I was having dinner the other day with the admirable Arnopp, conversing about all things writerly, when the conversation drifted (as it often does) to exercise.
Now you may think exercise is an odd thing for two writers to talk about, given writing itself is about the least energetic thing you can do (even though thinking does burn quite a few calories); but that’s kind of the point.
There’s a tendency for writers to pile on the pounds a bit. I guess it’s due to moving nothing but your fingers and eyes for hours on end, usually within sauntering distance of the biscuit barrel.
I don’t know why, but chocolate biscuits seem essential to the writing process. Or my writing process at least. Some people like to choose the right music to write to, I like to choose the right biscuit to set the mood.
The end result of years of finger-waggling and biscuit-guzzling has left me slightly larger than intended.
I don’t know how it works for women, but as a man I’ve always said “The day I can no longer see my own cock will be the day I hit the gym in earnest”.
Well, that day … never came. Although I suspect I may have been leaning forward a bit.
The day that did come though was the “clothes are too tight and I can balance a mug of tea on my stomach whilst sitting bolt upright”. Okay, so the personal tea shelf is quite useful; but the clothes thing was annoying.
So it was time to do something about it.
I’ve been an occasional gym member over the years and found it takes too much time getting there/back; plus, if you work out how much time I spent in a gym versus not in one, I largely paid NOT to go to the gym.
Which is a waste.
There’s a free gym on the Secret Writing Island; but I could never guarantee it wasn’t full of other people. I hate going to a busy gym Having to constantly modify my workout to anticipate which machine/piece of equipment will be empty next just irritates me beyond belief. Seriously, if you ever see an episode of Death in Paradise in which everyone in a gym is dead except for one chubby, spoon-wielding, ginge – IT WAS ME!
Years back I used to train three different martial arts on various nights … but I’m a family man now and disappearing every night is frowned upon. Mostly by me. So that’s out.
Time is another restriction. I don’t want exercise taking up all morning. Nor do I want it taking up all evening. If Mandy’s out of the country then I have to look after Alice and can’t really leave the house, so I needed an exercise program I could do in my own house, with limited equipment which didn’t take longer than an hour a day.
I don’t know if you’ve seen the infommercials for this; but it’s all over American TV and looks really, really fucking annoying.
But … I wasn’t getting any thinner it seemed to tick all the boxes – an hour (ish) a day, limited equipment, no need to go to the gym.
I’m a bit obsessive when it comes to research, so I spent a few months poring over the details and decided … oh fuck it, why not?
And you know what? It’s been really good.
Well, mostly good.
I’ve enjoyed it anyway.
Or at least the bits where I wasn’t lying broken in a pool of my own sweat vowing to hunt down and murder Tony Horton.
I didn’t do the before and after photos because … well, it’s a bit weird; but let’s just say after completing the program I can happily report my penis and I are once again seeing eye to eye.
To be fair, I didn’t even do it properly. Instead of six days a week, I did four or five and I didn’t even bother with the meal plan. I did give up chocolate, sweets, crisps and biscuits for February (never give up stuff in January, it’s too long. February’s much more civilised) and have subsequently found I’m not that bothered about snacky stuff now.
Or, you know, significantly less so.
Immediately pre-P90X I ate 16 Lily O’Brien’s chocolate chip cookies in less than an hour.
That’s just silly, in anyone’s delicious book.
P90X is essentially a series of alternating muscle/cardio videos – 14 in all. You do muscle/weight stuff on the odd days and cardio stuff on the evens. The muscle stuff is broken down into groups so you don’t work everything at the same time, whilst the cardio stuff is plyometrics (an hour of ‘fuck me is this nearly over yet?’ jumping and squatting), Yoga (an hour and a half of ‘fuck me, I can’t do that!’ whilst dislocating the odd shoulder) and Kenpo (an hour of vaguely martial-art-themed punching and kicking. I’m quite good at that one).
I’ve found I can do it immediately after Alice has gone to bed or early in the morning before breakfast, depending on whether I’m in the UK or on the Secret Writing Island. It’s an hour of effort with no travelling time … and, well it worked for me.
I look better, I feel better and I’m thinking better. Hopefully that translates into writing better too … but probably not.
For me, it’s a good system at a reasonable price. Even more reasonable if you get a second hand set off eBay.
No, there’s nothing revolutionary in it. Yes, you could put a similar program together yourself; but there’s an inherent level of motivation to be had from following a video. It’s far easier to give up or slow down (on the cardio bits) if you’re just doing your own thing, so for me it was worth it.
There are dozens of similar products out there, this was just the one I chose. I think I’m going to try Insanity next because the adverts amuse me.
“Most of you watching this won’t be able to do Insanity. If you try, you’ll fucking die so don’t even bother.”
But if you’re feeling a bit porky and want to sort yourself out, you could do a lot worse than checking out P90X.
Like I say, it seems to have worked for me.
Or at least, everyone keeps telling me it has. At great length and in effusive detail. Which is exactly the same as having friends and family following me around saying:
“Fuck me, you used to be so fat. You were massive. Oh my God, you were so big I wanted to be sick.”
All fucking day.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to do some one-handed press ups.
I need the other hand to eat these biscuits.