Written by Susan Calman

Health

Why I newly ❤️ exercise

After decades of heavy smoking and little movement, Susan Calman decided enough was enough. And now she’d like to offer you two tickets to the gun show.

Susan springs out of bed

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

Recently I’ve undergone something of a lifestyle transformation. In a stark contrast to the past few years, my life now involves early nights, very early mornings and sweating until I feel sick. And I love it.

But let me start at the beginning. About a year and a half ago I was standing in my kitchen loading the dishwasher. As I was carefully arranging a multitude of cat bowls and coffee cups into the machine, I found myself leaning against the counter, out of breath. I was out of breath from loading the dishwasher. There were lots of excuses I could have used, like I was in the middle of a 17-month tour, which meant I was away from home and living a lifestyle as far away from healthy as you can imagine. Also I was fast approaching my 40th birthday, a time when the body starts creaking and aches and pains occur. But they were excuses. The fact was, I was overweight and unfit.

“I wanted to enjoy the rest of my life with the woman I loved, exploring the world and experiencing fabulous things. If I was out of breath simply loading a dishwasher that wasn’t going to happen.”

The reasons why I’d got into that mess were numerous. Firstly I smoked, and had done since I was 16. On tour I would regularly smoke 20 or 30 cigarettes a day, partly out of boredom and partly because of the stress of performing in unfamiliar towns and cities in front of audiences of hundreds of people. Secondly, I had gone from a very active teenager (centre striker, hockey; I was ace) to someone who counted walking to the pub on a Friday night as exercise.

If I’m honest, I was frightened. I didn’t want to be the kind of person who had a restricted life because of their health. I was frightened because I remember my Gran who, when I was younger, just sat in her chair unable to walk more than short distances without stopping. She just sat there. And looking back, I realised that she wasn’t that old. I was certain that I didn’t want to spend my life sitting in a chair like her. I’d just got married; I wanted to enjoy the rest of my life with the woman I loved, exploring the world and experiencing fabulous things. If I was out of breath simply loading a dishwasher that wasn’t going to happen.

The first thing I did the very next day was to give up smoking. And it was far easier than previous attempts because this time I actually wanted to do it. To help me stay off the cigarettes, I started running. To begin with all I could do was walk between one set of lampposts then jog between the next and so on. It wasn’t much, half an hour a day maybe, but I enjoyed it, even though I didn’t see any real difference to my fitness levels.

Being an impatient person I of course expected the two decades I’d spent abusing my body to be immediately remedied by a light jog around the park. My wife started to tire of my relentless moaning and suggested that we get serious. She said the terrifying words, “Why don’t we get a personal trainer?” Even though that sounded pretty awful, I agreed that drastic action was needed.

We decided to start our search, not at a private gym, but at my local council facility called ‘The Glasgow Club’. We made an appointment and found that we could hire a personal trainer and also attend the classes for free if we paid a yearly subscription. And we did. And that was the day my life really changed.

“My wife has had to lie on the floor after a spin class. I carried a tyre around a park in Glasgow at 7am. And I’ve never felt so fantastic.”

We got a personal trainer, a man as it happens because we both agreed that having a man shout at us would be a nice change and quite funny. And he’s wonderful. He doesn’t criticise us, never suggests that our lack of fitness is our own fault, and he pushes us in a way I never thought possible.

When I was standing at the dishwasher that day I couldn’t have imagined what my life would be like now. On an average day we get up at 5.50am (after going to bed at 10pm the night before), get to the gym at 6.30am and either attend a high intensity class like Metafit or have a personal training session. On Wednesdays I do a class at 7am then a core workout at 7pm. Thursdays and Saturdays are days off for recovery. We complete six, sometimes seven, classes a week. And I love it. I’ve exercised so hard I want to vomit. My wife has had to lie on the floor after a spin class. I carried a tyre around a park in Glasgow at 7am. And I’ve never felt so fantastic.

The loss of inches is slow (as it should be) but is definitely happening. But more than that I love the feeling of getting fitter, healthier, and happier. The staff at the Glasgow Club have been incredibly helpful, my fellow gym goers are supportive and each class we’ve gone to has been clearly explained and safely demonstrated.

I’ve become evangelical about it all. I’m now the person I used to hate: trying to persuade my friends to get fit, to join me in the early morning to sweat with a group of strangers.

And I have biceps now. Proper biceps. They’re amazing. Ask me the way to the beach next time you see me, I’ll show you the gun show. It rocks.

@SusanCalman (reformed couch potato)

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Written by Susan Calman

Susan is a comedian and writer who sometimes appears on things like the News Quiz and QI.