Neither virgin nor active

I saw a magazine article this week suggesting now would be a good time to start getting my body “beach-ready”. Living as I do in Cape Town, there is only one way to survive this endless hellish winter – under the duvet with the electric blanket on high and a steady supply of fried chicken and beer. Of course, there are mental and physical consequences. Fortunately, I live alone because my body isn’t even people-ready.

I have often seen men and women on the beach at the beginning of summer with bodies that are nowhere near ready and, quite frankly, I don’t know why it’s allowed. Entrances to public beaches should be manned by trainers from Virgin Active armed with BMI calculators. Those who don’t make the cut should be denied entry. There are other places people with unready bodies can go. This country has plenty of wilderness areas.

I will always be allowed onto the beach because I never go into the sea without being fully encased in latex rubber. You never know when there might be a little S&M action going, especially in Camps Bay. A lot of well-fed people look beach-ready in a wetsuit. But take it off. Oh, man. The horror.

I’m starting early this year. I usually leave it until mid-December, which is when summer arrives in Cape Town. Temperatures begin dropping two weeks later, so I don’t have much time to strengthen a carapace weak from months of gormandising in my burrow.

Last week I decided to man up and go to the gym. It wouldn’t be my first time. I went there once to pick up a friend. The thing is, my nearest Virgin Active is sandwiched between two malls. Mmm, sandwich. One has a Spur, the other a Krispy Kreme. I was worried that, drained from the hunt for parking, I’d need a snack before hitting the treadmill. A starter portion of buffalo wings and a rack of zebra ribs washed down with three or four draughts should do it. Then it’s across the road for a dozen hand-dipped doughnuts drizzled with white chocolate.

After that, it’s off to the gym. A two-minute walk, for the very fit. I might take an Uber.

Hold on, I said to myself. Let’s first take a look at Virgin’s website. Check out the chicks. Just kidding. If I want to meet a woman, I’ll go to a place where they won’t care what my body looks like when I take my clothes off. I don’t know where this place is, but when I find it, it’s going to be great.

After promising me a deal on membership fees, the website wanted to know my fitness goals. There are six, for some reason. I’ve left it too late to die young, but I’d still like to leave a corpse that won’t make people laugh or throw up.

I’m told that when I join, I’ll get a free consultation with a personal trainer to help ease me into my exercise regime. As a former war correspondent, I am easily triggered by words like “regime”. Junta is another one, but that’s probably not heard much around the gym.

There are three quotes from Mikhyla, Jaqualene and Noms, who definitely exist. They gush about the virtues of a good workout. Jaqualene, for instance, is just loving her new body. Mikhyla’s trainer keeps her “accountable”. And Noms loves the passion of her instructor. I don’t want Mikhyla’s trainer. Like the ANC, accountability is not my thing. But I do want to love my new body. And, if things work out, Jaqualene’s.

As part of my research, I bought a copy of Men’s Health. A 48-year-old man is on the cover, stripped to the waist. Unlike some people, Stefan hasn’t spent the preceding three decades working on developing a tolerance for alcohol and crazy women.

The cover asks, “Are you mentally fit?” It’s not a question easily answered. What’s the baseline here? Is Donald Trump mentally fit? Of course not, and yet millions of equally mentally unfit Americans want him back in the White House. Besides, judging by the kind of people who run South Africa, good mental health is not a prerequisite for success. It might even be a hindrance.

The cover also offers to tell me how to feel “five years younger”. Only five? Bro, that’s not going to do it. Then again, one of the ways is to “eat your meals during daylight hours”. It’s been linked to a slower rate of ageing “in studies conducted on animals”. Look, I’m happy that the lab rabbits are looking younger and hotter than ever, but why not just do human trials? I’d be the first to volunteer, especially if the meals were free.

If daytime eating is good for you, I imagine daytime drinking is even better. I’ve got a good feeling about this. Here’s to health and fitness! Whoops. Does anyone know how to get red wine out of a Labrador?

10 thoughts on “Neither virgin nor active

  1. Kara Levy says:

    This is poetry. You have triggered my asthma from laughing.

  2. Peter B says:

    If ever there was an oxymoron it’s in the name of this gym chain… and as for finding women who don’ care what you look like, mu cousin told me a place with poles and over-priced drinks where the women are very accommodating. Think I may have to visit for research purposes.

  3. Jane Weston says:

    I’m just wondering how you managed to spill your wine. BBC Africa correspondent Andrew Hardy in an interview this morning calls us a ‘schizophrenic country. I agree with Mohsin.

  4. Richard Sanders says:

    Round IS a shape.

  5. Lebitsi Leburu says:

    Have never tasted zebra meat. Should have attended Buthelezi’s funeral.

  6. geoff says:

    Good Morning Benjamin. First-I always thought you lived in Durbs i.e. was one of “us”. I imagined you as a lightie jolling with me and my mates at Addington showing off our bronzed bodies and tuning the cherries if they’d smaak to vy to Journeys End with us, whilst subtly checking out their t**s! So it’s a little disappointing to try and imagine you pronouncing Cape town as Caaip Touwn in a dialect somewhere between an Eton and How many straight men does it take to change a light bulb in CT(both of them-geddit?)
    No offence.
    When I was a lad long before any of you were born, we trained in the YMCA ( er, well yes) We pushed old fashioned bar bells under the watchful eye of Ron X with his crewcut and tiny shorts barely covering his balls. When Ron thought we were ready, we graduated to the upstairs Gym(where the main manne including Bokke weightlifters hung out) to squat with hundreds of bar bending pounds on our shoulders, grunting and sweating like pigs in a Durban summer before Aircon was invented. Yes, those were the days-no Mens deodorant, Texan cigarettes without filters, deep voices and veldskoens with no socks!!
    None of that nambi pambi fancy gym kak.
    Enjoy the Rugby

  7. Anon E Mouse says:

    I wonder if it is too late to pick up my membership card from my 2000 corporate memberbership of the ‘Wealth & Fa*o@t’

  8. Charlotte says:

    I can tell you at least one thing about all the fat jolly people in your picture: they must be RICH, at least according to your post from last week.

    Labs love water. Chase him into the sea and don’t let him (her?) come out for a while. After that, you can get fit running away from him/her BEFORE he/she shakes water all over you.

  9. Mohsin says:

    Bring back Brenda, she’ll flog you into shape proper. You degenerate.

    1. Marthinus says:

      Spill more wine on the Labrador.
      Make it look like a maldatian.
      Dyslexic Dalmatian

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