The unfittest of the unfit

Never before in my life have I been bottom of the class.  Now in my early dotage, I found myself in that position today.  It wasn't an examination or any assessment it was actually something I chose to do.

You see, I joined the Life and Sole Gym in the Forres Enterprise Park as part of an NHS Referral Scheme.  Before I waffle on, I want you to know it was fantastic, totally great plus you have the added bonus of being able to make rude gestures as you pass the neighbouring building which holds ATOS (I kid you not).  Bloody huge building it is too.  I can't think where they get their money from.  Wait, did someone say UK Government Handouts?  Anyway, back to the point.

I've wanted to get fit again for ages but have never found the right way to do it.   So, I was interested when I noticed an article in the Forres Gazette about the new Forres Gym, Life and Sole.  They have arranged with the NHS to run a return to fitness programme.  Now this is primarily for rehabilitating cardiac patients but after discussing things with my GP and having a meeting with the ever smiling Gym owner, Dave Powney, I became one of the guinea pigs for the first referral scheme.

I had already met with Dave a couple of weeks ago to discuss my various problems after he had been discussing me with my GP (with my permission) who is a regular gym bunny. Dave also has a background in the physiotherapy field of the NHS so knows well how to cope with the wrinkled infirm.  Even after our discussion I had to fill in my health details again when I arrived, being met by the young Dan, another friendly, smiling employee.   My only disappointment was I hadn't realised there were no changing rooms, so I had to change in the disabled toilets.  Scrupulously clean, as they were, this wasn't too bad.  On thinking about it, providing showers and changing facilities would have meant for a much larger facility and endless health and safety and maintenance problems.  I'll be more organised next time.

Next up, the smiling and cheery (notice the running trend) Jill, took the half dozen of us through to the large fitness area with a dreadful full length wall mirror.  Bloody hell, that was an image I didn't need to see.  I was double the size of the other participants and the only one in shorts!   Well, I had bought them specially for this.  Everybody wore shorts the last time I was in a gym (16 years ago).  Now - its what Amazon calls, "jogging bottoms", "open hem stadium pants", "joggers" or "tracksuit bottoms".  Younger folk wear abysmal long baggy shorts. I'll stick to my new rugby shorts (I've got the legs for them apparently) and they helped to keep me cool.

The idea of the hour long session was a fitness circuit where we made our way round the room using various bits of equipment the staff had (kindly) laid out for us.  Simple things like a ball, a big elastic-band-type-thingy,  weights of different sizes, step platforms, and a punchbag.  Also, more complicated looking torture fitness equipment such as a bike with huge movable handles, a complicated pulley thingy hanging from the ceiling and would you credit it - a mini trampoline.  I get the feeling I'm gonna get to know these pieces of equipment in minute detail after a few sessions.

To begin with we had a simple warm-up of walking round the room waving your hands and arms in various positions, remembering to breathe.  I failed at the first hurdle.  Not that there was an actual hurdle, but you know what I mean.  You were supposed to keep walking on the spot all the time.  No way - Jose.  To my endless shame I had to ask for a chair to be taken through for me!  I hadn't really noticed before but fit young folk don't actually sit down in a Gym.  I only saw 3 chairs in the whole place.  Anyway, Dave quickly and effortlessly carried a comfy heavy looking high-stool type chair through for me.  Dave and Jill take excellent care of you and watch your every move and breathing capability.  It's clearly going to be a learning curve for Life and Sole and me while I progress in my get fit campaign.  I do like being a trailblazer.

My first circuit piece was a criss-cross stretch rope which was pretty simple for me.  The next one was just a wee bit more difficult.  You were supposed to throw a ball at the wall and then catch it.  So far, so easy.  After that, you were supposed to squat and get up again. Huh.  Jill took one look at my face and heard my exclamation of pain and told me not to bother with the squat bit.  I think that might be in session 324.   I got hopelessly confused at the most simple bit of equipment - a platform step.  I honestly couldn't co-ordinate stepping up onto the platform, with a walking stick in one hand, for balance.  I was ending myself with laughter at that one.  Doofus.

I got to use my chair again at the simple bicep curls and also had a welcome seat on the bike.  Dave was quite happy for me not to use the moving handles to stretch my arms. That would have meant bed-inducing spasms.  My backside was already spasming nicely by this point.  Dave and Jill pointed out to me, at every opportunity,  NOT to work through the pain.  Yes - NOT to work through the pain.  Now, all you folk who, like me, suffered physio-terrorists through the 70s, 80s and 90s probably had "Work through the pain!" ringing in your ears.  Bliss, folk who understand chronic pain problems.  I was told to miss out the complicated and painful looking pulley completely and was encouraged to use the seat at all the suitable equipment.  Lastly, for me, came the mini-trampoline.  There was no bouncing up and down.  Just walking on it.  We then cooled down by walking around again and doing stretches which I actually found more difficult than some of the equipment.

Again, I want to make it clear I thoroughly enjoyed myself!  I had managed to get out of the house and meet new friendly  folk and cheerful encouraging teachers.  The sun was even shining when I left the gym just wearing my damp tee shirt and now used shorts letting my very hot legs cool off.  My body was moving far easier than normal and the endorphins were clearly rushing around my body.  I honestly thought I'd collapse in a heap when I got home.  I didn't.  OK, I sat in the summerhouse with a big mug of tea and pint of water for an hour or so but was able to do an hour's worth of ironing before needing my usual sleep at 3 o'clock.  Roll on the next session on Thursday.  I've got an acupuncture session afterwards to help me recover.

It only costs £4.00 a session and you can book and pay for the twice-weekly sessions in advance if you wish.   The NHS covers the other costs.  You can find out more about Life and Sole at  or 01309 676632.