I ache this week. I’m also bone tired. I haven’t felt this tired since… Let me think. Oh, that’s right. I haven’t felt this tired since last January when I was in marathon training. I’m not doing a marathon this year and I’m certainly not doing one in April or May.
So why do my legs feel as if they’ve been used as practice pieces for apprentices on the Provisional IRA’s Introduction to Punishment Beatings course?
“Declan, Declan! You’re doin’ it wrong again, ye feckin’ eejit. Knees first, then ankles.”
“Sorry, sir. He just won’t lie still, like. An’ he keeps goin’ on about refuellin’ strategies for a half marathon being completely feckin’ useless. I think he’s a bit mad.”
Now there’s a City and Guilds course specification I’d like to see.
One of the reasons everything hurts quite as badly as it does is probably the kettlebells class I had with Will of Cambridge Kettlebells on Wednesday night. A little bit of history here. Well, I say history, but I’m going to make most of it up. History isn’t just the story of the past, it’s the stories we tell each other to learn from the past. Once upon a time, not so very long ago, the Russian army was a brutal place for its young recruits. One of the punishments meted out to to these poor sods was carrying cannonballs around the place. When cannonballs became scarce because of the introduction of newer forms of artillery which used different ammunition, one of the brighter NCOs started to hoard the old ones at his dacha just outside Yaroslavl. He welded handles to them because he thought he would be able to abuse recruits more efficiently if more of them could hold onto 20-kilo pieces of shot without dropping them onto their own feet or lobbing them at the back of the head of the poor sod in front of them and the kettlebell was born.
One day, he defected from the Russian army to a fitness studio in New York where he found that he no longer received complaints from people when he tried to punish them with his little cannonballs. Instead, they called him a fitness guru. His classes were filled for months ahead of time with people eager to be given the sort of punishment he used to dole out to someone found molesting the regimental horse. He was confused and slightly saddened but soon perked up when he was given a large pile of cash for his stash of ratty cannonballs.
Will isn’t a Russian army NCO. I could detect no sociopathic tendencies. I was surprised to be the only other bloke there. Kettlebells seem a little macho but I was as wrong in this as I am in my historical research. Will warmed us up, showed us how to lift a kettlebell safely then started to run through some basic exercises. We did double-handed swings. If you do it right, all the power you need to move the kettlebell comes from what Will called a “hip snap.” I thought immediately about the hip thrust in Time Warp from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Of course you can’t get the swing right if you bring your knees in tight.
We did some squats and sumo squats and single-arm swings and changed from one single-arm swing to the other and at the end of the hour I was completely wiped. I did love it and I can’t wait to go back next week but it was harder work than I’d expected.
Anne Christmas present for me arrived this week. It’s not every day that a man is happy to receive rubber pants from his wife. Mine are made by Zone3 and they’re buoyancy shorts, made from wetsuit neoprene and intended to give swimmers a little extra help to float nice and flat in the water. Aside from feeling slightly kinky wearing black rubber in public for the first time, I enjoyed using them. I took them to the pool after the kettlebell session. They’re not as buoyant as a pull-buoy so I’m slower in them over 50m than I am with the pull-buoy but much quicker than I am with no aids at all so they do work. I was too knackered to do more than a handful of lengths on Wednesday but I’ll use them again when I go to the pool later today and for tomorrow’s swim.
What I’m not going to do under any circumstances ever is wear them while doing the Time Warp. Oh no. Not me.
NB There’s a gratuitous Christopher Biggins sausage appreciation shot in that clip. You have been warned.