Stephen Fahey: My Christmas miracle

Confession time: I haven’t seen fit to exercise daily in since forever. So I freely admit that I’ve been the last person to recommend doing so. However, something happened recently. Call it divine intervention. Call it good old fashioned, mild mannered curiosity. Even call it an attempted midlife crisis. Call it whatever you like, because I’m still young. Really I am. I swear. The point is, somehow, I found myself plonkled me on the exercise bike it the corner of my sitting room which had long ago accepted its fate as an ornament. And believe me, given one percent of a chance I preferred sitting down after a long day’s work, especially if there was tea and or biscuits involved. And even if there weren’t any yummies on offer of an evening I’d happily do nothing. But on that day, for whatever reason, ever widening backside found saddle and big ugly man-feet found pedals and, to everyone’s surprise (mine above all others), It wasn’t awful.

In fact, watching the meter tick over from one kilometre to another was strangely satisfying. And not in a masochistic way, or in a vain way, but in, dare I say it, a ‘fun’ way. On that first day it wasn’t very long before I had to let the bike take a rest for itself (the only friend it had before then was the Wife and she’s tiny, so when I sat on it you can imagine the abuse it was hurling at me. Even the TV and the book shelves were jeering it as I huffed and puffed and it creaked and pleaded). But when I jumped down, triumphant in all my glory, like some pale, slightly overweight Adonis, I felt better than I had before I started cycling. And to say that this is a surprise to me is the understatement of the century. I abhorred exercise. And I avoided it like the plague. And not that sexy, young plague, no, the old, wheezy and racist plague. But that handsome cut of a man staring back at me in the mirror after I’d completed that first 5k, he changed my mind.

In fact, I hopped back on board that evening and gave the bike another 5. The next day it got two more 5s. The next day it got a 5 and a 7k. And after a week it was 10 and 10, daily. Like a four year old who’d just discovered cigarettes, I was hooked. Now, again, and I’m the first to admit this, I am the last person to ever even imagine getting interested in such an activity, but with a movie or an episode of something playing in the background there’s actually nothing to it. This is not to say that my putting miles in on a static bike is anything like lifting weights, working a heavy bag, sparring geese or wrestling bulls in a pit full of jelly, but the benefits are certain, and quickly apparent.

Most of all, and while saying that weight loss isn’t the best part of this whole experience sounds wrong, weight loss isn’t the best part of the whole experience. The satisfaction of getting the miles in and of increasing the distance a little every now and then, and all the benefits doing so brings to the rest of my life is the true reward. No sweaty photographs are being posted social media. I don’t brag about beating my personal best. I’m not looking for followers or a sponsorship deal. I’m not competing with anyone. But in myself, in my body and in my mind, I’ve developed a sense of enjoyment from getting time in on the bike. I own my kilometres, physically and metaphysically. I, of all the grumpy middle aged men with no interest in exercise, have built a little momentum.

This momentum, for all its physical and emotional benefits, I recommend wholeheartedly. Some people would like to be the type of person who exercises and I’m not saying it’s super easy, but it doesn’t have to be a negative experience. But there’s something the Big Brands don’t tell us. There’s something the stars on the interweb don’t mention when they’re posting images of their tight bodies draped with expensive clothes and cheap gold diggers. What they don’t tell us is that the difficult part of exercise is not the exercise itself, the difficult part is actually starting.

So take it from me, if you want to be the type of person who exercises, starting to exercise is all you have to do – the rest will follow, you don’t have to worry that. Our greedy, fragile human egos take over once they see the even tiniest grain of achievement (all as a by-product of starting). It doesn’t have to be biking, or even any sort of intense exercise. It doesn’t even require the purchase of equipment. And it definitely doesn’t have to be boring. It’s whatever whenever you want it to be. The rewards are many and the extra energy gained from exercise permeates all aspects of our lives. All one need to it begin in earnest.

Stephen Fahey

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