Friday, July 20, 2007
Good-bye and good-luck

I wrote my first blog post two months ago on May 15. I remember the day well. I was hungover and stopped for a bacon sandwich on the way to work that I destroyed in record time as the glistening fat ran down my sleeve and congealed in the hollow of my wrist. I slurped it up and continued walking.

I should get healthy, I thought to myself as I passed by Bloomsbury Square uncertain as to whether I would make it to work without being sick in a bush.

And so in a fit of self-loathing I begun my fitness odyssey. I emailed my friends and asked them to recommend some fitness crazes I should trial.

The responses I got ranged from the bizarre to the delightful and go to show that everyone has their own ideas of what constitutes good health.

James, a mate in Dubai recommended I drink camel's milk, a popular Middle Eastern delicacy. I didn't.

Matthew Philp in New York wrote: "I was talking to someone (who works in marketing…) the other day about the Master Cleanse diet where you just drink a mixture of Lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper diluted in water and it acts as a detoxing fast. He said it was fascinating how springy you feel afterwards. I want to try it but I have to schedule it in. "

We never did schedule it in. It seemed somehow unappealing.

Jessica Halloran, a sports reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald recommended Bowen Therapy, for seemingly no other reason than "it originated in Geelong."

Jackie Dent, a former journo now working for the UN in Kabul pointed me to Five rhythms dancing at Tufnell Park. It turned out to be the Shamanic Trance Dancing which I had trouble convincing anyone to attend with me. One day... one day....

Julia May recommended floatation tanks, which I tried and disliked and the CSIRO diet which I didn't try but I also dislike.

London-based journo Elizabeth wrote "I tried Kundalini yoga at the weekend and it damn near ripped my shoulders from their sockets. I haven't been able to raise my arms the past three days and each time i reach for the mouse next to my keyboard I let out an inward scream. Will keep an ear out for more radical treatments."

Errr - no thanks, I like to keep my limbs.

Australian film-maker Colleen Hughson suggested "I'm not sure if they have the 'Art Of Living' (Indian Breathing techniques) in London but you should give that a go. I did the breathing course 18 months ago and If I had any will-power I would have kept it up..."

I never did make time to learn how to breathe properly. Maybe one day I'll regret it if I forget how to breathe and I die.

Tom in Melbourne also sent me the name of a guru who may be passing through London on some sort of corporate speaking tour. The definition of 'health' is as elastic you want to make it.

Dan Cass, yoga enthusiast and Bondi man offered the following bit of advice "there is a new vitamin therapy for pregnancy etc that's $700/mo you should look at. Sounds nuts and costs a fortune. Can't remember the name of it. " But Dan - I'm not pregnant!

Political hack at the SMH, Stephanie Peatling was optimistic: "Sharing your ambitions publicly is probably a good way of making sure you don't renege on it!" Not necessarily Steph. I reneged like a...umm.. politician.

Cairo based photographer Penny Bradfield was also a bit optimistic on my behalf: "'Capoiera' is a traditional Brazilian-martial-arts come dance. It is done in pairs or in a group. When done correctly it looks truly amazing. It involves a lot of fitness. "
I dance alone. In my pajamas. To Amy Winehouse. I don't do groups.

Rachel Patterson in Melbourne (who has known me since I was in nappies) obviously thought I had serious issues. For my health kick she suggested I try "hypnotherapy. People use it for all sorts of things including weight loss, recovery from illness, trauma, abuse and addiction." Euuuwww... heavy!

Adam from Sydney also send me a thinly veiled message in his suggestion: "If in New York you must go to the Albert Ellis institute. He founded CBT and is 96 and still does large group therapy in his upper east side Jewish home. This really is a complete trip. Very personal development. Very New York. Also I suggest doing some psycho drama."

I Googled psycho drama. It's for people who can barely cling onto the notion of being people. All I want to do is lose a few kgs...
But still the 'helpful' suggestions kept coming.

Vivienne of Sydney said "I would like you to try the NO HAIRWASHING challenge – it’s ok to rinse it in water, but no ‘product’, no shampoo, conditioner…nothing! Apparently, once the oils adjust, your hair is lustrous and just fine. In other words, we’ve been conned into thinking we have to use all that stuff when it’s NOT necessary. I think you should post daily pics of your hair on the blog, and it is one you could do while you’re doing – say – the seaweed detox or the circus skills training workshop."

But apparently your hair smells and no one goes near you and by the time your hair is at that lustrous phase you have have so completely ostracised yourself that you have no friends left. Which means you have more time to go to the gym I guess.

Jo Fox also wins a prize for the most unappealing suggestions: colonic irrigation and pole dancing. At the same time?

Back in Sydney Louise advised that my health kick should include "Arnica cream for neck aches (you can get it from the chemist) and found it really works. My brother was beaten up really badly about ten years ago - with a metal pipe. Someone suggested using Arnica (maybe in tablet form though) and he has virtually no scars, despite looking like the elephant man after the bashing. Seems like a bit of a miracle cream to me."
When I get attacked by a metal pipe Lou - until then....

But the most practical suggestion was by Damien who said the best way to get healthy was to spend "three months in a London City Law Firm."

See you there kiddo.

P.S - This blog has been more fun than I have ever deserved to have. Thanks for supporting the blog and hopefully I'll be back blogging for CNN in the near future. Good luck on your own journey to health. Me thinks its not as simple as all the pundits make it out to be.
Love Brigid

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007
I stole from the gym but got caught
It is a commonly heard lament – “my gym is ripping me off!”

Pals, still flabby and unfit watch as the pounds drop out via direct debit from their accounts rather than the pounds dropping off their arse or face or the places where pounds are meant to disappear from.

One friend still mournfully talks of a swanky Sydney gym that he visited twice in 12 months. “One thousand dollars a swim,” he says almost with wonder. “One thousand dollars… for a swim…. in a little hot pool.”

I too have paid for gym memberships long after resigning myself to periods of sloth and inactivity (or have moved cities) due to the money muncher that is direct debit.

So it was in this spirit of feeling thoroughly ripped off – totally scammed, terribly disillusioned with the unholy alliance of capitalism and health – that I decided to rip off a gym.

It's not an easy task to fleece a fleecer – particularly since the gym I wanted to exploit was a multinational, squillion dollar chain that employs an army of young eagle eyed, muscle building little fitties. Just the sort to chase you down the street or wind you with a medicine ball.

Nonetheless I felt a sort of surge of self-righteousness as I plotted and planned my theft from the evil, multinational gym chain.

I had in my possession a card of 30 visits to the EG (Evil Gym) – but the card had a ten day shelf life. “Typical EG behaviour!” I thought. “They give with one hand but the take with another. Who would go to the gym three times a day?”

Taking a wobbly black biro in an unsteady hand I changed the date. That’s right – I changed the 4 to an 8 – so instead of having ten measly days to use my 30 visit card I had months.

The fleece went well for the first week. I handed my forged card over at times of HCV (High Customer Volume) when the clerks would be too stretched to check the fairly appalling forgery I had done. The anxiety was high but each time I passed through the turnstile unchallenged I felt a little surge of victory.

My allocated ten days came and went. I luxuriated in the seemingly limitless ocean of time. I lounged across the bench press, I slept on the cross-trainer, I watched hours of television from a stationary stepper.

The EG provide free soft drink and newspapers. I hung out. I took long showers. When my bathroom was being renovated the EG gym became a de facto home. And I felt at home – I really did. I had oodles of time and I wasn’t paying a cent in gym fees. I had won. I was ripping off a gym!

Then one day when I skipped in for a yoga class and handed my pass over, the blade descended.
“We might hang onto your card Miss Delaney, if that’s okay, while you take your class.”

Who was this beady eyed little ******?

Why did he want to ‘hang onto’ my card?

Sweat slipped from my chin onto my forgery – smudging my handiwork even more. Drats! Would it end this way – just before yoga? My class hadn’t even started and suddenly I felt all sweaty and gross.

After the class I was told that my card had been ‘confiscated’ and I was to return the next day to meet with the manager.

I had been caught!! Stealing from the EG!! Just when I got the hang of the bench press too!

I acted cool though: “Yah, I’ll come and see him – what of it,” I said in the manner of Vicki Pollard in a Little Britain sketch. “Yah, I ain’t done nothing wrong. Ya gonna give me my card back or wot?”

“When you come in and see the manager,” said the man.

I never went back to see the manager. I never went back to that gym. They had my hot little forged card in their nasty little office, and my word, if I went back in there, I may even be arrested.

I could imagine my defence – “I did this for every person that has ever been ripped off by a gym.” Sort of like a fitness Robin Hood.

But I doubt it would have washed. That’s the thing about EG’s. They always win.

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Welcome to the diary of a reluctant exerciser. Having previously shunned fitness regimes in favour of bacon sandwiches, Brigid Delaney vows to finally shape up, get fit and eat more healthily. Over the next three months read how she gets on in a brave new world of gyms, exercise classes and no bacon sandwiches.
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