Baby steps

As I’ve previously mentioned I am often guilty of forgetting/denying that I don’t have the same strength or fitness levels as I did at the peak of my sporting habits.

Aware of the need to improve my fitness in preparation for ascending Africa’s highest peak I signed up to a gym for the first time in 3 years mid-August. I chose the cheapest and easiest to access in relation to the location of my work. Coincidently and very luckily for me a colleague, (and very good friend of mine) with personal training qualifications had recently joined this gym too.

Excellent I thought- if a big fuck off mountain wasn’t motivation enough to step inside that gym, a bit of competition and banter with a mate would both reduce the anxiety of being surrounded by lean mean fitness types, and distract me from the monotony of treadmills.

Couple days after signing up, a pep talk or two to self and the agreement of my friend to meet me and ‘show me the ropes’, (avoiding the awkward gym induction) I entered the building. I was pretty happy and set with the intent of making use of the bike and treadmill but Stuart had other plans. As someone with a couple years PT experience and a solid training routine his approach to fitness is that of the ‘go hard or go home’ mentality.

Proud of myself that I had even entered the gym, and not one to turn down what was essentially a free personal training session I agreed to partake in the ‘300 workout’. Now I don’t know the names of all the moves we did so I’ve pinched a version of the 300 challenge off of Men’s Health website, in brackets I have noted how I felt doing them:

  • Pullups – 50 reps (started off feeling like a loser because I can’t do a single full pull up. Instead I was jumping up, holding and slowly coming back down. Once I got over the fact that this is pretty normal for novices I started to enjoy it, and have added ‘do a full pull up to my 2017 targets).
  • Dumbbell Deadlift – 50 reps (this felt surprisingly ok considering I haven’t lifted a single weight in yonkers. Though I would have happily stopped after 20 reps)
  • Barbell Deadlift – 50 reps (again the satisfaction and realisation that I could actually do the move felt good. Half way through however, if I had the strength I would have thrown the bar at Stuart).
  • Bodyweight Squat Jumps – 50 reps (stupidly difficult, which I found stupidly frustrating because I’ve been rated 10/10 in the past for my squat skills. But yeah at this point of the routine I hated everything about life and everyone around me- especially Stuart)
  • V-Ups – 50 reps (This was hell. I was aching like a biatch all over and just wanted to be horizontal)

There were another 50 reps set of something but you’ll have to forgive me forgetting what those 50 reps were- they were sit up type things, by the time we got to this point I’d given up caring and wanted to cry. I felt victorious that I had completed the routine but was very aware of the pain I was already in, and that it would inevitably get a lot lot worse.

The pain all over my body felt like a ‘good pain’ at the time. Until I took the stairs to go to the changing room, at that point I thought I was going to faint. Every step felt like a test, and I found myself laughing hysterically to fight back the tears on the way to my locker. But I made it without the aid of a cane or another human. A small victory!

As someone who used to be very active I am familiar with the post work out burn, followed by the cramp like aches a couple of days later. However, this was instant. And not looking to ease up anytime soon. Struggling to get off the bus home I was pretty concerned I wasn’t going to be able to move the next day. I treated myself to a bath fished out the electric blanket and took several painkillers to aid a solid 7 hours sleep in hope I could walk the next day.

The three days that followed were excruciating on my legs and back. Getting up, sitting down, using stairs and simply taking a step forward was agony. It wasn’t until the fourth day that it felt like a ‘good pain’. Thankfully by the fifth I was able to walk without wincing because my friend came to visit with the intention of us climbing Snowdon…due to the weather we instead opted for a day at Alton Towers. My legs were still tight but determined I was able to cover the site twice at a good pace. Much to my fitibit’s joy I managed to cover 8.7 miles as well as do every ride in the park twice. I felt marvellous for it. I’m lying, I felt awful but the thrill of the rides, being with my friend, and the slight buzz off the painkillers kept me going.

As much as I enjoyed telling people that week I had done the 300 challenge, and the encouragement offered by them being seemingly impressed I knew weight routines weren’t sustainable for me to feature regularly in my pursuit of fitness. Whilst I had enjoyed the brutal kick start there was nothing enjoyable about the recovery time.

When I returned to the gym the following week I spent half an hour on a bike and walked for ten minutes on the treadmill. That was enough for me to feel like I’d achieved something and be pretty confident I wouldn’t be walking like Bambi for the rest of the week. I knew then, and have had to remind myself regularly since to take baby steps, find and set my own sustainable pace.

That said, I am hugely grateful to Stuart for getting me into the gym and challenging me regularly to better myself physically. He has been a great support and source of encouragement. Thanks pal!

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