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Saturday morning workouts…

For the past 3 months or so, I’ve been engaged in a process of self-flagellation which has been cunningly disguised as ‘getting fit’. This self-flagellation takes place in a park in Birmingham come rain, shine or snow for about an hour every two or three days or so (to let the wounds heal, you see) and goes by the moniker “British Military Fitness” (BMF). Why have I decided to pursue this heinous path of self-improvement? Some background here might be useful.

When I was younger, I was (I’d like to think) quite fit. I competed in cross-country trials and field events for the Air Training Corp, even getting to represent Scotland in the cross-country event, and because I was perpetually late for almost everything I did, I had to run everywhere to make up the time. Combine this with cross-training and swimming, my teenage years had me as fit as a butcher’s dog. And then university started.

Now anyone who has gone to university will be well aware of the infamous “Fresher’s 15“, whereby the culinary independence which comes along with leaving home coincides with a rapid increase in your waistband. Couple this with not working out, drinking more often than not, and eating quite unhealthy foods, I put on a little bit of weight (not tons, but the effect was more on my fitness levels). In my 3rd year at uni, my flat-mate was very much into his health and fitness gig and got me into swimming. I started getting back into training more regularly and was working out almost every day on a combination of weight lifting, swimming and running. The weight was slowly coming off but not quick enough for my liking. I decided to start ‘calorie counting’ and lo-and-behold, the weight started coming off more noticeably. Huzzah! My aim was to get down to around 12 stone and I managed to get to 12 stone 2lb. Then I got annoyed and bored with all the counting and gave up on it. By now we’re kind of in the middle of my 1st year of my PhD. I then went to Tucson and all my hard work slowly started unravelling.

Now, it’s HOT in Tucson.I mean REALLY HOT. To give you an idea of just how hot it is, remember the heat-wave back in summer 2009 where the temperature got up to around 30 degrees celsius for a couple of weeks in a row? Ok, add about 10 degrees. During the summer, it’s like that in Tucson FOR THREE MONTHS STRAIGHT. No wonder that the place only got popular once air-conditioning was invented… Because it was so hot, I didn’t work out nearly as much as I wanted. I was also massively intimidated by the guys working out in the weights room that I barely even ventured into it with my pasty white and skinny Scottish body…

Fast forward about 6 months and I decided to go back to Tucson for a year. Of course, that simply compounded my unwillingness to work out and a great deal of red white, cheese and white bread was consumed during this time. I tried to work out a little bit, maybe once or twice a week, but it was nothing concerted or focused enough to make a dent in my belly. By now we’re coming up to around mid 2008 and my return to the UK meant that I had to focus on finishing my thesis in a timely manner, so my efforts were directed elsewhere. At this point I was probably about 14 stone or so, although I never really kept track.

Once I started my job at BCU, all of a sudden I had some ‘disposable income’ (to be honest, I had thought that the concept was a fairy-tale during my undergraduate and postgraduate years) which was primarily spent on curries and beer (not a good investment I might add). Add in trying to keep up with teaching, marking, admin, and research meant that (again) I was thrown back into not looking after myself very well. I ballooned to about 16 stone which meant that, according to traditional measures of weight, I was ‘obese’. This was not good. Something had to be done. The beers and curries stopped and I started watching what I was eating again. Things slowly started to get down to a manageable level, and I got down to around 15 and a half stone. Happy days, but I was still unfit and unwilling to pay £60 for the pleasure of working out in a soulless LA fitness or Virgin Active or what have you.

In July last year, I decided things had to change and signed up for a self-defense class and started watching what I was eating. I got down to 14st 10lb in December and stuck at that for about 4 months or so, mainly due to work commitments. And then, a revelation…

Now, when I was younger, I had always harboured dreams of joining the military (hence why I joined the ATC), and in April (where my weight had crept up to about 15st 2lb), I stumbled upon an advert for BMF. At last, here was a way I could vicariously live out my lost dream of being a super solider! I signed up and over the last 3 months have been back on the calorie counting (in gusto over the past month or so) and managed to get back down to where I was in December. The biggest thing, though, has been the improvement in my fitness levels. Whereas when I started I could barely run the length of myself, my fitness test last week saw me put in a 6min40sec for the 1500m run. Not Olympic standards by any stretch of the imagination, but a notable time nonetheless I thought.

The hardest thing has been trying to fit BMF and my self-defense class into everything else I have going on (when I say ‘everything else’, I really just mean ‘work’), but during the summer when I’m more or less just focused on my writing, I have a bit more free time in the evening which makes it easier to motivate myself to get off the couch and get down to the park. But it really is a great workout where I don’t have to think ‘ok, what exercise will I do next?’ Instead, there’s a burly military type chap shouting loudly how fast we should be running and to look forward to doing a press-up pyramid at the end of the workout (which involves 20 metre sprints, 10 press-ups, 20 metre sprint, 9 press-ups, repeat until 20 metre sprints, 0 press-ups. Vomiting is optional).

I’m trying not to let my jaded side win, the one that says ‘fitness is over-rated, let’s go to the pub’. But with the kind of progress I’m making, that voice is getting quieter and quieter…

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