'Lifting weights' became a teenage hobby, after realising that I was destined to be a small-boned weakling compared to the norm. At least I had inherited Mum’s gift for sprinting and long jump, and did really well at school, winning the ‘Victor Ludorum’ trophy a couple of times. That’s me in the middle, posing for the Loughborough Echo. The quietly confident muscular lad on the right was only a year older. I wasn’t jealous of his mullet though.
In the mid 1980’s, my Dad became a children’s book illustrator, and got his big break landing a freelance job for Loughborough’s Ladybird Books, to illustrate the phenomenally popular Masters of the Universe (He-Man) series.
Not long after, I discovered a book in Dad’s studio that had a huge impact on me. He used it for anatomical reference, and I hadn’t realised that He-Man’s eye-popping muscles were actually possible in the real world.
This was the first time that I had heard of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and I was mesmerised by his physique, and the confidence he had. I skim-read details of his training routine, and quickly decided that I wanted to look like that.
A New Hopelessness
I bought a beginner’s dumbbell set from Argos, and created my first workout ‘programme’. Unfortunately my training was delayed by several days, due to crippling soreness from carrying the dumbbells home from the bus stop...
I also started reading various bodybuilder magazines to absorb as much advice as possible. What I didn’t appreciate back then, was that the He-Man figure look was dependent on specific genetics that I just didn’t have, combined with certain shady substances!
Like many people in their twenties who exercised regularly, the ‘health’ aspect of my health and fitness tended to take a backseat. I used to go to the gym 2-3 times a week, but now look back on my dietary habits with horror. Kelloggs were certainly kept in business thanks to my daily bucket of Coco-Pops, and I could inhale dozens of Jaffa Cakes within a minute.
Without having a coach to guide me, I continued to throw around heavy weights, in an attempt to stimulate ongoing strength and muscle gains. I paid the price with regular back and elbow injuries. Hindsight is a great thing! A particularly painful back injury put me out of action for over a year. I was also unhappy in my first job at the time, and this led to my diet deteriorating to the point where I put on a few stones, far more than my slight bone structure was designed for.
It was seeing a photo of myself that shocked me into taking action!
My upper back was still causing me issues, but like most people, I believed that the best way to lose fat was hours per week of sweaty aerobic exercise, so I hit the treadmill and stationary bike with a vengeance. I certainly lost a lot of weight over several months, but much of this was lean healthy tissue alongside the fat. I knew I had taken it too far when friends I hadn’t seen in a while were worried that I was ill. I certainly couldn’t sustain that amount of exercise, and once my back injury became manageable, I returned to resistance training, and my weight began to normalise.
The Health Niggles Strike Back
The next chapter began in my mid thirties, by noticing that my general health was beginning to decline. I caught every bug and virus going, my energy and concentration were off, and my traditional hibernation-like sleep became a lot lighter. Things like this are usually put down to ‘typical signs of ageing’, but I felt it was time to get my act together and investigate the health and nutrition information out there.
As I began to implement changes to my lifestyle, those health frustrations started to fade away. When I delved deeper into the science of safe and effective exercise, I realised what I had been doing wrong, and was amazed at the potential benefits.
Return of the Boarder
My excitement about these new health and fitness possibilities spilled over into training and educating friends and family over the course of several years. I never thought I would snowboard again due to fearing the old back injuries, but I can happily say that I’m now stronger and more robust in my forties than I ever have been, and visits to the slopes are back on the menu!
I began to realise that I could help other people in the same age group and older. This demographic has been relatively neglected by the general health and fitness industry. These folks usually have a different perspective on life to the younger crowd, but still desire the benefits of being fit, looking good, feeling confident and