Adios Unwelcome Pounds ~ Welcome Wellbeing!

It’s all a conspiracy!

Strange how my trousers had shrunk. And in an act of cowardly collaboration, my bathroom scales (in league with that dastardly mirror), had started to lie. The holes in my belt had waited until night-fall to edge outwards. Even my bathroom towel seemed smaller. There was conspiracy afoot!

Reality

Which was when I remembered T.S. Eliot’s words: “Human kind cannot bear very much reality.” And the reality was that despite quick walks, my metabolism was slowing down. Or however those in denial of weight-gain explain a thickening waist.

The fightback begins!

So a year ago, I joined a gym. It’s my sort of place with a dedicated boxing area, state-of-the-art cardio and weight equipment, interesting classes and friendly members.

The longest journey starts with a single step…

After an absence of eight years, those first steps in the gym shocked me: I’d lost all my stamina! My range of movement had tanked! As for my boxing technique—I’d forgotten the difference between a left hook and a fish hook. Depressingly, for six weeks the scales in the men’s changing room refused to register any improvement which meant one thing: The conspirators back home had gained an ally.

Persistence…

My routine was simple. Three or four visits a week. Start with stretching and warm up. Jump some rope, shadow box, then five three-minute rounds on the punch bags. Cardio machines (what sadist invented the StairMaster?) followed by dumbbells. Then stretching and deep breath, in readiness for another confrontation with the dreaded scales that not only indicated my weight, but also informed me of my Body Mass Index (BMI). Too much information.

A note of caution

I’ve learned to listen to my body. If something is hurting, I stop. I stretch. I always build slowly to greater effort and monitor my heart rate. That way I’ve kept injuries to a minimum.

Progress

After a hesitant start, I’m up to fifteen rounds on the bags, a hundred floors climbed (think Empire State Building), two thousand dumbbell lifts and hundreds of calories burned each visit. Soon my trousers threw in the towel and started growing again.

What made me keep going?

I didn’t look too far ahead. I set myself realistic goals and congratulated myself on reaching them. A pound or two lost each month on the scales or added to the dumbbells was achievable. Everything else was a bonus and soon they began to flow: I’ve got my energy and flexibility back! My resting pulse is under sixty. My BMI is comfortably in the green band and I don’t need to buy a new wardrobe.

You can do it too!

I added a healthy diet too and am pleased I’ve (mostly) stuck to it. I really do feel twenty years younger and recommend using a gym to anyone who wants to shed the pounds or just improve their sense of wellbeing. Because wellbeing matters.

 

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.

Plastic Ocean Festival near Paddington

On sunny Tuesday, July 18th, I visited a Plastic Ocean Festival event near Paddington station, London. Located on the Paddington canal system, charity stalls and free outdoor movies promoted awareness of the overwhelming amounts of, and intense ocean and waterway ecosystem destruction caused by, plastics.

I met with enthusiastic representatives of two outstanding charities, Thames 21 and Thames Estuary Partnership, that are both working hard to reduce plastics in our water systems in different ways. This event was one in a series of events run by the creators of  A Plastic Ocean movie.

Thames Estuary Partnership

Kim Ferran Holt, Marine Litter Coordinator for TEP, explained that the group is currently working with partners to run a One Less Bottle Campaign – encouraging people to refuse single use plastic bottles and carry a refillable one. You can follow their campaign under at onelessbottle.org and . Other exciting projects (among many) that TEP is partnering with include a Thames Lens Photography competition and an around Britain sailing eXXpedition that Kim will join, with 14 women sampling waters for plastics and toxins as they go.

TEP is “the only non-campaigning organisation looking after one of the world’s premier rivers…provide a framework for sustainable management of the Thames.” Their “mission is to connect people, ideas and the Thames landscape…by raising awareness of estuary issues”.

Thames 21

Nick Anthony explained Thames21’s vision is to put healthy rivers back at the heart of community life, with a four-pronged approach including clean ups, education, research and advocacy.

The charity also provides free training on Leading a Waterway Cleanup and gives guidance and support afterwards if you decide you’d like to lead your own cleanup at a waterway near you. Or you can just join in a project already organised in their events calendar. Every contribution helps!

Thames 21’s tagline says: We reconnect people to nature by helping them enjoy, protect and enhance their local rivers.

A Plastic Ocean – the movie

This compelling and informative documentary, A Plastic Ocean was shown on the outdoor movie screen on the building next to the festival area . Stomach-wrenching to watch, this high definition and well researched film delivers a strong message: The health of our oceans is not going well.

If you’d like to get involved and be part of the solution, here below is the contact information of two charities that are doing some great work:

Thames 21

Stay in touch and find out more about opportunities to help out and training at Thames 21 events on twitter, facebook and at Thames 21’s site. You can also contact them at info@thames21.org.uk or at 020 7248 7171.

Thames Estuary Partnership

Find out more about Thames Estuary Partnership on twitter, facebook and at their website. You can also contact them at tep@thamesestuarypartnership.org or at 020 7679 8855.

Plastic Ocean Festival

For more Plastic Ocean events, visit the Plastic Ocean Festival site. For more information on how you can help out, check out What I Can Do.

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?