medical profession, and know nothing about the medical vicissitudes of your body other than how fat you look. The only thing they’re serious about is grasping as much money as the laws of science permit.
If you do ever find yourself contemplating a gym subscription, why not simply go to your local ‘fitness centre’ and stand outside for an hour? Watch all the cholesterol-bloated clients panting their way across the car park, and see the reality of what the place does. The clients are no fitter than you are, and they don’t do any more exercise. They do the same amount of exercise, but they do it inside a ‘fitness centre’. As you can see by looking at them, this doesn’t make the exercise any more effective.
There’s an alternative option to driving to a gym in a car, then paying them to let you go on a treadmill for half an hour. It’s called going for a run. It saves time, saves money, saves the environment, is most probably more enjoyable, and usually leaves you more enlightened. There is no downside. If you want to chuck money away, join a gym.