I am a fat b'stard. No, don't all rush to argue with me - it's the truth and one which stares at me every time I look down. Assuming stomachs can "stare"... Maybe they can't. I'll look for a better metaphor later...
Anyway, for the last six weeks-or-so, I've been doing something wholly unheard of for me - I've been voluntarily exercising, and watching what I eat and drink. Every single day. Shocking, but true.
One of the perks of being a Sabb Officer - and I'm eternally grateful that there are, comparatively speaking, quite a few - is that we're granted a membership to the University gym. Before now, I'd always regarded gyms as a cliquey place where "outsiders" were glared at until, out of sheer discomfort, they either threw themselves out of the nearest window never to be seen again, or simply gave up their dreams of living a healthy lifestyle, turning instead to drink and junk food.
Well, ok, *maybe* I was subconsciously hamming it up so I wouldn't have to venture into a gym myself, but I definitely never felt comfortable with the thought of rocking up to a gym with no idea how to work the machines, or what machines I should be working on. Basically, my fear of looking like a numpty got the better of me, although in all fairness I've had 26 years of practise at making a complete and utter tw*t of myself in public, so I'm probably not over-exaggerating the risks here... ;o)
Having done my gym induction with a handful of other equally lost-looking newbies at the Uni's St Paul's Gym - a scary enough prospect for me - I paid a few quid to have one of their staff members write up a programme for me. This is basically a one hour walk-around the gym kit - they ask what you're trying to achieve (for me it was simply "I'd quite like to lose some of this lard", although I was a bit disappointed to be told I couldn't bank on losing two stone in a week...), and based on your answers and your fitness levels, they pick out a series of exercises for you to work on when you come into the gym.
The only problem was getting over the instructor's advice not to look at my feet as I was running. Being an idiot - there's no other explanation for it - I then subconsciously made studying my feet a number one priority, nearly going base-over-apex into the window in front of me as a result.
For the record though, all the staff at the gym I've met so far have been friendly, helpful, and more than happy to show a complete newbie how to use a machine. No doubt they go back to their colleagues afterwards saying "I can't believe he didn't know how to turn on an exercise bike" (hint: start pedalling. Oh the shame...), but I can live with that as long as their derision isn't too overt.
Anyhoo, to cut an ever-lengthening (and no doubt extremely boring from start to anti-climactic conclusion) story short, I didn't collapse, wheezing and panting, after running a hundred metres. I didn't trip over my laces and headbutt the treadmill (although I nearly have done, several times a day). And no, I haven't found God or seen The Light. But the training's definitely having a positive effect. Until last week I was making it to 8km a day, but my leg's given up on me, so the treadmill's become my new home for the time being.
In case you're wondering, this healthy living kick didn't come about out of thin air - I kinda figured out that the combination of smoking, eating junk, living almost all of my waking life in the office, consuming so much caffeine on a daily basis that I resembled a particularly angry version of South Park's Tweek, and my general inability to "do" relationships of any sort - or even conversations, truth be told - was placing me squarely into a very grumpy downward spiral. That, and the fact I was less than impressed that I weighed 91 kilos (14 stone, 5 lbs), according to the University boxing club's scales.
Since I've started, I've completely cut caffeine out of my diet, so that means no more tea, coffee, sugary drinks, etc... Ok, so I'm still enjoying a pint or three, and smoking just as much as ever - well, you've got to draw the line somewhere... My new Best Friend is a bottle of water (and although I've been tempted to add a little vodka for harder days in the office, I've managed to avoid the temptation so far...). I'm also eating much more healthily, only falling off the wagon to buy chocolate and espresso by the bucket-load when I broke down in the middle of the night, in pouring rain, somewhere in deepest darkest Hampshire a few weeks ago, after nearly giving myself hypothermia. Idiot? Moi? Noooooo... Ok, guilty as charged.
So, after a few weeks of not-very-serious exercise, and trying not to stuff myself full of carbs and sugar at every opportunity, I've dropped down to just over 81 kilos - ten kilos lost (about 1 1/2 stones). Most of that will be water mass, so it's not the massive success story it might first appear to be, but it has knocked a couple of inches off my waist, and I reckon there's less chance of Greenpeace trying to push me back into the sea while I'm on the beach in Ibiza next week, so it can't all be too bad... ;o)
Anyway, the point of this rambling monologue, if there is one, is that even the least healthy person can go down to the gym, get on a bike, or even go for a walk, and come away feeling better for it.
If you can make it down to the gym, spend a few quid and get a personal programme sorted. It'll give you a good benchmark from which to develop your exercise plan, and you can always fall back to it from a more intense workout if you're exhausted or short on time without feeling guilty. Plus, it'll help you learn how to use the gym equipment well (c'mon, who honestly can claim to have learnt how to use every single piece of gym equipment from their twenty minute induction?).
(If you are going down the gym, this is well worth a look, even if it's just so you can tick off all the ones you've seen other people doing - Rob The Bouncer's Ten Things You Shouldn't Be Doing In A Gym).
Even if you can't make it to the gym, or you just can't stomach paying the membership fee (I probably wouldn't, truth be told), the weather outside at this time of year is lovely - even the rain's not too cold, so there's virtually no excuse not to do something - anything.
And, last of all, if I can fit a workout into my day (which I can quite easily fill up with Massively Important Work Stuff if there's nothing else to do), then anyone can. Promise ;o)
Shameless plug: the University Gym.
p.s. Some related reading, in case this hasn't bored you enough: Elite FTS - training advice and features