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Once more unto the breach …

Regular Rusters may be aware that – possibly in part as a gesture of defiance and/or general “raging against the dying of the light” – from time to time I undertake periods of what might properly be described as regular physical activity but I prefer to pretend are “fitness campaigns”.

These can vary in duration from 48 hours(!) to several months and historically (and inevitably) tend to “fall into disuse” when domestic or other circumstances conspire and/or pile up and prevent me from exercising at my chosen standard time of the day.

I often find it difficult to begin such a campaign. I need a clear start date ahead of me and then no distractions whatsoever. My flesh is weak in the sense that it need only take anything from a radio programme I am listening to going on longer than expected, or a dog or two needing exercising, or a telephone call occurring … and that’s it – the day (as regards the supposed fitness campaign) has been “interrupted”, which (at any early stage) means it automatically comes to a dead halt and then is left, perhaps to “begin properly” another day.

Nearly three decades ago now I made a classic error when beginning a fitness campaign and learned about this the hard way.

I had not long before joined a rather exclusive health club on the outskirts of south west London – this required an “assessment” session with a qualified fitness instructor during which my lifestyle was divulged, my blood pressure taken, I was required to jog upon a running machine and finally I was asked my goals.

I responded – I thought rather smartly – that I was currently 41 years old and in reasonable health. Whilst I was humble enough to acknowledge that I was in no position to state that my goal was to be (for example) become as fit as a 28 year old, instead – by the time my next birthday was due in six months or so – I wouldn’t mind being able to describe myself as being “reasonably fit for a 42 year old” without being completely deluded.

I “passed” the assessment and thereafter had about a dozen session with my allotted fitness guru. He showed around the weights and cardio gyms and gave me tuition on how to work the different machines that would exercise various part of my body to the extent that would improve my general all-round fitness.

Once I had done those sessions, I stopped seeing “my” instructor and thereafter visited the health club on average between two and five times per week, each time doing the composite routine that he had devised for me.

So far so good – or so I thought.

I definitely felt fitter and healthier for my exertions and (after them) would either shower and go straight home – or, alternatively, if in the right mood, I might stay longer and have a swim in the pool, visit the sauna and/or steam room and perhaps even take a dip in the jacuzzi as well.

Time passed and (I’d guess it was) about as long as eighteen months later that, by chance, one evening as I was leaving to go home I bumped into my “fitness instructor” in the Reception area of the club.

We had a chat. Eventually he asked about my fitness routine. I told him it was going fine. He then asked about how I had altered it.

Altered it?!

I told him that I’d steadfastly been doing the same routine every visit since I’d last seen him.

He was horrified at this news and told me an essential “fact of life” as regards regular exercise. It was fundamental and vital that everybody varied their routine. The human body was essentially lazy: if given the same exercises to do in the same order every time, it would soon work out how to “cheat the system” and begin doing the reps less energetically and intensively than before.

What I should have been doing – right from the “get-go” – was vary the order in which I went around the various machines in the gym … or indeed vary the weights I had been using (preferably by regularly increasing them) … or even on some trips to the gym, do completely different exercises.

The point was that by constantly surprising (and challenging) your body, you could increase your core strength and general health by several increments.

In effect (he was suggesting) that – by acting as I had – I had completely wasted my time!

The purpose of my post today is to register that last night I began my latest (and my first since suffering two bouts of Covid) new fitness campaign. As things happen, I have lost 6 pounds in weight since I had my near-consecutive bouts of Covid. I guess that my first goal – beyond forcing myself to take exercise regularly at all – is to set myself the goal of “maintaining” my current weight!





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About Gerald Ingolby

Formerly a consumer journalist on radio and television, in 2002 Gerald published a thriller novel featuring a campaigning editor who was wrongly accused and jailed for fraud. He now runs a website devoted to consumer news. More Posts