Fitness means something different to all of us. I’ve never described myself as fit before and I probably never will, but this is the closest I’ve come.
I’ve been writing notes for this story over the last six months, and with the holiday season behind us, I thought it was timely to publish a final update of what has been my well documented journey of food and my struggle with weight.
If you read my article called “Getting Fat” you may have also read the sequel, which was (thankfully) titled “Getting Thin” – I have been struggling with the title of this story for many reasons. One or two words just don’t seem to capture the roller coaster ride that comes with trying to maintain a certain weight whilst staying healthy.
Since the last article, my journey took an unexpected turn and became less about loosing weight. I mean seriously, how long can you continue to just lose weight. I guess because my weight was always up and down, that’s all I ever focused on, and now when I look back, it makes me realise the opportunity I was a missing out on.
“You see, as soon as I took control of the food addiction and started to realise you ARE actually what you eat, getting thin was no longer a goal. Naturally I started to get excited about “Getting Fit”
As great as that may sound to some, getting fit has actually never been of interest to me for a few reasons, let me explain:
- Exercise for me has always seemed like such a chore
- I have never felt comfortable in a gym, and trust me, I’ve been a member at most of them and never turned up. I wish those direct debits had’ve been crediting a charities bank account – at least then it would been useful for someone
- Having a muscular body has never been of interest to me and it still isn’t. Seriously, I complain about the cost of taking-up a pair of trousers, let alone the tailoring bills associated with trying to fit overgrown muscles into shirts.
Getting fit for me hasn’t been about looks either, it has simply been about feeling healthier and being kinder to my body, which as a result has been better for my general well-being.
My fitness journey has been equally about food as it has been about fitness and I’d be a bad blogger if I didn’t tell the whole story. I’ve got a long way to go, and even with the new year upon us I don’t have a goal or a resolution.
“I have never understood New Year resolutions – I mean seriously, why wait until a new year to do something great for yourself? That would be like delaying a nice glass of wine until the harvest… I think not, and yes, I still enjoy a drink, probably to much if I’m totally honest.”
This story starts at the beginning of 2018. I was happily continuing on my new food regime, and was still attending my body pump and body attack classes in Martin Place, Sydney, three to four times a week. I had started these in the previous August and was enjoying the gym for the first time. There was something comforting about this particular gym. There were no stereotypical muscle boys striding through the change rooms, and no sign of the pushy personal trainers. Everything just seemed more relaxed, which made me feel relaxed too. The group classes were a lot of fun, tough for a beginner like me, but the instructors were very personable and created a fun environment, however things for me were about to go down hill fast – it all happened on one sunny day in March.
I had become quite enthusiastic about my Body Attack classes, a budding Richard Simmons perhaps without the leggings and headband. How I loved those grape vines, step touches, marches, high-knee runs, plyometric lunge jumps, you name it, I was jumping for joy… Half way through a busy class with around 40 other members, we were doing one of my favourite moves, which of course I had become highly confident with. As I propelled myself into the air, my right leg landed first, slamming into the ground like an A380 with no wheels out for its landing. At that point it was like a tremor went from my toes all the way to my head and at that point, in front of the class, I came crashing to the ground.
The instructor was mortified, I tried to walk but I couldn’t. They dragged me to the sideline like a wounded warrior where I stayed for the next couple of hours in absolute agony before being carried to an Uber, and taken to my local physiotherapist. To cut a long story short, after scans it turned out I had torn my calf muscle by four centimetres. Hardly a major injury, but it did mean I was out of action for 6-8 weeks. I had also started a new job and it was my third day. The crutches actually turned out to be a good icebreaker with my new work mates as everyone wanted to know what had happened. A silver lining perhaps.
During my recovery time, I had to be very careful not to fall off the food wagon and slip into my old-bad habits. I tried to get around the streets on the cruches as much as I could but if you’ve ever been on crutches, you’ll know they aren’t the easiest or most confortable fashion accessory.
“Just as I was fully recovered and ready to return to my beloved gym classes, I received an email. The gym was closing down. I think everyone at that gym was a little gutted. Even though we never really chatted, you would notice when people were away, members would smile and nod. But that was it – all over red rover. I needed to find another gym.”
I started looking online and I signed up to all the free trials. I mainly wanted to try the classes and get a sense of how the gym felt from a comfortability perspective. There were some good ones and one very scary one, who still sends me text messages despite my numerous efforts to unsubscribe.
Around the same time, I had started an online community group for postcode 2010 called Darlo Darlings, if you live, work or love postcode 2010 and aren’t in the group you should be. Via the group I had met a local business owner, Geoff Goddard. Geoff was the owner of Lord of the Rig which is a group training gym specialising in conditioning and strength workouts. I had been telling Geoff about my weight struggles and my journey to date. Geoff was preparing an offer for the community group where members would receive seven days for free, and as I was on the hunt and trailing gyms all over town, I thought why not give this a go.
Lord of the Rig is different to any other gym I have been to. Firstly, you can’t just rock up when you feel like it and take selfies as you casually complete your program like in a commercial gym. There are two to three options from 5:15am and again from 5:45pm. I was used to my lunchtime classes and I am not a morning person, but I set my alarm and blurry-eyed I wandered down William Street at 545am.
I was incredibly nervous, everyone was chatting and it was clear that most people had been members for sometime. There was a great sense of community and authenticity. I won’t lie, I was way out of my comfort zone, and Geoff would check in with me every couple of days to see how I was feeling.
Looking back, my biggest concerns were:
- I didn’t know the exercises – I mean what is a BB floor press and a Double KB sumo deadlift anyway?
- I felt like I was way behind the other members from a skill perspective
- Did I look stupid?
When we learn new things, often our confidence takes a hit, and we can feel vulnerable and raw. This is very natural of course, and it’s something we probably all should do more often. I quickly realised at Lord of the Rig these concerns didn’t apply. Everyone was very genuine and welcoming. I signed up and haven’t looked back, although I still can’t master a deadlift, but I will keep trying. The Lord of the Rig has been a real game changer for me.
What creates great communities are good leaders who genuinely want to make a difference in peoples lives. Geoff is a great leader and this filters down to his coaches Nikias and Mac. They’ve all been very supportive, in particular Nikias who taught me to trust the process and stick with it.
“I was always the kid at school who was the last one picked for the sports team. Do you remember at school when they would select a captain and the captain would proceed to pick people for his or her team? I still shudder at the thought of that today at 43 years old. These days whilst I don’t think I would be the last guy picked for the team, deep down those cruel memories from school are a reminder of how fragile we are as adults. Those moments often haunt us and stop us from achieving our goals. It is a nice feeling to finally be part of a team at Lord of the Rig, and it feels great. It only took me 43 years.”
I’m on my way back from France where I spent Christmas with my partner Andrew and I’m excited about the year ahead. My new fitness regime has now just become part of my day, and whilst I have had two weeks off, I can’t wait to return to the Rig to work off my Christmas over-indulgence.
Fitness means something different to everyone and it’s so very personal. Just to be clear, I’ve always been happy with the way I look, even when I was bigger. Fitness for me is about feeling good, not looking good. It is also about being healthier and being part of a team. If you haven’t read “Getting Fat” and “Getting Thin” please take a look – they are both extremely honest accounts of my struggle with food. I still love food, and if you follow my Instagram or Facebook you will know I am eating all the time. The difference these days is what I choose to eat, and portion control. I still indulge, I have the occasional pizza or pasta, and I can destroy a cheese platter in minutes. However I have learned that everything needs to be in moderation.
Getting fat was the easiest thing I ever did, getting thin was the hardest, getting fit is turning out to be the most rewarding part of the journey and I’m loving it.
I would love to hear from you – please leave a comment below with any questions you may have and I’ll get back to you very soon.
4 Comments Add yours
Thank you, Mike. An inspiring read and really reflects on who you are a really great genuine guy.
Dear Michael, you have always been so full of energy and enthusiasm for anything you set your mind to achieving. It comes as no surprise that you have totally excelled at fitness! As a yoga instructor I meet many people who are at different points in their journey to wellness. It’s a never ending cycle that changes as we increase in age and wisdom. You should feel proud of yourself for finding the right balance for you at this time.
Thats an awesome and inspiring story. I wish that i had the guts and stop making excuses to go to a gym, however I had 2 cancer operations (all clear now) in the last 4 months and my energy levels are still low. do you recommend any exercises that might bring me up to general fitnesss to look at gyms? Oh, i put a lot of weight on too mainly due to drinking and xmas cake. Thanks Richard