Normally at the gym I’m encircled by beefy blokes in tattoos and tight togs getting down and sweaty with weights and pulleys, squats and presses – an orgy of exertion. Only the high-octane musak drowns out the clanging and grunts. This week, though, was different. An elderly couple – in their seventies I guessed – ambled to the row of exercise bikes which are my torture implements of choice. While I watched from a discreet distance, he helped her onto a seat, carefully placed her dainty feet on the pedals, tightened the restraints, pressed the button and selected a mild resistance for her workout. She began cycling while he rested on an adjacent bike, holding her handbag. After about ten minutes, he helped her from the bike and they toddled off together, arm-in-arm. No words were spoken. It was as if they were one. I was incredibly touched by the scene. Let’s hope Liam and I will be the same in years to come.
Long-suffering readers may remember that during our last days in Turkey I developed peripheral arterial disease which affects the blood flow to my legs. My blocked tubes meant that taking a stroll for more than a short distance was a bit of a pain. Back in Britain, I went under the knife for an arterial bypass to my nether regions. The op worked well but was only designed to fix one limb so, rather than hop to the shops for the rest of my days, the quack suggested the best long-term therapy was to walk, walk and walk again. He told me that the body, when pushed, has a remarkable ability to create new channels to pump blood. Me? Walk? I’ve promenaded many times down the years but I’ve always been more talk, talk than walk, walk. The trauma of compulsory cross-country running as a spotty schoolboy left me scarred for life. I don’t hike, roam, ramble, trek or yomp.
But I heeded the good doctor’s advice by joining a local gym, called simply, ‘The Gym’. It does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s got all the instruments of torture anyone could possibly wish for – a masochist’s wet dream. That was in 2014. I’ve been going ever since.
Here’s the torture chamber:
Has it worked? Well, yes, it has. It’s still a gruelling work in progress but I reckon I can now mince triple the distance without having to rest. And the view from the exercise bike of the sweaty gym-bunnies strutting and straining provides some distraction from my labours.
East Anglia tends to get to best of the weather – it’s often drier and warmer than other parts of these wet little islands. During the bleak winter weeks, when low damp clouds cloak the rest of the nation and drive half the population into Thomas Cook to thumb through the glossy travel brochures, we often enjoy clear skies and bright sunshine. But in the last twenty-four hours, we’ve gone from this:
…as an Arctic snap blew down from the North Pole closing roads, runways, schools and A&E Departments. Brrr…
So today, I thought better of my routine (a stroll to the gym – like I need an excuse to step off the treadmill – followed by a steaming americano and a trawl through the free papers). Instead, I slipped on my fluffy mules, whacked up the heat and tuned into daytime TV. Let’s hope the weather turns by tomorrow. At my age, a diet of soporific trash on the box could easily become habit forming.
Regular readers will know that I’ve been under the doctor because of something called PAD (Peripheral Arterial Disease). It’s caused by the thin veins I inherited from my father and a wayward lifestyle of sex, drugs and sausage rolls. The condition affects my mobility and is quite common in old farts of my age, apparently. Following the double stent to unblock my dodgy groin, my consultant (and Dr Green from ER lookelikee) decided that exercise was the best way of evading the surgeon’s knife. This was uncharted waters for me. Apart from a healthy amount of rumpy-bumpy, I’ve always taken the path of least resistance in the physical therapy stakes – buses, tubes, taxis, piggy-backs. I’m a hop on, hop off kind of guy. Ask Liam. He knows. I always figured that if God had wanted me to walk further than the pub, She would have given me more than a 27 inch inside leg. Still, to avoid going the way of my dear old Dad (who didn’t make it past 50), I took the quack’s advice and joined a city-centre gym (no sniggering at the back). It’s a low-cost 24/7 DIY affair, fit for the age of austerity. Stripped-down and ultra-modern without a fluffy robe or juice bar in sight, there are just rows and rows of hi-tech instruments of torture and wall-to-wall mirrors for watching the inquisition. Thankfully, I’m not too intimidated by half-my-age beefed up muscle marys on steroids. While they’re pumping iron on the top floor, I’m fast-walking with the girls downstairs. Life’s a catwalk and I’m back on the treadmill.