Eventually, we all succumb. Whether our surrender is a result of pride, carelessness or administrative error, we all ultimately find ourselves on some kind of quest to improve ourselves. It needn’t be much. More care with your physical appearance, learning a language or improving your diet; it all counts towards making an even better you. And although I could have ironed a shirt, learned how to speak Klingon so I could fulfill my life’s ambition to translate ‘The Art of the Deal’ into a language more suited to its author or eaten some broccoli; I, instead, chose personal training.
My last birthday was something of a landmark occasion; probably a small mountain or an odd-shaped building. But whatever the monument, it’s the first time news of my birthday has ever been greeted with surprise. It’s something of an insult. I’m not sure what it says about how I conducted myself when I was younger, but when people react to your birthday by muttering, ‘really?’ it’s time to act.
I’ve attended the occasional exercise class before. Mostly, I like to blend in and not draw attention to myself, despite my insistence on always wearing bright pink Lycra. Whilst dressing like a highlighter pen might seem at odds with keeping a low profile, it’s solely for safety reasons. You can’t be too careful in exercise class. Or, as it turns out, too comfortable.
The difference between exercise class and personal training is that there’s nowhere to hide. It’s just you and the person whose job it is to hunt you down in the event you decide to take shelter in the air conditioning duct. Despite this, I turned up having forsaken my traditional hot pink Lycra in favour of full camouflage gear and one eye on the air conditioning duct in the event I needed to execute a swift escape.
My trainer was an easy-going fellow who, technically speaking, may well qualify as a giant. But personal trainers should really be called ‘personable trainers’ as they seem to specialize in being friendly and encouraging. Perhaps it’s their way of getting the best out of you. Or, then again, maybe it’s designed to lull you into a false sense of security.
My trainer asked whether I was familiar with the Romanian Deadlift. Disappointingly, the Romanian Deadlift is not a band, although it probably should be. Let me say at the outset, I’m extremely fond of any exercise that’s geographically specific. Whether it’s the Welsh Squat, the Hungarian Vault or the Dutch Oven, these exercises have a sense of tradition that makes a trip to the gym feel culturally enriching as well as exhausting. Then he explained what a ‘Romanian Deadlift’ was.
It involves keeping your back straight whilst bending at the hips and pushing your backside out as far as it will go. As a middle-aged man, such actions run counter to every instinct in my body. That’s like asking me to change my routine or skip the news – it’s simply not something I ever contemplate doing. Also, there’s a small matter of ‘the incident’.
It was years ago. We were looking after my father’s farm in Tyabb whilst he went gallivanting overseas. Before departing, he provided a list of the animals he feared might ‘go to God’ during his absence. At the top of the list was his dog, Nelson. Some pets are simply that. They share space with you and eat your food, but everyone goes about living their daily lives, unaffected. Others are so much more. Nelson was in the latter category. I’m not sure if there’s such a thing as a ‘Hound of Distinction’ but if there is, it’d describe Nelson. When he did, unfortunately, pass away, it fell to my brother and I to bury him in accordance with my father’s incredibly detailed and deeply impractical instructions.
Nelson was to be buried next to the lavender bush. The problem being that it was the meeting place for a large number of bees during daylight hours. So we had to wait until the sun went down. Digging in the darkness, when struck trouble when we burrowed through a large underground apartment complex for bullants. Still, we continued to dig. The deeper we got, the harder it became. Wielding a mattock, I stretched out as far as I could as I swung. Then I heard an almighty ripping sound. After a quick check, I was able to ascertain that the seat of my trousers remained in place. It was only later when getting ready for bed that I made the gruesome discovery that my boxer shorts had ripped from top to tail. I was shocked. Granted, I was at full stretch, but it’s not as though I was performing a Romanian Deadlift.
As the personal trainer waited my shorts, if not large portions of my life, flashed before my eyes. I hoped that my exercise gear could withstand the additional pressure. I hoped that no one was watching as I gingerly moved into position. Most of all, I hoped there was no-one standing directly behind me in case the unthinkable happened and there was a catastrophic structural failure. Fearing that the Romanian Deadlift might trigger a Tyabb Trouser Tear, I bolted in the air conditioning duct. Someday, maybe in a month or so, I’ll leave the duct and resume my life. Until then, if someone asks where I am, just tell them I’ve duct out for a bit.