Out Of Work Workouts


Jonathan O’Sullivan explains how a rake of dodgy workout supplements helped him survive his month of unemployment.


Unsurprisingly, I didn’t deal with my month of unemployment very well. Who would have thought boundless free time combined with an ever-anxious disposition would be such an unpleasant coupling? Knowing how easy it is to fall into a vicious cycle of Jeremy Kyle and boredom-induced masturbation, I kept to a routine of waking early and making plans. I quickly eroded the long list of odd jobs that had accumulated since my move to London. I switched banks, converted my loose change collection into nearly a hundred quid and even repainted the living room. I was a patchwork quilt away from turning into a stay-at-home-mom.

Unemployment is very much a two-pronged fork. In one way, it left me feeling utterly useless, making me question my very existence in the world. In another, it allowed me to step off the Monday-to-Friday treadmill and totally detach myself from everything that was distracting me previously. If you can put money worries and low self-esteem at bay for a few days, unemployment can be a very liberating experience.

I kept a diary of my first few days of unemployment. Not because it was a fascinating time in my life, I was just short of company and needed some outlet of communication.



Today I am beyond organised. I have decided to start each day with exercise and I’ve stocked up on all sorts of pre and post-workout potions to ensure I’m getting the most from it. Following strict instructions from some random website, I line up my 12 pills next to my pre-workout mixture. As I chug back the pills and God-awful mixture, I wonder if this is what breakfast is like in an old folks home.

After getting my sweat on, I return to the house feeling really positive and energetic. A few hours later and I find myself sat in a meticulous apartment with a DVD collection alphabetised for the first time in its life. My industriousness astounds me, I cannot get over how much I’ve completed in one afternoon.

I decide to check my email to see if I have any job offers. It doesn’t take many rejection letters to learn that there is a cavernous gap between jobs I would like to get and jobs that I am qualified to do. I could always retrain but I refuse to go back to college to learn how to be good at Twitter. Christ, I can see it now: sat at the back of a computer lab, drinking red wine from a sports bottle and mourning the simplicity of Windows ’95.


After another morning of supplements and exercise, I check my email once again for jobs. Nothing. You know what’s a key factor in landing the job of your dreams? It’s not education or experience. No, you just need some asshole to cut you a break. They should teach that in university.

Cabin fever sets in sooner than anticipated. Decide to go for stroll in local park. I’m not long into my journey when I realise I’m surrounded by old men pulling tiny dogs and young mothers pushing giant buggies. I am a man. A man on my own. A man on my own and loitering in a park.

“Mummy, why is that man on his own in the park?” I imagine the kid sitting with his mother on the park bench asking. “He’s just down on his luck, sweetheart. His misfortune is probably due to a corporate buyout and various other external factors that don’t reflect on him personally.”

Maybe I should strike up a conversation with the old men/young mothers: “That’s a lovely dog/baby. I used to have a dog/baby but he died. Drowned in that lake over there – it’s awfully sad. Can I hold yours?” Yeah, that should do it.


Set out for the gym first thing. I’ve never seen it before but there’s a job centre right next to my gym. I didn’t think they existed anymore. I thought it was all done online these days, like tax registration and buying sperm. I conclude to myself that it’s for people who might not have the Internet and want to do manual labour, not for a princess like me. Upon spotting one poor unfortunate scuttle out, I wince and tut. I might have zero career prospects but that won’t stop me from throwing stones in glasshouses. That’s one of my specific skill-bases.


Not feeling very sociable. I leave the apartment early, not wanting to get in my cleaner’s way. I am well aware I should probably lay her off, now that I haven’t the income to support either of us. ‘Haven’t enough people been affected by the burden of unemployment this month?’ I appeal to myself as I let her go about her business.

While I’m squandering my money on cleaners I decide to really go the whole hog and treat myself to lunch. I imagine that’s what rich people do in a crisis – they distract themselves with steak and champagne. I’ve been a panicky old bollocks for three days now; I might as well try and cheer myself up. After lunch I stay in the restaurant, I drink coffee and read the paper while secretly wishing I had a dog/baby to walk in the park.


After an entire night spent awake and chronologically listing all of my fuck-ups in life, I decide that my newfound anxiousness can’t solely be down to unemployment. I throw a scathing look across the room at the pile of workout pills and mixtures. After a quick Google search I realise that my pre-workout pills and potion is basically a legalised form of popular ’90s rave-drug, speed.

While most people would have instantly binned them and cursed their foolishness at being duped by such supplements, I immediately go online to buy more. This stuff was gold and it’s only matter of time before some square takes it off the market. I’m aware that the tediousness of unemployment can eventually lead down the murky path of drug abuse, but five days in I’ve hardly hit rock bottom. I have, on the other hand, somehow managed to become a fully formed addict. It all happened with such great… speed.

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