Small Talk

This week Paddy breaks the news to me that he has not read this blog in months because he never seems to get a name check. He feels I have been distracted from my boot camp blogs of old. In point of fact I feel obliged to remind him that we do not attend a boot camp – rather, we are veterans of Bristol/Whitehall BeMilitaryFit – and as BMF refuse to pay for endorsements, my distraction is understandable; I still have rent to pay.

Paddy has only just accepted me as a friend on Facebook and has never shared or ‘liked’ any of my previous blogs, so I find his neediness quite rich. I am also cynical that he only starts asking me about the blog after Favourite Daughter guests at a couple of BMF sessions over the holiday. All I am saying is that he wore his green BMF bib for the first time in weeks at these sessions (Green = fit) and made sure his guns were on show when usually he wears some sweaty old t shirt. He also seemed to target her boyfriend at his trial session by volunteering to be his boxing partner.

However, Paddy does remind me that Bristol BMF has been worth its weight in sweat to me this Summer. House-sitting near Clifton Downs has meant I have attended some day time sessions rather than just the Silly O’Clock morning sessions I get to attend in term time; I have not got any fitter through this attendance (Lee, our franchise owner/instructor/critical friend points this out to me on a regular basis by yelling, ‘that is NOT a press up!’ and, ‘get your bum down!’) but I am delighted to discover that when you do not have to rush off to take assembly or teach English to Year 10, you can potentially be invited for a coffee, a dog walk or can just loiter around generally and offer to help pack away the kit (who knew?).

Now all this friendly chat with new people has come as a surprise, for I have a reputation for chatting my own way through BMF sessions to the point that another member once complained about me (I was offended by this, but my son pointed out that I wouldn’t take too kindly if a student chatted through one of my English lessons). I was so quiet for a few weeks following this complaint that Lee kept checking in to see if I was ok/alive, and the complainant eventually morphed into Chatty Member of the Month to compensate for my silence, earning a BMF t shirt in the process.

Over the summer I have reflected on my ability to exercise at the speed of chat:

  • I look on chatting as multi-tasking. It is a bit like running a really slow marathon, for it means you are fitter than someone who completes the marathon in a shorter time; you have just demonstrated your ability to stay on your feet for longer. I sometimes surprise people when I enter a running event, for while I will happily natter through any training run, I can come across as shy on race day and then find I have nothing to distract me but the running – I may even pull a fast finish out of the bag just so that I can meet my friends on the finish line and tell them about my internal chat during the event. I passed my driving test back in the ’80’s using a similar strategy – I talked through every driving lesson, but had to concentrate fully during the test because I was too shy to speak to the examiner. My instructor was gob-struck when I passed first time.
  • For well over 10 years I have managed to get to the 6 am BMF classes and at these sessions – in addition to meeting the legend known as Paddy (who has attended BMF since he was an embryo, allegedly) I have been gifted my own little BMF tribe – ‘my ladies’. We have seen each other through some major life milestones, crying and chattering our way through the mud and cold on some inhospitable mornings and checking up on each other afterwards. We now have our own BMF Book Club (let me know if you would like to join. Not you, Paddy), we get to attend significant birthday parties and none of this would have come about if we hadn’t risked chewing the fat while Lee was generally shouting at us (I did join initially to chew some of my own fat so now may need to ask for a refund, but you get my drift).
  • I am quite shy and I tend to fill silence with absolute drivel; don’t judge me for coming across like a performing seal in a red bib sometimes. Do not confuse my chat with over-confidence though, for it is my attempt to fit in. I am generally not good at holding my space and saying nothing. I am sorry if you have ever felt ignored by me at a BMF session. Count yourself lucky that perhaps I was not at that particular session and that you managed to escape my grasshopper curiosity and motor mouth.
  • I never forget how tough it is to turn up to a first fitness session – well, first anything really – and I have always been grateful to anyone who makes me feel welcome. I might have a cheeky big grin on my muddy face but inside I probably just wanted to turn and leave before the class started. The irony of my chattiness is that, although my intentions are good, I am probably so busy finding out how many kids you have and asking you to rank your worst five BMF exercises, that I am likely to forget your name if you decide to share it with me; if you do bravely turn up for a second session, consequently I am unlikely to introduce you with your rightful salutation to anyone else. Sorry.
  • It is actually a myth that BMF’rs are a competitive bunch. We are more likely to be competitive with ourselves and this will result in chat because we like to know what event someone has just taken part in- this could be an ultra, a mountain hike, wild swim or, in my case, a PB getting to Waitrose and back. If you are thinking of joining BMF (other outdoor exercise classes are available but in my opinion, you will find them too quiet), do not be put off by this chat, for it is not intentional willy waving (#paddyjustsaying). If you show an interest you will probably get invited to some obscure fitness event. I think this is how ‘my’ team managed to sweep to glory in the recent BMF pub quiz social – this and my super power which was used to full potential in the Disney Princess trivia round.
  • If the chat ever seems irreverent, try not to be offended. It is a miracle that I ever found the confidence to progress from blue bib to red (see above for my press up and large arse reputation), but I have grown to love the banter and I like to think that Paddy now gets as good as he gives.

Anyway, those are my chat reflections. I managed to attend an alternative BMF venue recently – same beloved, shouty instructor (aka Lee) – and he was shocked at my silence. I told him that I had been on my best behaviour for the whole session as I didn’t really know any of the people there and was aware of my odd ball reputation. ‘You certainly worked bloody hard today, ‘ he acknowledged. This is the first bit of praise I have had from Lee in over ten years and later he even includes me as the old bird in his photo publicity for his new BMF venue. He must be seeking a new demographic; chatty women of mature years.

I will need to talk all this through with Paddy, but first I have other items to tick off on my BMF ‘To Do’ list. First I have agreed to run a half marathon with fellow long-serving BMF member; she has challenged herself to run 50 half marathons before she turns 60 (she has LOADS of time). Then, if I have anything left, I have agreed to bimble along for a few miles of chat with another BMF member as she completes her training for the London Marathon.

When I do get to chat to Paddy, he will undoubtedly tell me that I need to learn to keep my mouth shut and to keep his name out of any future blogs.

Small Talk

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