One thing that does appear to have changed though is the way they calibrate the resistance, because from the first pull it felt as if I was heaving a barge along a muddy embankment .
After a minute my lungs were bursting, my arms were aching and I was on the pointing of jacking it in and trying something easier – like the drinking fountain - when, just my luck, somebody plonked himself down at the machine next to mine giving me no choice but to keep plugging away grimly.
The digital display works backwards from your target distance and gives all sorts of breakdowns of time, distance and calories and with the sweat coursing off me I watched it counting down with agonising slowness. Instead of feeling like Spartacus at his oar on the sparkling waters of the Adriatic I felt like one of the Chilean miners, being slowly winched through the darkness in his metal capsule, willing the distance to deplete but seemingly powerless to make it go faster.
What was worse the guy next to me kept glancing across at my monitor, causing me to redouble my efforts even though my lungs were, by now, heaving like organ bellows and my exhausted arms and legs were hopelessly out of sync. Eventually, with a final, burst of frantic pulling the counter clocked zero and I came to a grateful stop.
The guy next to me was still working away, looking infuriatingly unruffled and so, with my vision swimming in and out of focus and my knees threatening to fold under me at any moment I staggered over to the drinking fountain and noisily gurgled down a couple of litres before collapsing on a convenient mat and making a pretence of stretching off.