Over the last few weeks I have gently eased out of running and slid almost effortlessly into high intensity workouts. I have paused to soak up your indifference to this news. Why should you be interested anyway? No doubt you have adopted your own methods of keeping trim at home and if you haven’t done a stroke of exercise since February then I imagine you’re starting to feel a bit bad about yourself. Don’t feel bad about yourself; just pop to the freezer for a tub of Ben and Jerry’s and you’ll soon feel right as rain. Whatever it is you have or haven’t been doing well jolly good for you, I just thought that is was time to celebrate something rather that bleat about my enduring woes. Let’s see how I get on.
So this chap from work – we’ll call him Clint Hercules McThrust, for he is ever so manly – was very kind in letting me join him at his daily workout; nothing at all homoerotic, just being a good chum and showing me the ropes (or did I miss something?!). He had reasoned that running was destroying his knees just as it was starting to destroy mine and so he had settled into a sequence of exercises that would perk up every inch of his Olympian frame as well as give him a daily dose of the feelgood factor. I very rarely seek his counsel and even more rarely do I follow it but he is a good man and on this occasion I got the feeling he might be onto something.
For this new regime a mat is essential. By sheer coincidence Wifey bought me a nice new yoga mat a couple of months ago and I was starting to think it might never get a look in (no doubt the mat was quite happy to be kept in its pristine state so I expect it is not as keen now be coated in a sheen of dried sweat and foot skin: it could be worse, it could belong to James Corden, a man who would rapidly vanish if he lost an ounce every time he said something that wasn’t funny). Also handy are some resistance bands, which are essentially large, colourful open ended rubber bands that seem sturdy enough but also offer a frisson of danger to proceedings with the chance that they may one day snap mid stretch and remove a light bulb, eye or testicle in the process; I suppose if you are blind and do not have testicles there is slightly less to worry about.
As I have learned from watching Clint, footwear is not needed and that somehow makes the whole thing seem a little more natural and free and how I’d like to imagine Shaolin monks might exercise if they only had access the dining room of a small terraced house near the M25. You will also need some kind of timer which offers you a bit of breathing space. Mr McThrust started me on a 30 second interval programme (I have since stepped up to 40 seconds, because I’m ‘ard) and such things can be easily found on YouTube, and rather thoughtfully most don’t even get interrupted every 5 minutes for a fucking Apple Watch advert. Finally you will probably need some pulsing background noise (the sort one might find at a gym class or an S&M disco), which may not be too much of an issue but bothers me immensely as I refuse to exercise to shit, brainless music and so spend far too long debating on what will most suit my mood. You don’t care, I can tell.
Our first session together was hard work (for me) and I quickly realised that while my legs were in fairly good shape the rest of me harboured muscles that had been too long dormant. We did a grand total of 16 minutes exercise (not including the breaks, because why would you?) and though it got me breathless I thought I’d done pretty well for a newbie. Somewhat predictably I struggled to get out of bed the next day and for the following 36 hours after that I found that even simple actions such as blinking, yawning or sitting totally motionless seemed to antagonise some resentful part of my body or other. Thankful I found the will to do it again and as days passed my aches subsided and I began to get hooked on a daily routine. It’s really quite amazing how quickly the body adapts to new movements that engage your core and give you gains fast (just imagine being a personal trainer and therefore incapable of discussing anything else but that).
The exercises themselves aren’t really that interesting and you certainly wouldn’t want to watch me doing them in my boxers, a treat that only Wifey will have to take with her. It’s best to vary as much as possible – one standing up, one on your front, one on your back etc. Some are easier than others but the others are hard work. Sprint starts I hate with a passion, but they hurt so they must be good. Planks are nobody’s idea of fun, I’m rubbish at proper press ups and those resistance bands can sometimes make me pull a funny face. Even with the bare minimum of clothing I’m boiling by the end and I don’t care what I look like because unlike the gym there is almost no one who will see me and I’ll know that I am unquestionably 30 minutes fitter than I was before. Of course the weight isn’t exactly falling off yet because I have the devilish counterbalance of a lock down food and drink habit to shake off and that will need a far greater level of mind over matter – I’d say roughly the self control equivalent of a whole gang of those Shaolin monks.
In my twenties I never imagined I would exercise as regularly as I do in my forties. Obviously I’m not doing iron man competitions and the like but then that level of exercise is really only for people with literally nothing better to do. It is certainly not in an effort to cheat death as death cannot be cheated and my time will come when it comes. Rather, I exercise so that I can say I did at least something good for myself and that my life has not become abandoned to complete self indulgence (and once I’m super fit I’ll just need to grow my hair back, be better looking and get hold of loads of money and the world might be slightly closer to being my oyster). And when the gym does re-open I suppose I’ll drift back for a look. Perhaps I’ll be able to spend my work out time assessing who has become fatter or thinner or, worse than that, who is never, ever going to come back. To the gym. To anywhere. But I think I’d better start working harder on all my vices because I can’t see how a yoga mat and some fat rubber bands are going to help in that department.
G B Hewitt. 10.07.2020
Ps – cheers Clint