The first mistake I made was to bring Deirdre with me to the doctor’s. My wife has a vested interest in my continuing existence, and probably loves me to an extent, so she was bound to make sure that any directions the doctor gave would be followed meticulously.
Pulling my test results out of a yellow folder, my doctor (young, but backed up by an army of framed certificates) announced that my cholesterol was high and “needed to be managed”. This meant a veto on butter, cheese and weekday wine, which are three of my favourite things, combined with some form of exercise, which I abhor.
I tried protesting the exercise mandate. While being a planner is admittedly a sedentary vocation, I do have a stand-up desk and manage to lurch into a vertical position several times per week, sometimes for 15 minutes at a time.
The doctor didn’t blink. I turned to Deirdre, looking for an ally. “Standing is very athletic,” I said.
She threw me a withering side-eye and asked the doctor to continue.
“You must get your heart-rate up, Mr. Bainbridge,” she said. “You need cardiovascular activity.”
Aggrieved but resigned, I agreed to try a few of my wife’s exercise suggestions.
First up, Pilates.
The sheer volume of spandex in the room was startling. God knows when the shiny stocking revolution took place, but the tracksuit-panted establishment has clearly been overthrown. Forty-five minutes of hip-bending barbarity later and the tendons in my groin were torn asunder. It seems that while the stretchy pants brigade’s muscles are attached to their bones by elastic bands, mine are held on with chain-link.
A week later and my physical form was ready to tackle Deirdre’s next suggestion: yoga. The similarities to Pilates were all too clear, but this one seemed to involve even more bending. After 17 minutes of hamstring-snapping stretches, I hobbled out of the studio in a pall of shame.
Deirdre’s next suggestion – something called rumba – sounded ominously upbeat. I refused, complaining that her idea of fitness so far had comprised two efforts to fold me into a pretzel.
One of my clients, a fitness enthusiast, suggested boxing. Sensing a free pass for my abused lower body, I agreed to attend a class. The problem with boxing, I soon found, is that it involves a tremendous amount of activity.
I was winded during the warm-up, and could only weakly paw my way through punching-bag sessions that had every other trainee pugilist throwing furious combinations.
Surely there was an easier way to avoid a heart attack? In truth, I’d never felt more likely to have one.
Beaten, I went back to my young medical professional ready to announce that I was going to eat cheese, drink wine on Wednesdays, and ride the lethargy train all the way to an early heart attack. Cholesterol be damned.
I told her I’d tried exercise, and didn’t like it. The lycra life of yoga and Pilates wasn’t for me, and boxing was several light-years beyond my fitness level.
“Mr Bainbridge, might I suggest you try going for a brisk walk in the evening?” she asked. “You’re not training for the Olympics, you just need to get moving every now and then.
“We don’t want you having a heart attack.”