Readers of this column will remember that as the year 2018 faded, this old actor embarked on a project known as Operation Leading Man – O.L.M. I say ‘old actor’ because if ever a man needed solid evidence that he is not 25 years of age any more, I am here to tell you there could be no finer method than to join a gym and enlist the services of a personal trainer.
The personal trainer in question is an African American gentleman of compact physique who just so happens to be an ex-marine and someone with about 3 decades of martial arts training behind him. He scorns free weights, tossing them carelessly from hand to hand; he laughs at resistance training equipment and effortlessly extends cables or hand grips; he performs stretches with a poise reminiscent of Nureyev in his prime.
Then I have a go.
A short while later I am breathing like a steam engine from the early days of the industrial revolution. “Five more!” says Shawn, “C’mon, give it to me!”
“I like the way you talk,” I say in my best Downton Abbey accent, a pathetic effort to engage in some trans-Atlantic cross-cultural banter and thereby distract the man. “I like the way you talk,” he says, “but talk ain’t gonna cut it, baby. C’mon five more!”
In between exercises, we discuss anatomy, metabolism, and nutrition. The man knows his stuff, but I do slightly wonder if he’s underestimated my age by a couple of decades. A swift glance at the mirror confirms that this cannot be the case.
For a long time I lived in the manner of my internal age. I mean that I always felt myself to be about 18 years old. Until I reached the age of about 42, that is. Then I became internally 28. That lasted until I turned 60 and at that point I seem to have become the age I actually am. Well, technically I mean the age my body is. If the ancient teachings of many traditions, and the poet Wordsworth, are correct, then we are all immortal beings having the out-of-death experience known as “being alive”, and we are grappling with “… that portion of the barren earth that serves as paste and cover to our bones.” (Richard II). … If you go in for that sort of thinking, that is.
The alternative, namely that we are merely our bodies, is just too dismal to accept, so, call me an optimistic ostrich (or whatever you like), but I take succor from the metaphysical view. Meanwhile, the illusion of physical truths are persuasive and if I weren’t a life-long woo-woo, I would be tempted to believe the illusion of the aging knees, hips and teeth. However…
… I did shed somewhere between 25 and 30 lbs, due to a juice fast. And for those of you listening in black and white; in old money, that is just over 2 stones. I say between, because I have plateaued at that stage where my weighing scales are behaving in the manner of a Florida voting machine – however much the needle initially says one thing, it then creeps up to last week’s score, and says something else entirely.
I continue with all manner of delicious fruit and vegetable juices, and am currently doing an adaptation of the 2/5 diet. I.E. 2 days juice, 5 days eating normally but sensibly. When you’re working out, you need protein and carbs. Progress has slowed but the physique is on the move. At least I hope it is. It would be tragic to grunt and sweat wearily quite this much, were it not so.
I dunno, maybe I’m wrong, after all: “All the soil of the achievement goes with me into the earth.” Henry IV pt 2.
Yours, knackered of Pleasantville, N.Y., USA (late of England), grappling with mortality.