In soggy Sussex, the thought of doing exercises outdoors in November makes me want to come down with some sudden illness. Anything, anything to avoid having to squelch and slip around on wet leaves while trying to do walking lunges with dumbbells.
The more distant the memories of dry and warm days, the more I wistfully reflect that it would be much easier to keep up a meaningful new exercise regime if I was still based in Mexico City. The weather there is more predictable: I am now, as you might guess from my dispirited tone, in England.
In that megalopolis outdoor gyms have sprung up all over the place. Just knowing there was a free gym in the corner of my local park in colonia Nápoles made me satisfied, quite apart from using it. I’ll admit that I discovered the amenity rather late in the day and did not use it a huge number of times. But I did quite enjoy heaving away at the chest press, striding out on the cross trainer, working out arms and legs simultaneously on a rowing machine, or pogoing up and down in a rather fun way on a machine which somehow put me in mind of treading grapes in a winemaker’s tub.
While pushing and pulling on the bright yellow machines I could look at pedigree dogs and their owners passing by, listen to the shouts of the basketball players on the court beside me, and people-watch the other apparatus users. The brisk wind on my cheeks felt so much more wholesome than a windowless, sweaty indoor UK gym which you pay too much to use.
I soon left the monkey bars in my park-gym well alone, finding out that I’m a long way off being able to lift my own body weight. But I had plenty of other contraptions to be getting on with. Sometimes, the one I was eyeing was already taken by some guy who likes to do exercises wearing a smart shirt or hipster-tight jeans. So I would pedal a cycling machine and regard him out of the corner of my eye: perching on his seat, typing into a mobile and nonchalantly bobbing up and down as though proximity to equipment was enough to burn off calories.
At the other end of the enthusiasm scale, muscular youngsters who had signed up to some fitness programme managed impressive bodily feats on and around the monkey bars. Impressed by their example, I rowed a few extra yards.
But my point here is this: Britain’s weather does nothing to get you motivated for a work-out.