Tag Archives: women

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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Groper on the train

You really do see allsorts on the public transport here in Berlin – the teeth suckers, the foghorn nose-blowers, the people who talk to themselves, the people who sing to themselves, the people who pee into a bottle when the train stops for no apparent reason, and the people you’re convinced you can still smell in your clothes and hair a week later. All of this I can cope with but, this week, I had the misfortune of bumping into the lowest of the low – the groper.

My little train station
My little train station

I was on my way to my afternoon lesson with my Costa Rican student, where I usually spend the guts of 90 minutes saying, “WHAT?” It was just after 1pm and a beautiful, sunny day. I had achieved the most coveted of all train manoeuvres and bagged four seats to myself. After a couple of stations, however, a man got on and sat next to me.

Apart from a quick “tsk” of annoyance that he had chosen to sit next to me in a half-empty carriage, I didn’t pay him any attention. He did the typical “man thing” of spreading his legs as wide as they could possibly go and placing his hands on his knees. Scheiße, his hand was brushing my knee.

I moved over a bit, but I could still feel his hand, so I moved over even further. I ventured a look at him in the glass panel in front of me and saw that his face was glistening with sweat. Willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that he was just an inconsiderate space-invader, I squashed myself up against the window. Nope, I could still feel his hand. This definitely wasn’t right. I looked down and saw that he had extended two fingers and was touching my knee with them.

My poor violated knees.
My poor violated knees.

After a very brief, incredulous moment during which I processed that this was actually happening to me in broad daylight, I lost it.

“WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING, YOU FUCKING WEIRDO?! GET YOUR FUCKING HAND OFF ME!”

Yes, there was a lot of swearing and I spoke roared in English but, really, it was simply a knee-jerk (pardon the pun) reaction. I was just happy to get words out in any language. He got up quickly and walked to the opposite end of the carriage, getting off at the next station.

There is no handbook to tell you what to do in situations like this. Should I run after him? What then? Grab him? Hit him? Pin him down and get someone to call the police? But what if he turns violent? Maybe he has a knife? What if he gets his willy out?

NEIN to getting willies out on public transport.
NEIN to getting willies out on public transport.

The only other time something like this happened to me was while I was living in Lyon. That time, I ended up with a knife held to my throat for telling a handsy Algerian something rather rude he could do to his mother’s posterior. I wasn’t keen on repeating the experience.

And so I did nothing. Yes, I got him away from me but I probably only drove him onto another train where he’d pull the same act on some other unsuspecting woman. I feel useless. I’m frustrated that I was put in this position and that I did nothing to stop him from doing the same thing in the future.

When I saw this man on Thursday afternoon on the S25, he was wearing blue jeans and a navy jacket. He has dark slicked down hair and wide, high cheekbones. I only saw him in the glass reflection so I can’t give a better description than that, unfortunately. However, someone out there knows who this sweaty pervert is and I would kindly ask you to get him some help before he runs into me again.

The saddest thing is that this seems to be so common. Nobody was particularly surprised or outraged that I was groped. I would go so far as to say that it’s almost expected that this will happen to a woman at some point in her life; I have very few friends that haven’t had something similar happen to them. Do men ever have to deal with this crap? I’m really interested to find out.

If nothing else, at least I’ve added one more word to my ever-expanding German vocabulary – ein Grabscher, a groper. Pretty appropriate, wouldn’t you say? I just hope I don’t have cause to use it again.