We’re up in Brisbane for one of Reservoir Mum’s hobnob Health Professional Conferences where I’ve been running between the conference centre and the hotel to make sure two week old Maki gets boob and RM gets to the lectures and presentations she needs to. Lewis is also with us and so we’ve been heading over to the artificial beach on Brisbane’s Southbank and making trips to the city to do lots of other kid related activities.
It’s running pretty smoothly but for one exception – my powerlifting routine is one bench press session short this week and I need to get something done for my own sanity and the long term goal of being the strongest man in the world.
The gym in the hotel is not a gym. It’s a tiny room with some exercise bikes and a multi-exercise type contraption which only makes me want to vomit in anger. There are no power racks, no deadlifting platforms, no buckets of chalk and no way anyone with more than half a gluteus maximus could ever train there.
After a fair bit of asking around I’m given the name Snap Gym along with some vague directions and I’m hightailing it towards Brisbane’s Westend, stopping at several shops for directions until I find Snaps tucked away behind Melbourne Street, right in the corner of an underground car park.
I’m hoping I’ve found a fair dinkum gym and things are looking good as I approach the unremarkable looking door. There are no Fitness First type slogans like Turn Fat In To Fit or Renew You! and I can feel the grit coming back into my teeth. But just as I’m starting to snarl with excitement a patron exits the premises dressed in tight lycra bike pants and a torso hugging tank top. He has a little white towel over his shoulder and he’s setting a stop-watch.
I note the swipe-card entry system and a sign that says Members Must Not Use Their Swipte Card To Allow Non Members To Access The Gym. Just as the man is about to jog off I say, ‘Hey mate, can you let me in?’
‘Sure,’ he says, and with a swipe I’m holding the door open and giving him one last glance as he bounces off into Brisbane like some human pogo-stick. He has no muscularity around his arse cheeks whatsoever. Beneath his shorts is an anus with no protection.
I make my way up several stairs and into a collection of pretty machines with lovely cables and at least thirty shiney exercise bikes. I feel physically ill. Every wall is covered in mirrors. It’s the stuff of nightmares.
I’m slightly relieved to see there’s a full rack of dumbbells but several boy-men are in front of them taking up the three benches by doing pointless exercises like Dumbbell flies and motivating each other by screaming BIG PECS! and (I swear to god this is true) Get JUMBO, man!
When I look at the clock I realise that I have only thirty minutes to do a half decent workout, sprint back to the hotel and tag Reservoir Mum into her conference duties and so I set myself for some Bench Pressing and start warming up. I make my way rapidly to the first workset of five reps at 100kg when suddenly the sound system kicks into life and music bursts onto the scene and it’s Walking On a Dream by ‘Empire Of The Sun‘ and nothing worse could have happened.
There is a reason my choice of music for training is Metal. It’s because I’m easily distracted by mood and while I love many types of music it’s only because life is kaleidoscopic and demands a great range of emotive tunes. This workout is already severely compromised and to lift myself into the realm of the focussed and angry powerlifter I would need a classically angry tune like ‘Die Mutherfucka Die’ by Dope but instead I have to work around a rhythm that is reeds flowing gently in the river and as I bang out another few sets and finish with a bench of 130kg for five reps I’m feeling emotional – kinda happy-sad.
I move onto some Incline Dumbbell Presses and I’m thinking about how cool Empire Of The Sun singer Luke Steele is. He’s like the modern day Freddie Mercury. Women want to bed him and men want to be the non-gay (most of the time) version of him.
As I’m about to finish the last set of ten reps with 40kg dumbbells one of the other patrons asks me if I want a spot. ‘No,’ I say, as I try to fathom the fact that he looks forty years old in the face and thirteen years old in the arms, but then Katy Perry starts singing ‘Last Friday Night’ and now I’m feeling all bouncy – like the unprotected anus guy – and I feel sorry for this bloke because he probably just wants to get home to his Playstation, and so I change my mind and say, ‘Sure.’
I finish eight reps by myself and then the guy gets scared and touches my elbows and so I finish and say thanks and head to the dipping bar and bang out five sets of ten and I realise that Katy Perry is not only hot because she’s hot but also because her agents and managers have created an aura of strength around her, and I love strong women in the way that cats love warm car bonnets, and man if I was a women I’d want to be her.
After I’ve done six rapid sets of Bent Over Rows, finishing on 100kg for reps, I head over to do some pull-ups but find there’s another patron doing Tricep Kickbacks right under the pull-up bars and while this would usually be enough to freak me out and force me to tear the zipper on my gym bag, I am placated into a beaming joy by Ke$ha singing ‘Tik Toc‘ and so I wait patiently, jutting my hips from side to side while he makes his tiny little triceps sweat. It’s at this point where the power of the commercial gym becomes clear to me and I realise that if I don’t get out of here I may never be able to leave and all my muscle size and strength will be lost to a pair of lycra bike pants. When he’s finished I nervously bang out five sets of five pull-ups and then sprint to the incline bench to do three sets of ten incline situps holding a 10kg plate behind my head.
I have about three minutes left and I’m wondering if I should fit something else in when a reasonably sized man appears out of nowhere wearing a Snaps Gym T-shirt.
‘Hey mate,’ he says. ‘Are you a member?’
‘You have a wonderful gym here,’ I reply. ‘You have great mirrors and many colourful TVs.’
‘I’m going to have to ask you to leave,’ he says.
‘Of course you are,’ I say. ‘But can you take a photo of me before I go?’
I hand him my phone as he says no and show him the button he has to push. After I’ve secured the photo I say, ‘Thanks buddy. I feel disgustingly happy. You should have parties here.’
When I get back to the apartment Reservoir Mum hands me Maki – my gorgeous, gorgeous new baby boy – and is about to head out the door when she says, ‘Why are your eyes so watery?’
‘I’ve been doing weights and listening to popular music,’ I say.
‘Oh shit,’ she says. ‘Do you want me to stay? Do you need some ice cream?’
‘No, I’ll be okay,’ I say, smiling, all tilty-headed.
‘Wow,’ she says, feeling my muscles. ‘It must have worked though. You look pumped. You’re shoulders look huge!’
‘Jumbo, sweetheart,’ I say. ‘At Snap we say Jumbo.’