When I first started going to the gym decades ago, people used to talk endlessly about their abs or lack of them and half the classes on offer seemed to be ¨Bums and Tums¨. I have fond memories of lying in a class and doing endless crunches to strengthen my tummy area. The wonderful thing about crunches is that when you become exhausted, you can just lie on the floor, stare at the ceiling and get your strength or motivation back. No longer. The whole bums and tums landscape has changed and has been renamed ¨Core and Glutes¨. Glutes isn´t so bad, you still end up doing leg lifts like a dog next to a lamp post and if the exercise starts to burn, you can miss out the odd rep when the teacher is concentrating on some other poor class member. Core however is an entirely different matter. There has been an insidious and in my case, entirely unwelcome addition to the exercise arsenal wielded by trainers and teachers – the plank.
The plank, I am reliably informed, is a far superior exercise to the crunch because it exercises so many more muscles at the same time, including arms, back and legs while really strengthening all your tummy muscles. That may be so, but Core classes have become a horrendous endurance test. You have to assume the position (plank that is) and then stay there for often well over a minute. This sounds easy enough but for the even slightly unfit , the shakes set in at about 40 seconds along with extreme sweating and a face the colour of a plum. To make matters worse, if you give up, you are seen by everyone collapsing onto the mat with a loud squelching noise – highly undignified. The problem is that it is nearly impossible to cheat and I am sure that is why the trainers use it.
The other infernal addition to many gyms is the TRX. This is a sort of strap that is attached to the ceiling or the wall and has two handles. The idea behind it is that pull yourself up from various contrived positions on the floor and therebye work your upper body. What no one seems to have taken into account is that it is all about body weight. If you are one of the gym members who lives on wheatgrass shakes and steamed vegetables, I am sure it is a wonderful idea to pull yourself up out of a low lunge fifty times. But for those of us who live on gin and tonic and slabs of chocolate, the effort needed to haul oneself up repeatedly without bursting a blood vessel in the eye or finishing your workout and realising you can no longer lift your arms, is just too much.
With these appalling new developments in fitness blighting my visits to the gym, I have decided to go retro and with the help of my female personal trainer have come up with a workout which should achieve all the same goals without quite so much pain and humiliation and take me back to those heady early days at the gym when Jane Fonda was doing her thing. Infact it is a workout which would not look out of place in the 80´s or 90´s but hey, once I get my legwarmers and sweatband, I will at least look the part. And who knows, perhaps in a few years, my exercise routine may come back into fashion.
Cartoon taken from the internet for illustrative purposes.