If you follow this blog regularly then you’ll have a suspicion that between the two of us, my compadre SuburbanGent is the popular one who always looks good in his perfectly manicured suit, beautifully styled hair and shiny expensive shoes. Me? I just eat a lot and understand the truth in the fact that I’ve got a face (and body) for radio. So when Fusion got in touch and asked if we would like give away a years free membership, I thought ‘that’s one for him then, he loves a bit of gym action’. So I said; ‘Sounds good, can we come in and do a class to check it out? Maybe the super hardcore, ultramax cardio madness that is INTENCITY? How many different sessions are there? Four? That would be perfect, yes we’ll have a go at all of them.’ I chuckled to myself with the gleeful malice of a really good friend as I rang to break the news to him.

Sorry Rob, I’ll be in Dubai in February.

What the £%*@?  No, no. You don’t understand. You have to do this. I just promised that one of us would and when I said ‘us’, I meant you. That’s the way these things work isn’t it?

Apparently not.

Send an email to win a Milton Keynes Fusion Healthclub Membership

So guess what, this time I’m taking one for the team but before you start enjoying yourselves by reading about the puddle of self confessed former lardarse that I will become over the next week, take a second to send us an email to <COMPETITION CLOSED> with the subject: GIMMIE THAT FREE GYM ACTION for your chance to win. We’ll put all the entries into a draw and pick one out on Wednesday 22nd of Feb, we’ll then put the winner in touch with Fusion who will sort out all the paperwork and get you started.

Fusion are also currently running the campaign ‘Make Your Move’ at www.findyourfusion.com where people can claim a free one-day pass, and for a limited time, new joiners get their first 7 days of membership totally free when they join, so even if you don’t win you can still take a look around and decide just how much you want to punish yourself. Here are some pictures showing just how happy you can be:

LEGAL BIT: The membership is only valid for the Milton Keynes Fusion Health club facility. The prize is non-transferable, there is no cash alternative.

As I ‘experience’ each of the four classes (Cardio, Strength, Max, Cycle), I’ll update this post, so you can get a feel for exactly how ruined I become. I hope you choke on it.

Session 1: Cardio and Abs

I gingerly made my way into the brand new ‘HIIT’ studio in the National Badminton Centre at Milton Keynes, wondering what on earth was about to happen. Around me, I saw a huge amount of torture gym equipment all passively intimidating me with their straps and rubber balls. In a clearly malevolent and diabolical attempt to hide their true purpose, even the weights were painted in cheerfully bright yellows and blues, but I wasn’t fooled. I knew they were just there to break me.

Lauren the ‘instructor’ greeted me with the happy, easy smile of a truly fit person. The sort of person who’s thinking that after this 30 minutes of frankly excessive effort , they’ll probably do a Triathlon or something to get some ‘real’ exercise. She seemed suspiciously nice, all that encouragement and helpful confidence building just had to be an act right? Then a couple of other people drifted into the room and I started to wonder if I was in the right place. First there was nice Lauren and now these were normal people. People who were clearly more prepared than me (I had forgotten my water bottle = schoolboy error), but absolutely normal shaped people nevertheless. Where were the massively ripped monsters with their bulging steroid filled biceps and judgmental eyes? I was off balance.

Each INTENCITY session (perhaps it’s always in capitals to make it sound more intense) is 30 mins and this one is constructed to move through a series of  activities designed to pull, stretch and stress different bits of your body. 1 minute per station, then a 10 seconds to move to the next. The worst part about gyms for me is that they are so boring, so this was (dare I say it) actually good fun. Don’t get me wrong, I was still sweating like a sinner in Church by three minutes in, but there wasn’t much time to stop to think about it. I hardly even noticed when it came to round 2; 30 seconds per station with no breaks. By the end yes I was knackered, yes I was as slick as an eel in a bucket of jelly and yes I was so thirsty I would have drunk from a plant pot if given half a chance; but to my own amazement and disbelief, I was still able to walk. On first impressions then, if it can keep me intact so far this place might not be the horror I had first feared.

Let’s see what the ‘Strength’ session has in store in a couple of days!

Session 2: Strength

24 hours go by from going hard on my first INTENCITY experience and after accepting that I have to hug the banister while moving up and down the stairs, I spotted some of the kids washing on the floor and thought I would just pick it uAGGGGGA%*#GGAAGGGGGAGGGGGH! Sometimes it’s useful to work from home, because I would almost certainly have been subjected to a formal caution for the words that came out of my mouth in that moment – the back of my legs were very keen to let me know that they were not happy about my decision making process in this situation. But am I a quitter? No sir-bob. Call it a throw back to the youngest child competition of following three older brothers but I generally rise to a challenge when it’s thrown down and I wasn’t about to change that now.

So two days later we’re on to session 2 and although I knew I needed one last time, I realised all too late that I don’t actually own a water bottle. With nothing else to hand I raided the Child’s lunchbox for a solution, and started to mentally wind myself up to prepare for the second round of this absurd trial. This time the emphasis was on the upper body which is an area I sadly lack and there were, again, different activities to test different parts of my increasingly disagreeing mortal limbs. The timed repetition again worked to distract me from the pain and suffering of the situation though and in my mind I pictured myself as one of the contestants on Worlds Strongest Man as I lifted, pushed and pulled myself through the torment of another 30mins. In the end, the session felt much shorter than last time and my traitorous subconscious dared to whisper that it was slightly less difficult too. Certainly not painless by any stretch of the imagination but a thought occurs to me that perhaps these things get easier the more you do them? Then again, the third session is called INTENCITY MAX so I honestly don’t know where this is going to go because if it hasn’t been ‘max’ so far then what the hell is next?

Focus Health Club water bottle

What’s stronger than a hammer? Nothing, that’s what.

Session 3: Max

I know someone called Max. Lovely guy, he doesn’t force me to do push-ups, squatting rope twists with added agony or cross train with the machine set on the ‘walking through toothpaste’ level. He likes classical music, fluffy bunnies and blancmange clouds. If you are in any doubt, let me assure you that I prefer that Max to the third session in this INTENCITY class, where the volume of sheer ridiculousness got turned up to 11. For a moment back there at the end of the Strength class, I genuinely thought I was starting to get used to these mental military special forces style, car crash workouts. It turns out though, that you should never go in to the Max session with any form of confidence, however ill-informed or delusionary. You will be, as I was, destroyed. My man Guv packed in more pain than the previous two sessions combined, with 30 minutes of 30 second reps and a so-called 10 second ‘break’. It was the class I had dreaded from the beginning.

But it seems that even at my age, there is still time to learn something new about your own body. It turns out that despite no warning of it in the past 37 years of my life, when pushed beyond all reasonable physical limits, I am an involuntary grunter. The bloke next to me kept looking over just in case I was about to throw up all over myself and I acknowledge that it was a bad look in every conservable respect. However, afterwards a very strange sensation stole over me. I was Superman, I was King of the bloody world, I could have done anything. At this point, I have only three questions; what is this black magic, why did I have to go through 3 layers of Hell to get there and what in the name of the Almighty himself is going to happen to me next time?!

INTENCITY at Fusion

INTENCITY at Fusion – The guy on the back wall is my new Max. I tried to be like Max.

Session 4: Spinning

So here we are at the end of this little experiment. Fusion warned me beforehand that the spin class was by far and away the hardest and Lauren seemed suspiciously keen to make sure of it. The combination of cycling and strength training drained me of almost all human liquid and left me a (involuntarily) groaning sweaty mess on the floor of the studio – I gave it everything I had left. The thing is this; many people love working out, the burn, the strain and the stress. I am not one of those people, but I do like what happens afterwards. The mental as well as the physical benefits in confidence and self awareness alongside the compliments as you better understand your body and your place in the world. It really is to use a well worn cliché: empowering.

My father-in-law was a paratrooper in the army and even now retired he is still as hard, fast and as strong as anyone I know. He once told me that he used the mental power and confidence gained from countless hours of the type of training not too dissimilar from the INTENCITY program, to stop himself from stabbing me in the eye with a fork over dinner one time. I believe him. We’re all chums now* but that got me thinking and I think I’ve started to understand something about the time I’ve now spent sweating half of my body weight away. It’s not the activities themselves that is the most important thing on this course, they are tough for sure but it’s being able to push yourself to finish them that’s the point. 30 minutes doesn’t seem like a very long time, it’s only just longer than an episode of The Chase, but when you are being pushed further that you ever thought you could go, it might as well be a lifetime and the sense of achievement for finishing a lifetime of effort is pretty immense.

The point is this; who do you know that has ever said; ‘You know, I’m really glad I never bothered to get fitter and more positive in my life’? Exactly. And you know what else? If you don’t win our competition, you can still get a week free if you sign up, so give it a go my friends, what have you got to lose? Besides, you are far better off without all that dignity and pride anyway

Thanks to Suzi, Lauren, Guv and Liz for includng me in the sessions this week. It’s been, difficult, sweaty and rewarding. Thanks very much.

*Oh yes, best of friends. The man’s literally a trained killer, what else am I supposed to do?

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