I’ve changed. I can see it in the mirror but, most importantly, I feel it inside – in my general well being, my state of mind, and my drive and motivation. It hasn’t come easy, there has been a huge amount of sacrifice, and I’ve worked very hard to re-educate my body and re-align my requirements. The results? I’ve lost 2 stone, countless inches, sleeping incredibly, and, to top it all off, I’ve the beginnings of abs.
After last summer in the Alps, Sophie and I returned to the UK and to normality. I’d had the most incredible summer, getting much fitter, climbing harder routes, and finally feeling like I was becoming a climber. One thing still really stuck in my mind, however. I didn’t feel I looked like a climber and this massively affected my self-esteem. I was competent with rope work, and comfortable in climbing situations but from a physical perspective I didn’t feel I looked like a climber. I had quite a bit of podge and was soft around the edges – not terribly so but still, when I talked to non-climbers about what Sophie and I got up to, I couldn’t help feeling that they were judging me on my physical appearance.
I want to look as well as feel like a climber
While in the Alps I met a guy called Dave, a kettlebells instructor from the West Country. I had heard of kettlebells before but had never tried them and I was intrigued by Dave’s enthusiasm. He swore that it was the best exercise he had ever found for climbing and mountaineering – every movement involves your whole body especially engaging your core – the key pillar of strength in any climbing manoeuvre. He swore:
If you want a 6-pack, swing a kettlebell.
Upon returning to London, I set myself on a mission – when I tell people I climb, I want them to look at me and think, ‘yeah, you look like a climber’. Kettlebells are still pretty new. A lot of gyms have a few but, with hindsight I’ve realised, not many know what to do with them. A little Google search brought me across a dedicated kettlebells group, Fitter London. Run by Matt and Keris, these guys put on daily classes with each one focussing on different aspects of training – strength, interval training, core, etc. I put my name down for their free trial session and, one Saturday, I set off to see what all the fuss was about.
Wow, did it have an impact.
I was immediately hooked. I felt broken the days after with muscle stiffness like I’ve never felt before but I immediately signed up and booked in for my next class.
I was amazed at the techniques, movements, and strength of the members of Fitter London and was eager to improve. This was made easier by the incredible atmosphere in the classes – everyone was friends and there was a brilliant vibe.
I looked forward to classes not just for the training but also for hanging out with my new friends, friends who we perfectly aligned with what I was trying to achieve and friends that encouraged and helped me every session.
Power of nutrition
As I progressed onto more complex movements and heavier weights, Matt and Keris also started to introduce me to a side of training I’d wilfully ignored for a long time – nutrition. As well as running Fitter London, they had another business called Fitter Food – a lifestyle and eating program that is based on the, now very trendy, paleo diet. I say ‘based on’ as they are firm believers that one size doesn’t fit all; you have to take what works for you, try new things out and gradually include the ones that work into your daily routine. Any wholesale and sudden change is doomed to failure, as I had witnessed first hand numerous times before.
The core idea behind Fitter Food is simple:
Don’t put crap in your body.
The Why behind the What
I liked that approach and Sophie and I bought a copy of their recipe book and started trying it all out. The book is so much more than just recipes though. I struggle to follow and believe knowledge when I’m told to just accept it as right. I need to understand why something is right through logical and rational arguments. The first half of the book is exactly that – by backing up all of their nutritional decisions with sound research and solid experience, I could immediately see how it would help me and how understand how the chemical and biology of this approach would have a positive impact on my body.
As I started to concentrate more on what I put in my body and how I was training, I started to see results. I was getting stronger, I was losing weight, my technique was improving, and people were noticing.
I was finally doing proper press ups!
Looking back now, I can see that we made some very large changes to what we ate and how we were living but it never felt like a sacrifice or chore. We still fell off the wagon a few times – have you ever tried the peanut butter cup Ben and Jerry’s? – But easily got back on the next day. I would say by Christmas we were probably on the 80-20 level, 80% of the time eating good quality, paleo inspired food, 20% eating comfort food, sweets and alcohol.
I felt like we were getting a good understanding of what worked and what didn’t, but I definitely felt like I had more to learn.
As with a large chunk of the country, come January I wanted to step it up a gear, to work off the Christmas chub and to start the New Year with a bang. Fitter London were running one of their 28 day detox courses – a very strict 4 week plan that cleanses the body and helps you work out what works for you and what doesn’t all with an awesome support network of fellow detoxers via Facebook.
It kicked off and I was in for a rude awakening. I had headaches, was irritable, wasn’t sleeping well, and just generally felt terrible. What was I doing to myself? Surely I’m meant to feel better not worse? The great thing about having the online group was that I wasn’t alone. We were all suffering – safety in numbers got me through the first 4 days when the symptoms started to subside as all the toxins left me, I realised I had broken the back of my body’s dependencies. By the end of the week I had lost 4lbs and was clearly seeing the results in the mirror!
Reaping the rewards
By now, I was really starting to see results in my body with it completely changing shape. My face and neck getting slimmer, moobs shrinking and muffin top falling off. This was awesome; I was loving what I was doing and getting great results!
I was eating better, training harder and loving it but I still felt I had a fairly major knowledge gap: how to structure training and, importantly, nutrition around training. The detox plan was just that, a detox and not aimed at serious training.
In a stroke of sales and marketing genius, Fitter Food cunningly launched a follow on plan after the detox – the Lean and Mean 42 day plan (LM42, for those in the know). This 6 week plan would educate us in how to feed before and after training, how to recover, how to structure training sessions to maximise benefits and generally get lean and mean. I was sold instantly.
Part of the LM42 was a comprehensive gym based training plan which started with a bang and the 6 months hard work building up to the start were paying dividends. I was feeling great in the training, eating amazing food in pretty vast quantities, all while losing weight and putting on muscle. I’m not a fan of gyms and, with Fitter London on a little hiatus, I had to find somewhere new to keep training.
Dedicated kettlebells training is still a rarity in London. Yes, there are CrossFit gyms springing up all over the place but I find them a little too cult-y. I wanted another Fitter London.
Finding my next kettlebell fix
With perfect timing and even more perfect location, I discovered Flux Motion UK had opened a new studio in Putney few weeks ago. A solid 3 minutes walk from my house, I couldn’t believe my luck. Flux is a kettlebell group from South Africa who are branching out into the UK and this is their flagship gym. Arriving for a trial session, I knew I was in for a treat. They had kettlebells everywhere. Loads of them. This was going to rock!
They didn’t disappoint. I’ve been going pretty much every morning at 6.30am and love it. They’ve picked up where Fitter London left off perfectly and I’m back to getting proper workouts in that are shaping and changing my body for the better.
Reflecting on my changes
I have changed a lot over the last 6 months. I’ve lost fat and I’ve even started to get real abs. Most importantly, however, is how I feel on the inside. I feel great waking up every morning. I feel energised and focused all day. I pretty much never go hungry while eating amazing food. And I am still seeing improvements. I can’t wait to see where it will lead.
The proverbial icing on the cake was when Sophie and I were at a wedding a few weeks ago. I was with another guest and we were chatting about running and then climbing. Before I had the chance to say anything he interrupted “Well, you obviously workout”. I went bright red and Sophie had a little giggle. This was the first time anyone had volunteered that description of me and it made me feel amazing. Like I was finally getting the body I wanted.
Although I love the fact my body has, and is, changing for the better, I am most proud of what I’m doing with it. I’m climbing harder, running faster, feeling stronger. That is what I realise now, I really wanted. I wanted the tools to perform and my body is becoming just that.
You get out exactly what you put in.
My secret recipe?
- Nutrition – what are you eating and when.
- Training – find a training plan that engages you.
- Sleep – proper rest does wonders.
- Community – find a group of people to train with.
- Enjoy – the little wins and the big steps equally.