I turned right onto Hordern Street. Presumably, the famous Anthony Hordern, who ran a huge department store in Sydney, lived around here. I figured I’d be able to weave through to Parramatta Road. But half way down, I could see it was a “no through road”. In a garage at the end of the cul-de-sac, a woman was fussing over piles of cardboard boxes. I waved and walked up to her. She was packing vegetables. Organic vegies in Petersham!
Jenny was packing, and she called out to Georgie, the boss. She came out of the adjoining house, wiping her hands on her jumper. I introduced myself. Georgie read my FAQ sheet and chuckled to herself. She said she’d be happy to tell me all about the vegie game.
But I had to go – I had an appointment to make, and I promised to call back later.
Believe it or not, my “appointment” was at the local gym! Last week, when I was locked out all day, I walked past “The Sports Pit”. It’s at the northernmost end of Petersham, on the corner of Palace and Parramatta. There I had talked to an instructor called Chris, who convinced me to come back for a trial session. So I figured: why the hell not?
Just after one, there I am, standing in the reception, feeling a bit foolish. I’d brought tracksuit pants to change into. The changerooms smelt like sweat and men. Trashy magazines were piled up at strategic points around they gym, perhaps to ease you through moments of exhaustion.
Chris showed me through some of the machines. We started on the treadmill. I walked for twenty minutes on the revolving rubber mat, jabbing my finger at the digital display to move the speed up and down, and feeling my legs respond accordingly. In front of the treadmills there are four TVs, each showing a different station. Techno music pumps throughout. You can’t help but march in time. The handles of the treadmill have metal sensors to test your heartrate.
The second machine was some kind of cardio workout thing, where you pump the arms and legs back and forth in a dynamic walking scissor motion. This is the classic exercise device you always see advertised on TV, “giving a total body workout!” Chris said he wanted to see me get my heart rate up over 150 beats per minute. It hovered at 145 for ages, then I pumped it a little faster and it spiked alarmingly, to 180. I backed off a bit and it plummeted to 130. After thirteen minutes Chris returned. “You’re not even sweating, Lucas!” he said. He put me on the rowing machine. I rowed and rowed, and watched The Bill for another thirteen minutes.
Then we were onto the weight lifting machines. There are about half a dozen of these, each designed to put strain on a different part of the body. Systems of levers and pullies only requiring the addition of my flesh and muscle to set them in motion. Unfortunately, these are designed for people with some existing degree of muscle mass. I had to remove all the weights in order to be able to even shift the damn things an inch. So there I was, lifting just the skeletal armature of the machine itself, and even that was agony.
To his credit, Chris was very un-macho about the whole thing. He understood that I’m not at all interested in “bulking up”. Instead, what he had in mind for me was to “keep my lean physique, but make it ripped” (whatever that might mean) and to put on maybe five or six kilos. He wants me to start eating more fish, two or three tins of tuna a day (!), and high-protein bread. He wants a minimum of three workouts a week.
I’m not sure I’m ready to join the universe of the gymnasium.
Working out, talking to Chris, watching all those TVs, I felt completely absorbed. It was hard to believe that I could possibly have lived all my life up to this point without going to a gym. He offered me a really good deal to join, and even tailored a payment plan so I wouldn’t have to outlay one bulky payment.
I rang Bec. She thought it sounded like a great idea. But I don’t know. There are so many options in the big city. Am I ready for such a radical transformation?
On the way home I swung past Hordern Street again. Georgie had gone out on a delivery, but Jenny was still there packing boxes. I stood at the garage door distracting her while she distributed broccoli amongst the hampers. At the entrance to Hordern is a building site, an apartment development which she said has been on the go forever. They got as far as installing all the Smeg appliances, but some delay in construction has meant that the flats are not ready to be occupied yet. So a security guard has been employed, full time. He lives in the building itself, amongst all that luxury, night and day. Jenny doesn’t like him. She says he spies on her from his perch in the apartments. It must be a pretty boring job, guarding whitegoods in an empty building all day.