Up at 9. Slight knee pain hurt walking down the stairs first thing (booo), but five minutes later they seem to be OK (hooray). Time to get assessed.
I meet Lara, my former bandmate turned personal trainer in Great Portland Street at 11.15am. I am nervous. My brief experiences of personal training have been painful. Lara works out of a gleamingly refitted branch of the LA Fitness chain; this particular central London one, before the lunchtime rush, is filled even more than usual with the kind of hard-bodied, healthular, underemployed staff, all of whom are kind enough not to laugh at me.

After two minutes warmup on the treadmill, we start with dynamic stretching. This is clearly the fashionable LA alternative to what I call stretching (which is sneered down to ‘static stretching’). You use a step and a table and gently bounce your way to warming things up. It works much better, actually. Yeah, static stretching is soooo over. This is good. Then the assessment begins, in the studio. I have to walk up and down like a catwalk model in order to assess my gait. Aaaand turn. First ‘normally’. Then with my hands above my head, then with big strides (which ends up a little bit Ministry Of Silly Walks), then with feet turned in, then balance-here-and-touch-that-wall-with-this-foot, and on and on in endless variations, the results of which Lara notes on a doomy-looking page of her notepad. Everything is repeated in mirror images, there is much talk of balancing and rotation and flexors and extendors and terrifying-sounding muscles that, already, I know are probably going to hurt tomorrow.

Physically I am, of course, wrong. Nothing is quite in line, nothing is perfectly balanced. My feet strike weirdly, my right shoulder droops. Lara misses nothing. It’s harder work than it looks, too. I am already slightly sweaty by the time Lara smiles brightly and says “OK, time for the workout now!”. The wuh?  This is the point of the exercise: ‘functional training’, sport-specific, person-specific exercises that take into account the sort of movement you see in ‘real life’ (whatever that was). Although ‘functional training’, like ‘extraordinary rendition’, is of course an obsfucation for torture. High speed interval runs; terrifying, hamstring-pummeling corrective lunges; rotations with weights, hot medicine ball action, something which seems like a mutated, tortuous version of ballroom dancing where I push that way and she pushes that and I lean that way and scream a bit.

By the end, I am completely soaked. I walk out of the now busy gym, exhausted, and wander down Great Portland Street, limping slightly. I was thinking about running home from work tonight, by the time I get there I am so fragile I am wondering if I am ever going to run again. I already feel better though, somehow.

That evening I email Lara and set up another appointment for next week.

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