Cracker by Damian Christie

That won't be in the Herald on Sunday

I don't know whether it's the much-discussed cutbacks, or the "APN SUX" tattoo I short-sightedly got on my forehead last Christmas, but after a year I am now officially a former columnist for the Herald on Sunday.

Not a bad run, considering. I might be world-famous in cyber-New Zealand (joking), but I never perform particularly well in reader surveys, which seems to be how most editorial decisions are made these days. Not like that Kerre Woodham. She's so sassy.

On the positive side, it frees up one more evening each week for drinking – although I might have to switch from Asahi to something a little more modest. My poor student mate Hamish recommends Ranfurly Draught, which is apparently also the choice of sickness beneficiaries.

It will also be a weight off my mind. A weekly deadline where you can write on any topic – as long as it's kind of relevant – is difficult. Too much leeway. Any offers gratefully considered of course, but for the time being, pass me another Ranfurly.

And of course it means I can start blogging more regularly than I have. I've been a bit slack, and not that good David kind either. Sorry about that.

If the mild jet lag caused by daylight savings has taught me anything, it’s that summer can’t be too far away. Yes, this rainy wintery thing is what we call Spring. And so, with thoughts of long hot days frolicking on the wild West Coast (Piha, not Greymouth) I’ve decided to up my gym attendance. Which isn’t as hard as it sounds, given that the gym and I haven’t been on speaking terms for most of winter. I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say it was a little incident involving custard squares.

About nine percent of New Zealanders belong to a gym, which is not too bad by world standards, ahead of Australia and Japan on a per capita basis. We’re certainly doing better than the Chinese – there might be a billion of them, but only 180,000 currently enjoy the benefits of sweating to high-energy dance music compared with about 350,000 kiwis. Les Mills must be rubbing his hands together at the prospect of a free trade agreement with the as yet untapped Chinese market.

But for how many of those 350,000 of us is the little gym tag on their key-ring more like an albatross of guilt and self-loathing? I joined (again) about 18 months ago, and it’s been tough going. Or perhaps more accurately, it’s been easy not going.

If the gym and I were in a relationship, it wouldn’t be considered serious. It’s wouldn’t even be described as an open relationship, because I’m certainly not exercising anywhere else. It would be more along the lines of that ever-so modern euphemism, friends with benefits – if I ever want to get hot and sweaty, I know it’s always on offer.

As it stands, on a good week I’ll go twice. In 18 months I haven’t lost a gram. A couple of months ago my doctor told me I was overweight. “But I go to the gym” I protested. “Perhaps it’s muscle then,” she muttered with a sarcastic lack of bedside manner.

On the positive side, I haven’t piled on the pounds either. And given my other lifestyle choices and slowing thirty-something metabolism, that’s no mean feat. Another friend swore off the gym after she joined and promptly put on five kilos. Unlike my cynical GP, she was convinced the extra weight was muscle. Sure, a special kind of wobbly muscle.

But isn’t the gym one of these things that’s supposed to get easier with practice? Or am I going to be going through this struggle every week for the rest of my life? Foregoing tempting offers of an after-work pint, forcing myself along so I can exercise with all the grace of a drunken daschund. Pasty, sweating and stumbling as my iPod headphones snag on every piece of machinery I pass. When do I stop with the red-face and the puffing and become a lean, mean bench-pressing machine? Summer might be just around the corner, but as the months fly by, the closest the gym has gotten me to ‘sporty’ thus far is a persistent case of Athlete’s Foot.