The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents - Pene­lope Goward this­life@theaus­tralian.com.au

Up un­til a few years ago I thought go­ing to the gym was a wank. Only those who were in­clined to work out and who al­ready looked good would go. I imag­ined them flaunt­ing in front of mir­rors and sneak­ily ad­mir­ing them­selves. Then that all changed.

It be­gan like this. Yet another headache would hang around all day. My blood test re­sults were bad. I had high choles­terol and was border­ing on pre-di­a­betic; a liver func­tion test showed raised en­zymes (drink­ing too much al­co­hol, the doc­tor said).

I’d just turned 50: I was in a sec­ond mar­riage, in a step­fam­ily, had a stress­ful job and age­ing par­ents. The scales in the doc­tor’s of­fice also gave me un­wel­come news. I was 20kg over­weight. The doc­tor did not spare me. She de­scribed the path I was on.

I quit drink­ing, got mov­ing and re­duced my weight. A few years passed and I made more life­style changes and re­gained my health. But I also no­ticed I had lost con­fi­dence in my abil­ity to move and bal­ance.

A col­league sug­gested I go to a lunchtime class to stretch and de­velop core strength, and from there I re­alised there was another way. From the class I be­came stronger, be­gan to move more, and re­cov­ered my abil­ity to bal­ance on one leg and hold my­self up­right with­out fall­ing over.

The in­struc­tor en­cour­aged me to grad­u­ate to the gym. I gin­gerly ex­plored lo­cal gyms and dis­cov­ered one close by. I be­came one of the baggy bri­gade. I wore very loose cloth­ing, re­luc­tantly went to some aer­o­bic classes, and un­der the guid­ance of a per­sonal trainer started to do re­sis­tance and weight train­ing. It was hard go­ing and the mus­cles in my body ached, a lot. I wanted to give it up.

The per­sonal trainer en­cour­aged me to per­se­vere, hang in, do a little more, and make it a habit. Since then I have been go­ing to the gym reg­u­larly. It is part of my life and me. I have a rou­tine of car­dio, mobility and strength train­ing, spread out over a week.

I have made friends with oth­ers in my age group who, like me, make go­ing to the gym an im­por­tant part of their lives and en­joy ex­chang­ing sto­ries of what we can do be­cause we are fit, strong and healthy. We reckon it’s worth it.

I know my body and its ca­pa­bil­i­ties. I no longer wear baggy clothes and in­stead en­joy the free­dom of sports clothes that hug my now toned body, al­beit an older one.

And yes, I do have an in­dul­gent peek at my­self in the mir­ror. I se­cretly ad­mire my tenac­ity to have achieved a body that works and sup­ports me. I have a gym habit. And I love it.

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is an epic au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal poem by which English poet? Which chem­i­cal el­e­ment has the Latin name What is the main colour of the top of a tra­di­tional Bos­ton bun? Hell­fire Pass in Thai­land was cre­ated dur­ing which war? Which re­cent song starts with the words, “The club isn’t the best place”?

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