Peter Sherwood discusses pain, gain and the insane

While admitting he’s a gym rat, Peter Sherwood discusses pain, gain and the insane.

The fitness treadmill is a metaphor for life: desperate forward movement, but really going nowhere. We imagine we’re making progress on a dumb machine that clearly represents the rat race. But that being said, like many in DB, I’m a total gym rat. I’m hooked so bad that I often find myself performing perilous contortions on some implausible contraption before I’m even aware I’m in the fitness room – itself a term that often belies the state of play.

In health centres the world over, people shamble around, like the homeless in a shopping mall, imagining they’re accumulating muscle tone and aerobic health by osmosis. It puts me in mind of sauna freaks, who believe boiling yourself the shade of raw pork substitutes for a vigorous clash with a StairMaster.

Going to the gym can be an equally delusional activity for a certain type of high-end punter. I refer to my gym in a posh part of Hong Kong Island surrounded by the planet’s priciest real estate and home to folk for whom the cost of a designer trainer looks as cheap as my mini-bus fare to get there. Their objective is anything but exercise. They get a workout without the work, while maintaining an exhausting conversation with an instructor of saintly patience born of an eye to the bottom line.

The definition of insanity

While my own exertions aren’t as exhausting as DB’s Lycra-clad hill runners and cyclists, I do get to believe I’m fitter than Federer. Pain and gain have become pain and pain, with muscles I never knew I had screaming surrender, and leading me to this existential question: If I didn’t know they existed, why did I bother discovering them? Worse, I’m hell bent on discovering them – painfully – six times a week, reinforcing Einstein’s definition of insanity: Doing something over and over and expecting a different result.

Then there’s stretching, a tedious activity I compare to lounging around sans vin rouge, while appearing laboriously engaged. It looks easy if pointless, and it at least puts me in a position to nod off if the mood takes me. But muscles extended beyond their habitual range will rebel – in the form of crippling agony – and demand a 24-hour break, after which aficionados insist the process be repeated. This not unnaturally has led me to inquire why I’m doing it at all. Back to Einstein – and me trying to prove him wrong.

We fitness fanatics insist that after a certain point ‘the body demands it’, which makes as much sense as needing to be thrown regularly under a tram; as if some alien force drags us daily into a state of hypnotic masochism. Anyway, if it’s an addiction, it’s an improvement on the Smartphone.

Peter Sherwood has lived in DB for 17 years. The former head of an international public relations firm, Peter is the author of 15 books and he has written around 400 satirical columns for the South China Morning Post.



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