THERE have been many excuses to dodge the gym over these long months dominated by Covid.

But double jagged and with restrictions easing, I was running out of tactics to ignore my sports club membership.

That sounds grand, like some sort of private playground. But let’s just say it’s pretty basic but functional. On the plus side, the pandemic has helped no end in forcing this establishment to up its game regarding cleanliness.

I would like to add that I’ve not been a total post-lockdown slob. Our bosses at Newsquest had the foresight to introduce online fitness classes last January, and they have been a godsend. It took me 10 weeks before I was brave enough to switch on my camera during our sessions, but how bad can you look in Lycra in a wee Zoom box?

Anyway, Stu and Clare, you are our fitness heroes … even at seven in the morning.

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Nevertheless, it was time to brave real-life classes. Much as I’ve been embracing the swimming side of my budget gym membership, the Quarter Master (yes, he’s back … although he never really went away. I just locked him in his shed for a while so he could update his inventory of bully beef and teabags) pointed out that the fiver extra a month I pay for fitness classes did not represent good value.

For fear of being assigned extra burpees and star jumps, I hot-footed it back to the gym.

Obviously, the fitness instructors have not been idle during these difficult past 18 months and have occupied their time dreaming up gruesome new routines.

This is how I found myself booked into a class called “Define”.

The definition of “Define” was not clear, but how hard could it be? Surely there are only so many variations on making your muscles ache, your sinews scream and your lungs burn.

How wrong I was. Whoever dreamed up “Define” must have had a particularly trying lockdown and on release felt the need to take it out on innocent fitness dabblers.

As I stood in the studio, lined horribly with mirrors which, I mused, have obviously been switched since lockdown to those body-morphing, house-of-horror versions, I slowly peeled off my mask and inhaled deeply the aromas of stale sweat and sanitiser. It was a bit scary being out in public in Lycra outside the Zoom box.

It was about to get scarier.

The full horror of “Define” was unfolding before me. Imagine your worst session of circuit training, but with kettle bells thrown in. Lots of kettle bells. Kettle bells in all shapes and forms. But mostly all heavy.

At this point, if I’d been in the safe haven of Zoom, I could have switched off my camera and had a wee lie down on my yoga mat, maybe with a cup of tea and a custard cream. But in the real world, there is no escape.

So I persevered, inwardly reproaching myself for not embracing the QM’s PT regime with the gusto I should have mustered.

It was a long hour, and one I’ll never get back. But I’m sure, despite my muscles telling me otherwise, it was good for me.

Alas, in future I think I’ll be looking for a less brutal class.

In my view, kettles are for boiling and bells are for sounding the alarm when you run out of teabags.