• Dr Martine Prunty

The perils of exercise infidelity

Have you ever been tempted to cheat?


At the moment Sydney we are in another lockdown. We have been locked down for a month so far, with restrictions being added on at the end of each week as COVID-19 numbers fail to decrease. We are homeschooling once more and the cliched amateur sourdough bakers have re-emerged. Dusting off their digital scales, retrieving their sourdough starters from the fridge after a year of not feeding them, the fermentation resulting in a putrid stench and split, seemingly dead starter. But after two feeds, behold! Resurrection and the doubling of starter, bursting out the top of the jar in all its glory. Yes, the starters are just as excited to be here as the new COVID puppies acquired last year, dancing about within their new homes.


But lockdown has brought with it a new conundrum to those plagued by a sense of doing the right thing by others. And no, I am not talking about wearing a mask, or obeying the ever-increasing restrictions placed upon the citizens of Sydney. I’m talking about our loyalty to our service providers. As businesses around us start to stress about how they will continue to earn an income, my two my relied upon service providers come to the forefront of my mind: my barista and my personal trainer.





Each morning, I or my husband venture up the street, mask in hand (or on face as we approach the cafe) for our morning coffee. It is a ritual that no one wants to give up and falls into the category of, dare I say it, essential. Where previously we could pop into any number of our many local cafes without a twinge of guilt for there were plenty of customers to go around, with current restrictions limiting cafes to takeaway only, they simply are not doing enough business to maintain their profitability. These are the people in our community who know many of us by name, who greet us daily, acknowledge our snotty-nosed, whingeing children, always with a smile on their faces and a cheerful piece of latte art on our flat whites. We appreciate how they know exactly how we like our coffees and never falter, whether we want our milk three quarters full, with almond milk, stirred once to the right and twice to the left.


So how do we decide which of our favourite baristas to buy from each day? One of our local baristas was doing it so tough that he couldn’t make eye contact with his customers one day. His eyes were downcast as he made our coffees without his usual jovial chit chat. My husband and I started strategically buying two coffees each a day in our personal plight to save our suburb’s businesses. Just this week my husband confessed that when he buys a coffee from one café he walks a longer route home so that he doesn’t have to walk past our other local café and risk being seen with a cup from somewhere else.


I found myself in a same-same but different situation earlier this week. I am part of an outdoor women’s bootcamp group, which I LOVE. Our trainer has taken all of our sessions online and we have been so lucky and not missed one session through this whole Shit Show. But I do love boxing and, alas, we can’t box with anyone online. I saw a personal trainer on my social media advertising that he was doing 1:1 boxing sessions. So I thought, why not? I can still do my online training in the early morning, and perhaps I could pop out in the afternoon for a bit of a box. So I organised it, but naturally I kept it on the down low, as I didn’t want my trainer to think I was….cheating.


I arrived at the organised meeting spot 5 minutes early and looked around. I was meeting a man and so far I could only see little groups of twos, all women. Anyone who knows me knows that I am extremely punctual. I consider it respectful of the other person, but also a much more efficient way to function. So when my 4pm scheduled time started ticking over minute by minute, my eyes started to roll back into my head until I soon had full view of my occipital lobe (the section of your brain that is responsible for your sight is, weirdly, located at the back of your head).

I sent a message. A couple (literally two) mintues lates I sent another message. No reply. I wondered how long a “regular” (ie not as superbly organised and on time like me) person might wait and then I subtracted approximately 3 minutes. 4:07pm. Still no answer and so I sent another message saying that I was going to leave as I had 50 minutes left of time granted to me to exercise before I would have to return to the Shit Show (ie my loving family and 3 perfect children) that is home to continue home duties. No reply.


One thing I know about emotions is that it helps to get them out when they get big. Picture a coke bottle that is sealed. What happens if it has been shaken up with some angry or frustrated feelings? They burst out when the lid is turned the tiniest amount. This is why therapy is also helpful, that is, to help people learn to express their feelings and be calm. Not to blow their stack with sad, angry or overwhelming feelings. But this was a secret rendezvous! I couldn’t tell anyone! Such are the perils of exercise infidelity.


He eventually did reply with a simple, “sorry martine”. That’s it. No explanation. And no capital letter for the M in my first name. I’m not sure whether I was more upset with the curt response or the poor grammar.



Fortunately, for me, I have about a bazillion subscriptions to at-home workouts in this current pandemic so I subbed out some other form of movement for the guy that stood me up and left me with no one to talk to about it. So there. I was able to solve my workout problem and the issue of exercise infidelity, for now…


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