My attitude to exercise through the ages:
4 - 8 The Golden Years
Undisputed school beanbag- on - head race champion. Constant needling rivalry with Rachael Pool for the "running race" crown, like the Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis of Park Grove Primary. When we came together, thrillingly, inconceivably, in the three-legged race, sparks flew. We TRAINED for that race. All year. Also: gymnastics. Good, but not brilliant. Spent most of 7th year in a headstand. All photographs of me during that year feature me upside down - on roadsides, at home, in restaurants.
8-11 The Pony Years
If it didn't have fetlocks, I didn't want to know. Ok, this is embarassing, but during one of these years, there was a slightly disturbed but very strong Eastern European girl at our primary school who was my substitute pony when I couldn't get on a real one. She would give me endless piggy backs round the playground while I pretended we were doing olympic dressage, or doing the Hickstead Grand Prix. This is also the period during which I trained our rabbit to showjump over poles in the garden. I am not proud of that either. Dark, dark times.
11-16 The Remedial Years
It sure as hell didn't get any better next, when puberty fucked with my centre of gravity, co-ordination, spatial awareness and sense of self. School games was the torture most of you, I imagine, know and remember, compounded for me by the strange physical law that if there was a ball within 800 yards of me, it WOULD hit me on the back of the head. Repeated humiliation at the hands of the more able, the windswept hockey tundra a two mile trudge from the school, horribly constricting blue nylon knickers, tiny pleated nylon skirts, smelly changing rooms, punishments for forgotten kit, small, hard, balls on mysterious trajectories and the icy fetid menace of the concrete mortuary that was the Skool Pool. If Jean-Paul Sartre had been required to do Games, he would have revised his estimation of exactly what hell is.
Things improved slightly when our games mistress, frustrated at the unteachable crapness of me and my friends decided to introduce streaming in PE. We, the "bottom set", the fat ones, the dyspraxic ones, the speccy ones with overly long limbs, the tiny misshapen shrimpy ones, all of us, were herded into a netball court with the correspondingly remedial boys, given a couple of poorly inflated netballs and abandoned. We might have been socially untouchable, but at least we didn't need shin pads any more. It was brilliant, and excellent preparation for....
16-18 The Refusenik Years
This was the time when not liking exercise became socially acceptable, thank GOD. Wednesday afternoon was a cue to hole up in the common room eating Mother's Pride and Nutella and watching Australian soap operas right up until we were already slightly late for games, then dawdle so slowly up to the hockey tundra wearing various shockingly non-regulation items of clothing such as cycling shorts (sorry, it was the early '90s, we knew no better), get bollocked for being late, stand for 15 minutes in the corner of the field flicking our fringes and rollling our eyes, then dawdle back. Happy, happy days.
18-20 The 'Can't Remember' Years
I can't remember what exercise I did at this point in my life, but 'none' would be a safe assumption.
21 - 23 The Oxford Mental Years
At Oxford, I descended rapidly into food related lunacy and lost my hair, living on Marks & Spencer's low calorie prepared vegetable selections and reading "Zest" magazine for tips on fat free treats, juice fasts and cellulite treatments. I variously walked for miles, swam and ran with no shred of pleasure, purely for the weight loss benefits (dubious). The swimming was the worst. I hate swimming at the best of times and the dismal lengths up and down the swimming pool slow lane with all the other aquatic losers when all my peers were off cheerily drinking were particularly tragic.
24 - 26 The London Mental Years
Greater income and opportunity in London meant I could extend my exercise lunacy to the gym and yoga classes on top of endless running. This is the period in my life when it was entirely within the bounds of possibility that I would run to the gym four times a week, THEN work out, and then roller blade and do hours of yoga on Sundays. Mental, and a bit sad really.
26-31 The Baby Years
Yeah, I didn't really bother once I had babies, it just sort of petered out into nothing. I persisted with the lunacy for as long as I could during my first pregnancy, lots of swimming and yoga, but once I had actually had the baby I did try and go to a yoga class a couple of weeks post-partum and got sent home. But after that, I just surrendered to the grinding exhaustion and more consoling pursuit of eating cake. Oh, I did do Pilates in my second pregnancy, but that was just a couple of hours a week in between intensive cake eating bouts. When we moved to Paris, my knee got fucked up too, which gave me a cast iron excuse never to exercise again, or so I have interpreted it. I had it operated on and everything. "I have a bad knee!" became my excuse for everything. It still is. No, I can't take the bins out, I have a bad knee. No, I can't do my accounts, my knee is smarting.
31 - 32 The New Insanity Year
Having slipped off the sanity wagon again, and considering a bowl of miso soup adequate nourishment for the day, I went back to exercise at this point. For a year or so, my neighbour and I shared a personal trainer. Weirdly, I quite enjoyed this. I liked getting muscles in my arms from the boxing, liked having someone to push me harder than I would ever push myself, liked showing off balancing on bouncy balls. Once I had started eating again, but was still exercising, I had the best body I have ever had, definitely. It was noticeably good, defined, hard. HOWEVER:
32 - Present day: The Can't Be Arsed Years
The very second we moved, and I didn't have the personal trainer any more, I felt nothing so much as relief. "Oh good, I don't have to get up at 6 and put lycra on anymore" was the sum total of my thoughts on the subject. I didn't miss it a shred, and I have not missed it since. I miss looking good, but I know that to look good again, I would have to eat about half as much as I currently do AND exercise, because otherwise, all that happens is my thighs become terrifyingly vast. I can't. My brain can't bear to go that loopy again and my body can't be bothered. Also, I have a bad knee. Fingers has taken to amusing himself with my long abandoned 3 kg medicine ball.
"Medicine ball. Pourquoi ça s'appele medicine ball?"
"Because it is as bad as medicine. Now please don't drop it on my toe again".
I don't know. Can I continue to pretend that walking the dog is exercise? Why can't I just pay someone to take my body away and bring me back a better one? Meh, I say. Meh.
How do you feel about exercise? Can you be bothered?