I've been doing boxing training once a week for about four years, with more or less the same group of people, though occasionally one of us moves away or is invalided out. This creates a sense of obligation which gets me to the gym in the dark on a Monday morning, but I think we are all rather addicted to the brutality of it, for good or ill. I tell people I enjoy it, but the truth is I don't sleep very well the night before.
Most of it is what you'd expect: lots of skipping, a series of unpleasant variations on both the sit-up and the press-up, a bit of weight training and plenty of bag and pad work. All in all it's probably easier on the joints than jogging, although I would hesitate to describe as "low-impact" a form of exercise during which I have been twice hit on the head hard enough to send my contact lenses flying across the room.
The regime does seem to embrace the rather old-fashioned idea that exercise is a form of punishment which is, in the long run, physically redemptive; a typical session is a rough facsimile of the central training montage from any of the Rocky films. At the end I never feel anything other than utterly drained and slightly sick to my stomach. The day after I ache all over, and the day after that it's a little bit worse. I am virtually incapable of any aggression for the rest of the week. I've certainly got fitter over the past four years, but I've also got older, so I sometimes feel like I'm stuck on a plateau of pain.
What I have not got over four years is any better at boxing. I am under no illusion that I should be taking my devotion to the sweet science any further. My knack for getting my face in the way of a glove still surpasses all my classmates, and I have discovered the hard way that I can't take a punch. I'm good at the skipping, but I still can't hit the speed bag so it does that requisite blurry drum roll. Everyone else can do it. People come in off the street and do it on their way to work. Me, I'm useless. I've got my own gloves, though.
· Next week: Lucy Mangan overdoes it.