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Danny Wallace is a Man

I am up too early in a foreign hotel and I don’t have anything to do until breakfast. I make a decision I do not normally make in hotels, or indeed anywhere else.

I decide to make use of the gym.

I don’t know why I decide to do this. Maybe it’s because I had a green smoothie yesterday and I feel like I should build on that good work. One green smoothie plus 20 minutes in a hotel gym – that’s like something from the cover of a men’s magazine. There’d be a picture of Abs from 5ive on the front, holding a smoothie and pulling up his T-shirt to show his abs. I’ve always admired Abs from 5ive. It’s a bold move to base your entire personality around a muscle group. I hope, as he approaches middle age, Abs from 5ive continues his punishing fitness regimes, if only so he doesn’t have to change his business cards to say Flabs.

Downstairs, I push open the gym doors to find it empty. This is a wonderful surprise. Now I can exercise without feeling judged in what is not really my natural environment. I feel healthier even just being here. Hey – maybe I’m done here!

But no, I think. I should probably use one of the machines.

I head for the bikes. I’m familiar with these. You never forget how to use one. It’s like riding a bike.

I choose the one on the left, and This is great! I think, as I pedal, feeling full of energy and moving very gracefully. I am being active!

A minute passes and it’s getting quite boring.

When is ‘the Zone’ supposed to kick in? People talk about getting into ‘the Zone’ when they’re running or whatnot. It’s the bit where they say your body takes over and you start sweating endorphins. Those people are lunatics.

I pass the two-minute mark.

This is so easy, I think. Maybe I’m always in the Zone.

I nudge the difficulty level up a notch or five. And then I think, Come on, test me, bike! and I make it even harder.

That’s more like it, I think, now really having to work. Yeah! I’m a man! I’ll probably have pancakes after this and nothing bad will happen!

And then, from behind me, I hear the gym doors open.

Another man clears his throat.

Oh, great. Another man.

I stare straight ahead of me, maintaining my pace, the whirr of the bike dominating the room. I sound magnificent. This must be quite intimidating.

But fair play to him – he’s putting on a brave face, because he does the worst thing possible and sits down on the bike right next to mine.

What? I would never do that. The gym is empty. Look how close he is! If I walked in and the gym was empty I’d go on the jogging machine or lift some small weights or pretend to do my laces up until the other guy had finished his bike ride. I wouldn’t join him.

Maintain your pace, I think, but my legs are starting to hurt.

He begins to pedal. He’s already bleeping the button until he’s at a difficulty setting uncomfortably close to mine.

I can’t bleep my buttons now because it’ll look like I’m copying him, or trying to compete, or like I don’t know what I’m doing. But this setting is too high to maintain!

Where’s the Zone? I think. When is the ZONE?

Four minutes 19 seconds and I’m zone-free. I’m zoneless. Unless you mean my discomfort zone.

“My setting’s too high!” I want to shout. I could always just pretend I’m finished. He doesn’t know I’ve only been going for four minutes and 19 seconds. The only way he could know that is if he looked at the giant red numbers on the screen slightly to his left, which is almost the only thing he can see.

Six minutes and I’m starting to sweat. That smoothie seems to have done nothing for my fitness. The man bleeps his button and now he’s at the exact same level as me. This is a direct challenge to my masculinity. If I stop or slow down now, he has won. But good Lord – what’s a reasonable amount of time to aim for at this too-high setting? What would Abs from 5ive do? Well, he’d Get On Up, wouldn’t he, and leave the gym? Hang on – that was Blue. No, Blue was All Rise, wasn’t it? Well, anyway, I decide, I’ve just got to keep on moving.

Seven minutes now. Eight. The man is getting serious and leans forward on to his handlebars. I wish I was doing that, but now I can’t.

And then – the greatest thing happens. A bell sounds and a light flashes. A fire alarm! A fire alarm at the hotel! The only time this has ever been good news! I could cry!

“Typical!” I say, jumping off the bike. I can’t feel my legs. I shake my head, pretending to be weary of this kind of thing happening again at my very regular trips to hotel gyms.

“It’s just a test,” says the man, not slowing. “There are posters.”

“Well,” I say, backing slowly away. “I’m out of the Zone now.”

Anyway, to cut a long story short, the pancakes were delicious.

Try not to lose your head

Bunsen Burners Won't Be Needed

Steve Ascough was on his way home from Stuttgart the other day, and was delighted to see that the coach company he was using had finally decided to warn customers not to stand up in case their heads fall off.

Come on Britain – it’s time we woke up to this!

A history lesson you’ll eat up


I enjoy the Pez sweet-delivery system and, like you, consider it the most efficient system on the market. But as I strolled through a shop recently, even I had to question the need for a ‘Pez Education Series’ featuring Presidents Of The United States 1881-1910.