I first joined a gym in 2000, when I worked in Fleet Street in London. It was a Fitness First, with trademark anodyne slogans, apparently intended to inspire, stenciled on the lime green walls (so bland were they, I can't remember them now, but they would have been of the "power comes from within" variety). Since then I've been a member of a few.
Each gym is astonishingly similar to the next: brightly lit, garishly painted, and always pumping with execrable music (today, in Seasons Fitness in the Citibank Tower in Hong Kong: Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart to a pounding disco beat, and more Black Eyed Peas than anyone could possibly deserve: thus cementing my firm belief that My Humps is one of the single most vacuous, idly offensive, and stupid records ever made. "My lovely lady lumps!"). Generally speaking, though, and despite the urban myths, even the most expensive gyms tend not to be places where people show off. Absurdly, my current gym has a "Women only" section which is always empty. That's because everyone is studiously minding their own business and no one cares if you're sweating and grunting because they are too.
I've had a personal trainer, a Chinese guy called Peter, for the last few months. We've rarely done the same exercise twice and I often laugh out loud during our sessions because I'm enjoying it so much, despite the fact that he works me so hard. In a complete reversal of fortune from my 20s and early 30s, I need to exercise and get miserable if I don't. I'm always complaining about the music, though, to no avail - whether it's writing "No more Black Eyed Peas Please!" on the feedback form at Seasons Fitness yesterday, or suggesting to a blank-eyed creature, who was languidly arranged behind the counter and apparently in charge at Red gym in SoHo, that perhaps the self-indulgent faux-suicidal howlings of American goth rockers Evanescence might not be conducive to positive thinking, gym-style.