Ian McMillan: Turning the battle for fitness into a spectacle

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I walk from the kitchen into the conservatory, clutching a book.

My plan is to sit and read the book with as much concentration as I can, not just because it’ll make me a better human being but because I’m going to be interviewing the author in the next few days and I need to think of some intelligent and searching questions to ask rather than just ‘Firstly, can you tell me about your lovely book? And secondly, can you tell me a bit more about your lovely book?’

When I get into the conservatory, though, I’m distracted by a bird at the bottom of the garden; it’s flapping about in a birdy way (you can tell I’m an expert) and I can’t quite make out what it is, so I trudge back to the kitchen to fetch my glasses so that I can see the mystery bundle of feathers and beak properly, and of course it’s flown away when I get back and I express my frustration in colourful terms but then my wife says ‘Oh well, at least you got some exercise’ and she’s right. Going from the conservatory to the kitchen and back again would have burned off a tiny amount of calories, would have toned me up just a little bit.

Now, it’s not as though I don’t do any exercise at all; it’s just that I don’t go to the gym. I always think the gyms are places where people show off to each other, pounding treadmills in front of mirrors to soft-rock tunes like a hellish version of a sixth-form dance from the 1980s.

I exercise at home. Each morning I get up and do various sitting-up and pressing-up things. I then go for my morning stroll. If I’m alone in the house doing the washing up I jog a little in front of the sink, despite the fact that I feel and look daft. It all helps, I reckon, each sink-jog adding a few minutes to my life.

But then, as I put my glasses on again in the conservatory, I realised that my wife had hit upon a new exercise method that could actually make me (and her, I’d give her royalties. A few royalties) a very rich man indeed and then I could get all the exercise I needed by lifting up my huge bags of cash.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Ian McMillan’s Glasses Aerobics! Place your spectacles in a room; I recommend a room upstairs or perhaps a shed in the garden. Then you need to go into a room as far away from the glasses as possible.

Then you need to realise you’ve left the specs elsewhere and you have to walk and get them and bring them back to the room you walked out of. Imagine doing this several times a day; imagine walking up and down the stairs time after time sometimes clutching your glasses and sometimes not. Imagine that your glasses were in their quite heavy case: carrying them would be like carrying a very small weight.

And of course it doesn’t just have to be glasses. You could leave your keys somewhere, or your heavy hard-backed book, or your flat cap. It’s not the object that’s important, it’s the carrying of the object back and forth. Try it for a while and I’m sure you’ll feel the difference; your muscles will begin to ripple and your stomach will flatten as if by magic.

Now, where did I put my glasses?