Diary of a Gym Monkey #2

Well, it’s been a while since my last gym-related post, and as I’ve been cracking on with it for just over a month now, I though an update was in order!

It’s still working really well, and I’m getting into the swing of the exercises much more now. Also, I’ve hit upon the right weights, and am getting to the stage where I’m considering upping them for certain exercises, which is fantastic. This can be seen in my weight gain- I’ve put on about 4lbs since starting the programme, increasing my weight from 11st 1lb, to 11st 5lbs. That’s about 72kg or 159lbs. This is the heaviest I have been in a while, and I’m really pleased to be seeing results. Previously, I had been hitting a barrier at about 11st 3lbs, and not being able to go beyond it. Breaking this plateau is a real achievement for me, and I’m very pleased with the progress. I’m not yet sure how much more weight I want to gain… depends if I can keep the gains lean. If I start losing definition, I’ll probably stop trying to gain the weight.

The only other major news in my exercise regime is that I have been much better with my cardio than in the early weeks of the progamme. I am much more committed to getting one cardio session for every three workouts (using the ratio of 2 ab sessions: 1 cardio session after each workout). I have been doing interval sprints on the treadmill, for 25 minutes per cardio session. this breaks down into 3 minutes 30 seconds of slow jogging/walking uphill on a steep incline, followed by 1 minute 30 of sprinting, on a flat incline. The advantages of this cardio approach are:

  1. it doesn’t take up too much time
  2. it compliments the intense nature of the workouts that precedes them
  3. it is well-suited to me if I wanted to get back into football, as it keeps my sprint speed up (if not my endurance…)
  4. it’s awesome for trimming any excess fat!

I have noticed the difference, feeling fitter and getting leaner too. Moreover, I have recently acquired a secondhand road bike, which will encourage me to get out and about even more, improving my cardio further.

I have used it a couple of times, and am keen to persist with it as I am still getting used to the drop-handles. It’s much lighter than my other bike, which is still a very decent mountain bike, but this is more suitable for the road and longer distances. The only problems I’ve had, due to my inexperience on road bikes, is that I’m not yet used to the way you lean forwards more, and tilt your head upwards. Currently it’s causing me a bit of neck pain, but as I become more accustomed to the different riding style, I’m sure that will go away. I cycled to the gym this morning, and did the 5 minutes drive in about 10-12 minutes, which I was pretty chuffed with! That’s probably faster than my Nan would drive it…!

So, all in all, things are still going strong! If you’re reading this and starting a new exercise regime, or have decided to bring fitness into your life too, please feel free to leave a comment and let me know how your project is going too!

Advertisements

Latitude 2012

Before you read any further, I have a quick request- please open up a new tab and watch this video as you read this post. It’s a song called “Home” by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. It’s one of my songs-of-the-festival, and what makes it even better is that I had NEVER HEARD OF THIS BAND BEFORE LATITUDE. I was persuaded to see it by two very keen friends, Lily and Anna. I turned up knowing literally nothing about them, what to expect, and they were fantastic. So, for me, this is going to become one of those tracks that whenever I hear it from now on, I will be whisked back to Henham Park, Southwold, and the Latitude Festival 2012. Which was amazing. I hope you enjoy the song, and can imagine the whole description a bit more readily with their gorgeous folky charm playing along in the background. I won’t do a journal-type entry.. it would take far too long. Instead, I want to try and give you a taster of the weekend.

Image courtesy of http://www.midaspr.co.uk/

Intro

As I mentioned in the last post, this past weekend was my first festival, and I was very excited to see what it was all about. I was going with a very close friend of mine, who I have known for very many years, called Fred.He had asked me to come along weeks ago, as a kind of wave off before I abandon him for sunny California. It was going to be his car, his tent and his company that I would benefit from over the weekend. Fred was meeting up with his girlfriend Lauren and three of their uni friends there as well. Moreover, a girl I have lived with for the first two years of uni, Lily, was there with her bestie Anna, who we would also share the festival with. I bumped into many more people besides, which is one of the good things about a local festival which can still pull in people you know at university because the line-up is so strong.

The festival actually began with shopping: Fred went and bought the tent on Thursday morning before picking me up. Typical of us in all honesty. We then had a bit of a fiasco gathering last minute purchases from Tescos and Argos-

  • baby wipes (SO glad these were included, they are invaluable during festivals),
  • chewing gum
  • the infamous “jizzy” doughnuts that Fred managed to smear all over himself within about 10 minutes of purchasing, covering himself in stains that would eventually look like… you get the picture
  • some cheap watches that we could use over the weekend if our phones ran out of battery

After gathering all these we belatedly left for Southwold. Before beginning properly, apologies in advance, but there will be very few, if any, of my own photographs of this weekend. I didn’t dare take my camera with such a bad weather forecast! Fortunately, Anna did take her SLR and captured some great snaps of the weekend, which will be dotted throughout this post. All credit is due to her for them though. Disclaimer done.

The buffoons Ben and Fred (Anna’s photo)

The considerably more photogenic Lily and Anna (Anna’s photo)

Arrival

We parked up in an expansive field, and committed to doing only one trip with ALL our possessions and supplies. We had all our gear, a brand spanking new 6-man tent (yes, for two of us, we planned to live like Kings and it’s lucky we did, as will become apparent!), and a chair. My own personal booze stash included two crates of Budweiser (the lager of the Kings in my opinion, so fitting for the high hopes we’d invested in our palace-like tent) and a bottle of vodka. Heavy stuff for a 30-40 minute walk/shuffle to the campsite. We found a spot near some food vans, a water station, and toilets- very convenient. OR so it seemed…

The Night of the Living Rain

The first night was wet. VERY wet. We awoke to a river of mud outside our tent. We had set up at the edge of the block of tents, and the path to the toilets was right past our tent. We were not to know this when setting up, as it had been lush, green grass when we’d assembled the tent. It was fine, but we did suffer people tripping over our guy lines and stepping on the edges of the tent until the early hours as they fumbled their way to the toilet. However, waking up to a river of mud OUTSIDE your tent isn’t so bad… waking up to a pool of water INSIDE your tent is just plain horrendous… as poor Lily and Anna were to find out after the the Night of the Living Rain. So I awoke to a river of mud, and a very early text from the girls, asking to be rescued! Fred was good enough to take them into our tent-palace, so our little group doubled after one day!

The river that appeared outside our tent (Anna’s photo)

What became of the Tent from Hell, which flooded poor Lily and Anna: a diversion to stop muppets standing on our bloody tent (Anna’s photo)

Music

Highlights-

  • Bon Iver

Magical performance, voice and atmosphere. Simple but effective stage set-up, moody lighting, and all round a brilliant show. ‘Skinny Love’ and ‘Flume’ were, of course, particularly good. Goosebump-inducing in fact.

  • Elbow

They played some absolute anthems, my favourite of which had to be ‘Grounds for Divorce’, followed by ‘One Day Like This’. They got the crowd to sing along and were very involved with the crowd, which was good to see. Their sound is well-suited to large arenas and festivals, and their performance was probably the second highest attended overall (Bon Iver being first I think).

  • Lana Del Rey

She blew my mind, as I knew she would. Excuse the brief descent into pure, unadulterated adoration, but she was nothing but gorgeous. In terms of voice AND appearance. She’s had a lot of criticism for being immobile on stage, particularly after her performance on Saturday Night Live. However, this was an ungrounded accusation based on her Latitude performance. Her music isn’t exactly “lets all jump up and down, dance around and mosh” anyway. But she did dance, in a sultry, sexy, very 50s kind of way, fitting for her music. She also got off the stage to get up close and personal with the crowd. At one point, as the stage was outside but covered by a circus-style tent, she lit up a cigarette and trailed it behind her in a graceful manner similar to Marilyn Monroe or Audrey Hepburn. It was a great performance because she captured such nostalgia and beauty in a relatively short set. ‘Video Games’, ‘Blue Jeans’ and ‘This is what makes us girls’ were excellent.

Lana’s performance that attracted criticisms. I just think she was nervous, bless her. Leave her alone.
  • Alabama Shakes

I’ve got a soft spot for most things Southern from the US, and Alabama Shakes are definitely one of them. Think Kings of Leon, with a very powerful (more comprehensible), soul/blues-influenced, female lead singer. Her energy and aggression were astonishing, verging on the psychotic. The Southern rock sound was lush, with fuzzy guitar distortion and blues riffs. A perfect festival sound. Standing there with my Budweiser, it was one of the best times of the weekend and the inner American studies student in me was loving it. “Hold on” was an absolute corker.

Pleasant surprises-

  • Lianne La Havas

I hadn’t heard any of her music before Latitude, but her voice was terrific. Her joy at playing in front of what was clearly her largest gig so far was plain to see. This really enhanced the performance as she was in that lovely stage of her career where she’s not yet become a massive name, and she’s still a bit overwhelmed by it all, or so it seemed from her performance.

  • Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros

As I mentioned in the Intro, these were one of the best parts of the weekend. The band has 10 members, and can loosely be described as a very folky, up-beat, indie rock band. They’re not Southern, but they sounded Southern-influenced to me. What made them so memorable was the manic, Jesus-like lead singer, who seemed off his face on something as soon as he came onto the stage. He was shaking all over the stage, climbing up on rails, dancing with us in the crowd (I looked into his eyes from about a foot away), and occasionally muttering something completely incomprehensible between songs. But another memorable aspect was his relationship to the secondary singer, whom he is actually in a relationship with. Her voice was also very strong. Their on-stage performance was overflowing with the emotion between them ,and the whole band seemed like a large group of very close friends performing together, rather than the slightly more formal performances of other, big-name bands like Elbow or Bon Iver.

Disappointments-

  • Laura Marling

I had quite high hopes for Laura Marling, as many people had really praised her music, but I felt a bit let down. She didn’t really seem to make much effort, or appear to be that bothered. Moreover, whilst she definitely has a good voice, personally I’m not sure it was that memorable or unique. Particularly in comparison to Alabama Shakes, Bon Iver or Lianne La Havas.

  • Paul Weller

Bear in mind this man had been given the glory spot- last day, last performance, main stage. The moody, arrogant, obnoxious swine didn’t even say hello to the crowd as he came on stage, not deeming the communication worthy of one so legendary as himself. Additionally, he hardly spoke to the crowd in between songs. In my opinion, I think he’s got a serious ego problem, because in all honesty he’s just a teeny tiny bit irrelevant nowadays, truth be told. Finally, whilst he is definitely a tight musician, and his band were also good musicians, his own new stuff was incredibly generic and uninspiring. I think the festival could have done with a more fitting farewell, because Paul Weller did not do the rest of the talent that had preceded him justice AT ALL.

Comedy

  • Phill Jupitus

A regular captain on the excellent “Never Mind the Buzzcocks” show, he was hilarious at Latitude. His show was largely based on being a 50 year old father, dealing with a 16 year old daughter bringing home her boyfriend for the first time. For a “sleep-over”… It was a very funny sketch, but I have to admit he did cut pretty close to the wire with some of the gags! I found them very funny, but I could see some younger families slowly, but determinedly edging out of the Comedy Tent. They had fair warning before the performance, so it was on their own heads really. He came across as brutally honest, stating himself that at 50, he no longer really gave a toss how he was received. This shouldn’t be mistaken for arrogance at all- I just think his philosophy was: “you guys have came to see me, I’m here to say what I’ve got to say, like it or lump it amigos”. Which I actually admired if I’m honest.

  • Doc Brown

Ex-rapper and comedian Doc Brown was also very funny. He was very clever in swapping smoothly between spoken comedy and raps. His ‘My Proppa Tea’ sketch/rant was excellent, even if I had caught it on Youtube before. Anyone who can rap about a cupper, and make it that funny, is a very gifted comedian.

Festival Living

I’m a bit wary at how long this post is becoming, but there was so much going on over the four days that I want to get as much of it off my chest as possible. Here are some factors to the four days which stick out in my mind:

  1. Toilets: nobody expects great things from festival toilets, I certainly didn’t. But actually, they were better (in a very loose sense of the word) than I expected. What made them better than my previous assumptions were basically that they actually flushed, and weren’t those horrendous portaloos which come with the risk of being tipped over, onto the door if you’re exceptionally unlucky.
  2. Showers: again, my expectations weren’t high, but they were warm and that’s all that mattered really. They were long metal stalls, and the initial image which popped into my head is probably the most fitting description of them: being disinfected during the Foot and Mouth epidemic that hit us a few years ago.
  3. Food: there was a real range of foods available at Latitude, which was brilliant. My favourite meal was a delicious pie with mash and gravy, proper stuff that was perfect for filling you up. Otherwise, the variety went from oysters and bowls of steamed mussels, through burritos and chilli con carne, all the way to chinese takeaway and the standard burger/hot dog and chips! The only slight downside was the price… you could expect to fork over £6-£9 per meal. I got around this by limiting myself to one decent evening meal per day, and sticking to Pringles and a tin of soup/spaghetti hoops and sausages for lunch, which I had brought myself.
  4. Alcohol: Again, this was very expensive, and the choice was nowhere near as ripe as with the food. The only two drinks I reluctantly paid for were Tuborg lager and Magners Cider. They cost about £4.40 for the pint… with an extra £3 deposit for the plastic glass! Over £7 for your initial pint was a bit steep. My advice would be to bring as much as you can yourself, and develop a way of smuggling stuff into the main arena. My smuggling technique of choice involved the causal anorak-round-the-waist with as many Buds as possible in the pockets/ tucked into the back of my shorts. Worked a charm for me!
  5. Zany: This was Fred’s most frequently used word over the four days, and it always came with mild to overt sarcasm and a smirk. But it is probably the best word for all the wackyness that emerged at the festival. I’m pretty sure I witnessed one guy wrapped up and sewn into a tapestry at one point, which had to be the height of zany over the weekend. But the fashion is exactly what you’d expect, if you’ve ever caught glimpses of Glastonbury highlights etc. I think it’s cool to see all the individuality and creativity though.
  6. Cleanliness: One thing which astounded me was just how good some people managed to look on the penultimate and last days. I felt I did alright for the weekend, and still felt relatively human at the end of it. This was despite the mud and single, mid-weekend shower (grim, but realistic guys- some people didn’t even bother with the one!) However, some people looked positively angelic during it all, and I’ll be damned if I know how they managed it! Maybe it’s because a large amount of people around us suffered the mud and lack of hygiene worse than others, making those weathering it well seem even cleaner, but still! Kudos to those who managed it, boys and girls alike! However, as far as photos go, I liked this one a lot, and think we did ok by the looks of it!

Anna, me and Lily (Anna’s photo)

So all in all, I had a fantastic time, and am very glad that I chose to attend Latitude 2012. I would even dare to say that I’d go again! The music, the people, the atmosphere and everything are all so enjoyable, I think everyone should at least try it once. Now I’m going to head off and wash my hiking boots for the fourth time… in two days!

Diary of a Gym Monkey #1

It’s the eve of Latitude, so I thought I’d make a quick update on progress with the Blast WorkoutThat’s the name of my new summer gym programme, shown to me by a friend who works at my local gym. He’s not only my trainer as such, but he’s also using the same programme. This is good as we can compare notes; and he can offer me advice if certain parts don’t work, or alternative approaches are better etc. In a way, it’s also satisfying to know that someone else is suffering just as much as I am on it!!

This first week (or so) has been very challenging, and the programme is VERY demanding. It’s an approach that I’ve never used before. Rather than being high weight and low repetitions, or the opposite, low weight and high reps, this actually takes elements of both. One of the main characteristics of the programme is starting lighter on higher reps, warming the muscles, but ensuring that you increase the weight and still hit comparatively high reps. For example one exercise on the chest workout goes as follows:

Decline Chest Press

Reps: 12     10     8     6     8     10     12

This is based on pyramid training. You increase the weight with every set up until the set of 6 reps, then work back down again. The difficult part is, if you select a challenging weight to begin with, by the time your on the 6 reps, you’re strength is fading, and lowering the weight back down again is breaking into endurance training.

Effectively, you’re exercising the muscles, then just pushing them above and beyond fatigue.What’s more, each workout tends to have 5-6 exercises, but the penultimate or last exercise is just a HUGE amount of reps, done in as many sets as it takes you. But boy oh boy, you HAVE to hit those reps. These can be as high as 150 reps of a certain exercise. At the end of such an exhausting workout, when your muscles are trembling and you can hardly pick yourself up off the bench, forcing yourself to hit 150 reps, eventually chipping away at it with 4 or 5 reps a time, is hell. So overall, it’s a bit of a killer really.

It’s a 5 day programme, so I workout on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with the last two being rest days. It breaks down as follows:

Monday- Chest and abs

Tuesday- Back and cardio

Wednesday- Shoulders and abs

Friday- Arms and cardio

Saturday- Legs and abs

Thursday and Sunday should really, more accurately, be described as “pain days“, but that’s besides the point. I’m not going to sit and type up all of the programmes as a) it would take ages and there’s only so much flexibility with writing these blog posts, and b) it’d just bore you with all those numbers and tables that wouldn’t really mean much. Instead, I thought I’d describe some of the high/lowlights and summarise what I’ve found out on the first week or so of being on the Blast Workout.

  1. I can tell this programme works, and I apologise for being so brutally honest, as I sweat like a pig when I do it. It’s not a pretty fact, but it just goes to show that it’s challenging and it’s doing the job! Which is great as far as I’m concerned.
  2. I swear I started to feel gains and get leaner from very early on in the programme. Maybe this is to do with the fact that it’s a big change in workout style, shocking my body. Still, I’m not complaining about that! Seeing results so quickly is fantastic!
  3. Linked to the above, as it is such a different style of exercise, I’m going through a phase of “finding my feet” (or shoulders, or chest, or back or whatever… you get the point). As the reps and weight increases are so different from my previous programme, I’m still sounding out what weight I should be using at the start. It’s just a stage I have to go through, but I know my own strength, and what is a challenge and what’s just plain unachievable. So far, I usually hit on a good balance between something I can actually complete, while still facing a challenge after the second or third time of doing each workout. I haven’t gotten some exactly perfect yet, but that will come with time.
  4. It’s less frustrating to over-estimate the initial weight, rather than under-estimate. It’s a new programme and I’m still very enthusiastic about it, and this optimism carries me through exercises that are perhaps a bit too heavy. Instead, it’s when I under-estimate and find that the weight has been a bit too low that I get a bit annoyed with myself. Again, I’m sure this will be rectified with time as the weeks pass by.
  5. Exercises that are a bit different from what I’m used to are causing me a few problems. They’re hitting muscles unused to being exercised, or hitting them in ways that they aren’t used to. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s all part of a new programme, but it has screwed me over a couple of times on rest days. In particular, the leg abductor machine has left me hobbling around for the last couple of days. Imagine sitting down, back up straight, legs closed together in front of you. The machine at my gym operates as if you were to open up your legs and close them together again, but with the obvious addition of weight and resistance. It’s a strange exercise, because if you have fairly strong legs, but haven’t done leg abductors before, you can operate with pretty heavy resistance. But as it’s a very targeted exercise, and not a familiar action in everyday life, the next day you are going to know about it! A couple of days ago, I was sitting there, all smug and proud, doing these damn exercises on nearly the maximum weight on the machine, only to find myself limping around like a fool for the next two days!! I’m still feeling it three days later! Another thing to adapt to I suppose!
  6. The workouts take less time, as ideally you give yourself 30-40 seconds rest in between sets. This means that a workout can be done in 35-50 minutes time, which is very handy. This depends on how busy the gym is and how accessible equipment/ weights are at the time.

To summarise, the new exercise programme is working a treat. It’s challenging, different, showing results after a very short time, and it doesn’t take up too much time! Anyway, I should really go finish off my packing for the festival tomorrow- wish me luck!

Pre-Latitude Excitement!!

I am SO excited for this Thursday, when I will be heading across the border in into Suffolk (boo!) for this year’s Latitude Festival!

This will be my first festival, and I can’t wait to experience it. I can’t believe I’ve not been to one yet, but so many of my friends have raved about Latitude/ V Festival / Reading, I felt I had to try it out for myself. I’m going to get the stereotypical British part of this post out of the way now, complaining about the weather, but it does look set to be pretty awful for the four days. But that’s all part of it right!?! Sloshing around for four days, caked in mud, blood, and beer, eating more Pringles than you thought possible, and finishing the weekend looking like you’ve trekked the Andes rather than been to a festival! However, I’m going into it with a positive mental attitude: I enjoy camping, some very good friends of mine will be there, I’m sure I’ll meet more great people too, everybody is going to be just as grim and disgusting as everyone else by the end of it, and, of course, there’s a strong line-up.

These are the bands/artists I’m most excited about seeing (hopefully not too many will clash!):

  1. Bon Iver
  2. Elbow
  3. Lana Del Rey (just as a brief aside, I’m in love this woman, and may well propose to her this weekend, keep an eye on the coverage)
  4. Bat for Lashes
  5. Alabama Shakes (only just started listening to them, but I love the sound of stateside Southern rock)

But Latitude isn’t just about the music, no no. There’s also a comedy tent where numerous comedians perform, some of whom I’m also keen to see:

  1. Tim Minchin
  2. Jack Dee
  3. Greg Davies (Inbetweeners teacher, what a hero)
  4. Phill Jupitus

So all in all, I think this coming weekend is going to INCREDIBLE. There will be lots to talk about after it, so I’m sure I’ll give a post or two over to describing the Latitude antics next week!

Diary of a Gym Monkey #0

So I’m back in sunny Norfolk, and the start of the holidays have been brilliant! Since being back I have:

  1. Successfully unpacked- you would not believe the HUGE amounts of crap that I brought back from university.
  2. Extracted my 2nd year results from my department- the words “blood” and “stone” come to mind, but it was worth it, apparently hard work does pay off eventually!
  3. Gotten back into the swing of driving- after several weeks away from home, I was feeling a bit rusty, but luckily driving is a bit like riding a bike, you pick it up quickly when you get back on, so to speak.
  4. Ranked 2nd place in a pub quiz at the Buck Inn, Norwich- a group of friends and I entered their very first quiz night. It was meant to be general knowledge but the 40 questions were disproportionately nautical-based… all seems a bit fishy really (I am SO sorry for that, but it had to be done).
  5. Braved a night out in Great Yarmouth- it’s not such a bad time when you’re with the right group of people, but luckily I was with a bunch of good friends so that was enjoyable.
  6. Started another summer painting- I’m doing another oil on beach wood. It will be of Southwold Pier, for my Aunt and Uncle, and based on this photo. (it’s outside in the garden, having the base layer dried by the glorious sunshine, at this very minute).

So all in all, I am LOVING being back home right now. However, I feel a bit bad that I haven’t yet gotten round to recording my newly focused exercise regime, which I mentioned in an earlier post. Now that I’m a bit more settled in, I don’t have an excuse, and will put it off no longer!

I have called this post “#0” for a reason. Basically, I have consulted with my mate who works in my local gym, and he has introduced me to a new exercise regime that I had planned to undertake. I can tell you now, it is very challenging, and completely different to any other programme I have ever done. But I want to wait a full week before I give any comments on it. Instead, this post is going to give a bit of background to the last few weeks of my exercise routine, so you can understand the base I’m building upon. This can be divided into two stages: the Pre-Exam Phase and the Summer Transition Phase.

Pre-Exam Phase

This is a pretty vague time frame, but essentially it covers the last term of my second year of university. This was a busy time for me, as during the 10 week term, I had essay deadlines and Spanish exams in the first 3-4 weeks, then the revision period (during which time I had lots of UCSB and US embassy business to sort), finishing up with my exams a couple of weeks ago. As such, I wanted to be able to exercise without eating into my revision schedule or whatever too much, because I had other more important things to prioritise.

As a result, my programmes tended to reflect this. Prior to the Pre-Exam Phase (so during the first and second terms of university), I would have 4-5 sessions per week, with muscle groups put together so the primary and secondary muscles were different. If that’s mumbo jumbo, let me explain. When you exercise one of the bigger muscle groups, like the back, you still exercise another support muscle group, in this case, the biceps. Therefore, in terms 1 and 2, when I exercised my back, I would also exercise my triceps (because my biceps were already being exercised by the back exercises). This would work the opposite way as well: when exercising my shoulders (with triceps as the support muscle group), then I would work the biceps as well. Moreover, as you are hitting separate, unrelated groups, you can make effective  use of the time because even after a heavy exercise on the main muscle group (the back), your triceps will have been resting and so you can still work the secondary muscle group efficiently (in theory). This is a pretty standard workout configuration, but as you focus on 1 or 2 individual muscle groups, this requires more visits to the gym. A typical workout could be the following:

  1. Chest Press
  2. Hammer Curls
  3. Flys
  4. 21s
  5. Dumbbell Pullover
  6. Reverse Bicep Curls

This wasn’t really suitable for the Pre-Exam Phase because I had other priorities, like I said. During this phase, I was aiming to make fewer visits to the gym, about 3-4 (4 at the most), but instead, do workouts that encompassed much more compound moves and attempt to hit nearly all the main muscle groups in every workout. Therefore, I would normally start with a compound move that worked several muscles (like squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, press-ups etc) then do some exercises that worked around them. Moreover, I tended to do fewer exercises but do them in a manner that made them challenging. For example, by reducing the rest time between sets, or emphasising the negative action of an exercise (this just means being slower on the lowering phase than the lifting phase). Moreover, I would finish each workout with a cardio or ab session, alternating between the two with every session. The aim of this type of workout was not to make gains as such, rather I just wanted to keep my fitness levels, tone, weight and size at a similar level. Whilst I was fairly successful in achieving this, it is a bit frustrating not to make any real progress in terms of physical appearance or strength gains. Still, it was interesting to use so many compound moves, some of which I’d never really incorporated into my workouts (notably squats and deadlifts had never featured in any of my workouts before!) A typical workout might be the following:

  1. Squats
  2. Wide-grip pull-ups
  3. T Press-up
  4. French Press
  5. Plank

Summer Transition Phase

This was the layover time between finishing my exams and heading back home. I essentially went back to the same workout structure that I had in term 1 and 2 (in the pre-pre-exam phase!!), but changed the way I enacted the workout. I used a method called hypertrophy drop sets, which are a fantastic way to gain muscle relatively quickly. This involves doing about 4 exercises per session, 2 each for the primary and secondary groups (back and triceps / chest and biceps etc). However, what makes it a good workout is you aim for 5 sets of 8-10 reps, of a pretty high weight, but the fifth set you do straight after the fourth set, with a lower weight. Hence the “drop” sets. That last set is always challenging if you’ve been using an adequately heavy weight for the first 4 sets, but it feels great and because it’s only 4 exercises, you can be in and out of the gym in no time. Again, I was just fitting abs and cardio around the workouts, with only a slight change to my cardio. Instead of going for 30-40 minutes on the tredmill or X trainer at a steady, but medium pace; I would go for shorter more intense interval training sessions. These included 20 minute sessions, where I would alternate between 1 minute of fast sprinting, and 3 minutes of jogging to recover, 5 times, with a short warm down at the end of this for about 3-5 minutes. An example of a hypertrophy drop set workout could be the following:

  1. Chest Press / Incline Press / Decline Press (alternate)
  2. EZ Bar Curls / Standing Curls
  3. Flys / Incline Flys / Decline Flys (alternate)
  4. Hammer Curls / 21s

This felt great to be back in the game and training in a more focused and challenging way, especially as I felt myself getting stronger very quickly. It also feels good to change your exercise regime because your body has muscle memory, so it gets used to the same old exercises. Eventually the exercises no longer challenge your muscles and you plateau. This website explains it very well, and gives some tips on how to avoid it. The best way to avoid muscle memory is to change up your exercise regime every few weeks, forcing your body to adapt to new challenges.

Diet and weight

That’s where I was until a few days ago when I began my new workout regime, which I will describe to you and give my initial impressions of in the near future. The last thing I think I should mention is my weight and diet. When I say “diet”, I don’t mean a weight loss programme, in fact I’m trying to do the opposite and gain mass. I’ve always eaten relatively healthily, and have had an athletic/slim build since I was about 16, but my main vices include:

  1. ALCOHOL- cannot emphasise this enough, but alcohol is the numero uno faltering point of many peoples’ diets. Just google the calories of some of your favourite drinks, you might be a bit horrified, I warn you. especially if you go on £20-30 nights out with many many drinks, the calories tally up.  
  2. Kebabs- Linked to the above. The formula for me on a night out can be summarised like this: More Drink + Later Night = Increased chance of Kebab purchase. Again, they are SO bad for you. Large Doner kebabs have AN ENTIRE WINE GLASS OF FAT IN THEM. Just bear that in mind on your next night out, I know I will!
  3. Cheese- very fatty but so yummy.
  4. Doritos- every time my Dad and I watch a film together, we can easily get through a large bag of these. Not good. Especially with the amounts of DVDs we watch…
But this summer I plan to keep a better diet and try and reduce some of these vices. I won’t eliminate them, because I’m not trying to lose weight, and it’s good to have some treats to look forward to. Otherwise, I plan to have a lean protein based diet, with lots of tuna, chicken, turkey and other high protein/low fat meats, without completely ignoring the beneficial red meats. I will also use some basic supplements, namely the wonderfully cheap Impact Whey Protein provided by myprotein.com. I usually take this after every workout, sometimes as part of an extra meal during the day, and before I go to bed. I use this to help gain mass, but also the additional protein is used to help repair muscles more quickly, aiding recovery. I.E, I don’t want to be hobbling around like a man beyond my years, bent over double because my back still hasn’t recovered 3 days after a workout. Not cool for a guy of 20.

Luckily, I weighed myself just after my exams so I could list my starting weight  whenever I got round to this first post. After exams I was: 10 stone 13 lbs, or just under 70kgs. That’s pretty light, but I put that down to a lighter salad / oily fish / fruit and veg-based diet that I had during my exams, in an attempt to fuel my brain. As Tesco says in it’s adverts, “every little helps”! Also I wasn’t drinking very much during exams (boy-oh-boy did we sort that problem out when that last exam finished up though). I hope to gain about half a stone by the end of summer, as I have been at 11 stone 4/5lbs before when exercising properly, and want to make advances on that figure.

So there we are! That’s the base I hope my new programme will let me build upon!