As a writer, most of your day will be spent hunched over your keyboard, peering from an unhealthily close distance at your screen. Your sustenance will be flagons of coffee in the morning, and gallons of tea in the afternoon. Your lower legs will be knotted around each other in either terror or excitement, depending on how the Muse is behaving today, with your entire body-weight resting in effect on one butt-cheek and one big toe. This will become apparent only when you attempt to stand, when you will realize that all feeling has departed from said toe, possibly never to return, and that the butt-cheek is now busy informing you by every means it can that you need a hip replacement. Your fingers will be bitten; your eyes will be scrunched. Your lower lip will be chewed like a dog-toy, and possibly your upper lip as well.
As the ideal antidote to all of this, you may wish to take yourself down to the gym: unbend, de-knot, stand tall and breathe from the diaphragm. Here is a writerly guide to some of the items of equipment you will encounter if you do.
This is an excellent machine to start with, especially for a writer. The contradiction of trying to pull the handles back toward you whilst your feet advance on an endless trek to nowhere is a perfect metaphor for the writer’s life. It comes complete with graphics of a pounding heart to monitor how close your lifestyle choices have brought you to cardiac wipe-out, and on the more advanced models a TV screen where (since the cat chewed through your ear-buds) you can watch in eerie silence the world you will never be part of again.
Do you remember the pose in which the exploded fossilized alien was discovered in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus? That’s the one you want to adopt here. It is an excellent research tool should you ever need to describe the torments of a sandwich trapped in a sandwich-maker.
The Pull-Down exercises the latissimus dorsi, the biceps, and a tiny muscle you never knew you had in your right index finger, which will suddenly start screaming like a bitch. It was a favourite with Torquemada.
The Standing Leg Curl
Speaking of Torquemada, you really should try this. It pretends it’s there to strengthen your hamstrings, whereas an acquaintance of mere seconds will be enough to convince you that its true purpose is to bring you to confess every deep-buried shameful secret of your inmost soul, and then to die.
Oh please. How graphic does a name have to be?
The Leg Raise Dip
Place your back against the big bit of padding, and let your arms rest on the two smaller pieces. Yes, what, indeed, are you supposed to do with your legs? If the oxymoron in its name isn’t enough to warn you off, the experience of once trying to raise your legs to your chest on this one, in defiance of all the laws of physics in the known universewill certainly do so instead.
This is neither hard enough nor heavy enough to be of any use in putting you out of your misery, no matter how much you beg.
The Ab-Crunch Bench
This is designed to reduce pressure, whilst you crunch, on the back and neck. But since it will already have caused you to push all the major organs out of your body, that’s not really going to be a concern for you, is it?
These are heavy. They have handles. They lend themselves to being swung at head height. Are you choreographing a murder mystery? Then their usefulness to you should be obvious.
The Preacher Bench
The reason the seasoned gym-goer sitting on this one appears to be judging you as you pass by is because of course they are. If they should begin to denounce you out loud, the proper course of action is to hide in the toilets until the gym closes, leave via the fire exit, and never return.
The Rowing Machine
Think of poor Douglas Adams. Don’t go near it.
This machine exercises the pectoralis major and the deltoids. If your burning ambition is to look as if you are wearing epaulettes even when naked, this is the one for you.
The Leg Abduction Machine
This one abducts your legs and refuses to release them. It opens you up as if you are a book, and your legs are the covers. It is recommended for writers of science fiction in particular, as the position it puts you in is exactly the one your character will be forced to adopt after they have been abducted by aliens: helplessly pinioned with legs akimbo, screaming for rescue. Again, an excellent research tool.
The Hammer Strength Machine
Would you rather be a hammer or a nail? This machine gives you the opportunity to experience the sensations endured by both, simultaneously.
The Stability Ball
It’s a ball. By no stretch of the imagination could it ever be described as stable. Don’t be surprised if this is the one you find yourself attempting to balance on, in those dreams where you are trapped in the gym butt naked, and being denounced by the guy on the preacher bench. Second cousin to –
The Wall Ball
This is the one for the end of your workout. Position this securely between your forehead and the wall, and you will be ready to start banging the former upon the latter. Three reps, of 20 concussions each, and don’t forget to stretch.