Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Fallen

I am indebted to the famous South African artist and writer, Anne Maggs, for alerting me to The Fallen.
Image credit

In my ignorance I assumed there were only two types of gym neophytes to consider: Hatchlings, who arrive in spring, and Resolutionites, who arrive in the first week of January.

Who knew that there is a whole sub species who start gym in April? And, although we refer to this season as autumn here, I think the word fall is appropriate.

I give you The Fallen.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

#Gymlife - The Pirate

For the longest time Walter assumed The Pirate only had one eye. Walter is visual so this would make sense to him, but actually he sounds like Johnny Depp's character in The Pirates of the Caribbean.
Image credit

He is also bald by choice, so I guess he doesn't really bear any resemblance to the standard image of a pirate at all. Which makes perfect sense to me.

I have a love/hate relationship with The Pirate, he's an extrovert of note and needs to talk to someone all the time, looking saddest when he's all alone on the upright cycles. The first time I 'met' him he simply sat down on the Reclinocyle* next to me and started interrogating me.
This was disturbing for a few reasons but mainly because I couldn't understand why. I was tweeting, listening to music and avoiding making eye contact with anyone. Doesn't that just scream "Leave me alone"?  My main reason for going to gym at the time was to manage my stress levels and give my brain some time to switch off, I absolutely did not want to talk to anyone. I was frosty and aloof. He persisted.
He's generous with information and not at all put off by my reluctance to engage. There are no awkward silences because he simply volunteers advice (you should run, it's much better for raising your heart rate) until I could scream.
I know all about The Pirate's life, and if I get to gym a little late he makes sure I have a full update whether I want it or not.
He is a relentless investigator but I'm a veteran of avoidance so he has minimal information on me (I think)
He's also an unapologetic gossip who volunteers (sometimes surprising) background information on all the regulars. I guess he's pumped them for information too.
I haven't asked him about Psycho Bob, it would disturb him to hear that I name the regulars and we haven't all been in the same place at the same time so that I can ask (nonchalantly) "What's his story?"
I miss Psycho Bob. Sigh.

*There's a #gymlife glossary here

Friday, January 17, 2014

#Gymlife - Meet Psycho Bob

Psycho Bob is definitely my favourite GymPerson. With his neon-striped shirts and wild hair he was the first one to grab my imagination; he snuck up behind me one day when I wasn't paying attention, causing my heart rate to rise to dangerous levels for A Person Of Advanced Age.
I realised later that when I saw him I heard the shower scene sounds (ri-ri-ri) from the movie Psycho in my head. Hence his name.

I'd guess he's in his late fifties (although I'm notoriously bad at age-guessing) and bears more than a passing physical resemblance to Judge Albie Sachs. He uses all the equipment like a pro, moving from the treadmill to the upright bike to the weights with ease.
I suspect he lives in the airconditioning ducts at the gym, since I've never actually seen him enter or leave. In spite of his brightly-coloured tops he is a master of camouflage and has been known to materialise at the oddest moments, giving other regulars quite a start.
Note for newbies: It's best to give way to Psycho Bob.
Unrelated - he has a crush on Skinny Model, keeping a close eye on her and making sure she never has to wait to use any of the equipment.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


The thing about gym is that it's incredibly boring. Really, it's totally unappealing on every level. Until you understand the equipment and get to know the characters you see on a daily basis. The #Gymlife blog posts will help you navigate this strange environment by outlining some basic rules and introducing some of the characters from my own gym. You're welcome.

Reclinocyle Mk1.  Image credit

I go to gym really early in the mornings; I absolutely wouldn't go at all if I could sleep, but I'm cursed with instant-alertness at 4am. It's deeply annoying to have an energy rush when the rest of the house is fast asleep and they tend to get tetchy if I start rattling pots and pans before 6am. So I put the energy to good use by going to gym. Walter says I wake him but my ninja skills are such that I can get dressed entirely in the dark.    

Gympeople seem to be entirely unaware of their strange behaviour. They race to get to the gym so that they can park right outside the entrance. Think about that for a moment. For people who are determined to gain maximum exercise value from their gym time they seem remarkably ignorant of the carb-burning calorific value of walking a few extra metres. Rule No 1: Take the furthest parking, don't upset the pecking order before you even get into the gym.

Once inside it's imperative you use exactly the same piece of equipment each time. Each Gymperson has their own designated treadmill or swimming lane (or reclinocyle in my case) and I'm convinced that part of the discomfort of hatchling and resolutionite season arises from the newbies' lack of knowledge about which piece of equipment they can use. Rule No 2: Don't just leap onto the first available treadmill. Choose the one furthest from the entrance (see benefits of walking above) This approach also allows you to figure out how to use the equipment without making a complete fool of yourself / causing permanent injury.

I have managed to secure my reclinocycle by retaining the services of the Guardians. They are unreliable, however, so be sure to negotiate a good rate.

Guardian (n): 2nd row cyclists (on the upright stationary bicycles) whose job it is to guard equipment for the sole use of their rightful owner/s.
Hatchling (n): a gym neophyte; appears in spring with the intention of losing their winter fat layer and earning a beach-ready body in time for the summer holidays. 
Reclinocycle (n): a stationary bicycle that fools your body into thinking it's actually exercising, freeing your hands to (i) practise air-conducting (ii) hold a book or (iii) tweet on your mobile phone.
Resolutionite (n): emerges in the first weeks of January to do exercise as penance for festive over-indulgence.

Friday, June 7, 2013

All burned out and nowhere to go

Midnight multitasking.

Looking through my (very old) high school reports there's a common theme running through all the comments: Karen has so much potential, it's a pity she wastes it.
My coach* has a theory that these comments may have contributed to my workaholism and subsequent burnout. With the underlying message that the child is lazy and couldn't be bothered to work underachievers may feel guilty about their perceived poor work ethic and spend the rest of their lives trying to prove they can work as hard as anyone else.
Underachievers and workaholics are not the only people at risk; Dr Sherrie Bourg Carter has devoted an entire book to helping superachievers avoid burnout.
"In this authoritative, thoroughly researched volume, psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter draws on more than 15 years experience and expertise to explore the unique challenges high-achieving women face and provides helpful insights and practical ways to avoid burnout, enjoy healthy fulfilling lives, and find the perfect work/life balance."
Disclaimer - I haven't read the book, nor do I qualify as a superachiever, so I'm not in a position to comment. I have serious doubts about anyone finding the perfect work/life balance though.
Burnout is not new, but it is a growing problem worldwide, with health professionals leading the way. The casualties are also getting younger as Larissa Faw wrote in her 2011 Forbes piece Why Millennial Women Are Burning Out At Work By 30
I suspect our hyper-connected lifestyle isn't helping - there is no clear distinction between work time and down time anymore. Increasing work loads and expectations you will be available all the time mean there is less and less time for work-unrelated activities. People feel guilty about saying no and have problems switching off from work even when they are away on holiday.

The Mayo Clinic has a piece on how to spot job burn out and the Helpguide's recovery strategy gives good advice on what you should do to recover.
Are you suffering from burnout? Let me know what your recovery strategies are, I'm shamelessly stealing all good suggestions.

*I know, right? But in this instance an unrelated professional has provided me with a lot of help.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Taking a sabbatical

The Pink Drinks girls had widely varying responses to my announcement that I would be 'taking a sabbatical'
Gorgeous Genius blinked at me over her Manhattan and announced it was time for an intervention "Karen buys and sells companies, she doesn't disappear into Buddhist retreats. Clearly she's had a nervous breakdown"
The Border Collie disagreed "Nonsense. They aren't paying private school fees any longer" and my Grandmother (after greeting me with a "You look too dreadful, you need a rest") drained her Tequila sunrise and said "I think it's a fabulous idea. We can walk again"

It had been an exceptionally difficult day at the office, I realised I hadn't seen my best friend in two years and I had a meltdown trying to figure out if I had the energy to have dinner with other friends over the weekend.
I think the team was trying to tell me something...

Sabbatical or a sabbatical (from Latin sabbaticus, from Greek sabbatikos, from Hebrew shabbat, i.e., Sabbath, literally a "ceasing") is a rest from work, or a break, often lasting from two months to a year. The concept of sabbatical has a source in shmita, described several places in the Bible (Leviticus 25, for example, where there is a commandment to desist from working the fields in the seventh year). In the strict sense, therefore, a sabbatical lasts a year. (Wikipedia)

I don't have a year, in fact I consider myself extremely fortunate to be able to take a month off, and the first lesson will be the hardest; to leave the work alone.
I failed miserably on the first day, fielding calls and answering emails. It's day two and I've answered emails so I've scaled down my objectives to: Do not answer the phone. Let's see  how it goes.