To the delight of my four year old, I win the mother’s day race – a covertly competitive affair, when you assure people you don’t really care, but then run like hellfire when the starting whistle sounds.
The win was immaterial – it was how great it felt to use my body like that. To unleash all the energy that hangs around, untapped, muscles pumping like pistons, feet flashing beneath you… everything an exhilarating blur. I’d forgotten that I loved to run, to play sport, to compete for a ball and shoot for the hoop. I haven’t exercised in over four years, but my body hadn’t forgotten – and it inspired me to get back on that damn bike.
As part of last month’s ‘3 Day Cleanse’ at Grace Belgravia, I received two hours of fitness assessment and training. ‘We’ll go easy on you,’ said Danny, after my potted history of recent unfitness and sleep-deprivation. Treadmill, squats, lunges, press-ups, weights, medicine ball, boxing… he kept the challenges coming. It felt incredible. That I had struggled to get out of bed, yet found myself happily and energetically lunging, boxing and squatting, was the biggest surprise. I did not feel tired at all.
Having never used a personal trainer before, I didn’t realise how much of a workout you can fit into an hour (my years of gym membership were typically divided between treadmill and steam room). Training with someone else who is in charge of raising the bar – five more press-ups, one more circuit, a heavier weight – compels you to reach further into your reserves than if exercising alone. I also wanted to prove I could do it; that I am really strong and I don’t need anyone to go easy on me. Weird mentality, but a sporting one, and it got me fired up (and I did accidentally land a punch on Danny’s nose mid-boxing session – I am sorry about that).
The next day I met with Duncan, who took me through a beginner’s Pilates session. Having powered through the previous day’s cardio and weight work, Duncan revealed my Achilles’ heel (and bottom, thighs and triceps). With tiny movements and minute adjustments, I found my entire body aching, quaking and quivering – as each muscle was tested and engaged. The butt ache that I felt from one of the leg lifts was insane – I actually howled.
Though not my favourite fitness experience, it was revealing, and I do enjoy a challenge. I went into the day with a buzz of energy that had long been lacking, made a phonecall that I’d put off for a fortnight, and halved my to-do list. That’s the sort of finishing line I really care about.