James’ fitness journey
I can actually pin point the exact moment that my fitness journey really began. It was on the 25th of June in 2012. It was a Monday morning whilst sitting at my desk at work. My good friend was also at his desk just across the room, both trying to get through a tough Monday after a large weekend of drinking and god knows what else. I don’t know how the topic came up or if he just said it randomly off the top of his head, but what he said was about to change my life forever. Those thirteen exact words were “I’m 25 I should be at my fittest I’m ever going to be”. He then looked down at his stomach and wobbled his belly fat. I also glanced down at my own, and wondered what the hell had happened to the 17-year-old James. You know, the captain of the soccer team who used to lift weights at lunch time, and who could sprint up and down a soccer pitch for 90 mins without getting fatigued. Where did he go?!?
Mind Set & Stimulus for Change
At this point in time I was working in the music industry doing extremely long hours for very average pay with an extremely unhealthy culture and lifestyle. My spare time was spent playing records in nightclubs, and then drinking my entire pay check after my set. This was normal everyday life for me. And if I’m perfectly honest this wasn’t the first time I had been unhappy with my body, nor was it the first trigger for me to change.
So I started ‘lite n easy’ in August of 2011, a few months before I was going to head overseas for a holiday. This was when i joined my local YMCA in Kensington, and I started to do laps in the pool a few times a week. I lost a few kilos before the trip and seemed to be quite pleased with this. But when I got back from the trip things returned to their previous state, no exercise and going though phases of placing my ‘lite n easy’ order or not… to be honest, it was more like not. Fast forward to late April 2012, I was going through a breakup. Needless to say my eating had taken a turn for the worse and exercise was still being neglected. Drinking and going out for late long weekends was also at an all time high, and as a result my health and emotional state were both at an all time low.
I’m trying to paint a picture of how I was feeling at the time of this single comment that triggered a revolution in my life. Most of you would not recognise the James of May 2012, and to be honest I have trouble at times. He was shy, awkward, unsure, self conscious, had no self esteem, lacked confidence, was overweight, unfit, had major social anxiety issues and worst of all had a lot of repressed painful emotion, mostly anger. And as a result he would drink and take drugs to excess, make very bad decisions which would end up hurting people, smoked regularly and to top it all off was eating nothing but processed chemical foods. I know to some people this may sound all too familiar, if this is you please know that this is NOT normal, and you CAN change it.
So lets fast forward back to June in 2012, the 26th, the day after the comment. I woke up late (as always) and went to the bathroom in a mad rush to have a shower. As I did I caught a glance of myself naked in the mirror and suddenly the words Phil mentioned played in my head like a broken record “I’m 25 I should be at my fittest I’m ever going to be” over and over again. That was the moment it happened, something flicked over in my head, some dark corner of my brain suddenly activated and I knew it all had to change. The very same day I booked in to see the personal trainer at my local YMCA to get a gym program. The next day I was in his office discussing my goals and the morning after that I was up at 7am to be shown my new gym program.
I re-started my ‘lite n easy’ delivery, and went to the gym between 3-4 times per week following the program to the letter. Within a few days I was hooked. I was increasing my weights, hitting rep ranges and feeling like a super hero! It was amazing how quickly this became my passion and drive in life. I still remember sitting in the gym office 6 weeks later having my measurements re-done and my trainer’s surprise at how well I was going, and how encouraging, supportive and happy he was for me. It was the first steps toward rebuilding my confidence and self worth. This continued around every 6 weeks for the next year and a bit until I started writing my own programs.
I stopped ‘lite n easy’ after that initial 6 weeks, and opted to start cooking for myself. This may not sound like much, but considering I had little to no idea what I was doing in the kitchen it was quite a big thing. So I started experimenting, finding recipes I liked and found I actually loved to cook… who knew right? After a few months of doing this I came across a friend of mine who suggested a new way of eating called “paleo” he recommended I buy a book by a guy called Robb Wolf called “The Paleo Solution”.
After reading the book I went pretty much 90% paleo right off the bat, this wasn’t an easy thing to do on my income at the time. What I mean by 90% was that 90% of all my meals consumed were paleo. The results for me were staggering, I lost weight quickly yet gained muscle and was pretty much eating whatever I wanted as long as it feel under the paleo limitations. What this taught me was which foods were upsetting my body and just how many chemicals and sugar were in most of the foods and recipe bases on the supermarket shelves. I had to learn how to make chilli con carne with just the spices, no packets. I mastered making the bases for all my favourite meals, and the funny thing was the home made stuff was better than anything I could have ever purchased.
I know this way of eating has come under fire recently by many groups and individuals. But what it teaches and what I learnt from it are probably the most important aspects. That eating whole foods cooked from scratch are far better than pre cooked boxed meals. Fresh fruit, vegetable and protein sourced meals are a far better choice than no nutrient processed carb based meals (think pasta, pizza etc.) That you can actually make this stuff fairly easily, with only a little learning. You can actually lose weight without having to count macros or calories whilst also having the energy to train regularly.
To this day I very rarely consume grains, dairy or legumes. And during my cutting (fat loss) phases I don’t touch them at all. Don’t buy into the hyped up media rubbish, try eating this way for 6 weeks. Take your measurements before and after, then let me know how you go both physically and mentally.
Becoming a Personal Trainer
That personal trainer who helped me get started, Aaron, was my main inspiration to become a trainer myself. He eventually become my mentor and then hired me as a personal trainer at the YMCA which started it all for me. The support, passion and advice he showed me when I was starting out was invaluable. And to this day I try to give the exact same to the people sitting in the very same chair I was in only 4 years beforehand. The goal I originally came to Aaron with was “I want to get six pack abs and look like a guy from the movie 300” he smiled but then he explained just how hard that was. I of course wanted to prove him wrong, and it has really only been in the last few months that I have even come close to meeting that original goal.
I lost my job in the music industry in June of 2013. This was a very important part of my journey because it forced me to rethink my career path, as there were no jobs in my field at the time. After a lot of soul searching I realised I was after a total change of path. After going through such a big transformation myself and falling in love with fitness and nutrition, I decided I would love to support other people through that journey. So I enrolled into a course at FIA Fitnation, picked up work in a local cafe and started my life from scratch. I have now completed my ‘Certificate 3 & 4 in Fitness’ and also a ‘Diploma of Fitness’ specialising in rehabilitation. Not to mention loads of courses for specific skills and training styles. I now run my own business, work for the Kensington YMCA and a colleagues business Stiles Training. I love this industry and enjoy what I do every day.
What can you learn from my journey?
I’m not sitting here saying that I was perfect, that I never missed a gym day. That’s just not true. I had days when I didn’t want to go, days when the old James came out and de-railed me. He is still in there, I have just learnt that for my sanity moving weights around is the most effective medicine. You too will have challenges, but at the end of the day if you want something bad enough you will make time for it. I would finish work at 6pm every night, head home, get changed and walk straight to the gym, then workout for an hour every night that I could. I would then walk back home sipping my protein shake, cook dinner and then relax. If I didn’t train I wouldn’t feel right the next day; I would be emotional, lethargic and depressed. It took me a while to realise that this was a form of therapy and natural medicine, that this is what my body and mind needed in order to function.
I have been though a lot of change in these past years, below is a list of things I leant the hard way.
- You will be derailed and knocked down, the trick is to keep getting back up and not letting it stop you from achieving your goals.
- Nutrition will either help you achieve your goals or push you further away from them.
- Nothing happens quickly in fitness it’s always slow gradual progress which comes from consistent nutrition and training.
- All that said I still enjoy a burger or a pizza every now and then. The key to success is balance, nutrition is no different.
- Learn to meditate and still your mind, check out The Space In Between’s meditations and services.
- This will change you, just be aware of that. Friends will change, habits will too. Becoming a better version of yourself is the reason you started.
- Exercise is one of the cheapest and most effective forms of therapy that there is.
- Learning proper form and technique will keep you from set backs and physio visits. If you do hurt yourself call Showgrounds Physio.
- Increasing weight too quickly will result in an injury, respect the weight if you don’t it will punish you.
- DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) you will learn to love this feeling as it means your muscles are rebuilding. Don’t have them? Well you didn’t train hard enough!
- There are two types of muscular failure. The first is when the muscle can no longer move the weight. Second is when your mind tells you that you can no longer move the weight. Learn to control your mind.
- BREATHING – breathe out during the exertion phase, breathe in on the release.
- TEMPO – the release phase is the most important, control it, don’t just drop the weight.
- Range of motion – don’t be a harry half rep, the only person you’re cheating is yourself. i.e. if the bar doesn’t touch your chest in a bench press the rep doesn’t count, if your quads don’t get to parallel during a squat the rep doesn’t count. The greater the ROM the greater the hypertrophy.
“But I’m too busy to exercise”
The excuse I hear all the time “I’m too busy to exercise” is utter horse shit, and its rough translation is as follows “I’m not willing to take responsiblity for my health and wellbeing, it’s not my fault I’m over weight or unfit it’s insert another excuse fault. My priority right now is insert another excuse here”
I’m going to be as direct as I can here. Your health and fitness and are the single MOST important things in your life, as without them, you will die. What good are your job, partner, kids, passions, house, money and possessions if you are dead? Or worse yet laying in a hospital bed waiting to die? As that’s where you’re heading if you don’t take start taking responsibility for you life.