In an attempt to sex up my exercise routine I have started boxing.
I got the idea from the ring at my new warehouse-style gym, where I was drawn like a Bisto kid, during recruitment drive.
Boxing demands concentration, dedication, stamina, fearlessness and strength and is, as such, the exercise that best services the needs of the ego.
It is performed on its own platform at a height sufficient to be able to look down on all the jokers vibrating on the gym floor power plates and, more importantly, for them to look skywards in admiration.
For few could fail to be moved by the sight of those magnificent gloves. Just picking them up places you in the lost episode of Mr Ben.
Under these big boys go wraps to support the hands and stop them getting sweaty. For which, 2 tips:
1. If they are bright red it’s not a great idea to put them in a wash with non-red things, unless you are very fond of mauve underwear.
2. They are easier to put on if they have been ironed. (Apparently clothes look better after this process too.)
After a skipping frenzy warm-up, I became one of a number of urbanites dodging and exhaling short, sharp blowing noises as near to the mirror as possible.
Clearly, this was really about acting: a convincing shake of the shoulders, a sharp gaze, a lashing out now and then in a faux gesture of aggression.
It was about shifting back and forth purposefully, protecting your nose, checking out who’s checking who out.
It was about doing the press-ups with only your thumbs even though you’d never be able to text again, because that’s what the clever ones were doing.
After one hour of punching out the frustrations of toddler daycare alongside the cream of W14’s 20-something professionals there was only one conclusion: this is the Best Thing Ever Invented.
Fun exercise. Together in the same sentence.
At what point does the howling suspicion of failure present itself?
In this instance, half-way through a session with a mean rugby player who helped me to realise that the purpose of throwing punches at someone is to connect with their anatomy and inflict lasting pain.
This requires technique to both apply and avoid.
And it is a matter of pride to learn it, unless you want to come over a bit Les Dennis doing a Mavis Riley impersonation.
Partners, of course, are key to picking it up and are rarely satisfactory.
As with tennis, you want to be put with someone better than you but not so you feel unworthy.
You don’t want to be put with a smirking a-hole who is enjoying your beetroot face, thinking, ‘I’ve got a live one’.
You don’t want to be with the useless girl who envelops you in her uselessness and thinks it’s funny that you make the most useless pair in the class.
You don’t even want to be with the semi-pro Thai girl who gives you helpful hints, even if she is strangely attractive.
You wouldn’t mind being with the cute trainer with dreads. But not slinging him a right hook.
Above all, it is important not to engage with these characters so you can use the hate for your punches.
Best to belittle them with a demeaning moniker- ‘Sponge face’, ‘Twat-fink’ and so on- and to intervene swiftly, ‘Reservoir Dogs’-styley, if they try to befriend you:
‘Christ, don’t tell me you name. I don’t want to know your name.’
What they are useful for is to explain why, several dozen sessions later, you are still in the trainer’s eye-line when he utters the phrase, ‘Beginners can try this…’.
Having started with the intention of attending up to the point where I thought it would be amusing to ask the trainer if I was ready for my first fight, I have instead been close to stropping off and heading for ‘Street Dance’ with Zoe.
In the event, I am satisfied with a more modest accomplishment.
‘This is not the same woman who started this class,’ said my fisticuffs trainer last week, as I knocked the skin off my sparing partner’s rice pudding.
Now that, my friend, is all I needed to hear.