Dom Joly: Oh, the shame of having to dust off one's rock-star gym and actually use it

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The Independent Online

Summer holidays are approaching and the idea of parading round a lake in our swimming trunks is terrifying the Joly household. We are off to Canada for three weeks, to relatives who do four or five triathlons a day and strut around the sun deck in tight little Speedos.

Summer holidays are approaching and the idea of parading round a lake in our swimming trunks is terrifying the Joly household. We are off to Canada for three weeks, to relatives who do four or five triathlons a day and strut around the sun deck in tight little Speedos.

Our fitness regime is, therefore, getting up to full steam. In a fit of rock- star opulence I had a fully equipped gym installed into the country house about three years ago. Since then the gleaming new machines and shiny sets of dumb-bells have peered out of dirty windows at me through ever increasing cobwebs and dust.

I'd walk past the building averting my eyes, pretending to look at some drainage problem in the lower field but I could hear whispering: "Fatty's heading for the fridge and won't come to see us. Fatty ate all the pies. Fatty don't want to come talk to us." For a while I thought it was the neighbours. I got quite angry and painted insulting messages on their garden walls before I realised that the voices in my head were coming from my forsaken gym.

I would like to take this opportunity to apologise for some of the things I said. I'm sure that you don't sleep with farm animals and all that stuff about your parents was pure speculation. I have no proof whatsoever. Sorry.

So I've hired a personal trainer who insisted I hire a cleaner before we started. I was too embarrassed to let the cleaner see the state of the gym so I cleaned it before she arrived. If only logic had prevailed and I had trained in the gym before the trainer arrived I wouldn't have needed the cleaner or the trainer, but that's life I suppose.

I've tried to make my gym look as much like a proper gym as possible. I've got a water cooler to waste time by in the corner. I have a television on a bracket hanging off the wall. That's important. In fact the only thing I haven't got is a couple of meathead muscleheads lifting the kilo equivalent of a Mini Metro in the middle of the room while wearing tiny pants, making ludicrous noises, not unlike a rutting elephant, and checking themselves out in six mirrors.

My trainer, Bev, turns up about three times a week and makes me work out and I'm actually using the gym for the first time. In fact, I've got so keen that the gym is now not enough. I've bought a pedometer. This weird little thing clips on to my belt and measures the number of steps that I take. You are supposed to do more than ten thousand a day, and Stacey and I have got very competitive. I have discovered that the vibrations from an hour-long car ride give me an extra two thousand steps, while I chanced upon Stacey sitting on the vibrating spin-dryer yesterday, and I'm convinced that she is upping her step rate that way. She certainly had a particularly blissful look on her face.

A pedometer does give walking a certain purpose that I felt it to be distinctly lacking beforehand. Mind you, I still don't really understand the concept of going into my gym, getting on to a bike machine and pedalling for an hour. Why not just get a bicycle and pedal round the countryside?

It reminds me of a great Jack Dee observation: he is constantly amazed at people who drive up the motorway, pull into a service station, play an electronic driving game and then get back into their cars and continue on up the motorway. His solution was simply to keep driving, wind the window down, and throw fifty pence out every two minutes.

The only real problem with this new fitness regime is the kids. I don't feel it's unreasonable to make a four-year-old walk 12 miles a day, but someone's called the local police and they came round to have a word yesterday. I presume it was about that, anyway. I just hid in the attic until they went away. You won't catch me alive, copper.

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