Fitness: Arm wrestling; Nike 13-14 FA Cup Mango Incyte Ball; cycling's 'rule of three'
Join the club: Arm wrestling
My arms are pretty weedy. I struggle to lift shopping bags; have to stop intermittently to flex my fingers before struggling on. I get other people to twist open stiff jar lids for me. I can do four to five pull-ups, just.
So why is my hand gripped, vice-like – arm poised at a sharp 90 degree angle – by World Champion arm wrestler Neil Pickup, and do I have a hope in hell?
Well yes, says Pickup, but not against him. "Arm wrestling is a bit like physical chess. Does technique come into it? Absolutely. In a match between novices, the person with the technique is probably at a 70:30 advantage. Because what you can do with that is literally neutralise your opponent's strength."
He's right. With the three tips he gave me, I have gone on to win every arm wrestle I've had. I tried it at the pub, against co-workers, and with my housemates. My mum crumbled in seconds. And now, dear reader, I will reveal the secrets to you and scupper that advantage.
First, set your body: keep your upper arm close to your chest and lean in, feeling the pressure on your bicep. On the count of three, don't push but pull up towards your nose, thus disengaging your opponent's wrist. Now you have them, dead fish-like, roll over and down, with all the force you can muster. "Like a tyre lever," explains Pickup.
But is this fitness? As with any sport, to be good you have to put the hours in. Pickup climbs a four-inch-thick shipping rope wearing a weighted belt and walks himself up and down a vertical I-beam (the steel girders normally used for holding up buildings), clinging on with crimped fingers.
All of which make for gargantuan forearms, drainpipe-thick wrists and trouble-free trips back from Tesco.
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Gear: Nike 13-14 FA Cup Mango Incyte Ball, £100
Competing with Adidas's Brazuca as the ballon de nos jours, the Mango is the official ball of 2014's FA Cup. Goes well with Sheffield United legend Tony Currie...
The cyclist: Three and out
I have bought a new bicycle, which is of no interest to anyone bar me, but notably, perhaps, it brings the total number of bikes I own to three. And, according to The Rules, an indulgently snobbish guide to cycling, this is the minimum number a rider should have blocking his or her hall (where the carpet may already have been ruined by the greasy rain-drips of two bikes).
The correct number of bikes to own, above that minimum, the book adds, is "n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned." The equation may be re-written according to circumstances, The Rules goes on, as "s-1, where s is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your partner".
I will now cap my ownership, not because my girlfriend would dump me otherwise (she might) but because she would find it difficult to enter her own flat, where I'm her tenant. I may have also risked losing my deposit on account of that blackened carpet – if she'd been mercenary enough to take one.
Yet three is a modest number for many cycling types I know. For others, the real risk of a domestic incident keeps the number down. Charlie warns: "My brother-in-law once owned a beautiful steel bike (his pride and joy) until his first wife took a hacksaw to it after an argument, she carefully cut it into 10cms-long sections and left it in a pile in the front room."
Takin' it easy: 'Hide and clean'
A recent conversation with my friend Naomi brought back fond memories of working together in a Dublin restaurant a number of years ago. We recalled our joint motto formulated on the job; one that is particularly pertinent during the set-up and break-down portions of restaurant life: "Hide the things you can't clean; clean the things you can't hide". A catchphrase I feel (but I'm not going to get too worked up about it) that should be held dear by catering staff and anyone else in search of the easy life.
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