The Blog

The Complete, Pure, Unadulterated, Incomparable, Joyless Misery of Exercise

As I recently discovered the other day, getting back into working out after a period of inactivity - due to illness or self inflicted laziness - is far worse.

To see me at the gym, anyone would think I was Hercules. Slayer of the Lernaean Hydra, capturer of the Cretan Bull, retriever of the girdle of Hippolyta (that'll teach her for leaving it lying round the women's changing room) and bench presser of 700 kilos?

Sadly not. I refer, of course, to Hercules, the puffing, panting, knackered old cart horse from Steptoe and Son, who finally had a heart attack in Episode 1, series 5, in 1970.

Exercise is no fun at the best of times. It's a chore, like ironing, we have to endure if we don't want our bodies to be covered in creases instead of being all nice and smooth. The tragedy is that unlike ironing you can't really hire someone else to do it for you. If only you could, Body Combat classes would be full of Filipino cleaners on £10 an hour. Just imagine the next time their relatives saw them.

"Flordeliza, you've lost so much weight. You look wonderful and as for your arse, it's magnificent - so firm and tight. Oh my God! Is that a photograph of your employer? They've let themselves go, haven't they?"

As I recently discovered the other day, getting back into working out after a period of inactivity - due to illness or self inflicted laziness - is far worse.

As you approach the running machine, your mind convinces you that all's going to be fine. Maybe you'll have to reduce the gradient a bit. Perhaps you'll have to settle for a slightly slower pace. You might even have to run for a little less longer than you were previously used to.

Then you get on the infernal contraption and despite having it on the lowest settings possible and inputting your age as 126, you've suddenly transformed from Eric Liddell - winner of the 400 metres at the 1924 Paris Olympics - into Eric Pickles.

Staring into the mirror that's unkindly positioned directly in front of you, the conveyor belt you're running on (I use the word 'running' advisedly) is moving so slowly, it's almost in reverse. You think to yourself that this is a metaphor for life.

After three minutes, unfortunately, this is how long I lasted, you come to the conclusion that enough's enough and decide to give the rowing machine a try instead. Bad idea. You manage two minutes before giving up. Where's your will power? I tell you precisely where your will power is. It's sitting on a deckchair in Weston Supermare, accompanied by everyone else who's waiting to die, while licking on a 99 cornet with a flake.

From the corner of your eye, the NordicTrack Skier beckons you over, inviting you to humiliate yourself all over again. "Come here", it says. "I won't embarrass you". Only it does.

I won't tell you how long I managed before breathlessly climbing (or was it falling?) off.

Having exhausted every last bit of cardiovascular equipment, and visa versa, you move over to the weights section.

Surely you haven't also lost your incredible strength? OK, you might no longer be Hercules, but you can still be Samson, the very same name Albert Steptoe gave his next horse, which quickly got sick as well.

As everyone knows, Samson became weak when he had a haircut from Delilah. In my case, it was as if she'd completely shaved my head.

Whenever you get onto a piece of equipment, you automatically look down to see what weight the previous occupant had it on. You want to increase it. More importantly, you want them to see you increase it.

I was in luck. As I clambered aboard the good ship Pec Dec after a fragile looking old chap, I noticed that the weight stack was only at 30 kilos. Now I used to have it at 55, so I dropped down to 40 and started. Dear lord! I could barely move it. Finally reducing the weight to a measly 25 kilos, I managed eight reps. I was drowning and I needed a life raft.

I looked around, but there wasn't one. Certainly not the Lat Pulldown. The other members with their youth, muscles, vigour and Samson hair seemed to be contemptuously looking over in my direction as if to say: "What are you doing amongst all us fit and healthy specimens of buffdom. Get your sick, worthless bag of bones out of here".

And that's precisely what I did. Dejectedly, I slunk off down the stairs. One thought occurred, however. I'm not the man I was. Mind you, was I ever much of a man? Probably not.

With that, I peered into the spinning room (my old stomping ground) and questioned whether I'd soon be fit enough to rejoin the ranks of the sweaty and sinewy?

As I walked out of the gym, the girl behind the counter said: "Goodbye". Not Au Revoir, admittedly this isn't France, but Goodbye. It had a ring of finality about it, as though she never expected to see me again.

What is that they do with horses who are considerably beyond their prime? Oh yes, they shoot them.