Upon discovering that I couldn't walk up the stairs without having to have a lie down, I decided that it was time to face my ultimate fear. Exercise. Ever since my superficial attempts at netball as a teenager, I've rarely been in contact with a ball, racket or bat. The idea of vigorous competition involving sticks (essentially, weaponry) makes me incredibly nervous, and my lack of coordination makes sport a physical impossibility. Nevertheless, I wanted to be able to walk and talk without wheezing, and so with gentle coaxing from friends and family, I began my quest for fitness.
I got up early, planned a route for a run and hunted through my wardrobe for suitable. I found an enormous sail of a T-shirt, leggings and a pair of Topshop boots (the closest footwear to trainers that I own). I set off with boundless optimism in my scarecrow outfit, only to return ten minutes later, sweating profusely with aching back pain.
So, I learnt two important lessons the hard way. One, that running was one of the things I was naturally unable to do - like ballet or walking in platforms - and two, it shouldn't be attempted without the proper apparel. On research, I found out that trainers absorb the shock of running, or something like that, which stops your legs from breaking. Apart from being fitter than I am, there lies the reason why other joggers look comfortably at ease, while I lurch down the road like a wardrobe being thrown down a flight of stairs. For the sake of my poor, aching back and knees, I decided that I needed to address my clothing malfunction.
From fluorescent tops to cervix-revealing shorts, there is a completely baffling array of sportswear available in the shops. As a novice, I wanted something simple - absolutely no neon and nothing too revealing - to remain as conspicuous as possible while hurtling around Peckham. I also wanted avoid Lycra too, because I find it horribly unflattering and generally just awful. After a mild panic, I bought a few white cotton T-shirts, some new leggings and some socks. It would have to do.
I was faced with a similar issue when choosing a pair of trainers. There's an overwhelming range of different styles, colours, types and shapes designed to confuse and annoy. For a few minutes, I had an internal dispute over style versus practicality, but had no option but to choose the latter, as most of the comfortable ones looked like orthopedic shoes. I bought the cheapest pair and left, pleased that I was shopping ever closer to my fitness goal.
The final hurdle (sports pun intended) was a new bra. To be quite frank, most of my lingerie has seen better days. I'm not a fan of underwear shopping - being semi-naked in a hot changing room brings me out in a rash - and as a result, my favourite bra is the underwear equivalent of a Tesco carrier bag. Sports bras are, similarly to trainers, pretty unappealing too. They're rucksack-like monstrosities that aren't exactly designed with style in mind, but they do promise to keep you from bouncing around. So I paid up, strapped myself securely in and finally, I was ready to go.
In my new outfit, I felt less like the outsider of an elite clique and began to enjoy exercising. My stamina began to gradually improve and running further became a less daunting prospect. Having once sneered at sportswear on the high street, I found that my new trainers saved me (and my knees) from any more injuries and my sturdy sports bra stopped me from knocking myself out. I'm no athlete, but I'm feeling inspired by Wimbledon and I'm already looking for my next venture, so I think I'll pick up a racket and give tennis a whirl. And I'm confident it will be a success.