"I didn't realise that you actually went to the gym." Chuckled my editor, after I graciously agreed to provide him with a monthly column. It was an innocent enough admission on his part, but little did he know that he had effectively kicked sand in the face of this 45-year-old, 14-stone weakling.
"We're looking for an older man's perspective on health and fitness," he said.
I immediately thought he was going to go on ask me if I knew any older men who fitted the bill, but the silence made me realise that he'd reached the end of both his statement and his search: that really I was, with my 46th birthday in admittedly advanced planning stages, that 'older man'.
I thought briefly about crying, but instead decided to man-up and seize the opportunity. Why the hell not? After all, I have been 'working out' three times a week for the past 12 months... alright then, twice a week. Most weeks... And if my current fitness regime hasn't exactly got me down to my perfect fighting weight just yet, then it's certainly prevented me from thinking about taking up Sumo wrestling any time soon. My current weight is 91 kilos the same as it was 12 months ago. At a little under six foot, that still makes me technically overweight, but the lack of further movement northwards weight-wise, is a source of minor celebration.
You see my aim was to stem the glacial process that has seen me move steadily from a 30 to a 36 inch waistline over the past quarter of a century (and thereby, from the top to the bottom of the piles of jeans in House of Fraser). Granted, when I began my current exercise regime, I was hopeful of achieving something more than attrition, but if I've learned anything over the past 45 years it's that life is essentially a series of compromises.
I've never been entirely indolent and maintained reasonable levels of activity throughout my twenties and thirties thanks largely to enthusiastic participation in Sunday League football. But as I go older, and my own game got slower, the seasons evolved into longer and longer periods of injury, punctuated by the occasional match. I eventually packed the sport in at 43, due in part to a recurring calve muscle injury, but largely to the realisation that the only thing I was getting better at was arguing with the referees.
I looked for an alternative. I've never really been one for racket sports. Golf? Lee Westwood's body shape is what I've got not what I'm after, and as for cricket, well Shane Warne's never looked better since he gave it up.
"Why not try swimming?" Suggested my physician wife, going on to spell out its low impact benefits. So I did. Thereby wishing that I'd saved us both a lot of time in the first place by simply replying "Because it's really, really boring!"
Of course the answer was in my wallet all along. It was my gym membership to the local branch of one of those large chains. Of course I never went, but now all that is about to change. Next week. For sure.
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