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The long and the shorts of it . . .

PUBLISHED: 13:00 10 March 2015 | UPDATED: 13:05 10 March 2015

Copyright Ioana Drutu 2007

Tony Redman embarks on a fitness regime

That nice GP of mine prescribed a course of treatment on the NHS for my back.

I eventually got to speak to a real person at the West Suffolk Hospital who made an appointment with a physiotherapist.

“Oh, and please bring some shorts to wear . . .”

Public undressing is a deep phobia of mine, completely confirmed when I take a sideways look at my semi-naked body in the full length mirror in the changing rooms. Thinking there must be two of us, I turn round. Nope, it’s all me.

I tell myself I must stop drinking, go on a diet, do anything to recover my muscle tone, or whatever it is that I have lost that used to prevent my stomach from consuming my naval.

Four sessions on I have overcome the shorts problem, and learned to breath in for as long as I can to hold it all in, when the nice lady physio enters the cubicle.

“Touch your toes, please. That’s much better than last time. You have been doing well, much more supple and your back feels much better. You have worked well at the exercises haven’t you?” Snigger, smile.

“Well, I’ve tried as best as I can,” I reply, trying to cover up my embarrassment at not doing a quarter of the things she recommended the previous week.

“Now we’re going to concentrate on your inner core” she says, as if this is something we’re working at together, rather than me being the victim of some strange new torture – which is what I know it’s going to become. “Hop up on the couch on all fours.”

I have long discarded the idea of hopping anywhere, along with thoughts of swimming the channel and running the marathon. I look at my feet. To my horror I realise that I have not washed them since the hour spent weeding the garden in my open toed sandals.

As the physio leaves the cubicle to answer a call, I do a quick wash and brush up with all I have available to me, namely a pair of shabby socks and a mouth full of saliva. Not a bad job I think to myself, as long as the soles don’t see the light of day.

“On all fours please,” the returning physio commands. Trying to avert her attention from the soles of my feet – now drying nicely top side – I attempt to mount the couch, which resembles a bucking bronco in all its instability.

Now comes a list of seemingly impossible commands. Clench your buttocks, bring your belly button in tight to your back, raise your left arm and your right leg out straight, pretending to balance a glass of wine in the small of your back. Really?

“Oh,” comes the afterthought, “and keep breathing.” Attempting such a set of seemingly contradictory commands at ground level might just be possible, but at an altitude of four feet, on a rickety NHS couch, they’re fraught with danger and demand at least a written risk assessment. Nevertheless I attempt the feat.

“And hold.” During what seems like an eternity, but was probably less than 30 seconds, my whole life flashes in front of my eyes.

“Good,” says the reassuring physio. “Now, opposite legs and arms.” What started out as mild amusement becomes sheer torture, as I try to remember leg, opposite arm, straight back, clenching bottom, belly button, breathing and imaginary glass of wine. It’s all too much, and as I collapse into a hopeless heap, the nice physio says that doing it ten times, three times a day will help me to get the technique right and strengthen my inner core for next time.

I leave at last, wondering to myself where exactly I’m going to perform this amusement in the middle of the working day.

I take comfort in the knowledge that as a nation, it seems we are all putting on more weight, taking less exercise, growing less fit, swimming less and eating too much. This magazine, with all its wonderful suggestions for eating out, always makes me drool.

In light of this, I have challenged myself to take advantage of the fabulous Suffolk countryside we probably take too much for granted, and in future try to walk each day for as long as I eat.

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