Creepy Crawlers

I suppose it stands to reason that at 6am in the morning the gym is full of fruit loops. After all, what sane person would tumble out of bed at such an ungodly hour and voluntarily start running on a treadmill or start swimming half a mile?

That’ll be me then.


For many years now, I have (often wearily) swum 30 lengths of the pool three mornings a week – before a great race against the clock to wash and blow dry my hair, slap some make-up on, grab a coffee  – and be at my desk for 8am. Recently, I’ve upped this madness to five mornings a week, to include two gym workouts too.

In my mind, I see this early morning as a good use of time: Basically, if I wasn’t at the gym, I’d be happily catching a few extra Zs in the comfort of my own bed.

But you have to draw the line somewhere. What kind of lunatic, for example, sets their alarm at 5.30am, drives to the gym and then idly lounges around in the jacuzzi?

Every morning, as I’m feverishly front-crawling in the pool, there’s a least three people just chewing the fat in the jacuzzi/ sauna/ steam room like they’ve got all the time in the world. If you want that kind of relaxation at the crack of dawn, here’s an idea: JUST STAY IN BED.

Most early-morning gym frequenters follow the unwritten rule of going about their workout/ hair dry/ make-up application in comfortable silence. No-one wants to start making small-talk at such an early hour.

No-one that is, except for Mad Scottish Woman.

I’ve mentioned Mad Scottish Woman before. But recently she has begun to loom even larger in my life. She’s in the pool pretty much every morning, clad in a full black wet suit and thrashing around like a huge excitable whale.

When she’s not showering other swimmers with torrents of water from her noisy, showy lengths of butterfly, she’s pacing around the sides, chomping on bananas and sniffing around eagerly for anyone to talk to. If in doubt, do not make eye contact with this woman.

What amazes me the most is that despite this seemingly extensive fitness regime, Mad Scottish Woman is still about the size of a small garden shed.

Only the other morning, as I was feebly lowering myself into the water, Mad Scottish Woman started yelling and beckoning to me with over exaggerated arm movements.

‘Do you want this float?’ she bellowed.

Float? Why would I want her float?

‘No, thank you,’ I said primly. I lowered my goggles in what I hoped was a please-do-not-engage-with-me-any-futher-gesture.

Luckily for me, Mad Scottish Woman was already eyeing up her next victim: a drippy-looking man, who was doing the doggy paddle in the lane next to her. She started gesticulating to him that he was doing his stroke all wrong.

‘Like this,’ she said, as she pounded down the length of the pool, soaking several unsuspecting swimmers in the process.

On her return, she actually started man-handling Mr Doggy Paddle, showing him how to stretch out his arms. He looked nothing short of terrified.

‘This woman is out of control,’ I thought.

Now, I’m not one to usually cast judgement on the trends of exercise attire but recently, I’ve spotted some rather bizarre get-ups in the gym itself.

Exhibit A: Woman on cross-trainer in full padded coat, complete with fur trim.


Exhibit B: Woman clad in full length dress, attempting to cross train – and, later hitching it up to her knees to grapple with the rowing machine.


Whatever happened to a good old t-shirt and leggings?

In the coffee queue the other morning, a man quite randomly offered to buy me a coffee.

I found this a little odd.

It was 7.45am. I’d just done 30 lengths, dried my hair in a hurry, and somehow managed to fend off the advances of Mad Scottish Woman. I didn’t have any fight left in me.

‘Sure,’ I said. ‘I’ll just take a medium-sized-one-shot-extra-hot-soy-latte-easy-on-the-foam.’

‘A what?’ he said.

Curse of the Cankles

I’ve got a problem with my ankles.

I went on Google, typed in ‘pain at back of ankles’ – and diagnosed myself with Acute Achilles Tendonitis. It’s basically a serious-sounding name for puffed up ankles.

The reason my ankles have puffed up is because I’ve been attempting to walk/run/trot 20,000 steps a day. This madness began when I acquired a Jawbone UP band, which you wear around your wrist to chart your activity during the day – from calories burned, hours slept and the amount of steps you complete.


An average active human should be walking around 10,000 steps a day. But being the competitive type, I wasn’t happy with a mere 10,000 – so I rather ambitiously set my target to double it.

The problem with attempting to do 20,000 steps a day is that despite running 5km on the treadmill, sweating it out on the cross trainer for half an hour, and then spending the rest of the day galloping up and down the stairs at work, by the time I get home, I’m still about 3,000 steps short of my target.

This has meant that most evenings, the husband had landed back from work to find me pacing around the living room like a deranged Duracell bunny.

Another feature on the UP band app is that you can add friends who also have this step-counting device. I only have one friend: Anna. I can see how many hours sleep she gets, what she been eating and – most importantly – how many steps she does in a day.

It’s all rather competitive and, if I’m being perfectly honest, a little bit stalker-ish.

I was quite happily charging around for about three weeks, revelling in the knowledge that I was one if the top steppers in the UK (and beating Anna’s steps on a daily basis), until I woke up one day and realised I could barely walk. My ankles had seized up.

My wails of, ‘I’ve got cankles on my ankles!’ were met by complete indifference from the husband, who has long been impervious to my hypercondria.

Incidentally, I haven’t got cankles on my ankles. I didn’t even know what cankles were but the rhyme seemed to add a certain seriousness to my situation.

(I then googled ‘cankles’ and realised to my horror that it’s a condition where the calf meets the ankle without tapering at all. In short, your legs resemble those giant inflatable tubes they put down the sides of a ten-pin bowling lane for beginners. Thankfully, this isn’t an affliction I’ve been cursed with after all).


However, when I casually mentioned that my Achilles’ tendon might be the source of the problem, the husband put down his New Scientist magazine and suddenly looked serious.

‘If it’s the Achilles, you need to stop exercising immediately,’ he said gravely – probably having horrific visions of spending the next 50 years pushing me around in a bath chair, while I bark orders at him.

‘If your Achilles snaps, it will be VERY serious,’ he added.

So there we have it: I can’t go to the gym. I can’t pound the pavements watching my steps rack up. I can’t canter up the stairs at work, two at a time, thinking, ‘steps, steps, glorious steps’.

No. All I can do now is meekly hobble round like a stiff-ankled sloth, knowing that – if I’m lucky – I might clock up a paltry 5,000 steps, while receiving updates on my UP app that say: ‘Anna has completed 18,000 steps today.’

I should be mourning the fact that I can no longer exercise and that my ankles will soon turn into giant squidgy sausages.

But knowing that Anna is achieving the top 5 per cent of steppers in the country, while I’m languishing in the bottom percentile, along with the injured and the infirm… now that’s my real Achilles’ heel.