The Painfully British Awkwardness of Being a ‘Posh Gym’ Member

I admit it.

I go to a posh gym. For my sins, I joined when I was 22, foolish, and without a mortgage or cat to support. The biggest draw was that I could drive there in 30 seconds.

January is the time of year when everybody is harping on about “New Year, new me”. No thank you. Old me was 25 years old and 12 kilos lighter. I want to be old me.

But I digress. Just like everybody else, I’ve been whiling away the hours at said posh gym as much as I can in these dreary winter months. My most recent visit, however, got me thinking about just how awkward the whole palaver is.

No pigeonholes, please

Perhaps the most obvious trouble with me being a “posh gym” member is that I don’t fit into any of the neat little boxes. I’m not a would-be athlete, proudly flaunting my untouched-by-cellulite body in a pair of those shame-inducing, high-waisted, ultra-sculpting leggings, while everybody else cries into their bargain-bin Sports Direct gear.

Nor am I somebody who enjoys leisurely day trips to the gym when the latte machine is running at full blast. I simply don’t belong.

That’s probably why I wince so much when I see these beautiful people casually chatting to each other.


What is it about gym folk? Somehow, they know your name. That’s a given, surely – you’ve been panting your way through the same combat classes for years. And yet, you don’t know theirs. I have lost count of the number of times these totally lovely people have had full conversations with me. They’ve called my name, asked me how my marathon training was going, even mentioned they called out to me when they saw me running in the street.

I DON’T KNOW YOUR NAME. I’m so sorry, lovely fellow posh gym member, but I don’t. I don’t know how you learned mine either. Now, I’ve got to awkwardly utter “hello!…” and trail off through gritted teeth as your name escapes me.

It’s getting serious now. Sometimes, I will all-out avoid machines I’d planned on using because that wonderfully friendly person is there. She’ll start talking to me again. Like we’ve known each other for years. And I still don’t know her bloody name.

You reach a point where you’re in too deep. Remember that episode of Friends, when Chandler’s own (albeit not British, just Chandler) awkwardness snowballed into him destroying his own office, over a simple moniker error? (See what I did there?) That’s what I might end up doing. I’m 99 per cent sure, oh lovely fellow posh gym member, that your name is Sally. But dare I utter it? Best not. Best quit, leave the country and go into witness protection.


Drowning in awkwardness

My most recent visit saw me hitting the pool. I thought I was pretty badass as I ventured into the outdoor pool in January. It wasn’t until I went back inside however, that I saw another posh gym “acquaintance”. The blood drained from me. He is, for starters, an excellent swimmer. I, meanwhile, try to maintain some level of composure on an internal level, while my physical form flounders around like Kate Winslet trying to find the door.

He is, also, achingly polite. Every time he speaks to me, he asks how I am, and the conversation awkwardly fizzles out as we run out of gym class-related things to say. I’ll note that he is equally polite with every gym-goer, but I torture myself because I can’t pronounce his beautifully exotic name. (I read that one on a sign-in sheet.)

So I escape. I manage to avoid talking to him every time I finish a lap. He’s quite chatty even though he’s lapped me 3 gazillion times, while I’m just about conscious. Steam room it is.

A hot mess

Oh no! Not another round of torturous British reserve! As if hiding my post-Christmas body wasn’t enough, there’s the whole other side of steam room etiquette to negotiate. Firstly, there’s the sitting down. No matter which way one contorts one’s body, one will always manage to make that awkward wind-passing sound when one sits down. One can thank one’s post-Christmas thighs.

Then there’s the getting out. Oh, if I had a penny for every time I stayed in the steam room longer than intended. Why? Because somebody just entered, and if I leave now, they’ll think I’m leaving because of them. How ridiculous. How British.

Better still, I recall a time when a woman cornered me at 10pm and started telling me about this terrifying virus that ate away at the eyes. “Don’t wear contact lenses in the pool,” she kindly, if not a little too familiarly, advised me. If you would just let me leave, madam, I would run away, remove my lenses and jump off the planet.

Ho-hum. The jacuzzi will provide some reprieve. Oh wait, no, of course, it’s overcrowded and you all have to endure each other’s awkward stares as you telepathically decide whose turn it is to turn on the bubbles again.

A new me?

Of course, I don’t begrudge any of these people’s unremitting loveliness, their confidence in conversing with others, or even their Instagrammable figures. They make the posh gym the place it is. I only lament my own awkwardness. Let this be a lesson to you all: if you are joining a gym this January, have a good word with yourself in the mirror, and remind yourself that nobody cares if you leave the steam room.

P.S. You’re probably wondering what this post has to do with copywriting services. Nothing whatsoever. I just needed to rant.

Wishing you all a prosperous, healthy, and awkwardness-free 2019.

If only...
Katie Lingo
by Katie Lingo
12th January 2019