When I was approached by Dean Callis to start a 12-week personal training program I was overjoyed. The gym just hadn't been cutting it - especially with an ever-increasing workload and waning motivation to even go to the gym, never mind work myself hard when I got there.
I've already explained my troubled past with exercise and praised Dean based solely on our first session together on my blog. In that one hour I worked out harder than I ever have in my life. But now, after a few more sessions, I've had an epiphany: where Dean succeeds is in his no-fuss, back-to-basics approach to exercise. Oh the exercises! These are painfully reminiscent, no, not reminiscent, but in fact a like-for-like homage to secondary school P.E. lessons. Squats, jumps, star jumps, burpees, relay running, boxing and sit ups make up the hour.
With each painful jump and creak of my legs I'm reminded of those gruesome P.E. lessons at school where I was not only the chubby girl, I was the academic girl. Melodramatic thing that I was, I felt altogether victimised for not pushing myself to the point of puking on the sports field as the star pupils did, their gangly limbs flying about as they sprinted with apparent ease. In one horrific gymnastics class I recall teams of two having to present the rest of the class with their moves. When I attempted my finale head-stand, my partner Louise, who was supposed to be supporting my legs, could barely stop me from toppling over like a sack of potatoes. Ungraceful, unsturdy and out of shape, yes sure, but I got the grades in English and Maths and that's all that seemed to matter.
As I've got older though, I've realised that, in fact, that's not all that matters. Far from it. And if this cover story in the Evening Standard is anything to go by, plenty of other people need to realise this too. The most alarming statistics include those referring to overweight children. But what astounds me is that the best work out of my life should be so similar to those tortuous hours spent trying to move my indisposed body around the gymnasium. Clearly the work outs of my school years were hard work because they were - and are - the best thing for our bodies.
Perhaps if the importance of exercise was more readily emphasised during those formative years when our bodies are more supple, our energy levels higher and our minds ripe for the moulding, we wouldn't have such a conundrum now due to overeating and couch potato culture. That said, the issue lies not only in many children's unwillingness, but in the form P.E. takes. How many of us have the Clueless P.E. scene burnt into our consciousness? The ever-precocious Cher announces:
Oh. Miss Stoeger? I would just like to say that physical education in this school is a disgrace. I mean, standing in line for forty minutes is hardly aerobically effective. I doubt I've worked off the calories in a stick of care-free gum.
Dean himself comments:
"I believe there should be a huge review into the exercises that are taught within schools in the country. At that age exercise should be FUN and ENJOYABLE. I just don't believe that is the case within this country. I feel we need to look at countries like The United States of America and Australia who continually produce great athletes from a very, very young age."
And in terms of exercise post-school?
"l believe fitness professionals over complicate training sessions which then become less effective over time for clients. I also believe the core of any training program should include old fashioned exercises for example burpees, squat jumps, press ups etc! But l also believe the exercise we get our clients to do are far more enjoyable than the exercises they teach at school as I'm sure many people will agree who didn't take part at school for that very reason."
And he's right. Somehow doing it the second time round isn't just rewarding, it's cathartic. Thanks to Dean I'm not only sweaty and exhausted; I'm muddy and shaky, my limbs strained to the max. If only my P.E. teachers could see me now.
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