After clocking up some sessions on the free weights, I felt confident enough to ask my trainer Henry about adjusting my routine to suit the heavier weights and building my strength. The shape of my body had changed little from what I could see but there was no denying my increased strength. When I first started going to the gym I was a sweaty mess after only a few minutes, now I could sit on the rower and pull and pull, the machine swaying under my enthusiasm.
My diet was improving. Finding I was burning more energy and getting hungrier I started eating weird new foods like salads and fruit as a way of sustaining me through the day. If I wasn’t hungry or was too tired to cook I’d make a tasty milkshake with yoghurt, eggs and ice-cream. After workouts I’d treat myself to a protein drink. I gave up the treadmills and rowing machines and instead took up lap swimming as a full body cardio workout.
Back at the gym the shoulder press quickly became my favourite exercise – you could hardly get me off it. Each week I would add a few more kilos to each side and struggle like hell to push it all the way up. By Friday I was doing my three reps of eight, my shoulders positively bulging!
Bench-press was my biggest fear. It seems that, in a gym, the test of a man has to be the bench-press. Every guy wants a big chest – one that sticks out further than his tummy: man boob muscle!
I started off with 10kgs on each side. Combined with the 20kg bar I was lifting slightly more than half my body weight. Henry told me to take my time, do it slowly, do six to eight reps at a time and don’t be intimidated by the blokes who stack on the whole rack when they lift.
The weights I desired most of all were the big 20kg discs. They were so heavy that I needed both weedy arms just to lift one. If I could get to the stage where I had one of those on each side of the bar, then all this money and sweat and late-to-work mornings would be worth it.
As time went on my body began to crave the resistance of heavier weights and demand more pressure be put on it. By month six I was a regular face going three sometimes four or five days a week. I loved it. Each time I left the place it felt like I’d been shot in the veins with some awesome drug. Henry had been keeping a parental eye on me since I started and warned me about over training.
“Three times a week,” he said. “No more.”
But after some protest we agreed four days was do-able, as long as I promised to mix it up and give each muscle a few days break between workouts.
One morning I woke up with a fantastic pain in my lower back â€¦