Amidst the brutish bodybuilders, the old guy who’s probably working a bit too hard, and that selfish woman who hogs the bench, is Kieren Kaye, who’s rewarding himself for his minimal effort with more than a few moments on his phone in his local gym, Gain Those Gains.
‘I’m always pushing myself, putting in the extra effort’, he says, after a set of bicep curls that he definitely didn’t put in the extra effort for, before scrolling through Instagram, sending a text and then spending up to a minute finding ‘the right workout song’, eventually selecting Radio Ga Ga by Queen.
Kieren’s friend, Clarisa, is concerned about him, telling me the day before that he’s essentially paying £30 a month to sit around for a bit, do nothing, and then leave. ‘I think he just goes so he can say to people that he goes, you know?’
Next up, he does some bench presses, working a bit harder as a pink-clad woman Kieren’s been trying to catch the eye of glides past. He’s worked up a sweat and, swearing, says that he’ll actually have to wash his top now. He’ll give himself an extra break for that one, guzzling over half of his water, ‘to stay extra hydrated’.
I ask him about his diet, which he says is great. He eats minimal carbs, plenty of protein and even, once in a blue moon, the occasional apple, but says that no matter what he does, he can’t quite put on the muscle gains he wants to. Clarisa’s told me he’s a pretty heavy drinker too, and so I ask him about that.
In my years of reporting, I’ve seen heartbreak and tragedy, and spoken with those still suffering from the horrors they’ve witnessed – forever living in the nightmare that they once experienced, be it crime, illness or war – but I’ve never seen a man’s face drop quite so quickly in such a depressing way as Kieren’s does after I inform him that alcohol is high in calories. ‘S***’, he says.
He does some more sets, and a lot more sitting around, before leaving a couple of minutes later.