Thursday, 20 January 2011

My Fitness Story... Steve

So this is the first post in the My Fitness Story... series. If you want to know what it is all about, this post from yesterday explains my thinking behind what I hope will be a series of posts. 

As I said yesterday, I don't want this just to be straightforward success stories and I want people to share many different experiences about fitness. Today's post is a perfect example of that, because the main aim of Steve, today's guest poster, was weight gain, not weight loss. People who want to gain weight healthily are often forgotten by the fitness magazines, because of the focus on obesity in the media. I've been on diet and fitness discussion boards and seen some people who have asked for advice on healthy weight gain be treated quite poorly by others, who think they should be grateful for being thin, but of course, it's possible to be thin and still need to shape up or have some better muscle definition. 

Over to Steve now to tell his story.

My story starts way back as far as I can remember as I’d always been really skinny and one of those annoying people that can eat what they want without putting any weight on. Well, that’s what I was to other people but to me, it was anything but a good thing to be growing up and staying so thin.

All the things that many people take for granted, I couldn’t or wouldn’t do because of the body image I had of myself. I never went swimming, I never wore shorts and I certainly never changed in front of anyone. I’d been 6’ and 10st for as long as I could remember and around a year ago, I decided to really try and do something about it for the first time.

My plan was to bring out the weights I’d owned (and never used) and get some advice on how to get the best out of training at home. My job, coupled with my partner's evening job and having a 4yr old daughter, meant going to the gym on an evening was not going to be possible. I got some great advice from the internet and a plan was devised for me to work to, three times a week. This plan was something I felt at ease doing and managed to stick to it for 16wks before disaster struck and during lifting a barbell bent over row, my back twinged pretty badly and I took that as a warning to be very careful in how I progressed.

This actually led to a bit of a gap in my training and I would miss one night here, one night there until I found myself not doing any training at all, which felt like a such a let down after the work I’d put in to get to that point. Whenever I did try to put a session in, I’d find that I could now only manage 15 or so press ups whereas I could easily double that when I was training properly. That is very demotivating.

And so from that point, more of a gap was to build before around five months ago, I decided to give it another attempt. I’d removed all of the exercises which were most dangerous to my back and had caused twinges before, and I set off again on my quest to build some muscle. Aswell as the exercise, I worked hard on the calorie and protein intake and took a smoothie recipe from an expert which boosted my daily calorie intake by 1500Kcals in two servings, I’d have one for breakfast and one after training or just later on in the evening if not training. This smoothie was pretty hard going but it did the job I was looking for, I used it every day for six weeks and managed to move up to 11st5lbs which was an all time high for me. Unfortunately, 10wks into the training and all going perfectly well, I had to spend a week in London on a training course and this was all the spanner it took to jam up the workings once again. I found that I just couldn’t get back into it and generally managed to find an excuse not to do a session.

As much as this was a disappointment, it taught me a very valuable lesson about my own motivational skills and my chances of succeeding down the line. I find that as long as I stick to something, I can happily pursue that and keep it going faultlessly. Once I allow something to get in the way of that, everything comes to a grinding halt and the motivation to continue just stops.

In the period between then and now, I had become really quite inactive. An average day for me would consist of driving to work, sitting at my desk all day, driving home and then sitting around on the evening and that’s not going to do anything for my overall fitness levels, so again things just had to change. I’ve even put on a few pounds which has all seemingly gone direct to my stomach, thanks for that!

Lifting weights is just not for me, it’s way too big a commitment in so many ways and I’m not really up for the disappointment of failing again which I actually see as inevitable, so the tact had to change.

The plan has now partially reversed, in that the plan is no longer to pile weight on, it’s to try and remove the little extra I’ve accumulated and try to develop a six pack during 2011. I did actually manage to go swimming a couple of times last year during the weight training period and although I felt very uncomfortable in shorts, it felt really nice because it was a major achievement to me. I know that if I looked more sculpted and toned, even without being bulky, I’d have the confidence to go and do that again.

My current plan is running. I dipped into this throughout last year but never consistently enough to call myself a runner. I now do this three times a week and I use an application on the iPhone called Runkeeper Pro to track my routes and times and this helps keep my interest. I also do abs exercises such as sit ups, crunches and leg raises and I do chin ups with a bar that I have just to try and tone up.

So, would I class my fitness attempts as success or failure? Well, the first attempt I’d have to resign off as a failure. I allowed it to slip and have nobody to blame but myself really. The second time was more of a success. I allowed it to slip once again but the gains were worth the effort, the weight gain and toning that came from it. This time with the running and exercising, it’s much more of a success. I’m sticking with it, enjoying it and it can’t fail but to benefit my life in many ways.

My tip to anyone would be to not let the failures control you, find your exercise and go with it. If weights don’t work for you, try something else. If running doesn’t work for you, try something else. Will I get my six pack? Ask me again at the end of the year!

Thanks, Steve, for sharing your story and progress pictures with us. I think what it shows is that enjoyment is a key factor in succeeding long term with any fitness regime, started for whatever reason, as it helps to keep you motivated. What might be right for me is not for you and vice versa - and there is nothing wrong with that. No-one can tell you what works for you - except you. Good luck with the six pack.

If you'd like to tell your fitness story, please get in touch with me, either on Twitter or via the email address on the About Me page.
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