It’s almost six months since I finished a 10-week intensive fitness programme. Before I started I wasn’t exactly over-weight – although I was filling-out around the midriff – but I was certainly out of shape. I could count on one hand the number of times I’d been to the gym in the preceding 15 years and the weights room seemed like an inhospitable alien land peopled by gigantic, hostile beings. In less than three months, through a combination of hitting the gym four times a week and cutting sugar and carbs from my diet, I was in the shape of my life.
So how am I faring half a year down the line? Well, I don’t look like I did in the “after” picture. But neither do I look like I did in the “before” one. In the month after the programme finished, I kept up the gym four or five times a week, putting on even more muscle. But then life started to get in the way; I went on nights out I’d have passed on when I wasn’t drinking, and this had a knock-on effect on the rest of the week. People talk about sweating out their hangover in the gym – personally, I can barely imagine a worse hell, so it’s unlikely to happen.
Now I’m averaging two gym sessions a week, which is just about enough to maintain some of the muscle I built up. When I push a little harder, hitting three or four sessions a week, I find that I put muscle on far quicker than I used to. My body seems prepared for it, and my recovery times are comparable with the latter stages of the 10- weeks rather than the painful early days. The gym is no longer intimidating. I know the core exercises I need to work on to bulk up, how the machines work, how many reps I need to do to push myself.
I’ve made permanent changes to my diet, too; I’m not living without sugar and carbs, but I make a conscious decision to eat them, rather than fall back on them as the default. Protein is the lynchpin of my diet, which means when I do exercise, my body is ready to build muscle.
I try to use the weekly photographs from the programme as a way to chart my current fitness; a couple of months after finishing the programme I slipped to somewhere around week three. Now I’m closer to week six. A month’s hard work and I’ll be back to week eight or nine.
I’m healthier in other areas of my life too – I run a few times a week (something that would have been anathema this time last year) and go climbing when I can. I have a confidence in my overall fitness that will remain long after the abs have faded.
Steve completed a 10-week “total body transformation” at personal trainer-only gym No 1 Fitness. They have a new gym at Canary Wharf. For your personalized programme, email email@example.com