Just over three months ago, an email from the MH team popped into my inbox, titled: “Are you a man? Do you want to change your life?” My initial thought was, “Yes, I am, and no, I don’t.” I have a wonderful wife, two beautiful kids with another on the way, plus a crippling mortgage. I was living the dream.
It’s just that, as I neared my mid-forties, the day-to-day reality of that life was less dream and more drudgery. As the treadmill of a busy life runs on, you come to the realization that your best days are probably behind you.
Whenever I played rugby for my old-boys team, I’d notice I was a little bit slower than the time before, a little bit more prone to injury. My two girls are bundles of energy, but my own energy levels were being sapped at a rapid rate. I worried that number three might finish me off for good. So, I replied to that email and told the truth – my fitness, my health and my sense of self all needed serious work. Yes, I did want to change my life. What’s more, I was ready to put in the hard graft.
Callum Melly, a physical therapist at Third Space in the UK’s Soho, quickly established the enormity of the challenge ahead of us. Before we stepped onto the gym floor, he gave me a comprehensive body composition analysis: I weighed 172 pounds, of which more than 37 was fat mass, with a body fat percentage of 22 percent. Not great. Callum then took a look at my strength levels and movement ability. He soon worked out what I already knew: that I had no core strength whatsoever, was struggling with a bad back from a lifetime of sport, and my posture was screwed from spending too long at a desk. I had assumed I’d be able to pick up where I’d left off 10 years ago, but I could barely lift even the lightest weights. Callum handed me some 15-pound ones, and I was wobbling all over the place. I was once supposed to be a decent sportsman, not a weedy old man. After that first week, I was unable to raise my arms over my head. My shoulders were so sore that I couldn’t shampoo my hair (what’s left of it).
Trust The Process
Just as Callum promised, the pain of the first few weeks subsided. Honestly, it does. I just hadn’t ever made it that far. In the gym, I was suddenly pushing more weight (barbell rowing 110 pounds), and doing more reps. In week one, I could barely string together five pushups; by the time I was halfway through my transformation, I could perform sets of 10 comfortably. Most importantly, my cardiovascular health was improving: I was resting less between sets and finishing sessions strong, rather than dragging myself to the end.
By week eight, I could see significant changes to my body shape. I was walking taller and sitting more upright at my desk. Some simple stretching and mobility work I could do in front of the TV had eased my lower-back pain, which had been a constant worry for a decade.
I was becoming mentally resilient, too. On a family holiday to Ireland, which previously would have been an excuse to do nothing, I would kick-start my metabolism by running about 5 miles every morning. I knocked up a vegetable omelette for breakfast, took a protein shake out with me for lunch and had a decent dinner. And I wasn’t going hungry.
Before, I’d eat a bowl of cereal every morning and, by 10:30am, I’d be heading out to the shop for a bag of crisps and a bar of chocolate. Now, my breakfasts were getting me through a busy schedule and a midday gym session without fail. I didn’t fall ill once during the training, despite pushing my body to its limits. This was how it was supposed to be.
It’s no exaggeration to say that my life has changed. In just three months, I feel as though I’ve undone decades of decline. I feel more energetic, limber – more youthful, even. I have a more positive outlook on life. I sprint up the stairs like a youngster every day, after losing the excess weight I’d been carting around. Callum’s guidance has given me back my body. I can pick up Lego without having to use the furniture. I can lift more than I ever could in my prime, both in the gym and at home, carrying both kids around like I never used to. I’m
not just ready for number three but raring to go. I have an air of self-confidence that, I realize now, had been missing for a number of years, and my sleep and mental wellbeing have never been better.
I also understand a few things I didn’t before. How a few small changes can really make huge differences, from one-calorie oil spray and power-walking to the right clothing. That I don’t actually miss alcohol, but I could never give up chocolate. And that if you concentrate on the things you value most, such as your future health and wellbeing and the happiness of your family, you can do extraordinary things. For me, this doesn’t feel like the end of something. It’s the beginning.
The Workout – Week 1
The first of your five sessions sets the tone for a week of self-improvement with a lower-body workout that raises your metabolism and works your heart without the hard impact of pounding the pavement.
1. Trap Bar Deadlift
4 sets of 8 reps
You’ll feel the burn in your quads, but the deadlift will stimulate muscle across your whole body, increasing your resistance to aches and pains. Hinge at your hips to grip the bar (A). Keep your back straight as you stand tall, driving your hips forward and bringing the bar to your thighs (B). Return the bar to the floor under control. Rest for 90 seconds between sets.
2. Prowler Push
3 sets of 30m
After building your strength with deadlifts, put it to good use and torch some extra calories. Face a sled in a sprinting position, with your torso parallel to the ground. Grip the posts with your arms locked out (A), then march as fast as you can, raising your knees high (B). Get your heart pumping: this should feel like a run. Rest for 60 seconds before the next move.
3A. Dumbbell Step-Up
3 sets of 12 reps
This superset will help you sculpt your abs by challenging your balance with one-sided moves. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, step onto a box in front of you with your left leg, keeping your weight on your heel (A). Lift your right leg to stand tall on the box (B). Step down with your left leg. Switch sides for your next rep
3B. Bulgarian Split Squat
3 sets of 10 reps (each leg)
Don’t rest just yet. Face away from the box and take a step forward. Now, prop a foot on
top of it (A). Bend your front leg until your back knee touches the floor, keeping your spine straight (B). Hold for a second, then squeeze your glutes and drive yourself back up. Work both legs, then rest for 90 seconds before launching into your second set of step-ups.
4. Ab Wheel Roll-Out
3 sets of 15 reps
Lewis focused on his abs at the end of each workout to build new definition. Kneel with your feet crossed and off the floor, holding an ab roller below your shoulders, keeping your arms straight (A). Tense your abs as you roll forward, extending your arms. Try to get your torso as close to the floor as possible (B). Roll back in and repeat. Breathe in as you extend, and exhale as you roll in.
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