Every Monday (and by every, I mean the first two Mondays that have elapsed this year so far), I go to a room with twenty other women to sweat and groan.
In hoodie and leggings, I make my way to the second floor of a terrace in central Manchester, above a Thai boxing studio. I think they do Thai boxing; the door is always closed and the smell can only be described as ‘well used terry towelling’, but there are plenty of yelps and the sound of skin hitting boxing mitt, so yes, thai boxing. I continue up the stairs and join the throng there to worship 6 kgs of metal for 45 minutes. I’m there for the kettle bells.
Kettle bells are the maiden aunts of the gymfloor. No-one really knows what to do with them, so they perch at he back behind the freeweights and the gymmats and the yoga balls, waiting for a date with a firm grip and a 6 pack stomach. But in kettlercise, they are queen.
Here’s how it goes: you follow a 45 minute plan of exercises, alternating between arms and legs, finishing off (thankfully) on the floor for a series of stomach exercises. The bell doesn’t leave your hand for the duration. Each exercise is repeated for 1 minute at a time. This is perfect for me, because I normally limit myself by the number of reps, with 15 being the golden number. But in Kettlercise, you keep going for a minute, partly through dogged spirit and partly because you can’t remember what exercise comes next, so you have no choice.
This week we worked out to a soundtrack of deep house and acid rave – so most of the time I was blissfully off in a field somewhere in Hertfordshire, mentally at least, getting a solid groove on. Most of the exercises would look ridiculous without a bell in the hand. There’s lots of squatting and grabbing which would otherwise look like you were having a tough time sorting your Tesco shop, but with the bell, any movement has purpose.
It’s one of the hardest hours to commit to in my entire week, but I never regret it at the end. Especially the next day, as I hover than collapse on to the toilet seat, I imagine my kindred kettlers doing the same in lavatories all over the North West, desperately clinging to the toilet roll holder for balance and company. The quad burn is incredible! I imagine a kind of alternative Half Nelson, where a student would walk in to find me collapsed on the floor, pitifully crying out for the loo roll. Fortunately, this hasn’t happened, because I don’t know whether my headteacher would understand that my weakened state comes from exercise rather than sustained drug use. If only, they kettled, they’d understand ….