Updated: Jul 28
Looking back I'm so proud of my fitness journey. In this post I share how I got into fitness, the barriers I encountered and how I'm still motivated to train after 10 years
It's 2008, I'm 15 and in my second year of Grammar school. This is the age myself and my friends started getting into drinking and partying. Nothing crazy, maybe 4 Fosters If we were lucky
We used to go to my friends Gran and Granddad's house in Fittleworth as they were super chilled about letting 8+ spotty teens in their house to drink beer, most likely vomit and play in their pool room
I was a shy fifteen-year-old. Older teens and adults were hard to talk to, but nothing compared to girls in my year.. especially the pretty ones
At this particular party, there were maybe 3 girls there, drinking WKD and chatting among themselves. I, of course, was keeping my distance as they had opposite reproductive organs which made them scarier than my mum confiscating Call of Duty
In 2008, Twilight was all the rage. Robert Pattison was the most desired man alive and his posters probably occupied more than 50% of all teen girls bedroom walls. Twilight was about a love triangle between 3 teens. Edward, a vampire. Bella, a human and Jacob, a werewolf..
Now apparently, I looked just like Jacob. For 2 solid years, girls, twilight fans and COMPLETE strangers used to call me Jacob
So, there I was at this party, sipping my tinny, making statements like "I've had 2 beers and I don't even feel a bit tipsy" and trying to play pool pissed as a fart, when one of the girls called me over
I remember being dead scared walking over. They had obviously been talking about me as they were clearly midway through a conversation
One of the girls looked at me and said "You should go to the gym. You look like a skinny version of Jacob"
As a 15 year old I was VERY skinny and pretty insecure about my physique. A pretty girl saying that in front of all my mates tore through me like a warm knife through low-calorie-spreadable-marg
I didn't say a lot in return to the girl, but I knew I had to start bulking up to improve my confidence, get the girls to notice me and finally get this puny frame a bit juicier
The first thing I did was to buy a Men's Health magazine. At 15 I had a paper round, I used to work every day for a measly £20 a week (I was on a pretty impressive hourly rate of £1.43 an hour)
So a Men's Health mag was a big investment for me. I remember reading that mag at least 4 times over, front to back, absorbing everything I physically could
As I couldn't afford equipment, pressups and crunches were my staple, but it wasn't long before I needed more. So I put money aside every week until one day I could afford a barbell set from Argos
Now, cheap weights are filled with sand, not iron like you get in gyms. Which therefore means the weights were f*cking enormous. My room turned into an assortment of crappy exercise equipment and cutout workouts from magazines
Every night I'd change my MSN status to "busy" and workout for 20 or so minutes in my bedroom, making sure to be super quiet if my parents were asleep below me
After every workout I'd rush to the bathroom to see if my body was changing.. it was a little bit, but I still looked nothing like the men on the front cover of the magazines, so I decided I needed to join the gym with my friends
Still earning little money I was anxious about joining a gym and paying a staggering £20 a month for a membership, but I rocked up none the less. The receptionist explained that I could pay monthly in cash to use the gym (possibly the worst business model imaginable) so as a cheeky teen, I came up with a plan
I paid for the first month and set myself the challenge of talking to EVERY member of staff whenever I was there. My plan was to get to know everyone and get everyone to like me
My month soon expired, and I couldn't afford another month so phase two of my plan was to be as confident as f*cking possible and just walk past all the staff
I used to walk in and call the receptionists name, shake the caretakers hand then go talk to the gym instructor for a few minutes before starting my session
I got a lot of: "Hey Ben" "Nice to see you Ben" "Have a good workout Ben"
But never any: "Can I see your membership card please?"
8 months. 8 months I got away with not paying a penny.
Dedication. Confidence and by being a bit of a d*ck I got away with it for 3/4 of a year. Of course I had to pay after that but the money I'd saved went towards more Men's Health mags and plenty more bodybuilding books
The books taught me that my diet had to change for me to start really developing the way I looked. I needed more protein and more calories.
At this stage in my life I'd just got a job as a Saturday boy in a butchers. I used to clean out the meat fridge, bleach the blood trays and wash up all the knives
So I was making a bit more dough. Me working in the butchers allowed me to do 2 things. 1. Get slightly cheaper meat (and stuff going out of date) and 2. Allow me to be able to afford to cook myself dinner
Very proudly at the age of 17 I told my mum that I would cook my own dinners of an evening. This way I could be in control of what I was eating and ensuring I was getting enough protein
A normal day for me would include me waking up past 9am, eating a fruit-bowl portion of porridge and walking 45 minutes to the gym. I'd train for about 90 minutes, walk back home for an egg sandwich and to study (bodybuilding, not college work)
Around the time of my 18th birthday I managed to give myself food poisoning from meatballs I hadn't cooked properly. I had all the regular symptoms of food poisoning and started to feel slightly better after a few days
But only for a week or so.. then they came back, and they never really seemed to go
I had constant stomach cramps, unbelievable tiredness and at my worst, would wake up roughly 15 times a night to go to the loo
Extreme tiredness controlled my life. I'd often wake up on the loo with a toilet roll between my head and the wall to be used as a pillow
My symptoms meant I couldn't eat and was loosing a lot of blood. I soon became ridiculously weak and my ribs were beginning to become more and more visible with everyday
Weekly Dr. visits and a lot of explaining that my symptoms weren't the side effect of a curry I'd eaten (!?!?!?!) and I eventually saw a specialist who prescribed me some pills as well as diagnosing me with the early stages of anorexia
The pills did nothing to help my condition. I was guinea-pigged at least 10 different drugs. I used to wake up dreading taking my pills. I had to set my alarm 15 minutes earlier just to give me the time to knock the pills back and not chuck them back up
I was chowing down a total of 14 pills a day that gave me heart palpitations and queasiness. And STILL I would walk off to work with my gym bag ready to-go
I have literally no idea how I did it. When my boss would leave the room I'd press my head up against the wall and try and hold back the tears. I couldn't let my boss see me. He'd send me home and I just couldn't let him down as he'd just taken me on as a Butcher apprentice
A day's eating would include a 1L bottle of Lucazade. Then on good days I'd go and attempt to train, on others I'd be in bed before 7pm
Finally after a whole year of hospital visits, the Dr admitted me and I was to stay there for a few nights while they tested some steroids on me
The Dr. confirmed that I had a condition called Ulcerative Colitis. An un-treatable condition in the colon which causes irritation, bleeding and lack of control
Laying in that bed I was the weakest I've ever been in my life, I'd be out of breath walking to the toilet and I had zero appetite.
The first night I was hospitalized my nurse took my bloods, popped a canular in my dehydrated arm and set me up on a steroid drip
My body accepted the medication and the Drs were confident it would help my condition
After dedicating years to studying and weight lifting, I was so determined to start eating and rebuilding my strength
Every morning around 7:30 am a busy nurse would burst into my room, fling open the curtains and say "tea or coffee" - Tea every time
This particular day I had jam on toast to accompany my polystyrene cup of tea. One bite, slow chew, two bites, even slower chew, third bite, stuffed.
I couldn't eat half a slice of toast without feeling full.
The one upside of being in a hospital bed is you can read ALL DAY. So alongside my driving theory I'd be getting stuck into various training books. I could spend as much time as I wanted broadening my knowledge and making a game plan for when I was better
Midway through a particularly good article on periodization training my busy nurse grabbed my used teacup and went to grab the half eaten slice of toast. "No" I said "I have to finish it"
She pulled her hand back and wrinkled her nose as she looked down at the stone-cold, soggy toast. "Okay darlin'" she said on the way out the door
I had to finish it. I had to start getting stronger
The drugs started talking control and I started to get my life back, along with my appetite. I knew that to get bigger and stronger I had to eat. So I made a game plan to eat 11 times a day
And I did exactly that. I'd have 5 meals, + 4 slices of toast before and after the gym, 2x protein shakes , a bowl of porridge between breakfast and lunch and I even used to snack on bread sticks WHILE I was training
I didn't care if I was the fattest person in the gym, I wanted to be big and muscular and I was terrified about being weak again
I became huge. I put on about 17kg in a couple of months. I was so chubby, but so happy
Fast forward to when I was 20 and I'd cut my weight down to a more realistic weight of about 78kg. I was on a cruise with my family
The cruise liners allow anybody to use a gym and to-do so, you don't need an induction. So you get a lot of people aimlessly bumbling around looking a bit lost
One day I was helping my sister get the position right on a machine when an elderly gentlemen asked If I worked there and If I could help him
I explained that I didn't work there but of course I could help. I set the man up on the machine and as I was just finishing up I noticed there was another man standing behind him, forming a que
"Can you show me how to use this machine please" he asked me. The first gentleman gave me a very sincere smile and I moved onto help the second use a cable crossover machine
At this point the instructor noticed someone needed help and started walking over. He walked over to the first gentleman, who had now finished on his machine "Can I help at all?" the instructor asked. "No I'm fine thank you, this young man has been showing me" the gentleman replied turning his head towards me "What does this machine do" he said pointing towards a hip abduction machine
I walked over to the machine explaining how the machine would benefit him and how to use it with a humongous, proud grin on my face
That evening as myself and my family were walking passed one of the ships many bars, I saw the gentleman walk out in a smart tux, holding presumably his wives hand
As he walked past he noticed it was me and gave me a gleaming smile. He didn't say anything, just smiled.
And it was like I was hit by a truck. I didn't want to be a f*cking butcher. I wanted to help people, just like that man
I knew i'd barely helped him, so I couldn't wait to start really impacting peoples lives
I signed up for an intensive personal training course, handed in my notice and in December 2014 I was a fully qualified trainer
And the rest is history
My fitness journey started 10 years. 10 years of my life I've been going to a gym and I'm still just as motivated as from day one
So what's my "secret"?
I found my why.
I found why I wanted to train, what training meant to me
I focused on the outcome, not the exhausting workouts
I knew exactly what I needed to do and focused on just making it happen
A workout wasn't a sweaty, tiring part of my day, it was me taking one step closer to that end goal
Without the grueling hours I wouldn't have skyrocketed in confidence, doubled my strength or put on all those kgs of muscle
So I'm reaching out to YOU. Find your why. If you don't know, then you won't stick to it
I wouldn't stick at a music degree if I didn't know what I wanted from it
Find your why and everything will fall into place. Everything will make sense.
If you've made it this far I want to say thank you very much for reading. This is a LONG post and one that's very personal to me
I wanted to illustrate just how important fitness and helping my clients is to me
Without fitness, I have literally no idea how I would have got through those tough times when I was in that hospital bed
God knows how I would have kept my morale up and stayed so positive