Anyone who knew me in my youth might be a bit surprised to see me now. For most of my twenties and thirties I hugged the sofa like a drowning man clings to a life belt and loudly maintained that exercise was bad for you. Indeed, for someone like me who was recovering from M.E. / C.F.S., it was – at least if I overdid it.
So how did I go from couch potato to gym bunny? Well, slowly – that was key. As soon as I overstretched myself I’d lapse straight back into exhaustion, so it had to be done in tiny steps.
First I hired a personal trainer – something I’d always regarded as a bit self-indulgent, but which proved essential. I went to the fabulous Anne Jaques who was patient, encouraging and knew exactly when to make me stop. Over a period of months she got me from screeching after 10 sit-ups to being able to see some – gasp – definition.
Anne then oversaw my transition from gentle walking into even gentler running and from there into boxercise classes (I pack a punch. Don’t cross me; really, don’t). Boxercise made a massive difference to my fitness and when the classes were discontinued I was fit enough to move on to boot camp (try it if you’re anywhere near Monmouth – it rocks).
And then, of course, there’s the rowing, which I started gently nearly two years ago and in earnest just over a year ago. Now I row three times a week (in the summer months) and do some form of land training (boot camp, usually) once or twice a week, as well as walking the dog up and down lots of hills. Sometimes I still get a relapse when I’ve overdone it and have to do a lot of lying down for a few days. But for the first time in my life I’d say I’m probably somewhere near fit. Not bad for a confirmed sloth.