In fact, sex and riding being the notable exceptions, there’s very little physical activity whatsoever that I like to do in the company of anyone other than myself. So rather than getting involved in some after-work netball team, or going running with a pal, I choose to get my aerobic kicks on my own in the comparative anonymity of a small, London gym.
It’s not just that I’m horribly scarred by my school Games experiences: I have such a people-focussed job that it’s really quite delicious to be able to spend some time entirely by myself, not thinking about things and, most importantly, not having to talk to anyone. I can wrap myself up in a TED talk and tune out the rest of the world for an hour or so.
There’s also the rather salient fact that I am not one of life’s attractive exercisers. If my gym is anything to go by, there are frustrating numbers of women who’re able to breeze through an entire workout and leave with nothing more than the vague glow of the exceptionally healthy. I’m not one of them. Being blonde with impractically fair skin means that barely half an hour of anything faster than a mediocre walk will leave me pink and blotchy and definitely not in a fit state to run into anyone I know.
So imagine my sheer, unadulterated glee last week when a colleague announced that she was joining my gym.
Not only am I not in favour of exercising in company, I am most certainly in favour of not exercising anywhere near the people one has to work with. Once you’ve seen each other on a treadmill – or worse, blotchy and sweaty and, gulp, naked in the changing rooms afterwards – it’s almost inevitable that any professional respect you have, mutual or otherwise, is going to disappear in a perspiration-coated instant.
I’m yet to nail down the shared-gym etiquette, preferring instead to pretend the situation hasn’t arisen. It’s not a perfect system: I’ve taken to scurrying out of the office in as furtive a manner as I can muster and practically running to the gym so that I can change and stash myself on a machine as close to the corner in the darkest bit of the place as possible, head down and earphones in and no eye contact made before I think that enough time has passed that she’ll have passed through the changing rooms that I can get in and out again before I’m caught having to make awkward small talk by the lockers. MINEFIELD.
It rather makes a girl long for the days of the enormous blue gym knickers.