The Cheery Destroyer - a trip to the IGO Doctor

Weight 99kg**.  Cigarettes – zero (that’s easy because I don’t smoke…). Alcohol units – 7 (and that’s just last night). Near-death incidents while cycling – 1, some bloke who turned across me; he could see me at the head of a line of traffic but couldn’t be bothered to wait. Injuries – pretty much injury-free, oddly, just the usual lower back issues.

Man in a Palm Tree (2).jpg

 And so it was, after a very jolly evening – a chorizo and chicken dish, rice suppurating in animal fat and spices, with lots of red wine and rumbustious chat – that I toddled off to the doctor… a certain Dr Coyne on the New King’s Road – to be signed off for IGO Montana.

I should introduce myself, something you might guess by my 99kg, as a jolly and unrepentant fattie. I take plenty of exercise but carry classic male breastplate of lard. Robust, shall we say. But even as I do another circuit of Richmond Park, 30kg heavier than the whippets around me, I know that I shall not lose weight. Thing is though, I don’t really care. There's no more man-scaping for me (not that I'd ever have done anything so sily) and frankly the bulk has now slid to my midriff. But I am a jovial fattie and the rest of the world can accept me or retreat in its own self-induced dyspepsia.

The neat, pastel sign at the surgery made me wonder if a gastro-pub might hide behind the frosted glass, an impression briefly enforced when I was asked if I would prefer still or sparkling water while waiting. I was ushered in to see Dr Coyne. Tall and dapper. Hugh.

It was all very genteel and polite, and in a journalistic sense interesting to chat, to find out what the point of the visit was. Oh, he would check a few vital signs and then make recommendations for getting fit, to give IGO entrants the confidence to get the best out of the event. And after a chat – antropometrics, erythrocyte sediment rate, core saggital control, that sort of thing - we began a series of flexibility and muscle tests. I squatted with a bar, I stood on tip toes and stepped with one foot on a box.

It was a surprise to hear how doctors test some people in their 50s. "Often we just ask them to stand up..."


"The speed with which people stand indicates muscle strength. And the stronger their muscles, the longer they are likely to survive..."

It continued in a further miasma of doctory words - hypotrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy, bio-mechanical impediments, atrial arrhythmia in athletes in their 50s - none of which I had. And then sarcopenia.

Sarcopenia?  Apparently it is the loss of muscle mass through increasing age. And it can start in your mid-30s, which to anyone but a writer - they can still be young writers into their mid-30s - is simply cruel. But you use it or lose it, and... see above, if you keep your muscle, you survive. More to the point though, and concept combining the words sarcastic and penis is enough to terrify any man, whatever his age.

Of course, I was dehydrated, my waist to hip ratio was way off beam, and my BMI was clearly... well, bouncy, but I nearly blew the end off the spirometer. Still robust then.

And hey, I even planked. Supported myself on an elbow and kept a rigid body. It went on for a while, as the Doc told me of a personal trainer off to a marathon, who lasted a minute…. ‘No slacking now. Keep it straight…’ The Doc kept looking at his watch, but in the end I think he was worried about his next patient. And there was I thinking I might fit in a cup of tea, at a 30 degree angle. We compromised at 2 minutes. No problem.

But then… then… the Doc took my blood pressure. He shook his head and took it again, shook his head again and wandered off to find another monitor, a dusty, antique, but evidently reliable thing (the type you pump up yourself and apply a stethoscope to the inner side of the elbow as you let the air out).


It was epic, apparently. Almost as extreme as the event itself.

As I sat there, a touch florid, possibly glistening, he leaned in, like a very polite assassin, and intoned, quietly:

“Frankly, Mr Henderson, I don’t think I can advise you to cycle home. Let alone cycle across Montana…”

The warning had finally come then, after 55 years. If I went on like this I could expect massive coronary failure half way around Richmond Park. And I would no longer be there to be a taxi driver to my children.

And that was the moment that the new regimen began. A life of pissy teas and pills. I had to dial back the cycling effort from a 9 to a 6.  And to eat almost exclusively fruit. And to cut out the sugar in my seven daily cups of instant coffee – and reduce the coffee to one, maybe two, proper cups a day. And to hydrate fully. And to sleep properly, and… woe… I would have to cut - in half – my usual volume of food.

Otherwise I wouldn’t be going to Montana…


**You might wonder on earth I am doing recording silly sounding details like this, but it is a nod to Bridget Jones. And her obsession with weight loss…