Why You Might Need Worst-Case Scenario Muscles

By Andrew Nagy
13 November 2018
Fitness, Health, Exercise
What happens when your mind and body are no longer gym ready and you realise that even ’80s movies can’t help you? Well, panic, obviously

Sometimes, when I lie awake at night, I think about the 1988 movie, Vice Versa.

A classic tale of a father and son switching bodies via some sort of hokey mysticism, you can only imagine the number of lessons this thing packs into its 98 minutes. But the part that keeps my brain ticking over in the dead of night is when the father initially experiences his revitalised body. Suddenly he can run and jump, he can climb and jig. He can bend over and pick something up if he’s dropped it. I’m talking real elite movement.

I just wish I could remember how that felt. Even now, as I write, I’m struggling to grasp how much my body has changed in the last 15 years. I was fit once. I ran a lot; ran everywhere actually, ran when I didn’t really have to – which seems a bit odd now that I think about it. I had a six-pack. Ah, that six-pack. Then, I hit 30… and broke.

It began fairly painfully with a dislocated shoulder, and limped on with a consistent series of niggling injuries picked up in increasingly un-athletic situations. I tweaked my knee ligaments sitting at my desk, recently, and only last week I dislocated my knuckle flicking an ant off my leg in Rwanda. I mean, you just can’t legislate for that.

Of course, the cold hard facts are that the carcass you’re dragging around is drastically affected by age. Body fat spirals while a loss of testosterone means your muscle mass drops. Bone density goes wayward, and cartilage disappears from around the joints to leave everything painfully crunching together. In a final indignity, your foot arches become less pronounced, making you look a little bit shorter. Not much shorter, mind you, but just enough to get people talking.

“Does Andrew look shorter to you?”

“Yeah, he does a bit. Well, he’s getting old, isn’t he?”

The whole thing stinks.

I know that even the relentless march of time is no excuse for not keeping fit, of course – Instagram tells me as much on an hourly basis. I covered the Ironman World Championships for a magazine, once, and there were 70-year-old men there who had been competing in the thing for 10 years or more. It was genuinely inspiring… to a point.

My problem is that the more I think about getting back in shape, the less I actually do. I have good intentions. I’ve downloaded a lot of fitness apps and have more sneakers than most elite marathon runners. I just stop short of actually getting to the gym. And there you have it – the final insult. Here I was worrying about my aching limbs, when I should have really had my eye on that chronic lack of enthusiasm. It’s a classic switcheroo.

You see the thing is, most physical problems have a quick-fix – rest up a while, ice something, you’ll be fine in a week or two. But what do you do if your mind is in a worse state than your body? Well, I think I might have found an answer: You need to find a reason to care.

OK, for some it might always just be a desire for vanity muscles, and that’s fine. But if getting shredded isn’t a priority, then try something else that’s going to push a motivational button – exercise to offset that Deliveroo habit, enter a marathon and run it for charity, go to the gym just to get some time to yourself. Seriously, it will do wonders for mind and body.

For me, the answer could lie in emergency muscle. Another thing that keeps me awake at night (seriously, I must get about two hours of sleep) is the prospect of one day having to get physical in order to protect my wife. Could I save the person I love most in what is – let’s face it – an ultimate test of man? I’ll level with you, at this moment in time, I have no idea – it’s just a thought I believe can sufficiently terrify me into the gym.

Of course, if I had to spring into what I’m calling ‘Beast Mode’, the adrenaline would help. But do I really want to count on a chemical kick to potentially help out of a tight spot? I don’t think so. I need something a little more tangible, and that’s the sort of thing that only comes with a touch of hard graft. It’s less a fitness regime, more a worst-case scenario plan, but, as I said, whatever works.