When I was a teenager, I remember walking around Foyles bookshop in Central London and finding a most intriguing book. It was called "5BX Plan for Physical Fitness" and was produced by the Canadian Government, not surprising, since it was the fitness programme they followed in the air force.
The book was remarkable in a number of ways. Firstly, each level of fitness was carefully prescribed (as one would expect from the military). It showed a criminally fit man, who had probably been the genetic result of numerous sperm and eggs experiments using fittest athletes on the 1948 Russian Olympic team (the book was published in 1963, so it's possible, he looks about 14) practising the various moves. More importantly, it detailed exactly what exercise you had to do and how long It should take.
My interest having been piqued, I decided to buy the book and see if I could look like Boris (the Russian criminal). I vividly remember getting up each morning for quite a while, working my way through the levels and charts. I have to say that although I didn't get close to changing my name (to B), I did become fitter than I'd been, before or since.
I don't remember why I gave the daily routine up. Maybe it was after getting sick, having to rest and gradually losing the habit. Whatever happened, Boris stayed fit (although he's probably dead by now, having had a heart attack whilst trying to reach level A+ on Chart 5, even though he'd been advised to stay at C- on Chart 3 as he was getting on a bit and they needed his sperm for the next model in a revised version of the book to be published twenty years hence.
I've tried various fitness routines over the years. Everything from looking at the trampoline sitting sadly in the garden whilst munching through a beautifully decorated pizza, to glancing willfully at a gym I used to drive past on the way to school and promising myself I'd join if I ever met Boris. Nothing though has ever tempted me like the 5BX.
You might recall that last year I told you about a trip to the doctor where I found out that both my blood pressure and cholesterol levels were a wee too high. I made the move from the pizza to the trampoline - for a day - and then made my way back to the pizza.
I decided to see if I could buy another copy of the book online. I still have my copy in the attic somewhere, but if I tried to look for it, I'd probably get either a heart attack or hernia trying to move the boxes that don't block the minuscule amount of light trying to peek through the clutter - which somewhat defeats the purpose.
Sadly the book is out of print although I could probably get a new copy...until I found that some cheeky fellow (probably Boris himself) had created a PDF of the entire tome and posted it on some website. I know I really shouldn't have done this, but I downloaded it and to my delight (and I have to admit, a touch of horror), found my old friend starting at me brazenly on my screen.
I decided to print Level 1 out again, keeping in mind that this was a copy of a book I'd already bought and although this wouldn't save me in the Court of Law, the survival of my heart, lungs, muscles and blood pressure were more important to me than worrying about whether or not the Canadian Air Force would sue me (then again.....)
Well, two days in and I'm a combination of pain pain pain and just a little pride. Boris, damn him, doesn't look a day older but although I have aged, I can still do the exercises without needing an hour to calm my pulse. Did I mention that Boris is probably dead?
With my nemesis safely out of the way, the only thing that's scaring me right now is whether I will ever be able to progress from the starting level "D-"...
All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).