Rheumatoid Arthritis and my gym and why it matters so much


It’s funny how the things that can sound like the most minor of minor problems can really knock me around.

Last week I was waiting on a biopsy result, one of my closest friends wasn’t speaking to me and I had no idea why and my mother was PISSED cos I couldn’t attend dinner on her 70th birthday.

But what was I upset about?

My gym.

Yep, that sweaty, dark place where I go to pretend I’m still a functioning human.

My ‘gym’ is actually two gyms. One membership allows me to attend either gym.  I am roughly in the middle of the two locations, each about a 10 minute drive, depending on traffic.

The first gym is beautiful and shiny and new.  It has great equipment, the latest gear, a massive group exercise room, a huge spin class room and every kind of machine you could imagine. Plus enough free weights so you never have to wait.   The whole place is modern and wonderful and  filled with light and energy.

The second gym is grungy and dark. The brickwork is old and ugly.  They have just repainted the ‘feature walls’ but the fact that the building is at least 30 years old is still apparent, and as I lay on my back stretching in a class last week, I marvelled that they painted a feature wall, but didn’t patch the holes in the cornices, nor paint out the gross dark, damp patches and fill the cracks that make you feel like that wall might actually come down on you given a half way decent storm.  It has a small group exercise room that is often cramped. The popular classes are overflowing, and it’s hard to find space.  The other classes are almost empty. There are no windows anywhere and the spin class room is also small, and dark and it’s like a dark little torture cave.  The cardio room is downstairs, round the corner and under the strange ‘too low’ ceiling, that at 5’10” I feel like I’m going to bang my head on.

It feels rabbit warrenish and tight and enclosed and claustrophobic at times.  And there is this one guy. He’s there every afternoon. And I give him the utmost respect, because he is there every single afternoon that I am (and I’m not there every day).  Working hard on the cardio machines.  But he has the worst body odour I have ever smelled. And because the room is small and tight and enclosed, it is overpowering and revolting.

Today when I went down there I remembered exactly why I started doing my afternoon cardio at the other gym.

Now these two gyms, that were owned by one franchise are separating.  All members have to choose one gym, or the other.  We can only be a member of one, for the price that previously bought us both.

Lots of us are pretty pissed off.

But as you’re reading this you are probably thinking it’s a pretty simple decision on which one to choose.

But then there’s the timetable.

The shiny new gym has lunchtime spin classes that I like to attend when I can.  Lots of them. They also have lots of 5pm spin classes.  Between the two, I can do a spin class every day, if I am willing and/or capable.

I used to work out hard at the gym.  I have been reduced to a re-habber.  What I do now, is nothing like the workouts I used to do.

But I love the gym, I love working out and I need to hold onto that aspect of me.  They gym junkie I once was.  And even on a pretty bad day, I can still do a spin class. Just make the wheels go around.

There are days where I can do nothing but lie on the couch. But it takes a lot to stop me. I make it to the gym 3 or 4 days a week now.

So the timetable becomes key. Having two timetables means that I can do what suits me.

Monday: Bad day?  5pm R30 at gym 1.  Good day?  5:30pm Viper class at gym 2.

Tuesday:  Bad day?  9:30am R30 at gym 1.  Good day?  Feel like zen?  Centergy at 4:30 at gym 2.  Good day? Feel like kicking ass?  Vipr at 5pm at gym 1.

Wednesday:  Bad day? 10am OR 12:15pm OR 5pm R30 at gym 1.  Good day?  4:30pm Power class.

And so on it goes. Having two gyms allows me to cater to my needs.

And gym 1 is shiny.  And gym 1 has most of the ‘bad day’ options.  And most of my days are, in fact, bad days. In all honesty, gym 1 has the most options, full stop.


Then there’s the people.

And the stark realisation.

I am alone. Often. You would almost say always.  Except for my children, I don’t see many people.  People don’t often come to visit. They are busy. They have lives.  As they should.

I used to be very social. I used to in fact be quite the party girl.  We used to have ‘gatherings’ often.  The best one was probably when I invited half my son’s entire kindergarten class parents over for a curry night. Because I felt so bad about not including anyone (yep, whole other set of issues there, kids!) so I invited everyone.  I wound up with 60 people at my house and it was amazing.  It was about four months into the year, and after that we were all friends.  That ‘gathering’ became stuff of legend.

I didn’t have rheumatoid arthritis then.  Or rather, I did, but it was mild and I didn’t know it.

But barbeques, parties, pub nights, food, frivolity, wine, beer and song were a huge part of my life. They were a huge part of me. They were a huge part of my marriage.  They were a huge part of why my husband loved me.

When I got sick, I got hit hard. I woke up one morning and I was in so much pain in my entire body that I couldn’t stand up.  Of course I DID stand up. And I kept on going.  Because it took another year to get a diagnosis or any treatment.  I have no idea how I did that.

But that year destroyed my marriage.

First, because I became a different person. A lesser person. Not the person he loved.

And second, because my husband didn’t believe me.  And I could never forgive him for that. For expecting me to clean toilets and iron shirts when my body suddenly imploded around me.

I survived on sheer force of will. And that will survives. The body improved with treatment for a time, but is largely going back to that place again.


The gym is my social life. My only social life.  In any given week, the only people I might chat to in the real world (not on facebook, not via email, and I hate the fucking phone) are my friends at the gym.

It’s five minutes. It’s nothing important to them. It’s my entire social life.  It’s my entire connection to the ‘real’ world. That five minutes before class, the light and fluffy small talk as the class begins, the banter with the instructor, the eye rolls and gasps as we pretend we wish we were somewhere else.

So on paper gym one is the obvious way to go.

And I’m going with gym two.


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