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“For it all to change in a blink of an eye is a scary thing” (Part 9)

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Felling like the epitome of a fitness professional, I used to gaze over the mountains on a day when the sun graced us with its’ presence. I could not be more on top of the world with the way my life was going. Talk of pattering feet, direction for our weary minds and a fire in our bellies; myself and the girl I loved were writing our future chapter in our minds. Devoid from this talk though, I was about to learn a valuable life lesson. For what could challenge a mans strength more than the thought of an uncertain future. For you see I furthered my knowledge from the follow on course, I was more competent than ever. Haven already taken on my first couple of clients I felt my life needed to move faster. I needed a new plan and I needed to do it now. “I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough. We must apply. Being willing is not enough. We must do.” — Leonardo da Vinci

After many failed attempts at ‘prepping’ for a bodybuilding competition I wanted to take the plunge. Although procrastination started to take over once more I got a message from the bodybuilding gods themselves. “Well I thought it was a message… that okay with you? Judgmental f£$%&er!” 🙂 I’d been offered a “ambassadorship” with an up and coming clothing company in the states, started by an influential bodybuilder. You’ll understand the reason for the quotes in a minute. At the same time I was offered a sponsorship with a very googalable supplement company. It was the kick start I needed to hit the ground running. I knew I would be judged by other people. Did I care? Yes… a little. But hey… i’m only human at the end of the day. It’s inbred into human nature not to want to segregate yourself from the herd. Modern day social suicide was on the rise anyway. Friends only posting about what they loved to do as a hobby. Others having their baps out for the world to see. People losing friends over political and social views. Yes, we were in the era where we are judged by every online movement we present with our personas’; presence or lack thereof. “Sure if everyone is doing it.”

Wanting to flagship my journey on Instagram, this was the source of the clothing company. I was promised the best apparel, knowledge, guidance, the sun, the moon, the stars and a few more unfathomable things. After an initial acceptance to the team, via Instagram, I felt like a member of a team. My emails being replied to, my first shipment of apparel arriving and a feeling of acceptance. Although this was short lived; as the team grew to plenty. I felt once more alone in what I was trying to achieve. I had just started my YouTube vlog (I might leave a link down bellow for your amusement) and I was receiving supplements. However, not the sought after advice from a professional bodybuilder.

“Let me just jump in here quick. We as fitness professionals should never attempt to convey that we know everything to do with health, fitness, every aspect of sports, or knowledge on ever supplement. If we don’t know something we will have to do the research and critically analyze it to see if it is applicable. Also a small piece of advice; if your trainer does go on like they know everything, without doing some form of research… then you need to find a new trainer asap. But for the purpose of this I was under time constraint, lack of knowledge and needed answers. To which none were provided. I was also told it would be a great idea to wear green, white and orange shorts… I know… Stop laughing.”

Nevertheless without the backing of my apparel company I was still continuing on with my documentation of my journey. This was, however, a long and arduous process. I found I was exploiting workouts to record my progress, feign editing knowledge to try and make something tangible for the people to watch. Jumping in with two feet to accept sponsorship. I thought this line of supplements were doing me the world of good. When in fact they were stagnating my progress with each passing day. “Was I destined to not succeed in the bodybuilding world?”, I contemplated. Alas with a little more research and the gumption to suck it up and procure a prep coach, we decided to drop the supplements. This was a bit more of a battle with my mind than I was ready for. No one likes change… it felt like I was moving backwards instead of forwards at making a drop in the pond. Gratefully though this was it… I finally committed to what I wanted to do for so long. Since the moment I told my partner on our first date to impress her; as to also stimulate the drive in me. I was going to be a bodybuilder and I had no idea what was to come.

The YouTube channel was going well and people were interested, but it was not sustainable to keep going. I was still working, taking classes, doing personal training, my own training, a son, a partner and a new home to be the man of. Maybe for a seasoned veteran trainer who was well established and could outsource a lot of his classes or did none in fact, only trained people; but not for the new guy on the block. I was getting busier and busier in work; any trainer worth his salt will know how mentally exhausting this is. Where would… let me rephrase that… where should my focus be on at this time? Documentation is a very useful tool to keep people on track but when it doesn’t fall in line where you want to go in life; be it relationships, work, your hobbies… then it is time to take a little look and reevaluate the situation. Uncertainty drowned me from my gut to my brain. Thinking I knew where I was going and for it all to change in a blink of an eye is a scary thing; even if it is for the better.

I’ll leave you with this, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

To be continued…

Cringable YouTube Link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCk-EDKzp3gY7uzyAanBDjLQ 

rda

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“Hurry up ya big ejit” (Part 8)

15cd758b369f70e964a83683d23d4d301The final day was something that will be forever etched in my mind. That final walk to the sports centre. The way the sun shone so brightly as if it was the first day again. It had the feel of a groundhog day, but this was different. I had my backpack equipped, sweats on, the compression top to help alleviate my muscle soreness (a very frequent thing these days) and my morning protein shake in hand. Stronger… more confident… able to take on the world. Looking at myself knowing I had a purpose. Finally looking at my life and seeing direction where there was only misdirection before. I never wanted to give up this feeling. Although this was not the only feeling I was to encounter from all of this.

Would it be easy to find a job? Would anyone want to take on someone like me? Could I live up to peoples expectations? Am I creating a person my son would be proud to call his father? Would my father have be proud of me? Proud of the man I’ve become?? All these thoughts going through my mind as I sat on the bus. It had taken me so long to become physically strong; that mentally strong meant a lot more to me now. It was a new challenge. These thoughts would race through my mind constantly. I was putting stress on myself and I didn’t even know it. Sure I was in a better place, yes I have had the most influential time in my life experienced so far, and yes it was an immense amount of fun. But… what now?

I had applied in every fitness facility I could find. I done the footwork, I wanted to show people I could be a great trainer. All the while my next move playing out in my mind. Personal training was the next step and there was a follow on course that I had my eye on. I wanted more experience though. At this time not a lot of places were taking on people. The influx of fitness professionals was abundant. They were also looking for someone with a little more experience. Not just a programmer who up-skilled into fitness instruction. The jobs seemed to be passed onto the young bucks of the fitness world. My motivation was decreasing, and at this stage I just wanted a job that would pay good. So I could keep up my fitness to a level that was acceptable in the fitness industry. You see you have to remember the industry can be very fickle. Interview after interview I could see my dreams fading more and more. Then it happened.

At this time I was going to a gym, not too frequently, in my girlfriends town. I was between gyms in my own town too. Basically wherever I had the money to train was the daily regimen. This gym was like no other though. I wasn’t just a run of the mill gym. It had character; and an atmosphere I only thought was in movies like Pain & Gain. It had graffiti on the walls, the people were all friendly, there was an air of community and determination. This is where I wanted to be! Some days, when I would stare into my own eyes in the mirror between sets, I would imagine myself working there. It would all be soon a reality; but a reality I was totally unaware of. I would give people a little advice here or there when I could see they would do more damage than good to themselves. This however wouldn’t go unnoticed. I watched the desk a few times when the coffee run was to be made and I tried to make an impression the best I could. “I believe you will regret one hundred percent of the chances you never take.” To my total surprise and excitement I got a call one evening that would challenge my belief.

“Decky, have you ever thought a class before?”, “I have.”, “Would you like to fill in for a class tonight?”, “I would indeed, that would be no bother at all.” When I finished that call ill tell you one thing… I never felt so much like I didn’t know what I was doing in all my life. I didn’t ask what the class was, stupidly, and this was my first regret. Did I call him back or just project confidence in any class I could? Did I want to look like I wasn’t confident? NOPE! That wasn’t me anymore. I was confident in my ability… or so I thought.

I walked into the gym that night. My head held high and a plan in my bag for every class he could throw at me. My instruction training was very comprehensive; with all day circuits, Pump ‘n’ Tone classes, Spin, TRX, Kettle-bells, Step aerobics and a brutal body attack class. “I was ready for anything”, I thought to myself. I quickly realised I wasn’t. Body conditioning would be my first class. Setting up my circuit, my mind would race from one thing to another. Should I just do a very basic circuit? Would it be too easy? Going over the timing in my head. All the while walking around, book in hand, looking like a complete noob. Now it was easy enough to instruct to my peers in class. They knew the exercises, if I messed up they just laughed and we would continue on. We would slag each other and make little jokes to help ease each others anxiety. But there is no fear like the the fear of 12 people looking on at you with baited breath who are not your peers. “Who’s the new guy?”, I would hear in the background.

I gingerly went through every exercise; adaptations and progressions, timing and introducing myself. This took fifteen minutes. I was taking my time and you could see their anticipation of the time constraint arising. “Hurry up ya big ejit”, I told myself. During the class I was trying to watch everyone, make sure I was addressing them right, keeping time and trying to motivate as much as I could. This was a little tricky but I got it done. I finally finished and was given criticism about the class. Criticism is something that is a constant thing in this game, as with everything I suppose. But this is the one job where the customer is usually wrong. Hence correcting form all the time and questioning why they thought that YouTube video would work for them. This is where a lot of criticism from clients is generated. However that’s a different conversation. I got generally good feedback from the boss; just the usual about speeding up a bit, having a bit more of a laugh with clients and being a little more vocal. It could have been a lot worse. I’ve heard some horror stories. People totally freezing up, showing different exercises than they had set out, saying something inappropriate (in an effort to connect to the clients) and one about the instructor passing out from the anxiety of it all. Thankfully none of these things happened.

This was me. This was the life I wanted to live. This is where I wanted to be and I knew what I had to do to build a life around it. The gym would give me the environment to grow as an instructor and towards my own goal to be a bodybuilder. Something that, when I told people, they would laugh at. But no other time was so right for me to peruse these dreams. I was making myself proud. I could see my vision clearer now than ever before. The next chapter had finally begun; and ill tell you what… it was exciting.

To be continued…   

“I felt like giving up at that moment” (Part 7)

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Now that you know why I do what I do, lets get on with it. With my girl by my side I felt like I could take on the world even more than before. I wasn’t settling for second best from myself anymore. I found what was best for me and was going to make sure I never changed my plan; let her see what she got herself in for. “I’m hard work, just so you know!” I had a plan in my head and god knows I was not going to waver from it. During this time I took up my work experience, thanks to a little help from my cousin, in a hotel gym. It was very much a private gym and I wanted to make an impression.

The rain was appropriate to the trials of my first morning. Getting up to get the bus to the next town was a little harder that day; no one wants to get out of bed on a miserable day. It had to be done though, nothing was going to stop me, a little rain never hurt nobody, and wallowing in self pity was not going to get me where I wanted to be. Listening to my motivational speeches from the greats I rocked up to reception. Not knowing what to expect was the worst part. Would I be expected to teach a class? Would I have to show how fit I was? Would my knowledge be tested? No… I cleaned. That would be first on the agenda; every single day. This is one of the most important aspects of being an instructor. Make sure everything is hygienic, devoid of sweat and residue build up. Check the swimming pools chlorine levels and work out myself.

Looking at the body building trophies in the reception area I was a little inspired. How was it possible to have so many trophies in such a small private gym. I was also a little anxious because these achievements were obtained by a twenty six year old. When I eventually met him he was a monster of a man compared to me. Picking his brain I found that he was even more obsessed than I was. Hold on a second… obsessed is the wrong word. Dedicated better describes what this ‘monster’ was. Six foot odd and pure muscle, I was dwarfed by his presence. “Remember, I’m five foot five on a good day.”

As I talked to him more and more my knowledge grew. Every evening on the bus home I would go over what he told me in his head. Work on your weaknesses until they become your strengths; and you know what… that’s what I was forced to do. “I hated spin classes!”; I stupidly said out loud. Each day after that, I was made to do spin to become more proficient at it. Now in training we were encouraged to talk to each other while we were on the bikes but this was different. It was constant and I grew to think of it as another class I could do at a drop of a hat. The professional who done spin seemed to lost his passion for being an instructor. This worried me too; “was this my eventual fate?”, I thought to myself? I couldn’t let this happen to me. I was only new to the game and my aspirations were high.

“Thinking like this would end me before I started.”, I contemplated. Although this did not discourage me as I was to find out I was not the only one who got discouraged. The ‘monster’ thought me one more valuable lesson. Having a conversation one day he was telling me that he met his idol at an expo one time. He sat down beside him and felt tiny. “How??”, I queried. “Well I sat down beside him and his hamstring just went oomph.”, as his signaled his hand half way between the chair and the floor. “I felt like giving up at that moment. No way would I ever get my legs that big.”, he said. This made me think a lot. Here was this mammoth of a man who had all these trophies, telling him he was the best in his class and he wanted to give up?! Dedication and drive kept him going; as I realised, even the best feel like giving up. There will always be someone who challenges your ability. What sets these people apart is being better versions of themselves. Not wanting to be better than the next person but knowing they were on their own personal journey.

The next couple of months were filled with little tricks and tips to help me achieve a better physique for myself. To be better than the person I was the previous day. To be more confident in my spin and class ability. To strengthen my core even more; I thought I had a great core until I tried Pilates. To not compare myself to others; but to also lead from the front. These were all very valuable lessons that I retained into my later training. Now I knew why experience was so important; it thought you a lot more than just how to instruct. Teaching you how to watch multiple people at once. What your responsibility to people was and what it was not. For example; we have a responsibility to teach people how to safely do exercises. It was not our responsibility to put their weights back or tidy up after them. Your duty of care to a person can only go so far before it wavers your responsibility if they get hurt. A prime example was a client who enjoyed to do his own sort of exercises; even though they were completely wrong, despite multiple efforts to correct his form. Dropping weights repeatedly was not an expression of masculinity that was acceptable in a gym. (Note: failing is different.) These little lessons, I learned, is what makes a massive difference to an instructor.

Saying goodbye on my last day was perhaps one of the most difficult things I had to endure. Not only because I was losing a part of myself and finishing a chapter; but also because I had to go out into the big bad fitness world soon. No longer would I be under instruction if I messed up. “Em… not that I messed up often mind you.” But it was something that would be as scary as it would be exciting. You know what though.. those twenty kg weights didn’t seem that heavy anymore.

To be continued…   

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“The ‘what ifs’ will kill you!” (Part 6)

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So here we are, just a few short months into my course and I was filling a big void in my life. I’d finally found what I was good at. What I loved to do. As I was saying, It never felt like study, It felt like I was looking up stuff I wanted to know. Not because I had to learn it, but because I genuinely wanted to know how to make myself more proficient and better at my passion. Alas I was also starting to get lonely again. A serial monogamist always longs for that closeness. That longing to have the option to hold someone at night. Someone to make life a little better than it already was. Tinder was my platform of choice. “Why not the gym?”, you ask? “If I was so into fitness, then would that not be the best place to meet someone?”. Short answer, “NO!”. The gym is probably the worst place to meet someone.

Lets set one thing straight. Girls who are in the gym are usually, as are men, self conscious. In my experience anyway. Women do not want to be hassled or stared at by anyone, including men. People are in the gym for a reason and it is usually because they have an insecurity they want to address. So going up to and talking to someone who is self conscious will not get you anywhere. Now.. there is a small percentage of women and men who do like to be looked at and hit on. These women and men have zero interest in anyone who comes up to them and it only fuels their egos when this happens. I must note that these are my opinions, my observations and I realise there is exceptions to every rule. Not all people in the gym are just insecure beings. Some actually want that cute guy or girl to talk to them. The risk to benefit ratio was just too large for my liking.

Nevertheless… online dating was something that was easy to do. It allowed for me to study, workout and still have fun with my friends while continuing to find myself. In short, it was safe. I must digress though, it wasn’t just a walk in the park. You think you’re getting along with someone, meet them in real life and they end up being nothing like who they were in their online persona. Great picture angles to mask what they really looked like. Feigning an interest in fitness because they fell in love with the idea of me; not actually who I was. Also I looked taller in my pictures than real life; a small bit of a let down for some girls. Pardon the pun! Fail after fail I was starting to really get disheartened. Then it happened, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I fell for someone when, I thought, I shouldn’t.

I kept telling myself I didn’t want a relationship. I was looking for something more convenient to what I was trying to do. I wanted to be something more than I ever was before. I wanted to be the best version of myself and I thought ‘love’ would mess that up. How wrong was I?! She came into my life like a tornado and challenged everything about me. My perception of what I thought I should be, who I thought I should be. She loved hard and jumped in with two feet, finally someone who wanted me as much as I wanted them. I was so reluctant to be my honest self to her. My training was to come first, no matter what. Falling in love and wanting to do your own thing conflict so much. Here was a woman who was stronger than I ever could be, she has an illness you see, but that’s not what I’m going to go into over this platform. Never complained about it, just got on with life. Made me feel so much more special than anyone ever did; and with each passing day fell for me more and more.

A little more context is needed here I think. At this time I was living in my mam’s house, following vacating the apartment I associated with the last failed relationship, it was also a bedsit to where I would stay on the floor. Finding it hard to rent in my home town as it was far too expensive and I wanted to pick myself up on my own. It was just another chapter in my life, I embraced the challenge, but never gave up hope because I knew I was going somewhere in life.

Avoiding love at all costs, I decided to take a step back. I was falling for this girl big time but my mind didn’t want to let my heart. “You shouldn’t feel like this!”, I kept telling myself. “It isn’t going to be good in the long run!”. What I wasn’t admitting to myself was how I was falling for her too. Imagining myself with this beautiful woman by my side, pushing me to be a better man, and running out of excuses in my head. Love was inevitable and taking the plunge again was terrifying, I’d been hurt so much in the past. Admitting defeat to my heart, my head didn’t stand a chance. “What had I got to lose at this stage?!”, saying this statement lightly. The answer was everything in my mind. But you know what; when you look back on your life, you’ll always regret the chances you didn’t take. “The ‘what ifs’ will kill you!”

A few more months passed, I was living with one of my friends and finally my head gave into the woman I realised I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. The woman I want to build a family with, the who would not hurt me, the one who would help me develop and drive me in what I am passionate about. Now I knew what it was like to be one of the lucky ones, finally realising what this meant. I thought I knew what love was but it never felt like this before; it wasn’t just lust. It was something more, something mature, something I could be happy about; “Best decision I’ve ever made!”. Life was finally falling into place.

The next challenge was to follow through with the dream. How? Well, that’s a story for another day.

To be continued…

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“Apparently strength was not only destined for the gym”(Part 5)

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Fast forward just a few short months and I was now enrolled in a fitness instructor course. Thinking this was the most efficient action I could take to not be laughed off the gym floor while giving snippets of knowledge I knew to work. You see I wasn’t fully there with my confidence levels in the gym. I was over confident to an extent but a previous encounter with a very insecure individual ended in my confidence being knocked a little again. I believe his exact words were, “I’ll listen to you when you’re bigger buddy”. What an arse!

But this is the unfortunate encounters you must brave if you want to be any source of knowledge as an ectomorph, and five foot five on a good day. Now it wasn’t all turmoil, as confidence came in the form of nights out. Where I hadn’t seen a lot of my friends in a while. They would come up-to me and tell me how great I looked and, actually or pretended, to be interested in what I learned so far. How my passion was growing and lavished me with encouragement.

Without people like this in your life it can be incredibly hard to go through any major change. A little piece of advice… get rid of those toxic people that bring you down. Those who try to take away or belittle your achievements. These little achievements, no matter how trivial to someone else, build up to a major change in your personal growth. I had to learn this the hard way. I’d agree with people that these little things didn’t matter. That they were insignificant to where I wanted or should be in life. And you know what.. This just led to complacency in my life. Trust me, it’s okay to say no, disagree and even fight for what you believe is right for you.

Anyway, enough of the motivational talk. I’m sure you’ve been told it all before. For me it was time to put it into practice. I started my fitness instruction course in a gym in an adjoining town. Fifteen minutes on the bus, a ten minute walk and I was at the gym. It was a community gym, funded by the government. This is not to say it wasn’t a nice gym. In fact it was the most well equipped gym in the town. It even had a football pitch, or soccer field for my american readers, which we played a game or two on the good days during the summer. We are still talking about Ireland after all. You get the four seasons in one day!

The sun gleaming through the wire mesh fence surrounding the council offices where the bus stop was situated. A lovely summers day to signify the start of a new step in the journey I was coming to love with each passing day. Sunglasses on, new sweat pants and my kit bag on my back I was ready to take on the world. When the bus arrived I hopped on with excitement; a butterfly in the stomach moment as I realised where my destination was. Smiling to myself like a big ejit. Snapchat just had to see how happy I was. How much I had changed in the past few months, how I had developed as a person and how cool my aviator sunglasses looked.

Walking into the gym, met by an eastern European instructor behind the desk, I was signaled to the upper floor. The studio upstairs was to be used for the duration of the course. “This is deadly!”, I thought to myself. You can see the gym for motivation, it’s in a studio, and my god.. The women in yoga pants. (Note: I was very much single at this stage and I am purely using this as a reference point.. I love and adore my girlfriend very much, I do not wish to be single 😀 ) Feigning confidence I looked for a seat. I didn’t want to be considered a nerd but I also didn’t want to repeat my school days and be labelled a disruptive troublemaker. “Ah who cares, to hell with it, this is for me! No one else.”, straight up the front of the class. A banded bunch of misfits filled the room, one after another they piled in; and only one woman, who was more outspoken and confident than any of the men in the room. In front of a rather healthy looking female tutor, we all got to know each other and continued on our day.

The following couple of weeks were the most enjoyable of the lot. This was two fold; my knowledge base was fairly solid from all the previous research and because I was up the front I had the ability to ask quick questions quietly without putting our tutor off track too much. I asked as many questions as I could; I was a source of knowledge for the less outspoken in the class. Some were only on the course for enjoyment and did not have any real passion or previous knowledge behind them. Unfortunately this came with the label of ‘nerd’, although this time I embraced it as a positive. It was jokingly used and sometimes as a term of endearment. Never out of malice or jealousy. I knew what I knew and I also knew what I didn’t know. “Know what you don’t know and you’ll learn twice as much!”. Curiosity oozed from my gut as I pondered over what I was yet to learn.

This did not feel like school. This did not feel like college. This did not feel like I was learning. It felt like it was just finding answers to questions that I had to know. I treated it like a game, every question answered unlocked a new ability in myself. A new exercise, a new food, a new name to call my ass. Games were something that came naturally, leveling up was fun.

“Apparently there is an app that lets you level up with fitness now. Could be worth a look for anyone who wants to get into fitness. http://www.geekfitness.net/fitocracy-best-gym-app/

Howandever, I am not going to over glorify it. I started to properly eat over the coming weeks. More structured and my meals were more planned. The changes started to come quick and fast as my form improved. Seeing results was just a process that had to be followed; and following it I was. My fitness increased every week. Working out went from three days a week to five days every week. No weeks off, no time off, no time to become complacent. Although through all this I never forgot the advice the ‘silver-back’ gave me! My core was to become one of the strongest parts of me.

It was also during this time that I met someone who would forever change me and my perspective on life, love and personal growth. Apparently strength was not only destined for the gym. There was something coming that would challenge me just as mentally as I was challenging myself physically.

To be continued…

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“Let’s see where this takes me” (Part 4)

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When I got home later that day I decided to give the shakes a miss. I had to find out what I was doing wrong and sort it out. Sitting down in front of my laptop, with a cup of tea of course, I looked to YouTube; the biggest misinformation source, next to Wikipedia. “Six pack shortcuts wasn’t going to cut it this time”. I was getting distraught at the thought of not finding out what to do properly. Then I came across what I thought was the holy grail of information. Google scholar articles.

You see, I used to research articles for college but it never entered my mind that it would pose any real value for fitness. I joined a forum community and started to ask questions and research topics. Many areas of interest were covered in this time; how to schedule a workout programme for ectomorphs, what the best exercises were for our body type, nutrient timing and what foods we should be taking in. There was a lot of information and most of the conclusions were agreed upon on the forum.

Oh and before I forget, during this time I was also an avid Tinder fan. It would be through this platform that I would get to meet someone who completely changed my life for the better. But we will get to all that a little later.

As for now my knowledge was growing. However, it was only growing in one particular aspect of fitness, for only one specific body type. This fueled me to look at others in the gym and see what made them tick. What made them grow and change their bodies. The ‘silver-back’ in the sauna did something more than just push me to keep going. He inspired me to broaden my knowledge and learn! I found out more about myself in the coming months than I have known about myself in the past.

I found out my limitations. What I thought I knew, versus, what I actually knew. Bio mechanics and the physiology of the human body. Also an ever growing desire to correct bad form in the gym. I was still the skinny guy in the gym, but.. I was the skinny guy who was getting stronger. Still, I knew if I approached someone even remotely bigger than me about form, they would just laugh and not take heed. This was something I had to figure out; “how do I get to tell these guys they could be doing it a lot better, without getting laughed at and possible slapped away?”. Nutrition still wasn’t my strong suit, so I got some more information from the men in the know.

After a very long talk with someone far more knowledgeable than me, I started on a classical bodybuilders diet. I wanted to be like Franco Columbu, small and mighty. Although I had a very, very long way to go to get there. I didn’t want ‘additional help’ either. It was chicken, rice, eggs, porridge, sweet potato, mince and veg for me. Now I couldn’t cook so I drank my eggs, I had chicken most of the time and my rice always went cold before I got to eat it. “This body building craic was hard!”, I thought to myself, as I strained to eat my 5th meal with rice one day. I was still on my shakes but I had more knowledge. I was only having a shake after training. On leg day I had two, one before and one after. This made leg day horrible, because I was so bloated, but I didn’t want chicken legs any longer.

“Just so you know, I still have chicken legs. Strong.. but still chicken legs. That is all!”

Anyway… ahem.. oh yes. That’s where I was. So with a little more knowledge than before. A drive to learn a lot more, and to help others not in the know, I started to immerse myself in the fitness world. I started to look at lectures, read actual articles and somehow it just felt natural. Curiosity drove me to a place where it felt fun to be learning so much. My body was changing every week and I enjoyed it, but It was tough. I missed meals. I skipped leg day (a mortal sin in the bodybuilding world). I was always tired from a terrible mix of an overload of caffeine, working out for too long and not getting enough sleep.

Your protagonist needed a better way to do things. I needed to put the knowledge I had into practice. The classic way of doing things was fine, but you have to remember, classic was and still is a mindset. It was a mindset I was driven out of, by research and a glare towards the future. First on the agenda? Pass the knowledge on. To help those poor souls that had as much of a clue as I did 6 months ago. “Let’s see where this takes me”, I thought to myself.

To be continued…

 

“We’ve been watching you!”(Part 3)

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The next few days were eventful to say the least. I found it hard to scratch the back of my head, bend over to tie my shoes, walk or even sit down with any real comfort, and on top of that it felt like someone had kicked me in the stomach.. multiple times. Howandever, I will not bore you of all the trials and tribulations I encountered throughout initial training. Standard practice for any novice who was getting trained by a veteran lifter.

No flexibility training, no proper programme design (as I was just following what he was doing) and I thought a foam roller was something tradesmen used. I was constantly uncomfortable. It was painful at times. I loved every minute of it!

As the next few weeks passed my knowledge grew a little. I decided to get myself a mass gainer to help with my eating ‘problem’. Well… what I thought was a problem. You see I was, and I am still, categorized as an ectomorph. Someone who has a thin frame, finds it hard to put on weight / mass, feels full easily and thinks they eat a lot (when really it’s just mainly a lot of crap or if it is good food then it is not enough). So I decided to go to the local nutrition shop to get advice. Also as the owner was related, I knew he wouldn’t give me something that would mess me up and I’d get great advice. By the next day I was taking in three thousand and thirty calories in shakes alone. Never mind my 3 meals I was trying to get into me too.

Over the next few days, as my body reacted to this overload of calories I felt ill. I was told to only have two shakes, a day.. MAX! I was taking three at least. To which I found it hard to move, I was always tired and even though I was seeing results, the thoughts of walking twenty minutes to the gym seemed unbearable. Pre trainers were no longer a luxury for leg day, but a near everyday occurrence to keep me mobile. After a few weeks of this I was ready to give up this lifestyle. It seemed to be horrible. Although my cousin seemed to never be tired. Had a great shape. Lots of energy and still wanted to go harder every session. I thought more calories was meant to be better for you?! As lack of knowledge guided me to ‘articles’ on Facebook, my blatant ignorance grew.

So here we are. The first day on my own in the iron jungle. Like all first experiences I had feelings of anxiety; although these were quickly relieved by my new found confidence. And as with all new found confidence, it was over confidence, bordering on cocky. Reaching the top of the stairs I stared down the gym floor, in the distance I could see the weights rack with the ‘noobs’ looking gingerly at what weights to pick up. Not too light to embarrass themselves, but not too heavy so they could lift it and still, maybe, impress that girl they spotted on the way in. But today I was not to venture down that beaten path. I was to follow what day it was in regularity. Leg day!

With my brand new blue and black squat belt in hand, I turned left and walked confidently to the squat rack. “I’m going to lift real heavy today!! I have the tools to not get hurt!”, I thought to myself. 20 kg each side of the bar, the bar itself was 20 kg, a grand total of 60 kg. “Too light.”, I sniggered to myself. Another 5 kg either side. Belt on, standing in front of the bar, my favourite beast mode playlist blaring through my headphones, I psyched myself up. Remembering all that I was thought, I de-racked the bar and began. To my horror this bar was a lot heavier than the cocky voice in my head told me it was. Appalling form helped me to complete the rep and re-rack the bar. As I stood there thinking, “That was bloody close!”, one of the silver-backs walked by me. Without loosing his momentum, he pointed to my belt, looked at me and said, “You don’t need that.” Embarrassment flooded my face as I turned the brightest shade of pink you could imagine.

After the blood had decided to excuse itself from my face, I walked over to the man to see why he said that to me. “If you need that belt then the weight is too heavy for you.” He informed me. “What do I do then?”, I asked. “Drop the weight back, work on my core more. A strong core is your squat belt.”. “Okay thanks, I’ll work on that”, as I walked back to the squat rack for a better set.

The gym I was in had a jacuzzi and a sauna in it. A ritual that was ingrained into my gym experience from the start. Why give it up when my ‘gym buddy’ isn’t here?! Straight after the jacuzzi the sauna called my name. Soon after I sat down another silver-back entered the sauna. As he sat down I thought to myself, “Jesus, silver-back is an appropriate name. His back is as hairy as my head and silver.. If not white!”. He turned, looked me straight in the eye and said, “You’re doing well kid, keep it up!”. “Oh.. okay…”, I replied. “Me and a few of the other lads seen you coming in a few weeks ago.” (The man I locked eyes with my first day) “We’ve been watching you!  And you’re doing really well. Keep it up!”. “Thanks, that’s the plan hopefully.”, I smiled.

Soon after, he vacated the sauna. I didn’t even feel the heat at that moment, I was too deep in thought. Why was he watching me? Why was he encouraging me? He didn’t know me. Why did he even care? And then it hit me. He loves being here. He loves lifting. The same way a football fan would encourage his son to play football; or anybody near when there is a football present. This man was encouraging me, trying to fuel someone with a younger chance, to keep his sport alive. But why? Did he see potential in me that I could not see? Was he just simply a nice guy, underneath a towering stature? You know what?! I couldn’t give up now. I had to find out.

To be continued…

 

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“The pain was nearly unbearable…”(Part 2)

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The next day, after a rather long conversation, over many cups of tea, my fate was decided. I was to head to a place where I knew I would be the weakest, the most ridiculed (at least in my eyes), and the one who, if I turned side wards, would be invisible. THE GYM!

Walking in I could feel all eyes were on me. The skinny lad who really shouldn’t be here. Or at least that’s how I felt. Among all these people I felt like not even a beta male, but the very bottom of the food chain. Sweaty muscle bound beasts to the left of me, in front of me was the glamour grannies on the treadmills & cross trainers staring at the new ‘young fella’ with rose tinted glasses. “Awh look.. the size of him! He looks so cute”. (I was always called cute by the older ladies, very emasculating). And to my right was the rest of the ‘enthusiastic’ members, busting a move on the machines.

I kept telling myself “everyone’s in here for a reason… no one is looking at you.” Although this didn’t help as much as I thought it would. Timidly I walked over to the weights rack in front of the mirror, with my cousin. He looking like an Adonis and me looking like an emaciated rat. Picking up the 5 kg dumbbells, ‘I must have looked as weak as a kitten; certainly felt it’, I lowered myself onto the bench for my very first set of chest press.

Now, before I continue I must emphasize that, I did like to ‘try’ and workout. The reps, sets, rest period were never right. They were all at home as I had no confidence for the gym. Incorrect form. Hurting myself by straining muscles, trying to follow exercises I saw on infomercials. Not the best idea!

Anyway.. as I finished my first set I arose to accidentally and awkwardly locked eyes with, an affectionately named, silver back. One of the older gentlemen who used to body build but for one reason or another had to give it up; and now just lifts for the head space or to relive the glory days. At that moment I felt like I was being judged more harshly than ever before. Little did I know this man would give me the inspiration to keep going later down the line.

The anticipation quickly turned to regret as I was told that today was in fact leg day but we were just to do a few little sets of chest and back to get my body woken up. Now my cousin did not squat that much because of a dodgy hip but that didn’t discourage him to get me under the bar for my first leg session. 2.5 kg on either end of the bar, terrible form… It was all very embarrassing to say the least.

The leg press was even worse, I felt like I was going to die underneath the press. Then onto the leg curl, leg extension, adductor, abductor, glute machine and finally the calf raise machine. “This guy isn’t pulling any punches with me” I thought to myself. Of course the gym had stairs down to the dressing rooms. I never had experienced anything like it. Jelly legs was a timid description as I held onto the rail the whole way down. As my cousin laughed at my inability to walk, I suddenly did not care about anyone else in the gym watching me. “I hope you don’t plan on walking tomorrow”, he jeered.

The next day.. Early morning, sitting on the couch because I could not move. My legs felt like they were going to fall off, the pain was nearly unbearable!!! And then a thought entered my mind. For the first time in three weeks I had not thought about my ex or in fact cared how hurt I was before. This pain was enough to take my mind to a different place. A relaxing place, a place of progression, a place of learning… a place I where I was eventually happy!

Then the phone rang; “Hello”, “Well.. have you been able to sit on the toilet? Ha ha!”, “You f@$&er.. No! I haven’t!!”, I said. “Hahaha, well do you want to come to the gym today??”. Without hesitation, I replied… “Yes!

To be continued…

“The reason for it all will never leave my mind!” (Part 1)

At 27 I’ve heard it all before and it never attracted me to change my life. Like most skinny guys feeling worthless I was telling myself I was happy with who I was. For the most part I was happy…… who am I kidding?! I hated everything about my life. Now I’m not about to divulge every aspect of my previously worthless life on my first blog post, but I will tell you something. I was always taken for the fool. Relationships crumbled before my eyes (even though I had not been single for more than six months since the age of 17 – serial monogamist). Respect was something I had to constantly fight for. And for some reason I kept choosing work that left me miserable.

Now I did have family and friends who tried to encourage me as much as possible; but even they were loosing faith in me. Great! I was at the end of my tether. Another failed relationship left me crying alone. Why was I crying alone you ask..? Where was my friends? Well I moved to a different town for college and it was just me, myself and I for a year and a half in a two bed apartment. A college course that I only chose to ‘keep up’ with my girlfriend at the time, she was on her way to do her masters in medical physics.

Unfortunately I turned my hobby into a college course and I hated it. Computer programming was the demon that kept me up late, in the pub and slowly helped me loose the will to live. Along with ever growing depression; I was also repeating exams for the second time in two years, to which I had even less interest than the year before.

But this isn’t all doom and gloom! There was a big bright light in front of me but I never had the courage to reach out before!

So there I was three weeks into a feeling sorry for myself state, just after breaking up with my girlfriend who had no interest in me anymore and all sense of pride and control was out the window. What was I going to do now? Where was I going to go? I knew I needed to make a change. I hated everything about myself. How I looked! How others looked at me! What I was doing! Where I was going in life or lack thereof! That was IT!!! F%$k it!!! No more pride to loose anyway. So I called my cousin, my uncles son, and he called up that very day. What was about to happen next would forever change the course of my life. However, that will have to be continued…