Thursday, 31 March 2011

My Fitness Story... - Ben

Welcome back to my weekly My Fitness Story... series. Today's guest poster is Ben, who blogs at Mutterings of a Fool. I'm really pleased that this is now the third male guest poster who has written for this series, because the male perspective on fitness and weight loss is often quite different, but men struggle with their weight too. Ben's story will be familiar to many people who have sedentary jobs, but his approach to solving his weight problem was quite different, proving once again that finding a way to work fitness into your lifestyle works best. So, now it's over to Ben to take up the story. 

I have a long history of being fit and active, I started playing rugby at the age of 6 and by the time I was 18, I was playing 6 or 7 times a week for school, club and country. I’ve run 3 half marathons and, as one of 5 children, spent most my childhood running around. In addition, throughout my childhood I was always incredibly skinny; rake like might describe it best. So much so that by the time I went to university, I weighed 2-3 stone less than all the other players in my position at rugby.

Fast forward to the present and the last 6 years have been full of significant change; I went from being a full time student at university to a married office worker within 2 months of graduating. Not only that, I also started commuting 80 miles a day on the M4 and working for a multinational company often means having meetings outside of normal office hours.

Since graduating, I’ve tried to keep active by going to the gym at lunchtime. I’m lucky in that my employer provides free membership to a hotel gym next to the office. However, trying to consistently free up time during the week to do this can be hard, and the pressures of the job mean that I often work through lunch. The alternative was to try and run in the evenings once home, but getting home at 7pm tired from a day’s work means that the motivation to go back out of the house is pretty low.

So the volume of exercise decreased, and at the same time visits to the coffee shop in the office increased often including a pastry of some sort. The warning signs are clearly there; less exercise, more eating of fatty foods, sitting at a desk for 9 hours a day and 2 hours in a car commuting. I didn’t suddenly put on 3 stone and change body shape, but slowly and surely I developed a tummy and the muscle from being a rugby player gradually turned to fat. I became less fit, more likely to get ill, and generally less happy with my body.

The lightbulb moment came in May last year when I was offered a free health assessment through work. I went along and had my weight, diet, spine, fitness and general health assessed. I was then informed that with a BMI of 25.3, I was classed as overweight and had a body fat of 24%.  Call it what you want, this was the moment where something clicked. If I carried on with this lifestyle, then by the age of 40, I would no doubt be sporting a nice beer belly, probably have back problems from sitting all day and potentially have stress problems. This kick up the back side was exactly what was needed.

My daily routine needed to change and include more exercise, but avoiding the commute wasn’t an option. So I started taking the train to work, and running to and from the station each end. Yes, that’s right, I run EVERY day. Not only that I run with a rucksack containing my laptop, clothes and lunch. But the great thing about this is that I now incorporate exercise as part of my commute and don’t have to try to build it into the day's schedule somehow. What’s more, I get into work (and home) feeling refreshed and full of endorphins, plus I’m able to work on the train which reduces the need for working in the evenings etc.

Body wise, I feel good; I’ve lost the tummy and feel very comfortable in my body. I managed to keep going all through the winter, even in the snow which was interesting, although I did question what I was doing in the pouring rain when I could be in a nice warm car. It does take some planning to make sure you have shoes in the office, the right clothes and enough food (I now have a drawer in my office well stocked).

For me, this fitness routine has been successful, because it doesn’t take up any of my free time, I don’t have a chance to opt out because it’s cold etc (I’d just miss my train), and it doesn’t cost me any money.

The interesting thing will be to go back for another health assessment in a couple of months and see how my results have changed. In the meantime, I’m trying to find a few races or challenges to take up and make use of my new fitness levels. Now that I’m almost a year in, I feel I need a new target to aim towards. Nothing too crazy this year with a baby due in April but next year, I definitely want to do a marathon and I have also been eyeing up a 40 mile off road race from the Lizard in Cornwall to Lands End.

I'd like to thank Ben for taking the time to write his story for my blog and I hope everything goes well with the baby that is due any time. As I said in the introduction, Ben found a way to work exercise into his daily routine and he has made it work for him. It may not work for you, but maybe it will inspire you to find something that you can fit into your lifestyle, whatever that might be. I admire Ben's fortitude in running every single day in all weathers, especially as running is not my favourite pastime!

Please share any experiences you have in the comments below. Alternatively, if you have a fitness story to tell, then get in touch with me on Twitter or via the email address on the About me page. I will link back to any blog you write if you wish, or you can remain either partly or fully anonymous.

There'll be another fitness story here next Thursday. Do come back for the next one if fitness is your interest. Why not visit the rest of my blog too?! 
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