In one of his books (Made In America I think), Bill Bryson talks about the town of Hannover in New England, USA – a town where he lived for a few years until moving back to the UK.
He speaks about one of the reasons why he chose it – the fact that he could walk everywhere he needed to be was one of them. There were pavements (a rarity in some US towns) and nothing was too far away.
Yet despite this, he got regular baffled looks from his fellow residents for actually walking. The article speaks of one conversation he had with a neighbour who would drive a ten minute walk so that they could walk slowly on a treadmill in the gym. He also wrote of bafflement of one occasion where his neighbours – who lived next door – drove from their house to his.
Okay, who knows how true that last one is, but it’s believable. And it’s believable in this country too because I see similar regularly.
Most often I see it at the gym. The Virgin Active in Merton Abbey is split level – the entrance is slightly raised above street level whilst the car park is beneath. The whole thing is on a slight slope so the car park is not underground.
Leaving via the car park is the quickest way home for me, so I regularly leave, and stomp down the 12 or so stairs down to the car park level. The staircase is not hard to find – it’s next to a big sign marked “TO THE CAR PARK”.
It’s an easy journey, but for those who need it, there’s a lift. Yet you’d be amazed how many perfectly fit and able people take the lift to go down one flight of stairs. Last night two perfectly fit and healthy looking people were stood next to the lift doors. They were presumably still stood there when I got to the bottom because they certainly didn’t overtake me.
They’re not the only ones. I see it regularly. These are people who fork out £60-£70 a month to work out on gym equipment, but seem unable to even walk down one flight of stairs.
But then we’re probably talking about people who, on arrival at the treadmill, proceed to set it at a speed which is slower than they actually walk in real life. I’m not joking – I’ve seen people do that too. I stare over their shoulders and compare results – in 12 minutes I’ve normally got 150 calories in the bag – they’re lucky to have ten� Barely enough to burn off a tiny slice of a Mars bar, yet alone a whole one.