I often cycle to work. The bicycle is one of our greatest transport inventions, transferring up to 98% of the energy from the rider to the wheels, this means I don’t really need to put a very large amount of effort into it, and coasting – stop pedalling and letting momentum take you forward – is common. It’s not really making me that much fitter, but quick for getting me from one side of Edinburgh to the other in an hour (which is about the time I’d take on the bus). It also makes me strangely happy. I turn up raring to go.
Anyway, I’ve been a lardy guy for the better part of 20 years, and I’m getting sick of it. The only people I know AFK who have successfully changed from being fat to slim have either exercised hard or had surgery to make it so they can only eat a few mouthfuls of food. Good food is a great pleasure, and should not be sacrificed. My mum has lost a lot of weight in the past two years, through eating a lot less, but she looks weak – losing both good muscle as well as fat. As it happens, I work with a guy who moonlights as a martial arts and personal trainer, and after picking his brains over a few “water-cooler” moments, he suggested hiring a personal trainer to go over my lifestyle and training regimen. Around the same time I got a raise, and decided I could afford it. It’s also the first time I’ve ever face-to-face hired someone to do me a personal service.
So, after asking at my local gym I got a trainer. He’s a rugby player, and looks it, built like a friendly brick shithouse. As it turns out, it was entirely (if initially) painless – a couple of questionnaires and a conversation about goals. Taking “I want to be healthy, fit and strong” – and breaking it down into “running 2 miles without an oxygen tank”, “being able to do unassisted pull-ups” and “losing fat, without losing muscle”. I despise the word “tone” as a verb – it’s a marketing droid’s word that disguises the very real effort required to get in shape. Instead of saying “tone” from now on, say “making heavy things move and yourself for good measure”. It’s hard work, and using soft words to disguise it is foolish. </rant>
On to the first session – a basic program of calisthenics and simple equipment exercises. The trainer devised a program that avoids resistance machines, largely because the body does not work in the simple way that these machines force you to work. Hooray for science! I regretted it, but almost certainly won’t over time as I get better. Going through the programme, it was an interesting if downright weird experience – relearning how to do this stuff properly, and feeling the body work as a functional unit. I have so many annoying habits, and physical tics to undo.
Lesson #1 – Getting it right is more important than throwing weight around. So, it turns out I had to relearn how to do a squat: bend at the hips, keeping knees in line with toes, driving through the ground with your heels, and keeping the back straight. Keeping that stuff in your head, and feeling it work – it was strangely satisfying.
It’s worth saying out loud that a knowledgeable, encouraging and correcting-where-necessary human being is an enormous help.
Towards the end, the programme required gritted teeth, involuntarily shaking. and a small monsoon of hard-won sweat. But… I *can* do this. In the changing room afterwards, pulling off a sopping-wet t-shirt with some difficulty, and feeling the soft, sweet endorphin rush amid deep, rich oxygen refilling my body; it felt like an accomplishment – a badge of pride.
Now to do it again…