Gravity – and I don’t mean the blockbuster movie – has become my bitterest enemy. So I’ve decided to try to do something about it.
Since the age of 18 I have not stepped foot in a gym and have never done any form of cardio. But I fear that my once-a-week ballet class is no longer enough to keep me from being a flabby skinny person.
So I’ve embarked on a quest to get fit. This quest took me to a new studio called Hiitgirl. The name stands for high-intensity interval training. It’s like a form of endurance hell.
The basic idea is this (and it’s brilliant for people who hate the gym): you only need to work out for 30 minutes at a furious pace. The workout is done in intervals – you push really hard for 30 seconds and then have a 30-second rest, repeating this until the end of the session. Some intervals will vary. According to Hiitgirl’s website, this is equivalent to a normal two-hour workout and you will continue to burn calories after you’ve finished. So far, so good.
My first impressions are really positive. The studio, a short walk from my flat in Crouch End, is for women only. With a pleasant smell and lashings of pink, this doesn’t so much resemble a gym as a spa. I am lulled into a false sense of security by the sound of women laughing and chatting after a session.
This serenity lasts precisely five minutes. As soon as I get changed I sign a disclosure that makes me worry that I could drop dead after my workout. There are alarming questions about heart conditions and passing out. I don’t show my fear, but I’m starting to get a little anxious.
There is little warm-up, you just dive straight in. A clock counts down how long you have to do each exercise, accompanied to thumping music. There are squats, lunges, sprints, press-ups, planks, jumps, bicycles and something horrible called a burpee.
I try my best, panting through each exercise. I feel like a small animal in the wild, trying to keep pace with his parents or face certain death. I am starring in a cutthroat natural history documentary. The voice of David Attenborough narrates my story: ‘And the human valiantly struggles but it’s no good. She won’t survive the winter.’
I do survive the class but feel like my legs are wobbling underneath me; I have trouble putting on my shoes. By the next day, moving has become a painful process and I feel bruised. I wince with every step. I live in London and walk more than I realized. Getting on and off buses is an ordeal that requires clutching the door for support. Steps fill me with dread and there are lots of them to be negotiated; they make my legs shake.
The irony is that I feel ancient, suddenly about 80 years old. Instead of feeling like I am bursting with unspent energy, I am hobbling. Even my armpits hurt. I won’t elaborate the ordeal that is the toilet.
Maybe I’m a masochist but I’ve signed up for 8 more sessions. For the privilege of feeling like my body has been hit by a heavyweight boxer, I’ve paid £99 (minus 20% for my first month). I might be ready to do another class in about a week, so I figure I might actually be fit by this time next year.