There’s only one place that can instil as much rage within me as a packed tube carriage when I’m running late. And that’s a gym changing room. They throw up all of the difficulties we face as rush-hour commuters, with the added social complexity of everyone you encounter being partially undressed.
Some gyms (1Rebel, Boom Cycle, FitMiBody, Tempo Pilates) have got it right. Even though they might only have a modest space, it’s a space that’s big enough for the number of people who might be in their studios at any one time. And they’ve thought about the experience of someone who might want to leave the gym post-workout, looking like a normal person and not wet-haired, furious harrassment personified.
These gyms cater for the basics and then some. I’m not saying a chilled towel fridge is a necessity (oh how my non-London bumpkin friends exploded with jibes when exclaimed what a nice touch this was), but shower products, hell even a shower curtain, a hairdryer, a mirror and some straighteners are the sort of standard you’d expect when coughing up what can reach twenty quid a class.
And then there are some gyms (who shall remain nameless) who’ve clearly decided that as long as they can pack the people into the studio, then f–k ’em when it comes to rejoining humanity after their sweatfest. They’ve given no regard for how many people might be in their studios at any one time, which is frankly insulting to customers.
These changing rooms are what it must have been like when we were primordial soup. Sliding over other wobbly, pale shapes. Trying to avoid being touched by a stranger’s dangling nipple while you angrily roll your knickers up your clammy thighs because there isn’t enough room to contort a towel around your leg to dry it.
London is full. Too full. You can’t move in traffic, you can’t get on trains, and you can’t get a table at a restaurant. But for the average gym changing room to deny me the right to pull up my pants, without flashing my vajayjay to the woman scrabbling round in the locker between my legs? Well it really pisses me off.
A crap changing room takes every endorphine that’s frolicked happily out of my synapses during my workout, and bludgeons them all to death with frightening efficiency.
But if it’s not just the changing rooms to blame, it’s unfortunately sometimes the selfish people in them. A early morning class before work is basically like sharing a bathroom with 30 other people. And we wonder why its such a frustrating experience! Many a time I’ve had my creme blusher dribble down my face the moment I’ve dabbed it on, caused by the woman hunched in the awkward corner next to me, trying to blow-dry her fringe, blindly melting the side of my head as she does so.
So here’s my message to the girl leaning up against the beauty bar in front of the only mirror, replying to her group chat… to the girl stretching in front of the lockers, wearing literally nothing but one sock, because her physio told her not to stretch her muscles cold…. and to the girl yelling across to the vicinity about a client’s campaign (WHY are they always in advertising?!) please can you stop for one goddamn second, and take stock of the seething faces of those around you. Then quickly, quietly put your clothes on, dry your hair, and go DO. THIS. SHIT. OUTSIDE.
And to the girl who manages to exit the showers looking ethereal, takes a mere 10 seconds in the mirror to dab on a little moisturiser, and whose hair dries naturally into a style that birds won’t try and nest in… we’re all sneaking glances at you as we fight with our towels, our bags and our dignity. And I’m really sorry to say this, but we’re all secretly willing for you to have forgotten your knickers.
Each of us can be the difference between a crap changing room, and a truly horrendous changing room experience, if we’re just a little more self-aware, and a little more thoughtful, and a little less selfish. And if you own a gym, and your changing rooms are as small as the towels you make us pay a quid for – at least have the decency not to schedule the classes in every studio to end at the same goddamn time.