We are now into the serious business of the New Year, what we will make of it and what it will make of us.
Huge issues confront us. Will we climb out of this trough of despondency? Will we keep our jobs? Will our biggest market implode? Will America put its sub-prime market disaster behind it and start getting back to work? Will Israel bomb Iran and so plunge us into another oil crisis? Will the Arab spring end up landing us with a clutch of fanatical fundamentalist states? Will the Arab world’s most pivotal state, Syria, descend into civil war?
On not one of these issues can the most gifted political pundit give any guidance as to the likely outcome. So for myself I am going to sit tight, wait on events and try not worry too much. I suggest you do the same.
On the home front, for 25 years (particularly the later 21 in which I ran my own health club), January was the most frantic month of the year for me.
People were looking to the summer. They had been pigging out for a solid two weeks. They wanted to go into it looking better – slimmer – than they currently did. Two thirds of my entire year’s advertising budget for new members was spent in the first quarter of the year, since in that short time, if I was lucky, I could expect to enrol three quarters of my annual members.
It would cost me no less than £19,500: money spent in this very newspaper.
From time to time we managed to get some truly spectacular results (see inset pictures of one of our successes of 30 years ago).
The legacy of those Physique & Figurama health club days continues to endure for me.
Every Monday before I set out for work in my shop on Plympton Ridgeway, I, along with my wife, get on the scales and have a weekly weigh-in, writing it down along with the date.
Keeping our eye on the ball is the name of the game. This week, along I suspect with many of you, I had a terrible shock.
Of course, at 72, I could not run to pumping the iron, fast and furious. Instead I walk three miles a day at a brisk enough pace as to force me to breathe through my mouth. So yes, in its more modest form, exercise still continues to play a part.
I have always taken the view that three elements determine our future. One of these – our genetic inheritance – we can do nothing about (for the moment), but the other two, diet and lifestyle are entirely within our gift to control.
One of the reasons we enjoyed success over so many years in the health club was that it was never an either/or approach – dieting or exercise: it was both.
That way it did not require a superhuman effort as if you were relying on one only. Since for most people the problem was, and is, insufficient exercise and too many calories then it made perfect sense to pursue both. That way you only had to work half as hard than if you were relying on one.
So much of the success in fighting the flab is in the mind, and it does not do to ask too much of yourself. Willpower has been made extra difficult to raise in our super indulgent, lazy age and the less of that rare commodity you have to summon up the better. So the two-pronged approach was best.
You had a better chance of enjoying yourself; staying the course and seeing it though to the end.
Our great city hero, Sir Francis Drake, had it exactly right. Of course he was commenting on something entirely different, the three-year first circumnavigation of the world in which the captain survived to see it through.
But what he said still holds true for so much else. He said: “There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing unto the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the true glory.”
It would be silly to equate anything we have done with Drake’s stupendous achievement, but the message is clear. It was what drove me on during the also three-year slog to complete my book, The Last Foundling. It ran to 409 pages and there were so many times I felt myself running out of steam as well as willpower, but I pressed on.
Now I must apply myself to losing a considerable amount of weight and having done that, keep it off. That last bit, keeping it off, must be the “until it be thoroughly finished” part of what Drake was referring to.