Faced with being stuck in a windowless office of doom for an academic year, Bridget Fitzsimons decided to be proactive and join the gym

I am not known for my love of sport. When I was younger, I was that skinny uncoordinated girl that was always picked last for any sport. I avoided anything vaguely sporty like the plague and the feeling was mutual. To this day, I am afraid to go to sporting events for fear that the ball will hit me in the face.

Fast forward 15 years and I’m 21 and editing a student newspaper. The first thing I was told about when I started was the mythical Observer stone. Working at this paper is a notorious and insidious way of gaining weight. The stress and lack of healthy food available at 3am on a Saturday night equals bad skin, hair and weight gain. In a fit of vanity and rebellion, I decided that I would be better than this and would actually lose weight during my editorial year. Or at least keep it at a constant.

It’s a hard life working in an office among so many insufferably thin men who continue to eat complete crap while you look at a Mars Bar and gain half a stone. While I watched my deputy shovel utter shit into his mouth and remain rail-thin, I decided that affirmative action had to be taken.

I had joined the gym in first year in an uncharacteristic idealistic phase. Three years and two stone later, UCD Sports Centre was calling once more. I handed over my membership fee, put on my leggings and ran up the stairs.

A couple of things struck me as I walked into the gym. Why is it full of rail-thin people? Why is nobody sweating? WHY are there mirrors EVERYWHERE?! I tried to push these doubts to the back of my mind as I clumsily clambered onto the treadmill. I put on my specially crafted playlist on my iPod and began to feel the burn.

The first few minutes were fine. Running has always been fine for me because there’s no skill involved. It doesn’t matter if you’re hopelessly uncoordinated because, well, you just run. I cranked it up to nine kilometres per hour and while excellent 90s techno blasted into my ears I felt quite proud of myself. I was actually exercising and keeping up with the skinny, fit people around me! I felt validated!

Then came the pain. Being a fitness-phobe, I was not aware that you should stretch before exercise so that you don’t rip your muscles away from your bones. It also helps in that it warns your body that you’re going to partake in the first real exercise you’ve done in about ten years. After about two minutes of solid running, my body began protesting and started to collapse on itself. I’d heard somewhere before that you need to “feel the burn”. I was feeling some sort of ungodly inferno.

I hopped off the treadmill after ten minutes, feeling like an utter failure. The skinny people around me were still running and I was almost passed out on the ground, dripping with sweat. I had read in a magazine somewhere that you needed to exercise for at least half an hour before you burned any fat. I couldn’t imagine what state I’d be in after half an hour.

Next stop was the exercise bike on which I honestly managed to bruise my bum and further injure my legs. After 15 minutes of this, I had learned my lesson. Exercise is pure evil. It’s especially evil when you’re running for your life beside a mirror.

It’s bad enough being forced to exercise beside people who are more fit than you, but being forced to stare at yourself while doing so is sadistic. It’s the price to pay for being skinny, but is the pain worth it? I didn’t think so as I walked bow-legged back to the office. I had pains in muscles that I didn’t know existed.

The good news is that your resistance builds up. After about four really painful sessions in the gym, I began to get used to exercising. It’s a tough road, but getting somewhere vaguely closer to fitness feels like something of an achievement.