Now as utterly delightful and rewarding as parenthood is, and I wouldn't have missed a moment of it, it is true that it does place some constraints on one's leisure time, and that means a reduction in the number of opportunities for getting some healthy exercise, whether that be golf, some sort of after-work racket sports action or just yomping up a hill. Even popping out to the shed for a quick thrash round my home gym is more difficult than it used to be, since it now has to happen between the end of the kids' bath-and-bed routine and dinner time, with the added complication that since cooking dinner is usually my job that also means pushing dinner-time back by half an hour or so.
So I decided something had to be done. I should clarify, I suppose, that this was brought about by a general feeling of not being quite as fit as I used to be, rather than by any sort of crash weight gain necessitating waddling round the house in a muumuu and occasionally losing the TV remote in my neck folds. In fact I weigh almost exactly the same now as I did at the end of 2005 when Hazel and I met. To be fair, that's a good four stone heavier than I was at some points during my university days, but I was painfully skinny back then thanks to only intermittently being able to afford to eat.
Back in the heady days of not having children, Hazel and I had got into a routine of going to an early-morning (7am!) spinning class at the grandly-named Newport International Sports Village, which I used to enjoy greatly despite the earliness of the hour, as you can get a really good sweat up while remaining in the same place. Now you might say, well, just get on an actual bike and go for a bike ride then, but that's actually considerably more complicated as you have to factor in the possibility of adverse weather and mechanical failures, not to mention being sideswiped by a juggernaut and killed. Not insurmountable problems (apart from the being killed bit), but the key here, as with all dieting and exercise regimes, is to realise that Future You is a shiftless feckless lazy fat bastard who will seize the slightest opportunity to weasel out of doing things that involve effort, and that therefore you need to pre-emptively put some structure in place that will thwart Future You from fucking up all your fine intentions. One could also say: I'm a busy man, it's the 21st century and I just want to get to the calorie-burning bit without all the admin, just as I relish being able to switch between songs at a click on iTunes without having to get up and put a different LP on the turntable. Progress, innit.
So I mentioned the possibility to Hazel of purchasing a spin bike for the house, presumably second-hand as a gym-quality one with a proper heavy flywheel typically goes for several hundred quid. Luckily she is a bit of a whiz at eBay and managed to get hold of a very solid Horizon S3+ at a bargain price (I don't know exactly how much as it was a Christmas present). I had to do some engineering work on it to repair the resistance adjusting knob which had a vexing habit of falling off halfway through a workout, but apart from that it was in perfect working order.
The other advantage of going to a spinning class rather than out on the road is that there's an instructor barking orders at you and imposing some structure on the session. Again, you can adhere to some sort of purist view that says: this should not be necessary with a bit of discipline, or you can shrug and say, yeah, but Future You will be on the ale and pies like a shot unless you keep an eye on him, the lazy fucker. At this point you can either hire a personal trainer at exorbitant cost, or you can search out some of the excellent selection of videos available on YouTube, mostly via Global Cycling Network, which seek to give the authentic spin class experience.
The second of our downstairs rooms (I believe "reception rooms" is the accepted estate-agent-ese) is set up as Hazel's photography client meeting room, and therefore, as luck would have it, contains a projector for facilitating viewing of wedding album designs, portraits, etc. So if I hook up my laptop to the projector and fire up a GCN YouTube video, hey presto, a real spinning class in my own home.
This one here is the one I normally use, since it's a good brisk 20-minute interval-training workout (i.e. periods of normal pedalling interspersed with sprints) which, if you commit to it fully, should give you that authentic sweat-dripping-on-the-floor effect by the end. Really this just provides a structure; the intensity level is up to you. As a general rule of thumb I like to try to keep to about 75rpm for the regular sections and crank it up to about 100rpm for the sprints - obviously how high you wind up the resistance is a factor too.
You may, if you wish, speculate about the possible other reasons why I use this particular video, like for instance its all-female class and the woman nearest the camera on the far right with the spectacular breasts in particular. I wouldn't like to comment, but the ladies do appear to be wearing a bit more make-up than would be normal for a spin class (in my experience at least, though of course I may just have chosen the wrong spin class to attend) and some of the sweat in the latter stages does look a bit artfully sprayed-on, particularly in the gratuitous bum-angle shots. But, you know, whatever keeps you interested and gets you through the 20 minutes. Some of the on-screen captioning is a bit (presumably knowingly) fnarr-fnarr as well.
All of which begs the question, and I'm sure you're way ahead of me here: how does the calorie-burning effect of a 20-minute spin bike workout compare with simply using the same video to facilitate masturbating furiously for 20 minutes?
There are various resources regarding the calorie-burning properties of stationary cycling, most of which suggest that a 20-minute workout at reasonable intensity will burn about 200 calories. Information, let alone reliable information, regarding wanking is a bit harder to come by (ooer), but most estimates seem to suggest a 20-minute workout of this kind will burn somewhere between 20 and 100 calories; this may vary depending how closely you adhere to the relax-SPRINT-relax-SPRINT pattern, and of course whether you can hold out for the full 20 minutes. Other considerations include whether you'd prefer to end up with muscular thighs or a massive right arm. So you might decide that it's worth splashing out (ooer, again) on a bike after all.