January: a month of cold snaps and damp fogs that takes the shine off the prospect of invigorating early-morning runs. Not to mention the post-work jog along pavements rendered hazardous because the council has decided to economise by switching off the street lamps.
With the new year, it follows, comes the time to blow the dust off your gym membership and try out something new, indoors.
This isn’t only an activity you made your kids do to keep them out of your hair when they got home from school. The Victorians embraced the world of still rings and horizontal bar as part of the muscular Christianity of the age, when chaps in singlets and long johns posed proudly by leathery vaulting horses. A century and a half later, thanks to unprecedented glory for Team GB in gymnastics, an increasing number of men are discovering their inner Louis Smith. And, gents, if you harbour a secret fancy to prance around waving bits of ribbon, men are now allowed to do Modern Rhythmic Gymnastics, too.
The ballet barre
When you have haunted gyms and health clubs for as long as I have, you realise that what is touted as new is often more a fresh twist on something that has been around a for while. Ballet-based fitness classes originated in (where else?) New York, but these in turn were pre-dated by the Lotte Berk exercise method. This year’s big ballet thing is the barre, as provided by Barreworks in London. It’s great for flexibility and toning and, though it won’t provide a cardio workout, it also makes you miraculously slim and fit.
It may sound like a character in Pilgrim’s Progress, but the eponymous Joe Pilates designed his contraptions when members of a ballet corps asked him to come up with a workout which would repair their shattered bodies. Even if you have done Pilates before, you will need at least four introductory classes, but the results are more effective than mat work. And if you are feeling phenomenally energetic and live in central London, try cardiolates, a two-for-one consisting of a gruelling spinning class followed by a session on the machines.
The Hammock (dance/Pilates/yoga fusion)
Just when you thought it impossible to come up with any more variations on bog-standard yoga, here is the anti-gravity version – very popular in Manchester – which mixes dance, Pilates and yoga-type strength training. The new element is provided by a contraption known as The Hammock, by the way.
When Nicola Adams won boxing gold at London 2012, she struck a blow (sorry…) for any female who ever cherished a secret desire to punch someone’s lights out. Boxercise classes won’t turn you into an Olympic champion, but they are a fun way of de-stressing – and of getting an excellent cardio workout into the bargain.