Put a little pep in your lesson

21st July 2006 at 01:00
A couple of years ago, I discovered that target-setting was the key to improving my fitness. The school where I work has more than its fair share of wiry human mountain goats who can belt up Tinto Hill disturbingly quickly. Others can cycle the sorts of distances in a day that lesser bike-owning mortals would be proud to cover in a year.

To set out to match these achievements in the short term would be to invite demoralisation and disappointment, not to mention lasting physical damage.

Thus, I compete only against myself. Sometimes I measure improvement by checking my resting pulse rate.

This has its drawbacks, however. I recall once getting excited at the thought that my pulse might have dropped below 50 beats per minute, so excited that after 35 seconds of timing it started to go back up again.

Last year, following a spot of ineffectual dangling from hoops on an assault course at a Scout parent and child camp, I decided to develop my arm strength. This did not come to pass as I fractured my left elbow in Spain. I could always have worked on the right, but we physicists tend to favour symmetry.

Maybe this year I'll give it another go. I have seen a set of short dumbbells in Argos, but I have a horrible image of going to get them, then failing to carry the box out of the shop. Perhaps I could act as if I thought you were supposed to roll them along the ground to your car.

Intellectual development is on the summer agenda too. When I journey abroad, I always like to take a book that I will enjoy but will not be able to demolish in one sitting. Doubtless, I will once again feel the urge to write something myself.

Dispersed among various hard drives and memory sticks is a 60,000-word account of my early days of teaching, interspersed with as many gratuitously rude anecdotes as I could bring to mind. It's on its 200th or so rewrite by now, having been first drafted about 14 years ago.

When I read some of the things I wrote back then, I want to kick my own erse. A phrase like "foolishly heeding college advice not to be sarcastic"

reminds me of how desperate I once was for a temporary self-respect fix, no matter the long-term consequences.

Nothing would induce me to take a performance-enhancing drug in order to knock a few minutes of my time up Tinto, but had one been available to help me to handle 4F last thing on a Friday in 1983 . . .

Ideally, it would have been one they had to take, not me. Fish oil, anybody?

Gregor Steele will save the fish oil for his mid-40s knee joints.

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