Jayne Dawson: Run for your life - fitness is the ultimate status symbol

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You know me, I like everyone to be in with a chance. The thought of anyone being left behind makes me a bit down in the mouth.

So here I am, offering you the current secret to being one of life’s winners.

You might not want to take advantage of my secret knowledge, you might be happy trundling along in the wheelbarrow of life. If that’s how it is, fair play to you.

But if you don’t want to be in the wheelbarrow, if you want to be more glamorous, more noticed, just generally more zippy - then here goes.

You need to be fit as a lop. That’s it. That’s the secret knowledge. I understand it doesn’t sound like the biggest secret in the world, it’s not like finding Her Majesty’s secret love child, or anything, so you might initially be disappointed.

But I’m telling you: it’s powerful. It’s the trait that all the fashionable, clever, successful people have in common. They hold down big jobs, and they are also big into fitness.

Fitness is the new status symbol, the new power currency. Follow practically anyone of consequence on Twitter and eventually you will see them at the finish line of a triathlon, or slogging though an ultra- marathon across the desert, or pounding their way across Africa.

It’s a great badge of honour for men - but it is even greater for women.

The days of a woman buying her prestige are over. Any fool can get her mitts on a fancy-looking handbag, have her skin made golden brown in a tanning booth, her face plumped up like a new cushion on any street corner, her lumps and bumps removed at a moment’s notice. There is no status at all in any of that.

Fitness now, that is different. Those muscles, that litheness and lightness of being has to be earned, it can’t be bought. Well, there are personal trainers and stuff, but essentially you have to put in the effort yourself. Despite what Laurence Llewelyn Bowen says, you can’t pay someone to get fit for you.

So a power woman now knows to leave her face alone. It’s fine to age as God intended - as long as you have the body of a teenager.

This means a power woman must spend a lot of time wearing exercise gear - and not just wearing it, either. This isn’t the forgiving ‘80s anymore. You can’t just stick on a pair of big white trainers and- voila! - job done. You have to actually run about in them.

For men it’s a bit different, more specific. The professional man should have about him, at all times, evidence of bike riding.

On the way to and from work it can be the actual bike. During office hours there should be an appearance in full Lycra before a shower and a change in the toilets, and during the rest of the day maybe a stray sweatband or fancy step counter - just to let everyone know that there is an athlete under that suit.

It’s all very different from the bad old days, when wealthy women were considered to be at their best when reclining on a fainting couch. Only their corsets held their poor wibbly-wobbly bodies together.

It was different for poor women of course - they could develop arms like navies doing everybody else’s washing and donkey stoning the doorstep, but a diet of bread and margarine cancelled out any accidental exercise.

In fact, for the longest time, exercise was considered bad for women, and even when they were eventually allowed to partake it was only ever a little light arm waving and ankle circling, in the style of 1950s keep fit enthusiast Eileen Fowler.

Men, meanwhile, were just expected to be just naturally manly and, if they felt a bit puny, they could send off for one of those chest expanders, which would arrive in plain brown paper as befitted a shameful object, and use it behind closed doors.

Now it’s dramatically different. Life is physically easy, we can all live a full life with bodies like blancmanges - which is exactly why to be a top person you must show the world you are not made of jelly.


I had a tree climbing sort of a childhood, all those years ago. Well, you have to fill the time somehow when you are kicked out of the house from dawn to dusk (joking, Ma. Honest).

There were the bankings and the fields that led to the massive wall that surrounded - I forget now, but my head is telling me it was a nunnery.

And there was a great tree with a fork in it at just the right height for jumping off, i.e.: a bit too high so that your feet hurt when you landed and you got the stomach-fluttering fear as you approached the launch-pad.

I did this jump for what feels like ages and at various stages of young life, even at the stage when I had persuaded my mother to buy me a pair of yellow plastic drop earrings which clacked as I leapt.

But nostalgia can take you too far. A report says that the numbers of children climbing trees has fallen - to be fair this is the latest of many reports saying this very thing.

How do we know? Well, the number of children being treated in hospital for tree-tumbling incidents has dropped dramatically.

Are we supposed to read this news with regret, with a sense of what is the world coming to?

“Oh no, fewer children are killing themselves falling out of trees.”

Let’s add a bit of common sense here. Children today get loads of adventure: they climb, skate, run, sail. It is just of a kind that is safer and more supervised. And that is a good thing.


Well then, a bit of old meets new is happening, in the form of Peggy the prototype peg. Yes peg, as in washing, line, hang out. All of that.

Peggy, is being developed to be the smartest peg in the world, with internal wizardry that enables her to know when is the best time to hang out your stuff to dry.

By communing with weather sites, analysing data and checking temperature, humidity and sunlight she can let you know when rain is on its way, predict how long your drying time will be and even remind you that you have left a load in the machine, going smelly. But we know don’t we that setting Peggy up and downloading the required app and all of that would be the sort of job that would defeat us entirely. And that a far easier solution is just to stick your head outside and then decide whether to chance it or not.

And as for early warning, the sound of rain on the window usually does the trick.