Commit To Get Fit... Possibly the most exciting work-based initiative since my colleague Sam proposed some guerrilla gardening to sort out the patch of grass outside our office. It's a jungle out there - I half expect to come across a confused-looking orang-utan or a new species of fruit bat.
I work in Widening Participation, tucked away in a corner of Essex House, a place where you're either basking in sub-tropical temperatures (usually in December) or shivering with chattering teeth (sometime in July). It's an old building - only nine years ago when I visited the university as a sprightly, spotty adolescent the exact spot where I am typing this was a canteen, albeit one that couldn't serve 50 hungry Year 9s in the allotted one hour lunch slot.
My personal journey is mildly interesting, and will take up the next paragraph or so. If you can't be bothered to read a load of self-regarding twaddle, feel free to cast your eyes further down. I was a particularly unfit teenager - overweight, un-coordinated, risk-averse. I looked like that character off Noddy that rolls about on a beach ball. I was so incredibly useless that during a cricket match in which we only had eight players, I was made umpire. I'm not bitter. But over the last few years I have started doing regular classes, watching my diet and attempted to get in shape. I wouldn't say I'm there yet. I'm too addicted to Co-Op Chicken & Bacon sandwich meal deals. But there have been noticeable improvements and I feel better for it.
My colleagues, who now number fifteen, in an expansion that makes the annexing of Poland look like a trip to the local garden centre, have varying levels of engagement with sport and activity. Many have young children - it's like a bloody crèche here some days, although I still manage to have the most childish sense of humour in the office - so in between the full nappies and screaming toddlers, they struggle to sweat buckets on a cross-trainer. Time is precious for them. Every stolen second is like a glimmering jewel on a game of Super Mario. I'm 23 years old and far too selfish to have a young'un. Don't get me wrong, having a proper relationship would help... but enough about my romantic woes.
However, there is a sense of things coming to a head with Commit To Get Fit. Claire, who previously could not have been less enthusiastic about fitness activity unless it also involved throwing puppies off bridges, has joined Sussex Sport and does regular classes. She is also one of two team captains, me being the other. While she writes long, charming emails, I have given short shrift to my half of the team. Claire also has the better team name - 'Misfits'. For reasons unknown, we are called 'Thin White Duke'. It's not for white supremacist reasons or that we all want to end up strung out on heroin, making albums in Berlin with Iggy Pop. But I mentioned Bowie in a group email and it sort of stuck.
My colleague Jacqui, who requested a lengthy chat about the rigours of Commit To Get Fit, making notes like I was giving a lecture on thermodynamics, says "I came from a physically active job to a predominantly desk bound one and was concerned about maintaining my ease of movement. I walk the boundary usually a couple of times a week and cycle at weekends, but have always had a bit of an irrational fear of classes so feel this would be a good opportunity to step out of my comfort zone to try some".
I also have the other Chris on our team (young Chris and old Chris as we're better known, which I'm sure goes against Age Discrimination legislation) who is one of the most competitive people I know. Watching him play football is like watching a heat-seeking missile, except for the fact he goes searching for the tender bit on the back of people's legs.
Janet, who runs the Summer Schools, has been in training for the month ahead, and promised a badminton masterclass. She says "Having experienced a period of personal distress after my father’s death, which meant that I rather dropped any exercise out of my life, CTGF has come at a good time for me to re-engage. I have spent most of April re-starting a daily 30 minute walk before breakfast, in an attempt to improve fitness to be able to CTGF! I intend to carry that, and my weekly badminton session, through May, as well as cutting down on the wine intake, and trying some new things. I was a university netball blue (a long time ago), so will have a go again!"
Cerri already does plenty of classes at a rival gym (sssshhh!!). She does sessions with alarming sounding names like 'Attack' and has also signed up for the Charleston dance sessions. She needs all the practise she can get with her penchant for dancing on the tables in The Mash Tun.
Laura and Carole have both signalled their desire to join us on boundary walks and go to as many events as possible, while Zoe has been somewhat reluctant to take part, more swept along with everybody else in the tidal wave of enthusiasm. She has promised to give up chocolate for the month, which considering she is well known for having Malteasers for breakfast, may prove more problematic than giving up oxygen.
Over the next few weeks, through this blog, I will aim to detail our collective trials and tribulations as we make those small changes which hopefully make a lasting difference.
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