Joining a gym for a week in Delhi, India

"I love being watched intently while I’m working out," said no one ever...

I’m spending a week in Delhi, and after three days recovering from a 5.5-hour time difference, I found myself ready to get back to my fitness addiction today.

First, I tried to join Fitness First, the clean gym situated safely on the top level of the fancy mall near my friend Guru’s house. But they tried to charge me 1500 rupees (£15) for a single visit, so I told them they were dreaming. Next stop was Fitness Second, or as they like to call themselves, Snap Fitness. This gym is situated directly across the road from the same fancy mall, only surrounded by dust, dudes and mangy dogs. Sure it was less safe and less clean, but not actually dirty or dangerous. And they offered me a week membership for 1700 (£17) rupees, so I was sold.

Obviously being a seasoned female gym goer I was prepared for the usual sideways glances from men in the weights room, but I certainly hadn’t prepared myself to become the gym’s new source of utter entertainment.

After checking in at reception I walked through to the gym and immediately 2Pac’s All Eyez On Me song started playing full blast in my brain.

Slightly perturbed, I scouted the room quickly for somewhere to go and something to do to ensure it looked like I knew what to do in a gym. Ahh, the change rooms. I know what to do in there. Despite already being changed, I slipped into the change rooms to seek sanctuary, but I ended up only being alone for a brief few seconds before the cleaner came in and showed me what was behind every single door.

Toilet, toilet, toilet, change room, change room, toilet, shower, shower. Got it.

She had clearly been instructed to come in and acquaint me with the place.

With no time to make a game plan, I left the change rooms and made a beeline to the trusty treadmills – my go-to when I’m not feeling creative enough to think up a circuit, or when I’m in a gym in India and everyone is watching me and wondering what I’m going to do next.

There were six treadmills, five of which were occupied by men barely building up a sweat in long sleeved shirts. The treadmills sat at the front of the gym by a big window that looked directly out at the dust, dudes and mangy dogs. I claimed the last available mill and started treading my usual, reasonably intense 5km run. I wasn’t there to fuck spiders after all.

As time went by, the men finished their light jogs and one-by-one slowly dispersed, leaving me alone and vulnerable to the eyes that looked. I could no longer see the people behind me in the gym, but I knew it didn’t mean all eyes were off me. How did I know? Well for a start there were about five young guys who came up at separate times. They would jump on a treadmill, look at me, smirk, fiddle with the settings as if they were going to run and then jump off. And not only did I have these guys peeking at my sweaty, increasingly bright red face, but I had the dudes out with the dust and dogs to worry about too. I felt like a mouse in a cage on a wheel.

When I finished my run (25 mins 20 secs, if you’re wondering), I had one of the personal trainers by my side in an instant. He kindly offered his assistance in case I needed to be shown how to use anything. I didn’t, I needed a hijab to hide my face and someone to do the ice bucket challenge on me to cool me down.

I did my cool-down walk for a long 15 minutes because I was too embarrassed to turn around for a while. I don’t know why I was so embarrassed. I guess I just don’t really know why they stare. Like, do they think I look cool and want to be my friend? Or do they think I’m a big gawky loser with too many muscles for a girl? Or are they interested in exchanging workout tips? Do they just like my Nike Airs?

I’m going back three more times over the next three days, maybe I will look someone in the starey eyes and just ask.


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