Lucy Mangan: Leisure pleasure

It has taken me several weeks to appreciate that, unless they have been recently stitched together from multifarious corpses and galvanised into life by a 19th-century doctor with a penchant for gothic excess, most people start training with a less crapulent measure of fitness than I have.

So I have temporarily renounced running and have formulated a new plan. I shall find other ways to bring myself up to normal levels of vim and vigour and only then embark upon the running scheme that Jamie the Hopelessly Optimistic Fitness Trainer originally mandated. Otherwise I am simply going to expire in a heap of oxygen-starved flubber and despair.

My first port of call is my local leisure centre. In these overregulated times, the membership process is refreshingly simple. "'Ow long d'ya wanna join for?" Three months. "'Ave you got 'undredantwenny quid?" Yes. "'As yer doctor recently told you any of yer legs is abaht ter drop off? Cos if 'e 'as you've gotter sign 'ere." Fortunately, medical opinion states I am set fair to retain the full complement of limbs over the next quarter. "Can you feel any blood clots formin' anywhere important wivvin you at this precise moment in time?" I am haemo-tastic, thank you.

I hand over the money, they hand me a laminated pass giving Luky Mononagan access to all the centre's facilities - overcrowded gym full of bulging men pumping iron and several hundred women queuing to use the cross-trainer while they squint at EastEnders on a failing TV screen, children's swimming pool filled with urine, adults' pool filled with verucca 'n' Elastoplast porridge, changing rooms festooned with pubic hair and unidentified creatures skittering round the edges and down the softly bubbling drains, 7,000 aerobics classes a day all run by unendearing women called Michelle and a brace of slippery badminton courts with nets made out of the Michelles' old sports bras - and I'm in. By the time I've sampled all the wares I should either be dead of MRSA or the fittest specimen of humanity the world has ever seen.

· Next week: Tim Dowling does pilates

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