Wednesday, 4 April 2012


Fitness is the Catch 22 of this whole Prednisolone adventure. The fit can cope with Polymyalgia (PMR) far more readily than those who are not. The unfit can’t improve their condition because of the PMR. You turn up at the gym and the weight you moved with ease six months ago now feels as if it is stuck to the floor.

I’ve got the Prednisolone dose down to 8 mgs daily. It’s been at that level for more than a week now and so far there are no signs of the muscle throb seeping back. On my favourite piece of reading matter of recent times, the Prednisolone Package Leaflet: Information For The User, there is a warning against “weakness and wasting of the upper arm and leg muscles, brittle bones, thinning or wasting of the bones, bone fractures and tendon rupture.” And as I got out of bed the other day the love of my life backed this up by saying “God, you are starting to look puny. You should do something.” But what?

Street running, which I’d almost given up since the advent of PMR, makes you lean and slim. The weights room at Llanishen Leisure Centre, the Council run operation about three miles north of here, might help. I haven’t attended since last September. The gym itself was okay but the battle to get there, the parking, the jostling entrance queues, the wet crush and screaming kids in the changing rooms, the lockers which don’t lock, the permanent all-pervading smell of the pool, the disco thud from the constantly running women’s aerobics class all mitigate against attendance. I don’t want to go.

Instead I pay some sort of small fortune and join the much nearer private club, the David Lloyd. Here everything is sweetness. The cleanest changing rooms I’ve ever seen. The largest gym. Two heated pools. A comfortable bar and restaurant. And more classes on just about any and every aspect of fitness known to humankind. They do things with weights and pads and tubes and balls and bikes and even things that make you fit by lying on the ground.

There’s a touch of Ryanair about the money regime. There's a set-up fee. Then you’ve got to pay £5 extra for a padlock in order to use the lockers. And because I’m handing over an annual sum up front and have chosen to do this on the 30th March I get charged £3.34 extra “to cover your half day membership on the 30th and a full day on the 31st. All our annual fees run from 1st April. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it here.” I’ll try my best.

Things are better in the gym. This is a huge and mostly empty place containing more fitness machines than I’ve ever seen. Lift, pull, turn, bend, flex, press. I’m on the treadmill watching the marker on the screen that represents me moving steadily forward around the track. Beyond is the pool. It’s currently full of women of a certain age doing some sort of in-water aerobic dance. There’s music but I can’t hear it. Their instructor demonstrates the moves from the pool side. In the water the fat women turn and churn.

They are game for this, certainly. Some of them have got here on sticks. One of them is wearing socks. But in their polyester one-piece bathing suits they are so big. Like women on seaside comic postcards. How do they get this size? Can’t they see the stuff arriving? But maybe it’s medical and I’m being unfair.

My first session with my puny arms and my puny legs lasts for 30 minutes. I try a few machines set at levels I would have laughed at a year ago. I do five minutes on the stepper set at level one, no resistance. It’s almost like walking downhill. For encouragement I’ve got old rock n roll playing on my iPod. Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, Charlie Feathers, Dion, Lonnie Donegan. Makes the David Lloyd jump. But not enough to sweat.

The following day I’m a bit tired but nothing much. Have I managed it? I have not. Day two reveals aches in both legs, both arms and round my neck. All of PMR’s favourites, the proximate muscles. They’ll all talking to me. You’d be better off fat and lying down they’re saying. They say it a lot.

Right now, however, two days further on, my proximate friends have shut up. Maybe there is hope out there. What does the Prednisolone Package Leaflet: Information For The User have to say on the subject? Hope. I hunt for the word. There are loads of references to side-effects, abnormalities, being unwell, worsening conditions, depression and feelings of dependency but not a thing about how the world may eventually turn and brighten if you stay the course.

Maybe it’s all an illusion. I’ve taken my daily 8 mgs and it’s back to the David Lloyd now for another go. I’ll beat this thing yet.


  1. 'Can't they see the stuff arriving?' made me laugh out loud!!

  2. I've been reading this for sometime, being in the same situation. It can be very funny.- Keith Grindley