Monday, 14 October 2013

It's electrifying...

On the Erasmus Students blog here.

Working rather than studying on my Year Abroad has been a shock to the system. Lie-ins are a thing of the past, going out on week nights is a strict no-go, and free time has become a precious entity. And whilst I once cycled to lectures or spent a leisurely hour in the gym in the afternoon, I now spend most of my day sat at a desk, and have little time for exercise.

Fortunately, a new craze is sweeping across Germany that offers the perfect solution for the time-starved who still wish to keep in shape: EMS training. My colleagues – all svelte and glowing - swear by it, and, determined not to let my new sedentary lifestyle get the better of me, I decided I ought to give it try.

EMS training requires participants to wear a particularly unflattering, close-fitting black suit, over which a vest, armbands and legbands fitted with electrodes are worn. With wires plugged in to the correct places, you are plugged in with what can only be described as a scart lead to a machine which then delivers electric pulses for twenty-second bouts whilst you do exercises prescribed by a personal trainer.

At first I was sceptical – I’ve always been told not to play with electric sockets, so the idea of plugging my own body into a machine had me worried. My trainer, however, reassured me that it was all safe and designed for optimum workout efficiency, and turned up the current with a worryingly sadistic grin.

I’ve never experienced electrocution before, but the sudden seizure that ran through my body was utterly bizarre. My hands closed into fists, my bum was squeezed tight, and my legs refused to move anywhere. With horror I looked down to my thighs, certain that I was wetting myself – to my utmost relief it was just the electric pulses spreading through my legs.

I pathetically limped my way through each exercise, dreading the powerlessness that would grip my entire body every twenty seconds. By the end of the twenty-minute session, having barely moved my limbs and feeling utterly pathetic, I was dripping with sweat and felt absolutely exhausted. Maybe there was something in this bizarre form of training after all.

I returned home, flopped into bed and was out like a light. The next morning, when I lifted my arm to silence the alarm, I could barely move. The German word for muscle ache is ‘Muskelkater’ – literally ‘muscle hangover’ – and the incapacity I was experiencing was certainly akin to that suffered in a normal hangover. Every inch of my body was in pain. I began to be thankful for a job where I sit in front of a computer screen all day…

My sympathetic colleagues told me it would get better with time, and forced me to go back. I’m now becoming used to the bizarre sensations, and although it won’t replace the enjoyment of a leisurely jog or a gentle swim, it certainly is effective. Muscles I never knew I had are beginning to become visible. Perhaps there really is something to this electrifying exercise form after all…

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