How long until I exercise again? My bike chain slipped off and the pedals spun back; one whacked my knee and it blew up like a balloon. As it subsided, I came down with a cold; I wanted to write something; I had a few bad nights and just had to nap; a friend in hospital needed a visitor; I helped someone move; and now it's raining. Also, I need a haircut. When I get out of bed my hair stands on end. It flattens only with a shower, but I don't want to wash twice in a day and I don't want to go out looking like a rooster and I can't exercise without knowing there's a hot shower at the end of it. So I stay home from the gym, feeling flabby.
Somehow, in the space of a few weeks, I lost the motivation. I am The Motivator, the one who gets children dressed and out the door and usually looks neat herself; who invites people over and cooks from scratch every night; who reads with young children and draws up crosswords for her daughter's class; who squeezes writing and thinking into every spare minute of the day; who finds it terribly hard to sit still even with friends present and chatting. After dinner, when most people rest, I do the dishes and fold the washing and run around with a vacuum cleaner. Sickening, really. But I just lost my oomph, for the gym at least.
Here I am now. It's 13 degrees and the heater's blasting; I'm curled up in PJs and hoodie with coffee and chocolate to hand, and wondering about throwing in the towel. Why, oh why, do I need to hurl myself at the wretched machines, headphones in? It takes so much time and effort to get there; it's expensive and undignified; and now I'm so unfit that it will be like starting again.
And how many times have I started again? Between babies, holidays and a twice ballooning knee, between sickness and colds and exhaustion, I've had to start over and over. Back to walking, not running; back to feeling wrecked not exhilarated by the experience.
At some level I feel like I should get sorted; that there must be ways to live that I don't need the gym's artificial construct. Surely gardening and walking and riding should be enough. But they are not.
My back aches, and I have little points of weakness from years of picking up children. Without regular weight training, I hurt. And without intense cardio activity, so much harder than the walk to school, I feel tired all the time. As if to prove a point, my back is starting to niggle again; last night I went to bed at 9.30, and slept for ten hours.
Exercise is not just physically beneficial. In the mindless activity of the cross trainer, I do some of my best thinking, and some hard emotional work. Small essays, sharp sentences, are plotted and planed as I row and puff and pull down weights. Despite all the sweating people in the room with me, the headphones and gym etiquette give me such a feeling of solitude that when feelings bubble up, I have the space to work out what's going on, and why.
For these reasons and more, I should go. Yes. But looking at the clock I see that yet again I've left it too late, fiddling around with a bio for a magazine, a submission, this blog – and I'm glad, glad to be home in the warm, glad to have done these things instead.
But where has my motivation gone, I wonder. Sure, the writing's good, but I need both. I'm feeling lopsided, but the more I get out of balance, the harder it is to exercise again.
On Thursday I have another chance, another couple of hours without children. Perhaps I'll make it then, rain, runny nose and all. Or perhaps I'll pour a glass of wine and bunker down instead, leaving it for another week. I wonder.
*What we call pyjamas, of course.