In the company of Freaks…

About three times a week I hang out with a group of Freaks. We do our own variations of the heavy breathing section from ‘Je t’aime’ but it sounds decidedly un-french when done as a group. This has a more robust sweaty Irish overture to it. The odd guffaw of laughter at some raucous and probably slightly smutty and/or sarcastic comment further dispels any hint of sensuality. The groans and protests as our bodies clunk into various warm up positions and the hot spots found have nothing at all to do with mobile phones and everything to do with foam rolling.  It is all but a prequel to the main event:  CIRCUIT TRAINING.  This all happens in a relatively small space. Only in rural Ireland would you find a tardis like gym, located over the local hostelry. It is fondly know as FFHQ ( Fitness Freak Headquarters.)

I have been a regular visitor there for quite a number of years  and from my first tentative steps up its lauded stairs to now, has been quite a bit of a journey for me (also known as life). Like many things in my relatively recent past, twas not my idea at all to venture above the actual pub. I was very happy and content to occasionally sit there, with a pint of plain and a packet of Tayto and listen to the thud of weights being dropped on the ceiling above us. It was my BFF who suggested, we should leave the comfort of our stools, don some lycra and go get tortured for an hour. “It will be fun, you’ll be grand” and We’ll give it a go” she said to a very skeptical me and do you know what ? She was right ( eventually!) I had just got the hang of walking (actually I did master the art of  walking earlier in life too, I mean walking without stopping for a few miles) and doing the occasional Davina dvd. I had lost some of my excess body weight. After a least a couple of decades of suffering from a serious allergy and aversion to any type of organised exercise, coupled with the feeling of having little or no time at all as I had birthed and was busy raising five children( thankfully not quintuplets), I was reluctant and nervous to say the least.  Let me be a bit more honest,  to describe how I was feeling as being ‘nervous’ is a bit like describing Everest as a hill.  I was more than a bit petrified that I would make a complete ass of myself.  I worried about what level of coordination would be required, mine having always being at a rather low level. Add that to my innate inability to tell my right from my left and I was sure I would be lunging my way into disaster. Couple that with the fact that I was an overweight middle aged woman who was genuinely worried about the embarrassment I would feel if I actually passed out and you can understand my trepidation. I was well aware that I don’t sweat pretty either. I also fretted in case he (Chief Freak aka Richie ) would  remind me of my PE teacher because then my body would just go into hiding like a snail and there  would be no chance of it being able to cooperate with any of my brain signals. It wouldn’t just be a case of being petrified, it would quickly  be followed by immobilisation and mortification too.

As it turned out, it wasn’t too bad at all. There was lovely coloured weights yellow and purple( remember them) . It was really varied, I was introduced to an exercise called the ‘Hail Mary‘ ( I just about managed one) which is apt as by the time you get round to them near the end of the class, you are muttering your prayers under your breath to whatever deity you may believe in, or just plain swearing.  I renamed the ‘Hail Mary’ as Charlie’s Angels in my mind because the action reminded me of those youthful heroines of mine in gun toting poise and meanwhile I was trying to figure out if I would actually be able to stand up again.  The hour flew by. Nothing like PE at all. Chief Freak  was a completely different kettle of fish to my PE teacher, easier on the eye for a start with an energetic ,positive and encouraging ( if slightly daft vibe going on). From my very first session, I knew I had landed with someone whose down to earth, you can do it approach and commitment to helping people on their road to fitness was really going to suit me. Chief Freak has a real grá and passion for what he does and it’s contagious and a lot rarer to find than what you might you think.

I was wrecked but I survived. The walking and Davina had obviously gotten me further along the exercise road than I thought I was. I wouldn’t say I felt smug as even in my first class, tailored for beginners I had found the going tough. Then BAM! welcome to the next day and even more so the following day, to where a  brand new world of DOMS(delayed onset muscle soreness) awaited. There is something quite ridiculous about the way I had to get dressed the next day, I’ll spare you the details of the fight I had to fasten my bra, suffice it to say I just gave up. It brought to mind my future life as a geriatric.  I avoided having to negotiate the stairs as much as possible, as really I just didn’t have the time to spare that it took me to navigate them. Coming down them was even worse than crawling up.  The unavoidable necessity of having to engage in a slow backward maneuvering dance onto the loo was nearly the end of me. Gingerly lowering my body in the hope that I would land safely could have had me in stitches of laughter but abdominal muscles that I thought had long given up the ghost on me made their presence felt. But I went back the next night it was on and the following week and the following week as those lovely endorphin hits made the discomfort worthwhile and before long I was able to use the loo with ease. Four to five years on and I’m still going. It took me a while to realise that it’s not meant to get easier, you should always walk down the stairs feeling energised but wrecked. I have had my fair share of DOM days since on a regular basis. It is not meant to be easy but it is meant to be doable. That is one of the Chief Freaks main talents, he mixes it up, by design the circuit enables you to push yourself but there is always room for the modification station. The group of Freaks who I have got to know over the years are a great bunch, encouraging, inspiring, funny and bloody hell they know how to party.

I have walked up the stairs in many states over the years, often so begrudgingly that I would wonder why I bother. I have bitched to myself as I struggle around a circuit cause being only human energy levels can dip.  I have always walked down after class maybe still bitching but feeling better even if it’s just temporary. The weight of my body that I carry up and down the stairs and around the circuits has fluctuated both up and down over the years.  I am still an overweight and now older middle aged woman. But here’s the nub of this blog. I am a  fitter and much healthier overweight woman than I was before my first venture into FFHQ. For the first time since my much younger days I get and I really get the benefits of regular exercise (and it is not all just about weight loss). I have found something that I enjoy and indeed The Saturday Morning Ladies that Lift class is one of my favourite hours of the week I love it.( I might do a separate blog post just on dead lifting, my love affair with the prowler and the 100kg club, and Fonzie and his chains……  oh yeah  have I already mentioned the fantastic bunch of people I get to do it with?) There have been periods over the years where it has felt that going to circuits was one of the few regular acts of self-care I could manage. It has boosted my confidence in and made me more comfortable with myself and my body’s capabilities. It is just brilliant for my head.  Stepping out of my comfort zone on some since forgotten Monday night into the unknown has empowered me to continue to step out of my comfort zone at different times and in so many different facets of my life. Look here I am, writing this blog!! So Fellow Freaks especially the Thirsty Thursday Club and Chief Freak I salute you and I thank ye too.


A moment of madness sees a middle aged woman

doing burpees on a village pavement.

It’s not all about the money,

as she is counted in by those mad hatters of determination,

pride, commitment and honour.

Far from elegant, with an awkward gait

and dodgy knees she perseveres in the now near darkness,

witnessed by companions  as mad as she.

Done and dusted with a victorious whoop

the evaded debt is paid.

All hints of wimping out are banished

she has paid her dues and some.

Laughter will see her home.



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