Ian McMillan: In the zone with a cup of tea and a scone

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It’s January 4, 2015 and the Yorkshireman, let’s call him the Portly Yorkshireman, is about to use one of his Christmas presents for the first time. His family clubbed together and got him a year’s gym membership, wrapped up and tied with a ribbon. “You wanted a surprise,” they said on Christmas morning, and it’s true that his face, captured on a smartphone video, was at first anticipatory, then surprised, then “pleased”, then twisted in a rictus of fear.

And now, here he is, at the door of the gym. Men who look like they’ve just stepped from the beach brush past him; they are buffed and linished and tanned and toned and smooth. He may be wrong, but it appears to the Portly Yorkshireman that the chap in the tracksuit just opened the door with his stomach muscles. The Portly Yorkshireman presents his brand new gift membership card at the desk. A young woman with her hair tied back in a severe ponytail reads it and smiles. I think she’s seen the Portly Yorkshireman’s sort before. “You’ll have to have an assessment,” she says. “We’ll be able to do it in about 15 minutes.” The Portly Yorkshireman almost weeps with relief. A man who looks like he needed planning permission for his neck lumbers past, sweat cascading from every pore.

There’s a cafe at the gym so the Portly Yorkshireman decides to wait there for until it’s time for his assessment. He orders a cup of tea and, because he needs to build himself up before hammering the equipment, a scone with jam. The cafe is empty because everybody else is lifting weights or getting nowhere on a rowing machine. The Portly Yorkshireman sits in the corner. He feels that the word PORTLY is floating over his head like an accusation.

Someone had told him that before you start working out you have to warm up, so he decides to do just that, in the quiet of the cafe. He imagines that he is moving to a thumping beat. He lifts the cup. He lifts the cup. He lifts the cup some more. He turns the saucer. He turns the saucer. He turns the saucer some more. He feels fitter already!

He lifts the cup again. He turns the saucer again. He grabs the plate with the scone on it. He spreads butter and jam on the scone to make it heavier. He lifts the plate above his head. He feels his body beginning to shed quite a lot of its excess weight. He raises and lowers the plate, the imaginary music pounding away.

What’s that phrase they use in places like this? Ah yes: circuit training. The Portly Yorkshireman will do some circuit training. He lifts the cup, he lowers the cup. He turns the saucer. He holds the plate and the scone high above his head, first with two hands and then with one, for as long as he can. Ah, the effort! Oh, the reward! He puts a teaspoon on the plate to make it heavier, then lifts it again, high above his head. He feels like a new man!

He lifts the plate and lowers it once more. He considers making an exercise DVD for next year’s Christmas market: Crockery and Cutlery Fitness with the Portly Yorkshireman.

I’d buy it, wouldn’t you?

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