Written by Damien Williams
As most people will know it’s surprisingly easy to neglect your physical health to the point where it becomes more of a habit than actually trying to be healthy. I was without question one of those people. I had the comfort of having always been quite thin all my life, I've never had the added pressure of being overweight and feeling like I "had" to lose weight or appear healthier than I was. The truth of the matter was that I was far from healthy.
A Slap in the Face
It would be great to tell you that it was some life affirming quote or book that got me started taking an interest in exercise again but I'd be lying as it was a much a more mundane task that got me moving. After laying some wooden floor in my house early in 2015 I was pretty much crippled with muscle pain. Every muscle in my body ached all from the simple acts of standing up, bending down, and picking up bits of wood. A few simple acts left me a physical wreck. It's the kind of stark truth you don't really want to believe about yourself but along with some cajoling from my wife, that was enough to get me moving in the right direction.
She had started in a gym not far from where we lived and was telling the trainer and owner there about me and he was keen to get me in for a Personal Training session. I had made the decision to try and gain some weight, improve my strength and general health. So along I popped to Insanity Fitness Pollyhops to see owner and head trainer Jaime, I'm sure he knew he had his work cut out with me. I was 67kg and 1 meter 81cms, the second coming of Arnie I was not.
Eat, Eat, Lift, Lift.......Go See the Doctor
I told him what my goals were, pretty simple; gain some weight & get stronger. This he told me would involve eating lots (music to my ears) and lifting lots of heavy stuff repeatedly, not such an inviting prospect. To clarify when I say heavy stuff I really mean stuff that I found heavy which the average man probably wouldn't, I really was starting at the bottom. I had bags of enthusiasm and a set of 5kg dumbbells. I was all set, kind of.
As a result of some over exertion, due to some shall we say male pride in a group strength session, I badly pulled pretty much every muscle in my arms leading to a lot of swelling from my shoulder to wrist, my GP seemed to find it pretty amusing. Me not so much, I had learned my first lesson: go at your own pace and never attempt anything that may result in physical injury. I got off lightly but kept up with the training by doing a few leg session while my arms returned to more natural proportions.
The other half of the plan was going off without a hitch. I've always enjoyed my food but I had developed some very poor habits. I often skipped breakfast and went long periods without eating. I made some very simple changes to my routine. I made sure I had a filling breakfast each day in work, a good sized healthy lunch and my usual dinner. In between I snacked on wholegrain toast with peanut butter, mixed nuts, eggs. Anything that was high in good fats and oils. If this was being healthy I was more than happy to get on board the health train.
Onwards and Upwards
The immediate benefits of regular exercise and my better diet became obvious quickly, I slept much better, I had way more energy and mentally I felt better about myself. These changes were great motivational factors in the first few weeks and kept me training regularly. I also started to see physical results, I was gaining weight and getting stronger, exercises that at the start I would have struggled with doing a body weight movement were now coming to me easier than before. I was setting myself small goals that gave me a sense of purpose and achievement. This kept me interested and gave me a way to tailor the training I was doing, adapting what I was doing to suit each goal.
Training with someone who really knows their stuff and in a group were two of the biggest advantages I found in my early training. Form and technique are essential to making gains in any sort of training and also in avoiding injury, nothing zaps motivation like niggling injuries that make training a real chore. Training as a part of a group or a class is a brilliant way to push yourself and to even make doing burpees a little less of a pain. It also has the added benefits of meeting likeminded people that may be on a similar type of journey to yourself. Getting fit on your own is great but it's not only easier with a training partner(s) but a whole lot more enjoyable.
Gains and Pains a Year On
It's been almost a year now since I paid my first visit to the gym and I've managed to keep my training up, I usually get in 3 sessions a week if work doesn't get in the way. For me personally the changes have been a revelation, I've gained almost 11 kilos while keeping my body fat low, my strength has increased beyond what I thought I'd achieve and I've come to enjoy the training more and more every day. I continue to set myself little goals and continue to make sure I eat as cleanly as I can while still trying not to cut out the really tasty stuff that I enjoy. Training has now become a habit rather than neglecting my health and it's a habit that's much more enjoyable.
The only regret I have is that I didn't start a little sooner, I'm 35 and comfortably in the best shape I've ever been in, my clothes fit better, my all round health has vastly improved and If i was laying wooden floors again I don't think I'd be such a mess after.
It's really never too late to start so give it a try. If nothing else when someone asks "do you even lift bro?" you'll be able to say "yes, yes I do".
Damien Williams is from Dublin and works in corporate finance for BNP Paribas as a Team Leader. He is also happy to say he is now a healthy office worker.