BAM Festival!

Just back after a couple of days volunteering to help out one of my favourite charities, Good Lad Initiative (GLI). I helped staff a table at the 2017 Being a Man (BAM) festival, held in London’s Southbank Centre.

A packed 3 day event

The three-day BAM Festival ran talks, lectures, seminars and panel discussions addressing topics from bullying to knife crime, from domestic abuse to fatherhood, from privilege to consent.

There were early morning runs, comedians, a talk by Man Booker Prizewinning author Allan Hollinghurst, LEGO workshops for kids, a lecture on ‘How to be a Superman? Gender Equity for Boys’, a Finnish shouting choir, music,… and much more.

Good Lad Intiative

The crowd ebbed and flowed past our GLI table. I spoke to several teachers who were interested in booking us for their schools. An aspiring actor completing his Master’s in drama was looking for ideas for a 40 minute single-man performance. A psychologist dropped by: she engaged me in a discussion about male suicide (which accounts for 75% of suicides in the UK).

I took contact details for a number of potential volunteers and got to meet other GLI team members. I was impressed by the interest, the enthusiasm, the desire to facilitate change.

What does GLI do?

It trains men to run workshops in all-male school classrooms, for pupils aged 12-18, which address issues of gender equality and masculinity. We encourage them to talk openly using the media of role playing, games and exercises.

It’s fascinating to see the pupils challenging their preconceptions and peer pressure, as they articulate thoughts on various topics, often for the first time. At the end of the day, their feedback—which tends to be highly positive—is analysed. But of course, when I was at school, I’d probably have given anything five stars that replaced three hours of geography and math(s)!

Making a difference

‘Being a man’ is a huge—and until quite recently—a largely neglected topic. I’m constantly learning and questioning my preconceptions. Good Lad Intiative is one of those initiatives that deserves to succeed because it’s really making a difference.

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5 Steps to Boxing Mojo

Fat Not Fit

A year ago, I realised I was looking, well… a bit different than I had in my youth. That I had a long way to go to reach my dream — 20 lbs to go in fact. Not only that, but I was headed in the wrong direction. My dream was getting more distant by the day.  How did this ever happen?

Apparently, it happened sometime when I wasn’t watching. Sometime when I was taking my health for granted and watching boxing videos on youtube, rather than getting out and doing the sport I love.

A year ago, I decided this could not continue and it was time to turn it all around.

Fit Not Fat

So what was I ultimately aiming for? To become once again the boxer of my youth! To pound 15 rounds on the bag and never break a sweat. Do endless press ups as in days of yore. Jog like the Flash. Strike fear in the hearts of boxers everywhere when I darkened the gym door. (Hm. I’m not sure it was ever quite like that…)

A Watershed Moment

What was the watershed moment that changed it all? I noticed an ad online and clicked on it. (Crazy, I know. But you know how marketers are always tracking your data and then showing you adverts in the sidebar they  think you’ll be interested in? Well, this time they got it right.) The inset included a story and photos of a 70 year old man – with the body I wanted to have.

If he can do it, I can do it, I thought. I’m competitive like that.

So I did.

5 Steps to Boxing Mojo

Here are the steps that worked for me:

  1. Admit defeat. Yes, watching boxing greats do their thing was fascinating (I love to study boxing strategy and technique). It might have been giving my brain a workout – but was not doing anything for my health.
  2. Find a gym. The gym that’s right for you. I’m no good at willpower. So I googled till I found a gym with the equipment that would make me want to go to the gym. And…location, location, location. It’s best if the gym you’re committing to is a short walk from either where you live, or where you work.
  3. Get a friend to drag you there. Having a friend to push me there the first time was helpful. Somehow, there’s a mental hurdle about showing up the first time.
  4. Go to the gym. Okay – going once a week is better than never going. And twice a week is better than that. But if I only aim for a couple of times a week, I find there’s always a reason to put it off till tomorrow — a tomorrow that never comes. Resolving to go to the gym 5 times a week, means… I’ll probably get there 4 times a week. So I pick up my resolve and my equipment bag, and go. For me, that works.
  5. Cut the carbs. Moderate alcohol. Reduce the bread and pasta. This was pretty painful for the first week. But after that, it got easier. I’m still open to treats from time to time, but I take care to let it be just that — a once in a while enjoyment. The memory of how tough it was to get through that first low-carb week keeps me on track. I don’t want to have to do that twice.

That’s about it. One year later, I’m feeling good — and like myself again. There’s real wisdom in Mens sana in corpore sano. And no reason to stop as we get older. Good health is a lifetime journey. I’m in it for the long haul.

Have you ever had a fitness watershed moment when everything changed and you resolved for a new future?

What do you do to stay fit? How do you find time in your schedule?