Tag Archives: gym

Weighted!

According to the 2013 report from the Bureau of Statistics, 63% of Australian adults are overweight or obese. An estimated 280 Australians develop diabetes every day. The 2005 Australian AusDiab Follow-up Study (Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study) showed that 1.7 million Australians have diabetes but that up to half of the cases of type 2 diabetes remain undiagnosed. By 2031 it is estimated that 3.3 million Australians will have type 2 diabetes (Vos et al., 2004) – stats from Diabetes Australia. These statistics are nothing short of frightening. Every day we are inundated with conflicting impressions – both in reality and in the media – of body image. On the one hand we have a population becoming so obese it is bordering on terrifying. If the trend is not halted, the cost of health care is going to spiral up at a frightening rate. On the other hand, we are inundated with images of sculpted 6 and 8 packs, biceps and pecs that are almost impossible for us to obtain, let alone maintain. They fill my newsfeed with promos from gyms, supplement companies, models, celebrities, health and fitness magazines, clothing and underwear companies. What seems to be missing is a healthy norm. As gay and HIV+ people we are not exempt from the fat/thin dialectic. And some of it seems to be based in history. The problems of being at both extremes affects us as a population in general, and I think it heeds to be tackled from as many angles as possible.

I am just staggered by the number of over-weight (anywhere from obese to chronically obese) people I see every day. While I had a coffee at Brookside a couple of days ago, and at my local cafe today, I made a point of observing people coming and going (referred to as being a flaneur), and a good 90% of them were over-weight, and in the older age group where this is causing the most problems. Considering the constant emphasis on our increasingly over-weight population, and the regular medical bulletins on problems associated with obesity, nobody seems to be particularly alarmed about it. It really is frightening!

And the gay community is not exempt from this problem. In fact everything but! We have developed a sub-culture that celebrates over-weight men, which is certainly nothing worth celebrating!. Not only are they celebrated, but encouraged, and that is the most worrying aspect of this unhealthy adoration. An acquaintance of mine is a bear (I am not going to debate the rhetoric behind the terminology). The fact that his obesity is disguised by the use of cultural terminology, and the acceptance of this as “normal” has far-reaching implications that will only be changed by a huge cultural shift away from this behaviour. Eventually everyone subscribing to this culture will develop most, if not all, of the illnesses associated with obesity. There is no “might happen” about it. This acquaintance regularly posted pictures of himself in various stages of undress, and all the comments were of the “woof” variety. I have yet to read a comment from anyone encouraging him to start losing weight for the sake of his health. And I’m sure any negative comments would be met with a barrage of abusive comments about minding your own business, and what is “wrong with this normal guy”! Nothing like an unhealthy obsession to put the blinkers over peoples eyes. For the last twelve months I have kept my mouth shut – I really can’t see any sense in leaving myself open to abuse, even though a friends welfare is uppermost in my mind. I quickly flick past his massive underwear-clad posts on my newsfeed. After several months of health issues that had seen him avoiding medical help because he knew he would be told to lose weight, he has now been diagnosed with Type-2 Diabetes. Naturally, all the comments about his health update have been sympathetic. Not one person has said…you didn’t expect this! I think he is very lucky it is only diabetes. I was expecting a heart attack. Only months ago his status updates on FB informed us of his driving to a nearby supermarket to stock up on pavlova or marshmallow flavoured ice-cream. That has changed rather quickly. To his credit, he has taken the scare seriously, has changed his diet and is losing weight. He now also advocates change amongst his peers.

So, there are several issues here. One important one is the quite deliberate action of contracting Type-2 Diabetes, a condition we know is avoidable by adopting healthy diet and exercise lifestyles. The incidence of this type of lifestyle-related diabetes is rising at an alarming rate. To actively be a member of a sub-culture that actually promotes this lifestyle aberration defies imagination. The cost to the healthcare system from the combination of this group (which is rising), and smokers (which is decreasing) is going to be staggering, and we will all have to bear the costs of both these irresponsible and selfish behaviours. It has nothing to do with personal choice, as much as these groups like to harp on about it. As soon as your lifestyle choices start to infringe on my health, or my ability to easily access good, affordable healthcare, then your choices are no longer personal. They are far-reaching.

I guess one can’t address the issue of bear-culture without looking at how it has come into being. The opposite extreme also has a lot to answer for. I, for one, am sick of looking at guys on fitness and health magazine covers, in gay magazines, in modeling, in movies, in advertising and even in pornography whereby the now accepted norm is over-emphasised washboard abs, and over-developed musculature that has nothing to do with a healthy body image. The sudden move towards this portrayal of the male physique as “normal” is as frightening and concerning as the move towards obesity. We don’t seem to be able to find a happy, healthy middle road. Given that maintaining this type of body is both time and money consuming – does in fact involve almost daily doses of gym and supplements (and for some, steroids) – and is not sustainable in the long term, it is surprising that it is promoted as much as it is. Whatever happened to men wanting to look trim, fit and healthy? Why the move away from developing lean muscle mass? Why a move away from diet and exercise that is both low maintenance, and sustainable long term? I really have no answer to that, other than to hope it is just a current “trend”. It certainly makes no sense to me. At my own gym I regularly see guys hefting huge amounts of weights, grunting and groaning and banging their way through routines, with no different an end result than my routine of combined isometric/Swiss exercise ball/body weight exercises, a method that does take longer to show results, but is easier to maintain and add to over a long period of time. As to diet, in our household it has been low-sugar/low-fat/portion-controlled for so long now that it is now lifestyle.

So, back to my acquaintance. If he had listened to the warnings, if he had seriously thought about the consequences of his choices, the outcome may have been – positively – different. To date, I have seen no signs of his fan club encouraging him. Indeed, I have to wonder just how many of them will hang around, just how many will give him a “woof” if he were to suddenly become fit and healthy. It has become notable that if parents who are obese have children who are obese, it is seen as normal. Society as a whole really needs a good kick up the arse. We don’t need to spend as much as we do on fast-food; we don’t need to eat as much as we do – we don’t heed to fill our dinner plates; we have to stop making excuses like time-poor, time-consuming and too hard as far as healthy food choices and preparation goes; we need to stop seeing exercise as something hard; and we need to stop looking at each other and thinking “they are bigger than me, so I must be all right”. We need to think of the health implications of decisions we are making NOW! Do we want to be fat; have mobility problems; increased risk of diabetes; coronary heart disease; risk of stroke; circulation problems; high blood pressure; loss of flexibility; breathing problems; low bone density; joint problems and replacements due to just wearing the joints out from having to carry all the weight around; and a multitude of other problems all of which are preventable by some simple lifestyle changes. Given the choice of a fit and active old age, or a quick decline into bad health and misery I know what my choice is! There are 168 hours in a week. Surely it is not too hard to devote two or three of those hours every week to exercise.

The HIV community is also faced with problems of obesity. There is some research into the problem that indicates that for many long-term survivors the problem is a flow-on from the dismal days of the 80s and 90s, when emaciated bodies were a common site. To them, over-weight means healthy. It appears that the longer people are healthy, the more common it becomes to end up over-weight or obese. This trend signals a need for doctors to change their approach to caring for HIV positive people. It’s time to shift the focus to the prevention of heart disease, high blood pressure and weight gain.

HIV positive people who need to lose weight must follow general weight loss recommendations. You must eat a balanced meal that does not exceed your caloric needs, and you still need to exercise and avoid junk food. If you are overweight and HIV positive, where should you start?
The best place to start a weight loss plan is a food diary. Knowing what you are eating, how much you are eating, and when and where you are eating can help you adjust your diet and eating habits. Each time you eat, be it a snack or a full meal, write down what you have eaten, how much, and under what circumstances. For instance, if you eat a bowl of chili at a party, write down how much chili you have, what’s in the chili, and the circumstances surrounding your eating the chili. Was it your dinner? Were you hungry? Or was a bowl offered to you and you ate it so not to insult your host? Enter your meal into the diary as soon as you can after eating. It is difficult to keep accurate records if you wait too long after eating. Not to mention we often underestimate the amounts we eat after too much time has past.
Like anyone who is overweight, adjusting what and how much you eat is the first step to weight loss. An all-too-common problem is that we try fad diets and quick loss diets that may work in the short term but do nothing to keep the weight off. The key to an effective diet is one that teaches you healthy eating habits that will serve you a lifetime. By learning healthy eating habits, you will take the weight off and keep it off for the long term. The bottom line: Watch your calories, your fat intake, and your portion sizes to maintain a healthy weight. If you find your are eating for reasons other than hunger, talk with your doctor or a dietitian. They can help you lose the extra weight and keep it off — and in turn that will help you live a healthier live with HIV.*

I wish my acquaintance well, and I’m truly sorry that his lesson had to be learnt the hard way. Should I have thrown caution to the wind and spoken up? Truth be told, it wouldn’t have made an iota of difference. His fan club would have beaten me down, and the cries of “woof” would have drowned out the voice of reason. People only hear what they want to hear. Until these attitudes change, until these sub-cultures are given their proper place and are not seen as ‘normal’ nothing is going to change, and stupidly, more people will get seriously ill. Time for a rethink people, before it is too late.

*HIV dietary information from http://aids.about.com/od/nutrition/a/obesity.htm

Tim Alderman
(C) 2013

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Reclaimations

Getting older is one of those things that seems to have caught up with me very quickly. One minute I was 40, then 50 and now at 57 rapidly approaching 60. I’m not complaining. I’ve survived AIDS (with a couple of disabilities but nothing to hold me back), and when all is said and done I am really enjoying the experience of getting older, the quietening down of life and the intuitiveness that seems to come with it. HIV is no longer something I feel concerned about – in fact, it is very much a backwater in my life. Everything is under control, and has been for a long time, so as far as I am concerned it is no longer an issue. It is just something that is, and is so integrated into my life that it is not a seperate issue.

However, there are aspects of ageing that I have not liked. I may be approaching 60 but there is much about the contemporary world that I love – like the latest music (and I still collect dance music) and technology and all the wonders it brings for starteres. I still like to dress well (though I try to avoid the mutton dressed as lamb scenario), I still groom myself well and like the fact that despite my age I can still look pretty good when I hit the streets. However, 12 months ago I started to notice things about my body that were in stark contrast to what I liked to think and feel about myself. Having been blessed with good genes that have allowed me to keep all my hair (most of it in its original black shade) and for most of my life a slim profile I was disconcerted to find that gravity was finally having its wicked way and changing – for the worst – my body shape. I was becoming flabby with a very discernable spare tire waistline, flabby tits, mishapen arse and bad posture. I was actually starting to look so “old” that it was starting to depress me and really knocked my self-esteem around. It also didn’t fit in with how I dressed and groomed myself and I was really aware of the fact that I wouldn’t go out in anything that clung to me, or in anyway showed off my body shape. To make matters worse, I started to go up in clothing sizes (from SM to M in shirts, and from 32” trousers and shorts to 34”. I wasn’t happy! Other nasty things that were happening were finding myself sitting on the edge of the bed to put on trousers and shorts, having my partner comment on how bad my posture was getting (that was a real “shit – is it” moment), and the doctor had started me on cholesterol meds, which was an additional pill that I really wasn’t happy about having to take.

Like others that I know, when I lived in the Eastern Suburbs in the 80’s and 90’s, I made a decision (despite the fashion for toned bodies at the time) to avoid going to the gym. They were places full of gay guys who were there not to get fit but to mould themselves into an image of what it was preceived that gay men looked like. They posed, preened, plucked, depilated and fake-tanned, and when they went oiut to the bars, only ever hung around with, and picked up, guys who looked like themselves. I made sure I hung around with the scrawny brigade so as not to feel out of place. It was a form of body fascism that I disliked then, and still do. However, a move to the outer edges of the Inner West brought about a change in my thinking and perceptions. With the body rapidly getting out of shape, with my self-esteem taking a beating, and with the prospect of 60 looming (and a potentially rickity ride into an unhealthy mature years) it was time to do something about it, so it was off to the gym in Marrickville. The fact that I added the word ‘gym’ to my vocabulary was a good start.

I loved – and still do – the gym, which sort of came as a bit oif a shock to me. From the word go I was made to feel comfortable, and a lot of the fallacies that I attributed to going to the gym were dispelled. To start with, no one else cares about what you are doing, and nobody is actually watching and assessing you (except yourself). Everyone else is too busy doing their own thing, and are too much in their own world to care about what you are up to. I had an initial assessment with a personal trainer who in no way criticised how I
looked, but she did help me to set some goals – the major ones being that I wanted to get fit, I wanted to loose excess fat, generally tighten my whole body up, fix my posture and inprove my general health. I wanted to reclaim my hips and arse, both of which had long ago disappeared. In other words, I had a determination to transform myself. And at 72kg, I wanted to do all this without losing weight, as weight wasn’t the problem. The other encouraging thing I found about just going to a local gym was the number of other mature aged men and women who were there, and really working hard and doing their best to get fit and healthy. There is now a few older role models around to encourage us to do something about being fit and older. Actors like Rob Lowe (God, how hot is that man), Rick Springfield (who despite his demons looks fabulous for someone in his 60’s), and dare I say it – Tony Abbott (hate his politics but admire him for his committment to fitness) – have given us a new way of looking at ourselves as we get older.

So, having set goals, and having been given a regime to follow, it was off to the beginners studio for a 10 week starters program. The first week…I suffered. Every muscle ached, and I looked at the piss-weak weights I was starting with, and wondering if I was ever going to be able to do things at the heavier end. And don’t think it doesn’t get tedious! Doing the same routines over and over again can get very boring. I started to vary things myself, made a lot of changes to what had been set out for me and found that helped me to get through the boredom barrier. I started going three days a week, for 1 hour each visit. And I bloody worked hard! Nothing was going to deter me from my goals. Within 7 weeks of starting, the miracles began. I was using a lot of resistance equipment, and found that the weights started to increase. The spare tire didn’t just reduce – it disappeared. I noticed my pecs tightening up and starting to show a firm profile, muscles appeared in my arms. My energy levels also increased, as did my flexibilty. My self-esteem started to go through the roof, and in turn this promted me to work harder, to really start to challenge myself. At the end of the 10 weeks, I looked fantastic. I couldn’t believe just how different I looked and felt. It was noticeable at the gym how regular I was and how hard I worked, and the gym staff gave me a lot of encouragement.

So, after the 10 weeks in the beginners studio it was time for another assessment, and a harder program of work, starting in what I jokingly called “the big boys room” where all the weights and serious resistence equipment are. I continued to flog myself three days a week (still for a total of three hours a week), and the changes continued. I was still having some problems getting a flat stomach (I wasn’t after a six-pack…I could probably get one but at my age it would be a constant battle to maintain it) so the tweaking of our diet at home started. Now, I’m sure everyone knows from my last column that I cook, so doing a diet tweak wasn’t a big issue as I knew that I had the recipes to over-ride any chance of blandness or boredom. I should point out that I don’t approve of diets, especially fad ones, but I do believe that you can create a healthy diet for yourself without going to extremes, without adding supplements, and without cutting out carbs and proteins. Your body needs these things to function properly – it is all a matter of proportion and balance. We cut out a lot of fatty foods, a lot of sugar (I have a terrible sweet tooth so this wasn’t easy), and increased the amount of raw vegetables, fish and poultry in our diet. This helped a lot, as well as a lot of repititions on the Ultimate Abdominal machine at the gym, and a lot of suspension work (whereby you suspend yourself, and lift your legs as high as you can for as long as you can, or hold your legs out at a 90° angle – you can really feel the pull on your abs). So I pulled, and pushed and strained and grunted through the main weight floor of the gym for the next 3 months.

By this stage, I have to say that I was starting to find it harder and harder to get myself to the gym to go through the routines. I realised that I needed to add some sort of variety to my program, so at New Years weekend this year I decided to do my first class. I looked at all the alternatives, and assessed what I thought I could do, and couldn’t do. I have done yoga before (and enjoyed it) but felt that it wasn’t dynamic enough to maintain the body profile I was aiming for. I still haven’t tried pilates, but it is on my list. Anything that involved balance was out (I have peripheral neuopathy…the numb type, not the painful. This means I have no feeling in my feet and ankles), anything involving too much co-ordination was out (I’m unco-ordinated at the best of times), and anything done in dark rooms – such as Spin – was out, as I’m partially blind and have night-blindness. So, this left me with Body Pump, a class that involves work with weights, and is very dynamic and very muscle and cardio-orientated. You really push your heart rate up doing these classes. I found I really loved Pump, and have stuck with it right through to now. I avoid lunges (for balance reasons), and do squats instead, which means a double session of squats every class, which can really push you to your limits, especially when you have 25- 28 kgs of weight sitting on your upper back to add to the challenge. The routine (all Les Mills classes are done in most gyms these days, so it doesn’t matter where you go, you will always know what to expect from a class) changes every three months, so just as you are getting bored with it, it changes. So, I started doing two morning classes a week (on Monday and Friday, and usually the token male in the class at that time of day), and did one day a week in the weight room to work whatever muscles didn’t get worked in the class. Having just moved from Sydney to Brisbane, I found the break in routine, and to a new gym and environment a bit unsettling.I have just got back into my two Pump classes, and will probably get back to my resistence work sometime in the next couple of weeks.

So, what has the end result of all this been. To be honest, the result has been staggering. I still look in the mirror and think to myself “Is that really you?”. I have my hips and arse back big time, and can walk around in a singlet without feeling embarrassed. I have pecs, I have muscled arms and legs. My posture has improved, as has my energy levels and my flexibility. I have gone off my cholesterol meds. My self esteem has gone through the roof, and I can honestly say that I feel absolutely fantastic, and that is reflected in how I look and dress. I have come to realise that there is more to me than I ever thought there was – I can set goals and challenges and achieve them, I can push myself beyond my limits when I have a reason to, and that I can establish routines and stick to them when I have an end objective. I now feel that I can go into my elder years truly fit and healthy, and that in many ways that is going to help cut back the risks that I would have faced without going through this metamorphisis. I can move forward knowing that I am still flexible, that high blood pressure and cholesterol aren’t going to plague me, and that problems that result from being over-weight have pretty well been eliminated.

What would I recommend to other guys my age? If you smoke…STOP! If you have a bad diet…FIX IT – it’s not rocket science. Don’t think that walking the dog is all you need to do – if you are over-weight, do something about it. Look at the long-term, not the short. It is not about having the body beautiful (though it helps) it is about being fit and healthy, and prolonging your prospects for good health and wellbeing as you progress through the years. Don’t think (like I did) that looking fit and healthy is just for the young. The flow-on affects of a good exercise routine are endless, both in your public and private life. Look good and feel good – you’ll thank yourself for it.

Tim Alderman.
Copyright 2010

  

Body Work

image

According to the 2013 report from the Bureau of Statistics, 63% of Australian adults are overweight or obese. An estimated 280 Australians develop diabetes every day. The 2005 Australian AusDiab Follow-up Study (Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study) showed that 1.7 million Australians have diabetes but that up to half of the cases of type 2 diabetes remain undiagnosed. By 2031 it is estimated that 3.3 million Australians will have type 2 diabetes (Vos et al., 2004) – stats from Diabetes Australia. Throw an ageing population into the mix, and you have a nightmare. These statistics are nothing short of frightening. Every day we are inundated with conflicting impressions – both in reality and in the media – of body image. On the one hand we have a population becoming so obese it is bordering on terrifying. If the trend is not halted, the cost of health care is going to spiral up at a frightening rate. On the other hand, we are also inundated with images of sculpted 6 and 8 packs, biceps and pecs that are almost impossible for us to obtain, let alone maintain. They fill my newsfeed with promos from gyms, supplement companies, models, celebrities, health and fitness magazines, clothing and underwear companies. What seems to be missing is a healthy norm. And gay and HIV+ people we are not exempt from the fat/thin dialectic. And some of it seems to be based in history. There is some research into the problem that indicates that for many long-term survivors the problem is a flow-on from the dismal days of the 80s and 90s, when emaciated bodies were a common sight. To them, over-weight means healthy. It appears that the longer people are healthy, the more common it becomes to end up over-weight or obese. This trend signals a need for doctors to change their approach to caring for HIV positive people. It’s time to shift the focus to the prevention of heart disease, high blood pressure and weight gain. The problems of being at both extremes affects us as a population in general, and I think it heeds to be tackled from as many angles as possible.

Getting older is one of those things that seems to have crept up on me very quickly. One day I was 40, then 50 and now at 59 rapidly approaching 60. I’m not complaining. I’ve survived AIDS – with a couple of disabilities but nothing to hold me back – and when all is said and done I’m actually enjoying the experience of getting older, that quietening down of life and the intuitiveness that seems to come with it. HIV is no longer something I am concerned about – in fact, it is very much a backwater in my life. My health is under control, and has been for a long time, so as far as I am concerned it is not even an issue. Some things, even disabilities, become so integrated into your life that you just carry on regardless.

However, there are aspects of ageing that I have not liked. I may be approaching 60 but I live very much in the contemporary world. There is a lot about it I love, like the latest music – I still collect dance music; technology and all the wonders it brings; the sheer quantity of goods available for sale, and I am unashamedly a consumer. I still like to dress well, though I try to avoid the mutton-dressed-as-lamb scenario. No skinny jeans for this boy! i still groom myself well, look after my skin, and like the fact that despite my age I can still look pretty good when I hit the streets. However, 4 years ago I started to notice things about my body that were in stark contrast to what I liked to think and feel about myself. Having been blessed with good genes that have allowed me to keep all my hair – and still all black – and for most of my life a slim profile I was disconcerted to find that gravity was finally having its wicked way and changing – for the worst – my body shape. I was flabby with a very discernible spare tire waistline, flabby tits, mishapen arse and bad posture. I was actually starting to look so “old” that it was beginning to depress me and really knocked my self-esteem around. It also didn’t fit in with how I dressed and groomed myself and I was really aware of the fact that I wouldn’t go out in anything that clung to me, or in anyway showed off my body shape. To make matters worse, I started to go up in clothing sizes, from SM to M in shirts, and from 32” trousers and shorts to 34”. I wasn’t happy! Other nasty things that were happening were finding myself sitting on the edge of the bed to put on trousers and shorts, having my partner comment on how bad my posture was getting – that was a real “shit – is it” moment. The doctor starting me on cholesterol meds, which was an additional pill on top of what I was already taking, was a real eye-opener.

When I lived in the Eastern Suburbs in the 80’s and 90’s, I made a decision – despite the fashion for toned bodies at the time – to avoid going to the gym. They were places full of gay guys who were there not to get fit but to mould themselves into an image of what it was perceived that gay men should look like. They posed, preened, plucked, depilated and fake-tanned, and when they went out to the bars, only ever hung around with, and picked up, guys who were mirror images of themselves. To ensure I never felt out-of-place I hung with the scrawny brigade. I viewed the gym bunnies as body fascists, and in some respects still do. However, a move to the outer edges of the Inner West brought about a change in my thinking and perceptions. Then I had my “mirror” moment! Stepping out of the shower one morning, I caught sight if myself in the mirror, and the first thing that crossed my mind was…who is the tubby old man in the bathroom. That was a provocative moment, and the impetus for change. Burdened with the prospect of the body rapidly getting out of shape, with my self-esteem taking a beating, along with the prospect of 60 looming, with a potentially rickety ride into unhealthy mature years imminent, it was time to do something about it. The word “gym” entered my vocabulary.

I loved – and still do – the gym, which sort of came as a bit oif a shock to me. From the word go I felt comfortable, and a lot of the fallacies that I attributed to going to the gym were dispelled. For starters, no one gives a fuck about what you are doing, and nobody is actually watching and assessing you – except yourself. Everyone there is too much in their own world to care about what you are up to. An initial assessment with a Personal Trainer helped me to set some goals – the major ones being to get fit. I also wanted to loose excess fat, generally tighten my whole body up, fix my posture and improve my general health. I aspired to reclaim my hips and arse, both of which had long ago disappeared. In other words, I had a determination to transform myself. And at 72kg, I wanted to do all this without losing too much weight, as weight wasn’t the problem. The other noticeable thing was the number of other mature aged men and women who were there, really working hard and doing their best to get fit and healthy. There is now a few older role models around to encourage us to do something about being fit and older. Actors like Rob Lowe (God, how hot is that man), Rick Springfield (who despite his demons looks fabulous for someone in his 60’s), and Robson Green, who looked so hot in “Being Human” he almost gecame a masturbation fantasy.

So, goals set, and with a regime to follow, it was off to the beginners studio for a 10 week starters program. The first week…I suffered. Every muscle ached, and I looked at the piss-weak weights I was using, wondering if I was ever going to be able to do things at the heavier end. And don’t think it doesn’t get tedious! Doing the same routines over and over gets very boring. I started to vary things myself, made a lot of changes to what had been set out for me and found that helped me to get through the boredom barrier. I started going three days a week, for 1 hour each visit. And I bloody worked hard! Nothing was going to deter me from the goals. Within 7 weeks of starting, the miracles began. I was using a lot of resistance equipment, and found that the weights started to increase. The spare tire didn’t just reduce – it disappeared. My pecs tightened up and I started to show a firm profile. Muscles even appeared in my arms. My energy levels also increased, as did my flexibility. My self-esteem started to go through the roof, and in turn this prompted me to work harder, to really start to challenge myself. At the end of the 10 weeks, I looked fantastic. I couldn’t believe just how different I looked and felt. I started getting encouragement from others, and that really started me pushing the limits.

So, after the 10 weeks in the beginners studio it was time for another assessment, and a harder program, starting in what I jokingly called “the big boys room” where all the weights and serious resistance equipment was. I continued to flog myself three days a week, still for a total of three hours a week, and the changes continued. I was still having some problems getting a flat stomach – I wasn’t after a six-pack…I could probably get one but at my age it would be a constant battle to maintain it – so the tweaking of our diet at home started. Thankfully I love cooking, so doing a diet tweak wasn’t a big issue as I knew that I had the recipes to over-ride any chance of blandness or boredom. I should point out that I don’t approve of diets, especially fad ones, but I do believe that you can create a healthy diet for yourself without going to extremes, and without cutting out carbs and proteins. Your body needs these things to function properly – it is all a matter of proportion and balance. We cut out a lot of fatty foods, a lot of sugar – have a terrible sweet tooth so this wasn’t easy – and increased the amount of raw vegetables, fish and poultry in our diet. This helped a lot, as well as a lot of repetitions on the Ultimate Abdominal machine at the gym, and a lot of time in the suspension frame. So I pulled, and pushed and strained and grunted through the main weight floor of the gym for the next 3 months.

By this stage, I have to say that I was starting to find it harder and harder to get myself to the gym to go through the routines. I realised that I needed to add some sort of variety to
my program, so at the New Years weekend I decided to do my first class. I looked at all the alternatives, and assessed what I thought I could do, and couldn’t do. I have done yoga before, and enjoyed it, but felt that it wasn’t dynamic enough to maintain the body profile I was aiming for. I still haven’t tried Pilates, but it is on my list. Anything that involved balance was out due to peripheral neuropathy in the feet…the numb type, not the painful. This means I have no feeling in my feet and ankles. Anything involving too much co-ordination was out as I’m unco-ordinated at the best of times, and anything done in dark rooms – such as Spin – was out, as I’m partially blind and have night-blindness. So, this left me with Body Pump, a class that involves dynamic work with weights, and is very muscle and cardio-orientated. You really push your heart rate up doing these classes. I found I really loved Pump, and have stuck with it right through to recently. I avoid lunges for balance reasons, and do squats instead, which means a double session of squats every class, which can really push you to your limits, especially when you have 25- 28 kgs of weight sitting on your upper back to add to the challenge. So, I started doing two morning classes a week on Monday and Friday, and usually the token male in the class at that time of day, and did one day a week in the weight room to work whatever muscles didn’t get worked in the class.

Having just moved from Sydney to Brisbane, I found the break in routine disconcerting, and it took time to get back into the rhythm. But a deal from our local Goodlife gym got me back into the groove, and I returned to my Body Pump class. Having done this weights class for four years now it has its disadvantages. Because of the pace of the class, you don’t really have the opportunity to challenge yourself, as you don’t have the time to swap and change weights. It had reached the stage where I was really using the class for its cardio benefit, and boy don’t you get a cardio workout! I have had three different resistance workout programs on the main floor, including a isometric/fitness ball/body weight program which I derived a lot of benefit from.. However, we have moved on again.

I have now gotten so tied up in the fitness and health lifestyle that this year I decided to get my Certificate III in Fitness at Southbank Institute of Technology. This has had an incredible influence on how I now view fitness in general, and exercise. A dispute with my Goodlife gym when they ripped me off when canceling my membership – DO NOT USE GYMS THAT TIE YOU INTO CONTRACTS – has meant I have moved on to a new gym and now use my local Jetts’. So, no group fitness classes any more, but with my new knowledge I’ve also moved on from that style of exercise. Having used gyms now for four years to just get fit and maintain it, it’s time to up the ante. There is nothing wrong with just staying fit, but without a real challenge it can be demotivating. Personal Trainers are affordable through Jetts. If you can workout unsupervised, you pay them a monthly “retainer”, and once a month they do your body fat and muscle mass measurements, do a fitness test and set you up with a new program. I am now moving on from general fitness, into the world of hypertrophy – building up muscle strength and mass. This really is starting to push my limits, and is really inspiring me to challenge myself. Six weeks in and big changes are happening already. I am slowly starting to bulk up, and my strength has increased considerably. I’m starting to pump weights that really surprise me, and every time I think to myself “I’ll never get through more than one set at this weight”…I get up to three sets. Limitations really are in your mind. I am also now doing what I said I would never do – supplements. I use a pre and post workout amino acid supplement, and mid-workout boost supplement. Why…well, I’ve been researching, and the consensus seems to be that they are beneficial. And they really do give you a boost, aid the prevention of muscle fatigue during my workout, and help with muscle recovery after. They only seem to last for the period of my workout, so no lingering affects. However, I had stipulations; they couldn’t overtax my system, had to have some ongoing body fat burning benefit – called thermogenesis – and no side effects. I have around 8% body fat that I shouldn’t have, and it is sitting around my stomach and hips – typical male – and just will not go. Time to get the big guns out! My goal for this summer is to appear at the pool in Speedos, and not feel self-conscious. I don’t feel the need to have a six or eight-pack abs, but I would like a “V” shape, and a flat stomach. I feel that goal is within reach at this time.

So at this point in time, where do we sit? Our diet continues, but no longer to lose weight. It is now being used to maintain it. We have lived low fat/low sugar/portion-controlled for a couple of years now, and it has been very successful, and easy to maintain. With my new routine there will be some changes as I need to increase my calorie intake to about 2000 kilojoules a day so the body gets enough energy for the now tougher workouts, and I need to add in more fruit – I have never been a big fruit eater – so have started adding bananas and berries into my diet. I look great. I’m trim, have full flexibility, heaps of energy, and some body definition now. The cholesterol meds have gone bye-bye, one of the great benefits of being fit and healthy. I am now hopefully looking forward to a progressive ageing that will see me avoiding most, if not all, of the illnesses and crippling conditions currently associated with getting older. No walking sticks, Zimmer frames or mobility carts for this boy! I intend to be still pumping out sets of squats when i’m 80 – just watch me!

What would I recommend to other guys my age? If you smoke…STOP! If you have a bad diet…FIX IT – it’s not rocket science. Don’t think that walking the dog is all you need to do. You need to exert some energy! you need to sweat! If you are over-weight, do something about it! Look at the long-term, not the short. It is not about having the body beautiful, though it helps. It is about being fit and healthy, and prolonging your prospects for good health and wellbeing as you progress through the years. Don’t think, like I did, that looking fit and healthy is just for the young. The flow-on affects of a good exercise routine and good diet are endless, both in your public and private life. Look good and feel good – you’ll thank yourself for it

Tim Alderman
Copyright 2013

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