Hard to believe I know, given the absence of any residual physical evidence, but I used to be a bit of a gym rat.
Not for very long, admittedly, and to nothing like the obsessive extent of the creatine-guzzling monstrosities that you might see pictured on the cover of magazines with titles like ‘Bulge‘, ‘Musclebound’…or maybe ‘Transformers’.
I never even went near a gym until the mid-nineties – even to the extent of steering clear of the one we had in our house where Madame, a qualified fitness instructor, gave lessons. Then we moved into an apartment block in London that had a gym in the basement. By then I was in my mid-forties and the ageing process was starting to take its toll on my waistline, so I bowed to the, if not inevitable then at least the sensible, and bought a pair of white shoes with stripes on. Sorted.
I didn’t hire a personal trainer though, for two good reasons:
- my pathological dislike of being told what to do,
- my even stronger aversion to handing over good money to be told what to do. Especially by some twerp who wears shorts to work and spends a little too long taking sidelong glances in the mirror.
Instead, I took advice from my beloved, who obviously knew about these things, and on my first visit began with a gentle two-minute warmup on an exercise bike, at the end of which I dismounted and almost collapsed because my legs had turned to jelly. Clearly, much work needed to be done.
To my credit – at least I like to think so – I persisted and, taking things gradually but remorselessly, achieved a decent level of general fitness and a pair of biceps that were (almost) visible to the naked eye. However, the real gym rat phase came when I was made redundant in 2001 and found myself with a lot of time on my hands and the need for a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
We moved to another apartment block with a gym, and not even the regular sight of the Deputy Prime Minister lying on an exercise mat in a too-small t-shirt, trying to do abdominal crunches (this gym was opposite The Houses of Parliament) could deter me from my five times a week fixation.
I continued with my gym routine for most of our ten years in Abu Dhabi, only really falling out of the habit when laid low by pneumonia in 2010. Debilitated, I didn’t feel up to going back to my old routine for quite a while and, when I did, I found myself depressed by the idea of having to start all over again. So I didn’t.
Matters have therefore slipped somewhat over the past few years, it’s fair to say, and neither my waistline nor my fitness levels are what they either used or ought to be.
But finally I’ve gone and done something about it. Faced with the prospect of having to wear a kilt in public (where else?) come September, I’ve just invested in a treadmill.
Which is why my ankles are ablaze.
I’ve been trudging on the new acquisition for an hour a day ever since it arrived, and the previously dormant muscles at the end of my shins are not happy. Well, they’ll just have to get used to it because, as they say on ‘Mastermind’, “I’ve started, so I’ll finish”.
Now, could somebody please pass the Voltarol?