I had a brief window of being fit that ended about a year ago. I liked it. I used to run up a hill near home and do burpees at the top. The hill is quite steep, and I enjoyed thinking condescending thoughts as other people puffed up it with their dogs. But I haven’t been running properly in more than six months; I can’t remember how to spell burpee, much less execute one. These days, the dogs condescend to me.

As it turns out, having been fit-ish is a trickier place to start from than never having been fit at all: you remember what you used to be able to do, and find the gulf so dispiriting that you decide to go home and eat cheese on toast instead. So it was with trepidation that I agreed to road-test Louise Hazel’s plan.

I needn’t have worried, though: even the most determinedly sofa-bound should be able to handle the rigours of week one, which got me just out of breath enough to feel that I was getting somewhere, and without requiring me to retch in the gutter at the end of every workout. The key to this programme is that you can’t go too fast, and the resulting sense of steady improvement is infinitely more satisfying and sustainable than my previous all-or-nothing approach.

If you’re making slow progress, you can reason, that’s only because Louise Hazel can’t handle your awesome lung capacity. And if week two is a little trickier, well, you’ve just completed week one, haven’t you? You can do anything: you are plank Spider-Man, and anyone who thinks you look silly lacks your extraordinary self-discipline. The endurance intervals may make you a little miserable, true, but they’re over before you know it. And in this way fitness crept up on me.

Do I feel like a new man? Not exactly, but that’s probably because my regimen coincided with me eating my bodyweight in Quality Street, and also because I haven’t quite got to the end of the cycle yet. Anyway, that’s not the point. So many New Year fitness plans make impossible promises that you will be a new person at the end of them. This one doesn’t make you new. It just makes you fitter, week after week, one mountain climber at a time.

  • Trying Louise Hazel’s four-week workout? Share your progress using #guardianworkout on Twitter and Instagram

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