Tag Archives: winter

How to derail a German fitness class

Now that temperatures have dropped to around zero in Berlin, I foresee a lot more sitting happening in the months to come. With my arse already big enough, I decided it would be a good idea to join a gym. As luck would have it, FitX have just opened a new fitness studio fifteen minutes from where I live. At €20 a month, with a free backpack, towel and snazzy drinks bottle thrown in, the decision to join practically made itself.

Free stuff! Yay!

This was a couple of months ago and, believe it or not, I have actually been going – two or three times a week, no less. (Oh please, no need for applause – you’ll make me blush…) While I am, obviously, your perfectly normal gym-goer, other people’s behaviour has me slightly confused.

  1. Why do (mainly) women go to the gym to hog a machine and then spend their time doing nothing but looking at their mobile phones?
  2. Why do (mainly) women friends go to the gym to hog two or more machines and then sit there chatting to each other like they’re in a coffee shop?
  3. Why do men sound like a rhinoceros having an orgasm when they lift weights or do a few sit-ups?
  4. Why would any woman show up for a work-out in a skirt and ankle boots?

The mind boggles.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d try one of the classes FitX offers, figuring it would be good for both my German and my gelatinous bits. Zwei Fliegen mit einer Klappe schlagen, as it were. Naturally, I didn’t want to overdo it – this would be my first exercise class since leaving Latvia – so I chose X-Life which, judging by the video, seemed to be largely aimed at pensioners. Perfect.

I walked into the studio, where around six or seven mainly older, matronly types were warming up. Thanks to my astute observational skills, I noticed that they all had resistance bands (I had to google what they’re called in English) and stick thingies (enough googling – you know what I mean) beside them. I sauntered nonchalantly over to the equipment area and picked up one of each. Clearly, I had this fitness thing down.

I did notice that the other ladies’ sticks had knobby bits on the ends and mine didn’t, but the woman next to me had the same one I did, so I figured it would be fine. The trainer arrived; she had a butt you could bounce coins off so I supposed I was in safe hands.

We ambled our way through the warm-up exercises, puffed our way through some resistance band training and swung our sticks around with gay abandon. (Most people don’t know this but I was a majorette in my youth so I have plenty of experience’ swinging a stick around – I even did it in the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade once. Unfortunately, I dropped it due to nerves and, to this day, can still hear the hooting cries of “yeh dropped yer baton, missus!”  ringing in my ears.)

Image result for st patricks day majorette
That’s me on the right. Not really. (Image taken from The Doyle Collection.)

Back in the present day, I found myself in a pair-work exercise with the rather substantial lady next to me. We’d crossed our resistance bands and were stretching them as best we could. My partner seemed to have more upper-body strength than I did, however, and almost rendered me airborne several times.

Ahh, exercise over. Back to the safety of solo stick exercises. Up on the stage, the trainer held her stick out in front of her, holding it at both ends, and proceeded to bend it into an U shape. I watched as the septuagenarians in front of me followed suit and tried to do the same. Huh, my stick wouldn’t bend. I glanced over at my fiendishly strong partner and she seemed to be having the same problem I was. Much grunting and grimacing ensued but the damned things wouldn’t give an inch.

We must have been making a bit of a ruckus as the trainer suddenly noticed us, red-faced and sweating, down the back of the room. She looked slightly incredulous for a second then burst out laughing into her microphone.

“Oh my God! Ha ha ha! It won’t work with those ones! Oh God! Ha ha ha! You must have been wondering how everyone else was so much stronger than you were! Ha ha ha!!” She was almost doubled over at this stage.

That was when I realised that my hapless partner and I were trying to bend the metal sticks you put weights on while everyone else had flexible sticks made of foam – with the telltale knobby bits on the ends. There was nothing else to do but join the trainer in her convulsions of laughter.

“I’m Uri Geller!” I sang out as I ran over to pick up the correct sticks for me and my partner. We did our best to continue with the rest of the class but every time we caught each other’s eye or the trainer looked at us, it was game over and all three of us dissolved into fits of uncontrollable giggles.

So, what started out as a butt-improvement exercise ended up with me being the butt of the joke.

You really can’t take me anywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Acting German

Having been told, on more than one occasion, that I have a flair for the dramatic – it wasn’t meant as a compliment – this week, I decided to put this theory to the test and try out “German with Theatre Games”.

The lesson was to take place at 77 Kastanienallee, which is right at the opposite end of the city. I left myself plenty of time (as usual), found 75, walked past 77, which is a cinema, and hit 79. Huh. Guess it must be down that dark alley somewhere. So I trotted through the darkness until I came to a courtyard. Nope, nothing to see here. So I headed through the second dark alley until I came to the second dark courtyard.

Bingo.
Bingo.

I followed the signs to the third floor and pushed at the door. Locked. I had managed to arrive before the teacher even got there. I stood for a couple of minutes admiring what I hoped was my artistically mysterious, all-black clothing, shoving at the door every now and then.

Knock, knock...
Knock, knock…

The teacher showed up right on time, but I wasn’t allowed in until I had removed my boots. Crap. This was about the time “artistically mysterious” went awry.

Don't you judge me - it's winter...
Don’t you judge me – it’s winter…

When I walked in, Traudl the Teacher had also removed her socks. Great. A hippy. And I hate feet. Still, I tried to make polite conversation for a few minutes until, finally, Claudio showed up. With two people, we could get started. The theme of the “lesson” was drinks and restaurants, something I felt I could get on board with.

But first, we had to move “freestyle” around the room to music, which, as I’m sure you can imagine, is one of my all-time favourite activities…

I chose to shuffle around glaring accusingly at my non-mysterious pink socks. As the room was roughly the same temperature as the streets (0 Celsius), this activity was probably more for survival purposes than anything else.

Next Traudl put a “Ja” card in one corner, and a “NEIN” card in another. We had to ask each other questions to get to know each other a bit.

Me: Können sie singen? (Can you sing?) 

Traudl: No, no, there’s no “sie” in this space, only “du”. (The informal “you” in German.)

Me: OK, but I’m asking two of you so then it would be the plural, “ihr”. “Du” doesn’t make any sense. 

Traudl: Please use “du” in this space. 

Me: Mutter… 

We threw a massive workout ball around for a bit with me trying not to aim for Traudl’s head. Two more girls had shown up in the meantime.

Run free...
Run free…

Next up was a “game” where we had to pretend to be something else. Traudl showed off her acting skills by pretending to be a worm and lying on the floor, wriggling. I wondered why she wasn’t in Hollywood. Claudio ran over and pretended to be a bird and another girl became a tree. The bird took the worm and it was game over. Seemingly we were practising our article forms. This continued for some time and, while I’m not sure it helped my articles much, I’m pretty sure I could be a convincing worm now…

Traudl gathered us all into a circle and it was time to shout, “JA, NEIN AND DOCH”, with various hand gestures,  at each other. After a while, these three words were replaced with DIE heiße Schokolade, DER frischgepresste Orangensaft, and DAS alkoholfreie Getränk. The shouting and gesturing continued for a further ten minutes or so. Admittedly, I’ll never forget the articles that go with these drinks, but can this really be counted as learning the language in any sort of meaningful way?

After what seemed like an eternity, we were put into groups of three (two more people had shown up 30 and 40 minutes late) and instructed to write a drinks menu. After a while, Traudl bare-footedly bounced over to inspect ours.

Traudl: But wait, what’s this? 

Me: Weißbier.

Traudl: Oh no, that’s not a thing. You mean light beer. 

Me: No. I don’t. 

Traudl: (Scribbling out my word) 

Me: No, obviously you have light beer and dark beer but Weißbier is something different. 

Traudl: No, no, you mean light beer. 

Me: Sure. And “DU” can kiss my white Irish Arsch.

It wasn’t like I needed much convincing at this point, but seriously, what can I possibly learn from a GERMAN who knows nothing about BEER? She’d also never heard of Hoegaarden.

Yes, that also exists, you numpty.
Oh look! Things you’ve never heard of DO exist…

Finally, we had to act out a couple of “ordering in a restaurant” scenes, which luckily, we all knew how to do anyway as we’d had zero input in this respect in the preceding 75 minutes.

Seemingly it had taken Traudel – professional actress and German teacher – three years to “perfect” this teaching technique. I’m pretty sure I could have beaten her by 2 years, 364 days and 23.5 hours. She even made two spelling mistakes AND an article mistake in the “useful language” .pdf she posted the next day.

Clearly, I would not recommend “German with Theatre Games”, unless maybe you have a foot fetish. However, Hollywood, you there? If you’re ever looking for a convincing worm, I’ve got just the woman…