He says

Nihal Arthanayake talks getting fit — off the record

Drive, determination and willpower – once Nihal Arthanayake has all three of these things, he promises he’ll get fit…
Nihal Arthanayake talks getting fit — off the record
March 9, 2017   |    Nihal Arthanayake

The more zombie apocalypse-related TV series and films I watch, the more I realise how ill prepared I would be for such an eventuality. If an airborne pathogen, unleashed by a meteor, crash- landed into Croydon, transforming all human life into an army of flesh-gorging undead sociopaths, I’d be in serious trouble.

They say that the survival instinct is our most powerful one. I’d like to think that I, armed with a nail-encrusted cricket bat and John Lewis-grade kitchen utensils, would have the stamina, strength and single-mindedness to dispatch the still-walking-while-decomposing masses back to hell. But the truth is brutally unnerving: I can barely run up the stairs without needing an oxygen tank waiting for me on the top step.


A simple game of football with my nine-year-old son renders me gasping for breath as if I have just been waterboarded after running a marathon. I used to swim, I used to play rugby for my school, I used to cycle. I used to have the drive to do these things.

For some reason I just cannot begin again, make that first step, get up early and work it out. I make excuses for myself, as if I have hired me as my own publicist to convince myself that it’s better that I don’t exercise well. I must be a brilliant publicist because so far I have stuck to every word of my own press release. I know that I have to get fit.

I’m middle-aged. I like fried food and chocolate éclairs. I have two young children who I want to be able to kick a ball around with and cycle alongside as they get older.

At Christmas, my wife bought me a punchbag and hung it from our garage ceiling. It was supposed to be my daily workout. Get up in the morning, do some bag work, build up strength and stamina and make my merry way off to work at the BBC in the full knowledge that I had done something good for my body. Since 25 December, I’ve used it once. Every morning I set my alarm for 6.40am, and every morning I reach for the snooze button and press it multiple times until my own phone curses me.


My wife is far too polite to bully me into exercising or mention that my midsection is expanding – not outwards but sidewards, like two bumbags filled with lard and jelly. I have begun to realise that if indeed my body is a temple, the pagans have been asked to desecrate it.

All around me I notice other middle aged men turning back the clock through exercise.
I just want to have the discipline to get on with it. I need to feel the alleged rush that exercise brings – all I receive in return for my exertions is the sense that my muscles are in open revolt.

I know it’s important, but I can’t bring myself to enjoy it. So why am I unloading my inadequacies on to you?

You have a busy enough life as it is without acting as my therapist. Because you shouldn’t be me, but if you are like me, can you find the energy first? Start upon the path to a better you and then when you reach base camp send someone back for me, as I’ll still be on the couch.

Read more: Nihal talks Connor McGregor



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