Why the grumble should I carry my trainers on a vacay? It’s me-time

By Kelly Clarke

The thought of a healthy staycation left me with visions of self-obsessed gym bunnies, but when I finally went there, the reality wasn’t all that bad. I may even have converted to the bright side

Hotels and gyms. Now to me, they are two very different experiences. And as someone who has a slight aversion to working out, I don’t know why these two spaces are married together in one setting — by that, I mean hotel gyms.

See, when I go to a hotel, I go to relax. When I go to the gym, or rather IF I go to the gym, I go to workout. And I know for a fact that relaxing workouts don’t exist. I may be an amateur when it comes to fitness, but if you’ve ever left a gym in the same state as when you walked in, then I’m pretty confident in saying, “you’re doing it all wrong”.

On the odd occasion that I do check myself into a hotel (usually on an out of country vacation), I’m one of those judgemental people who look in confusion at those over-enthusiastic guests making use of the gym facilities. Yea, they’re in way better shape than me, but clearly I’m having way more fun (right?!)

As I lay sprawled out on my sun lounger — likely with a long, cool drink in one hand and some unhealthy snack in the other — I make every smart remark possible as to why those people working up a sweat are boring and obsessed. It’s bitter, I know. But hey, it is what it is. If you can’t be them join them, but if you can’t (be bothered) to join them, mock them. I guess that’s my fun-twister philosophy on life.

But I had a bit of a eureka moment recently. And it was a little jump up on the weighing scales that gave me the huge kick up the area (ahem) I needed. I’d put on two kg in nine days. That’s five pounds (5lbs! about the weight of a small baby; and according to Google, the average weight of a Chihuahua).

I’d managed to eat and drink my way to becoming a dog-owning, mother-of-one (without an actual dog or baby in sight), and the scary thing is, I did it with no effort at all. Granted, it was a family vacation — and a big fat Irish wedding — which led to the extra weight, but that was no excuse. I was peeved. And fat, apparently.

That’s when I decided to let my subconscious get the better of me. Those inner fat jibes goaded me into making a change, and last weekend I decided to switch it up. I checked myself into a hotel for something called a ‘healthy staycation’. Yep, they exist; and yep, they sound miserable.

I decided if I was going to have my first workout in a year, I was going to do it in style. I went with the “ease-me-in-gently” approach by way of a hotel gym. It was extravagant, but where better to be extravagant than Dubai.

I chose my location carefully too. The Jumeriah Creekside Hotel; my reason: less than a hop, skip and jump away was one of my home comforts: the Irish Village.

If my plans for ‘healthy’ got waylaid, it was the perfect escape route to all things unhealthy: a full Irish breakfast complete with butter soaked soda bread, and grease as far as the eyes could see. “Perfection,” my inner chubby told me.

As I pulled up to the hotel, I scarpered quickly from car to lobby, avoiding eye contact with all in my way. My outfit of choice — some newly purchased gym gear — meant every lump and bump was on show, hence my hasty entrance.

I could feel the eyes burning into the back of my head. Much like I did in the past, I felt the other guests were judging me; they saw me as the self-obsessed gym goer. Little did they know, though.

Like ripping off a Band-Aid, I chose to start the staycation by jumping in at the deep end. I had a personal training session booked in for 11am, and I arrived early just to psyche myself up for the torture that lay ahead.

The gym was situated in a place called ‘The Aviation Club’ and immediately I was hit with panic. I had visions of perfectly made-up airhostesses, breaking no sweat at all. And preened-to-perfection pilots flexing their muscles in the mirror. You know the type, the Instagram-friendly sort of gym.

Thankfully, it was anything but. It was quiet, intimate and had everything you needed without the nauseous dose of self-obsessed gym bunnies.

Nikish was my instructor, and as expected, he looked every bit the part. Broad shoulders, big muscles: “Oh no,” I thought, “let the military boot camp session commence”.

But as I made my pleas about being Dubai’s most unfit expat, he took the info on board; no sergeant-major style shouting in sight. I soon realised he wasn’t the pushy type. He was more the encouraging parent type, and I liked that.

After an hour of squats, weight-lifting and all that’s in between, I was feeling buzzed and energised; not deflated and sulky as I was expecting.

In fact, that next morning, I went back in for another workout. In the space of 24 hours I became that enthusiastic guest making use of the gym facilities. My old self would have been disappointed that I traded my usual pose horizontal, with drinking and snacking for exercise. But here I was, voluntarily opting for it while on staycation. Go me!

My conclusion: actually, healthy staycations in Dubai aren’t as miserable as they sound. I mean, I won’t be making a habit of them, but I certainly won’t scoff at the idea of one next time an opportunity arises. So watch this space.

And who knows, my next ‘Conversations’ instalment could very well be about my new-found obsession with gyms. Though as I’m sitting here at my desk typing this, I’m tucking into an MSG-filled pot noodle, just minutes after polishing off a chocolate and banana muffin, so I won’t get ahead of myself just yet.


Kelly covers education. She finds it endearing that people call her Kel

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