WRITING - AWARE MAGAZINE
Exercise is dull; anyone saying any differently and they are trying to sell you something.
Two years ago I used to exercise on a regular basis and, I was extremely fit, but a steady diet of cigarettes, alcohol and Revels has sent my body and mind hurtling into the arena of the unwell. On top of this after two months of pantomime and an even worse diet, I was on system over load. So I decided to do something about it and attempt to get fit again. Not just by turning up at the gym and, running a few circuits, whilst smiling at women. No, this would be done properly; I would get myself a personal trainer and be pushed to the limit for a punishing three sessions a week for six weeks. The object would be to see if there was any change in my fitness within this comparatively short period of time, I seriously doubted it, if six weeks would make any difference whatsoever. Only time would tell.
I arrived at Holmes Place, raring to go, strode into reception and was immediately struck by its resemblance to the Crossroads Motel. No such luck! My personal trainer Ellie introduced herself.
Before we could start we had to run through some routine tests, Vo2, heartbeat, strength, flexibility, and a body fat test. To my disappointment and surprise my results were actually quite good, despite my two-year sabbatical from any kind of meaningful exercise.
This would ultimately mean, I would also have to work harder, to achieve a better result. The preliminary results were presented in a block graph form. The results are measured against the rest of the population, so you can receive an understanding on how fit you are compared to the great unwashed. My results were not too bad with all things considered, apart from, that is, my flexibility (I have the flexibility of a wounded badger), which dragged my overall score down, however this score was to be my personal starting benchmark and any improvement on this score was going to be tough going even for me.
The gym was alive with the hum and patter of feet on the treadmills. The exercise machines where we were headed loomed like medieval torture instruments. The first experiment was going to be a gentle 3,000 metre row, this was followed by some free standing weights, a bicycle machine, some resistance equipment and a cross trainer. I began to glance at the clock on the wall and was kind of relieved to see my hour was nearly up. Time to unwind I thought. Wrong. Sadly my trainer thought I needed more punishment, a mile run on a treadmill I was beginning to tire on reaching half a mile and I was going to just stop, as I can. However I pushed myself and completed the run in just over eight minutes.
The session ends with a stretch and chat with Ellie. She did most of the talking and I was duly presented with a chart, which not only contained a seven-day food diary to complete, it also contained a training plan for the days that I would come to the gym by myself. (I was beginning to think she was pushing it a bit).
One hot shower and a few unidentifiable health drinks later, I felt exhilarated but very physically tired, For the first time in as long as I can remember, I slept like twenty dead dogs. However this was just the first day of thirty-six and things can change very quickly.
There is no particular time one should visit the gym, but with people working, they have to fit their schedule around their work life. I personally prefer the mornings, (apart from having to dodge the prams that have been carefully and ruthless discarded around the building, by the yummy mummies). My trainer Ellie thinks mornings are the best as well, which is just as well. Otherwise she would be sacked.
One of the many benefits I am already finding having Ellie is that, apart from making me poorer, I am able to optimise my time in the gym with the right kind of exercise. Too many people just turn up to gym, lift weights that are too heavy and generally use bad technique, they are in essence wasting their time and reducing their possible maximum fitness Ellie points them out. It is rather like having all the ski kit, but being unable to ski.
Ellie teaches me today lessons in technique as well as acclimatizing to gym equipment. Motivation forms an important if not the backbone of Ellie’s training sessions with me during week 2.
Ellie works me hard for the rest of the week, natural stubbornness; competitiveness pushes me further than required. The session seems to be over quickly which means the mile run looms threateningly. Luckily Ellie stays with me for this and apart from gassing to her, I improve by one minute on my initial time. After each session Elie stretches me. Stretching is and forms a very important role within any exercise programme, a point that was sorely missed through out my entire schooling. If you do not stretch properly after exercise you have just wasted that time. .
Muscle needs time to repair to build, and most people do not realise this and just do the same exercise day in day out. You need to work on different parts of the body, with break of at least 24 hours before returning to them again Ellie suggests I try one of the various classes on offer between our training periods, I opted for one named RPM. Raw power in motion sounds good, it is knackering, and it involves a high-speed almost manic work out to music on an exercise bike. If you thought exercise bikes were sedate, then think again. One of the great benefits of exercise is the great after feeling you achieve once you have stopped exercising and showered off, that's when you really feel the benefit of any programme. After three personal training sessions and one class the weekend was mine.
Week three literally started with a bang, as I managed to nearly wrie off my car and me. So come Monday morning I had the enthusiasm of a goldfish to do anything constructive what so ever. Let alone go to the gym.
Monday was chest, and arms training, with the weights not yet been increased, technique was the order of the day. This session was really hard going, as we alternated between the rowing machines, freestanding weights and resistance equipment. I finished off the session with another mile run, clipping 20 seconds off last week's time. I was so tired after this session I spent most of the rest of the day flirting between the steam room and the sauna and the canteen.
The next day we worked on legs and stomach, which is perhaps the most boring area to work on as the machines are somewhat limited and it also means extra running. But running up hills rather than running straight. Ellie also told me that I was eating the wrong foods (no surprise there then) and recommended a course of immediate action, I was to eat like caged monkey for a week. Thanks.
By this stage I was beginning to feel some benefit. Apart from sleeping better, I was feeling much better in my mind as well as in my body. Exercise is like any vice, once your hooked there is no stopping you. The rest of the week I was to concentrate on diet, flexibility, and some cardio vascular work. I even managed to go for a long swim on Sunday morning. (Lets not over do this)
This week I planned to have four sessions in four days, gym that is, not drinking. Since starting this programme my alcohol and cigarette intake has drastically decreased. In honour to this new lifestyle, my resting heartbeat has already started to fall. Although at this stage I can see no physical change in muscle mass, which disappoints me, because my character demands to see change now, but I suppose the hard work will pay off if I don't get bored of the lack of results in the interim. I had another knock back this week as I ran my worst time for the mile on the treadmill since starting personal training sessions, perhaps I am getting worse not better? I am still making an appearance at the gym between my training sessions, as this is important as well. To combat idle chitchat with other people and to break up the tedium of the treadmill I have taken in a personal stereo. Running with your own music I have found it makes the time fly by, sometimes that is, it is certainly better than watching GMTV or listening to what the gym is playing.
Also it makes the exercises more enjoyable, well at least I think so I am finding I am falling into a spiral of depression a couple of hours after exercise, which is soon abated after a mars bar. Ellie has told me that one of the reasons to do any kind of regular aerobic exercise, is the production by our brains of endorphins, which is the body's natural cocaine. Endorphins aid our bodies to fight off illness, as well as helping to starve of tiredness and gain loads more energy. But sometimes there are side effects
The canteen is good here and subsequently I have eaten too much pasta this week. I am still sleeping better which makes me happy. I have also been given some home work in the form of stretching exercise to complete every day, she has been really pushing her luck here, but I am going to do it. I am feeling really good, as I am exercising and eating well
2,500m row, 50 press-ups, 30 pull ups, 2.5 mile run, 50 crunches, another 2,500 row and a four mile cycle ride is Mondays, joyous start to the week. After completing this I feel like I have ridden a sea front Donkey for the day.
The sessions seem somewhat harder this week and again I have the urge to stop, but this is really against my nature. My mind is also on next week, when I will be retested to see if there has been any improvement in the last six weeks. I still doubt very much, perhaps one area only at best.
I am still tired after Monday’s session and we are already at the final session of the week
But Ellie is unrelenting as I am. The sessions seem harder now, so wrongly I think I am getting un fitter. But each weak she has subtly changed the resistance to the equipment, so infact I am working harder. The last session of the work we have moved off the resistance machines and onto the free weights. The resistance machines tend to work just the main muscle groups, so using free weights helps the tone the small muscle groups, again this is hard work as they are not used to being exercised. The week ends with a look at the goals achieved during the week, and not forgetting the dreaded mile run, (a further ten seconds off)
This week stated with a two mile run on the treadmill of disenchantment, with the weight and resistance being increased again, no wonder I was starting to tire half way through the session. Although I am now eating the recommended daily intake of five veg and fruit, I am still finding this hard work.
The best buzz is the feeling you receive after you have been exercising. A stretch, fifteen minutes in the steam room, a power shower and some pasta, once I have finished, but when I am going through the pain of exercising these are the thoughts that anaesthetizes the pain of the present and helps me arrive in the future.
The final day of the current programme ends and I have not exactly prepared myself as well as I ought. I was planning an early night. So naturally getting to bed at three in the morning I was bound to feel tired and emotionally destroyed, just perfect, for the retest
Overall I had managed to increase my levels of fitness as you can see in the graph. I am happy and surprised with the results and apart from achieving them, I have been able to understand on how to
Exercise more efficiently, I have now appreciated the application of the relationship between stress, nutrition, energy levels, and lifestyle. I have achieved a greater feeling of actually reaching my goals in fitness. The irony is that I have managed to lose weight, but I have managed to increase my body fat. Please someone explain.
Are there any cons to a personal trainer?
Yes. One. It's not cheap! But it depends on what you life priorities are, we are happy to spend hundreds on our cars to service them, why not then spend money on servicing our bodies. Exercise is good and is a preventive measure to many complications that can arise throughout our lives. Indulge yourself and your life expectancy to a personal trainer and say hello and wave goodbye to your old life style. I have just booked another twenty-four sessions, cannot be that bad