I TROT in for my first session accompanied by Echo photographer Sarah Caldecott, who is thrilled to find the gym dog, Chihuahua puppy Phoebe scampering about the place.

Not quite what sure to expect, never having had any personal training before (unless you count the time no-one else turned up for hockey training), I’m suddenly nervous.

I start with a warm up on one of the exercise bikes, before we move onto a series of stretches designed to work on my lower body strength, in particular my glutes, which, common to many hockey players, can be lazy, resulting in extra pressure on the hamstrings and calf muscle, Stephen tells me.

The first one is a split squat, and starting with my weaker leg, my troublesome right, I initially struggle to get the technique. A few slight adjustments and I’ve got it, and can feel it working my hamstrings.

The Northern Echo:

Concentrating on split squats

After ten to 12 reps on each leg, we move onto an impressive contraption called a glute-ham machine. Feeling like I’m suspended in mid-air, to start with I’m convinced I’m heading for a massive face-plant.

Once I learn to trust the machine, I get to work, guided by Stephen to get the most out of it. Arms crossed across my chest, I bend forward at the hips until I can’t go any further, then straighten back up. The trick seems to be to use the glutes to pull yourself up, getting them to do the work instead of your back.

We alternate this with split-squats until I’ve done three lots of each, and then we move onto my next challenge – squats using weights carried on a frame with side handles, alternated with squats with weights on a bar.

I can feel the burn in my quads doing these, but all in all I manage okay and I’m feeling quite pleased with myself.

Big mistake, Next we head over to the astroturf strip that runs right across the far side of the building – red to match the colour-co-ordinated décor.

Originally, on my first trip the gym, the thought of sprints on the strip made me feel a bit giddy. Not today, as I eyed up the Prowler.

The Northern Echo:

The Prowler: Pain

Stephen has me pushing it using the vertical bars on the way up and then using the lower, horizontal bars on the way back, pumping my legs as fast as I can.

Well, this seems to be a new and interesting form of torture.

I thought I was reasonably fit until trying this out. A short rest then it’s onto the sled carrying 100kg of weight, pulled backwards by two straps.

I can barely move the thing, but just to say get it going enough to slowly drag it up and down the strip.

The only giddiness now is coming from lack of oxygen.

No pain, no gain, so the saying goes, but after twice more up and down with the Prowler, and once more with the sled, encouraged all the way by Stephen, I get the sudden feeling that I’m about to see my lunch again.

Stephen wants me to finish my set of three with the sled, but defeated, I’m forced to pass, or there is a real danger of my wobbly legs giving way altogether, or something worse.

I’m not keen on giving up, but Rome wasn’t built in a day…