Health & Grooming

Circuit training

As the instructor paces the room like a shark cruising for prey, Seb struggles to get a rhythm going.

November 12 2009
Neil McLennan

Never let it be said that Seb Fellowes isn’t a good allrounder. Captain of the school first 11, top try scorer, always handy with a racket – there’s not much he hasn’t triumphed at. His Tweets have been compared to haiku, and he’s not bad as a lover (if the feedback is to be trusted), so you could even call him a modern Renaissance man. Which is exactly how he pitched himself to Human Resources at Stein Alloway Securities, thereby landing himself a graduate internship. Sadly, he’s spent the past year hopping between departments, but he’s confident that a permanent offer is just around the corner. So he’s decided to focus on developing the stamina he’ll need once the hard graft begins. Fit body, healthy mind and all that.

On signing up at Banters of Bishopsgate, Seb notices they offer a Circuit Training class. With its combination of endurance, flexibility and strength training, it offers the smorgasbord of exercise grazing options at which an allrounder such as he is bound to excel. He signs up for the next session.

He arrives early, eager to make an impression on instructor Kip. Newly dismissed from a job with the military, Kip’s built like a Rubik’s Cube, has a voice like a beatbox and a fuse that’s permanently fizzing. With 15 years’ experience getting fat lads over the wooden wall, he’s not one to have impressions made upon. This may be the commercial sector, but it’s no place for sit-downs, slow-downs or meltdowns. So Seb can stand still, shut up and not speak unless spoken to.

Which is exactly what Seb does, waiting patiently as Kip explains to him and the other new recruits that they’ll each spend a minute at a different “station”, sampling a broad selection of exercise routines from bicep curls to back stretches. They’ll rotate round the room, finally ending up back where they started in what, to Seb, sounds like a gala of school sports-day activity. Checking out the competition (as mixed a bag as the variety of exercises on offer), Seb suspects that among the lardies and the leanies, he’s bound to be the best.

He heads over to his first station where a skipping rope awaits. Kip’s whistle blows, like the shrill pierce of a factory alarm. The message is clear – it’s time for work. The studio bursts into activity. Hefty traders throw themselves into triceps dips, while weedy accountants bench press dumbbells and buxom PAs play keepy-uppy with medicine balls. Seb starts skipping with gusto, but it’s been a while since his Track and Field glory days and, unnerved by Kip – who paces the room like a shark cruising for prey – Seb struggles to get a rhythm going. After a minute’s frantic activity the whistle blows and everyone moves on to the next station. For Seb, it’s press-ups. Unfortunately, Seb’s upper-body strength isn’t what it was when he was a triallist for the under-16 county squad. It now takes him 20 seconds to reach his eight press-up limit. With 40 seconds to go, he is the only thing in the room not moving. Kip goes in for the kill. “Whassup, big man? Did I say stop?” he bellows.

“No, Kip,” Seb pants.

“No, Sir!” Kit screams, his neck veins stretched to their outer limit. “Drop and give me 10.”

Seb slides to the floor and gives Kip… three. His heart is beating like a set of timpani doing the 1812 Overture. This isn’t sports day, this is a military bootcamp. He takes a water break and, while leaning over the fountain, notices that the fire door’s been kicked open to let some air in. Through it, he can see a glimpse of blue sky. A zephyr of fresh air brushes past his legs and Seb inhales deeply – it’s the smell of freedom.

As luck would have it, Kip is now at the far end of the studio terrorising a broker who’s underperforming on the step-box. Seb nabs the station next to the fire door – jumping jacks – and starts bouncing up and down, edging ever sideways. He tells himself just to keep moving and everything will be all right. And it is. No whistles are blown. Kip doesn’t even notice as Seb jumping jacks sideways through the fire door, over the wooden wall to the car park and liberty.

Seb has decided to give the Step Aerobics class a go next week. That’s the beauty of being a good allrounder – you can try absolutely anything once. After all, you wouldn’t want to specialise, would you?

See also

Exercise