My best present...gym membership

Six months before my wedding, when I voiced concerns about my figure and my parents answered with a gym membership, I received their generosity with mixed feelings.

But in a profession where time is necessarily compacted and fast food outlets litter my route home, I realised my only hope for the shape I craved was to treat the symptom.

Two things became immediately clear: the gym is where you go to be seen and 99 per cent of the people there, almost by definition, have no need to be there.

It is no place for your comfortable old clothes, to puff and pant in private as your body sweats and wobbles in shame.

A whole new wardrobe must be acquired, one that holds curves tightly beneath bright logos and is as short and uplifting as the mantras churned out by the army of personal trainers.

So why not go for a run in the park instead? Well, knowing that a large amount of money is being spent on my membership keeps me motivated and, now that I'm pregnant and following a special pregnancy programme, I'm sure that both my baby and I are better for it.

But the real benefits are those I hadn't foreseen: the guilt-free television on the step machine, the hydropool and the numerous classes. Soon I'll be putting the crèche to use as well. But, most importantly, my gym membership gives me a few hours each week to escape work and home. Now, when I miss a phone call, I can reply with smugness, ‘Sorry, I was in the gym.'

Dr Zoe Kelion is a GP in London

Virgin Active gyms across UK

Facilities, prices and offers vary. Full monthly membership for Zoe's London club is £66 (£58 for NHS employees). Monthly off-peak is £48.

For details of over 70 gyms in UK, phone 0845 130 4747 or visit http://www.virginactive.co.uk/

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