The title for this came from my friend Vince Vasilou, who runs Ultrabodies gym in Finedon, Northamptonshire. The photo of this article is of me, and I really had to think hard before putting it on show. I quite like it as a photo, but it is very 'look at me'. I'm well aware of this. Two years ago (the week before Christmas 2009) I went to see Vince and asked him to put me on a weight-training programme that would build my back, chest, arms and shoulders. Although I've trained for 30 years (in martial arts, running and using weights) I'd never built significant size or shape. Vince is a great guy; very opinionated, but very knowledgeable with a terrific sense of humour. His gym is a fantastic place to work out, full of characters and physiques of all shapes and sizes. Vince was the man to ask about building myself up. What troubled me was that I was starting to look decidedly middle-aged. I was 46 years old with a bit of a belly and no upper body development. I looked crap to be honest.
What triggered this thought was my girlfriend liked a developed physique and mine was developing into an orange shape; not quite what she had in mind. In other words I started the routine to impress her. My first workout was not impressive at all. Vince put me on a chest and back workout, followed by shoulders after a days rest and arms after the same rest period. As he explained a body develops with stimulation, rest and nutrition, in equal measures. For a long time I'd been going to the gym twice a week, pretending to lift weights. I knew in my heart I was looking for the easiest exercises. My running was intermittent; I was too 'busy'. The result was a 40" chest and a 40" belly, with a 36" waist. That first proper workout showed just how pathetic my routines were. I couldn't do one chin up, my bench press was pitiful. At the end of the workout I told Vince that was the hardest workout I've ever done. He laughed and said when I look back you won't believe what I'd just said. That night I woke around 3am with the feeling that my back had grown wings; it literally felt as if my back muscles were expanding as I lay there. I was in agony for nearly a week, but I went back for every session.
Year one results and diet
That first year was one of weeks of intensity with the odd injury here and there, moving into a new house and other weeks where I didn't go, however, most of the time I trained well. After the first year I'd definitely grown in the chest and back. My arms had improved a little and and my shoulders were stubbornly showing signs of growth. I'd lost some of my belly and a little of my waist. 2011, for all it's faults, has been a great one for training. I learnt more about long distance running in January and that spurred me on. I put more time into longer distances (up to 18 miles) and that affected my strength somewhat. The last few months have been great training months with the running around 3 to 6 miles a session four days a week and weights three days per week. My diet has been mostly very good. As a vegetarian I have to find additional ways of getting protein into my body and I've experimented with various supplements and recipes.
What's it all about?
Here then, I am. After two years of work and diligence I'm pleased with the progress I've made. I've put 3.5 inches on my chest and back; taken 2.5 inches off my belly, 1.5 inches off my waist, half an inch off my thigh and added half an inch to my arm. When I started there was no difference between my belly and my chest, now there is 6 inches difference. I've gone from straight up and down (with a pot belly) to angular. What's the point of all of this narcissism? The point is that looking good makes you feel good, inside; it gives you confidence. It's why fat clubs are busy all year long and why people come to see me about losing weight. One, I know what it's like to be overweight and two, I understand that it's a long term thing. You have to put in the work. The rewards are that you feel good, feel more confident, the opposite sex like it, that makes you feel more confident too. Martial arts is about the mind-body connection. So is running and so is weight-training. I'm going to keep on improving and keep working. No drugs, no meat; just good nutrition, proper hydration, the right amount of sleep and good exercise. I want my belly flat and six packed (I have a 3 pack at the moment!), I want bigger arms, better shoulders and maybe a bit more back and chest. In 2012 I want to be more toned, fitter and in better shape than I am now - already the best I've ever been. This has been achieved because of the help I've received at the gym from Vince and Kieran who works there, plus all my buddies at the gym who contribute to the banter that keeps me sane. I've done the work, but no-one improves alone. At the weekend I showed my son the photo I've posted above. He said 'Who's that?'. I said 'me'. He said 'Really?' I said 'yes'. He said 'Dad, you have to buy tighter t-shirts!' Thanks Noah, I'll pass on that, but I was pleased to be able to surprise you.