I’ve already written about the some of the startling findings at my fancy gym, but I’ve never told you about what it’s like to go there. To be a mere human, attempting fitness alongside these tall, tanned, muscular Dutchies, is a lesson in humility.

I should have known that the gym would be a little more hardcore than I was able for. I mean, these Dutch cycle in the rain. Voluntarily. From what I hear, they give birth whilst actually flipping pancakes. They just seem to be made of sterner stuff than I am. More grit or something. Maybe it’s because they are powered by stroopwafels*.

Body issues aside, myself and another expat mum had this personal trainer in the beginning. He helped us undo years of body neglect. He was low key and calm. He listened to our godawful Dutch, and tried not to judge us when we bailed after one attempt at an exercise.

He was a really nice guy.

Apart from his lack of undercrackers.

That was a bit disturbing.

One day he was demonstrating how to tilt our hips forward, to stop our backs hurting. He repeatedly thrust up and down to get his point across. Unfortunately, he was kneeling in front of my head at the time of demonstration. His junk was in danger of leaping through his leggings and slapping me across the face.

I put it down to sheer Dutch confidence. They are very body self assure and personal space is non existent.

A few months in, we were feeling fitter and more confident. Quite frankly I was getting a bit cocky. I decided to give some of the scheduled classes a go. My friend declined….very wisely, as I was to find out.

I chose the aerobic class. I should have red flagged it when I saw WHO was participating.

They all clutched those protein-shake-holder things and their gym outfits looked styled. They were colour coordinated. No knickers on view. Fancy sports bras, with superfluous extra straps, that make an interesting fan shape. They were perky. Tanned. I’d go so far as to say they were chiselled. Not a sliver of chub. AND their socks matched.

Not to give up at the door, I sucked in and followed the music. The room was mirrored on 3 sides. There were flashing lights. The BPM gave me an instant headache. The testosterone in the air made me reel.

I should have turned and fled, I started to … but then I saw the instructor. He made me chortle. Captain Flex wore a wireless microphone headset. He was gelled into place. He sported a stripy ensemble with a mankini thing over it.

No one was laughing. This was apparently normal.

I soon stopped sniggering. The warm up was brutal.

Something popped in my knee and I winded myself. I somehow kneed myself in my own stomach.

It was a savage form of humiliation.

The shaming was worse because everywhere I looked, I could see my mismatched-self reflected. I had to watch my chubby body, jiggling out of control, frantically trying to keep up with the pace. I was the workout imposter.

The others didn’t sweat, they sparkled and glowed.

As a collective they started racing in circles round the room. I literally couldn’t run that fast. I was sweating profusely and felt sick. At one point I actually fell down and skidded across the floor. I limped to the back of the room. The doorway of escape was blocked by the leathered sprinters.

The instructor bounced off the stage and shimmied over to check me out. I guess he might have been concerned I was about to keel over. I had no idea what he was asking me but when I replied in English, he slapped me on the back shouted through his headset,


He proceeded to make me sprint up and down …. whilst running alongside me.

We stopped and did more dramatic jumping. He kept time for me,

“1 – 2 – 3 – 4 …..Come on English….. KEEP UUUUUUUUUP”.

He was loving my pain. It meant it was working apparently. I tried to get him to go away and shush, but he would not leave me alone. I was his project. He shouted things like,

“Giving up is not an option” and, (my personal favourite), he actually sang “Burn baby burn….”, during a particularly agonizing pose.

The class went on for another 45 minutes of horror and hell.

During the side-crunch-levitation-handstands or whateverthefuck they were doing, I made like the gingerbread man and legged it. I was foaming at the mouth, soaked in sweat and genuinely terrified he’d catch me and drag me back in for more.

Next time I’m going to try the over 60s yoga class. That has to be easier, right?


*A stroopwafel is a Dutch caramel wafer that makes even the rainiest of days fabulous, when paired with a cuppa.


I was born in Ireland, grew up in England and met my Cornish husband in Catalonia. We lived in the Netherlands with our two differently wired kids before all moving to Yorkshire. I spend my days parenting, writing and being amazed at all that Sheffield has to offer.

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