I am often (OK, never) asked how I manage to maintain myself at the very peak of physical perfection whilst both in Scotland and subjecting myself to a dizzying range of culture each August.
Those in possession of the local stereotype will be aware that the typical Scottish man is lucky to make it past his twenties and breathes deep-fried air. How does my frail, southern constitution survive in such circumstances?
Well, I’ll admit that I am in Edinburgh (and have not checked the rest of Scotland) and the city is full of tourists, but the men-folk do not seem in visibly worse physical shape than their counterparts in Southampton – so I suspect the stereotype may be a tad exaggerated. Nevertheless, my physical perfection does suffer a number of challenges in the Athens of the North.
My diet undergoes a major shift as I eat out an awful lot more than at home, and consume 99% of the fried breakfasts of the year whilst here. My vegetarianism is also rendered much more “mostly” than during the rest of the year – with the humble pig being particularly hard done-by. I am also being forced to consume carbs, to save my hosts from temptation – a food-based throwing myself onto the grenade to save my comrades. To make matters worse, my alcohol consumption rises – partly through its ready availability where I’m staying and partly down to the increased eating out scenario. Somehow, it also seems de rigeur to knock back a pint of Deuchars IPA at many Fringe venues – especially the Free Fringe, where drinking is part of the implicit contract with the venue (and I am not one to shirk my obligations).
Late nights are also a daily (nightly?) occurrence – a contrast to my typical hay-hitting well before the clock strikes eleven. Trust me, I need all the beauty sleep – or beauty tossing-and-turning unable to sleep – that I can procure.
Countering these negative impacts on my fitness is the fact that every journey in the city involves a hill – and I do walk a lot further at this time of year than any other (partly down to the lack of a local bike). Just heading to the bus stop to go into town is a vertiginous hike requiring crampons.
In previous years, this has been the full extent of my Auld Reekie-based fitness regime. However, given my drive to become the world’s oldest gymnast I decided that this year this would not be enough. Without some additional activity, my poor aged body would be all too likely to snap when I return to the rings in 10 days time – so I have taken action.
Thanks to the facilities at the Craiglockhart Leisure and Tennis Centre I have been able to continue much of my normal regime of fitness-based insanity. Whilst they don’t have rings, they do have several Jungle Gyms which can fulfil much the same role for a chap wanting to flay a feline – though they are somewhat more of a challenge when it comes to avoiding unwanted swing. With this aid, I have now started to straighten my legs whilst I think I am in roughly the right orientation for a back lever – can’t be sure this is quite the right orientation as an attempt to look in the mirror at the same time was not an unqualified success (frankly, I’m pretty lucky my head didn’t fall off).
The CL&TC also has some bar-like facilities I can use to hang from – and I do find that after 48 hours I do have withdrawal symptoms if I don’t have a bar from which to hang (yes, I do recognise this is odd). Thanks to these bars, I have finally mastered the full front lever – well, I can sustain it for 2-3 seconds at a time and did manage to do this five times in a row. This may only be possible from quite close together parallel bars (as this is the only platform I have available) – but I will take that as a victory for now. I will admit there has been a modest price to pay for this progress and yesterday I was quite achy across the upper back – but this minor discomfort was a small price to pay.
If I can keep up this progress, next August I will be bring my own Fringe show to Edinburgh – combining my comedy musings with elderly gymnastics (there’s juxtaposition for you!). So far as I can tell, I don’t think it’s been done before, so I eagerly anticipate the 5* reviews!