I hate running on a treadmill. It’s not just a vague, undefined dislike of the physical action of doing it. I have become a danger to myself and others whilst on one. The problem is that while running (okay, in my case walking briskly) on a treadmill my mind becomes so starved of stimulation that my eyes hone in on the slightest bit of action, decent-looking male or ridiculously attired female in the vicinity.

Unfortunately, if the action moves out of my direct line of sight into my peripheral vision, or further, I tend to crane my neck and then turn my entire torso and then my knees in the direction of the action. I am sure you have figured out the result of this twisting already: I end up tumbling from the moving belt in the most undignified manner possible and giving the other treadmillers (you can’t call them runners, really) something to look at. I have had injuries ranging from a slight bruise on my leg to a twisted ankle which, to my great delight, kept me off the treadmills, cycles AND cross trainers for a bit.

I blame this unfortunate habit on the tendency to get bored very easily; I am, after all, an overstimulated baby of the eighties. My ever-expanding waistline is testament to the fact that the gym is really not for me and to my deep love for anything classified as “junk food”. Due to the aforementioned treadmill mishaps and expanding waistline, I decided, about a year ago, that something had to be done, and to my great joy I have discovered that the gym is not the be-all-and-end-all of exercise options.

It all started with an S-factor class with some good friends from school.

“The S-factor stands for sexy, sensual!” shouted the instructor through her foreign (possibly German) accent, which made the class all the more exotic. We were a rag-tag bunch of young and old, super skinny and well-covered, confident and mortified. The class began with some basic dance moves which helped to get our hearts beating. For, once my heart began beating not as I felt myself begin my undignified tumble, but because it was quite a challenge to keep up with the instructor’s six-year-old-like energy. I certainly was not bored as my ears strained to hear her Germanic-tinted words over the blaring music and then to delve into the deep reaches of brain for actions to match her instuctions.

Suddenly we were given a barked command: “Strike a pose!”

A pose? A pose? Panic! In a sudden flash of inspiration and interexercise reference, I twisted around and stretched out as though about to fall from my treadmill, but with one hand reaching upward and my head flung back for my eyes to follow it. Think Flashdance.

From there the “sexy, sensual” bit began. We were told to go and grab a chair. The chair was then quite indecently utilised to give us an opportunity to learn to lapdance. Lapdancing, as it turned out was a similar experience to the treadmill for me as I kept falling off it. Once again, I have a good excuse: I am too short for the chairs they were using. My short little legs just couldn’t swing gracefully up and over the seat to change my position in time to the music. Invariably, I ended up in a heap on the floor entangled in the chair. I suppose if the chair was the man it was meant to represent that outcome wouldn’t have been too bad. Fortunately, the floor of the room was covered in a spongy substance which prevented my usual bumps and bruises so I figured that this was one up on the treadmill.

Unfortunately, our fantasic European instructress has deserted us for the excitement of ocean cruising so my “sexy, sensual” swaying and swooning has come to an end.

Never fear, though, my intrepid friends and I came up with another solution to my fear of treadmills – we would go back to ballet. Yes, I know this is a secret goal of all grown women who ever said “I want to be a ballerina when I grow up” but they never actually go through with it. Well, we did.

Let me give you some background. Way back in the charmed days of our childhood and teens (yes, they have to be separated into categories, fourteen-year-olds ceased to be children in the sixties, but that’s for another day) we spent many happy afternoons dancing our hearts out. Eventually the quasi-reality of schoolwork intruded and we gave up the barre for our books. The three of us had not danced seriously for ten years and so we were not hopeful of being greeted with anything but a knowing chuckle by our ex-ballet teacher.

To our surprise she was charmed by the idea and we promptly set up a weekly class. Her only proviso was that we had to wear leotards. So, off we dutifully went to Twinkletoes, the ballet shop. This was a happy trip down memory lane as I tried on pretty-pink leather ballet pumps (the real-deal, not the rip-off with hard soles you buy for nothing at Mr Price) and browsed through the flimsy skirts and bejewelled hairnets. I eventually selected a leotard and retired to the change room to try it on. I resolutely followed my formula for trying on all manner of garments: don’t look in the mirror ’til it’s on. So, I turned around and opened my eyes to be greeted by one of the ballerina hippos from Fantasia. Contrary to what you may expect, this sudden realisation of my rotund shape did not put me off any activity which would require me to resemble a Disney character and I resolved to go to ballet in order to turn into Beauty rather than the Beast.

As a result, I am proud to say that I will not make the required 36 visits to the gym this year for my medical-aid to renew my membership and I am happy to report that I am looking less and less like a Fantasia hippo and more like Cinderella every week. Now, if I could just get them to lower the barre so that I can get my short leg onto it without falling over…

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