From fat to fit: Some things are worth getting out of bed for

After two months of gym attendance, our features writer experiences a revelation or two

DUBAI , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , MARCH 3  – 2018 :- Gym for the performers at the La Perle in Al Habtoor City in Dubai.  ( Pawan Singh / The National ) For Arts & Life. Story by Ann Marie
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Two months. I've been a gymnasium frequenter for two whole months, and a couple of mornings before my second (and final) weigh-in and measurement session at Iconic Fitness, I realise something has crept up on me. As I get out of bed, as bleary-eyed and bewildered as ever, it dawns on me that I am without pain. Not everywhere, just my back. I've no idea when it vanished completely, but it definitely has.

The problem with getting fit, or at least attempting to, is that it's not a project with an end date in sight – the exertion, the exhaustion, they never end. To stop is to go into reverse and that little fact is quite depressing for a confirmed slacker. "Do everything in moderation," people say, "and you can't go far wrong." That mantra may well work for them, but moderation isn't something I've ever been big on – for me; it's almost always all or nothing, with exercise mostly amounting to the latter.

If you've been following this column from the beginning, you'll be aware that my "nothing" approach to physical exercise hasn't really worked out for me. At the tender age of 46, I'd ended up a bit soft around the edges, packing a bit too much timber. Recently, a taxi driver in Dubai was slightly more honest in his appraisal and told me I was fat – funny, but he didn't get a tip. I did, though, and it was from a friend and former colleague who told me about the Lower Back Fix programme at Iconic. He knew I was in constant pain and that I needed a metaphorical push to get myself sorted, because my decades-long inactivity had led to poor posture and a weak core. These, in turn, had brought sciatica and niggling pain in my lower back.

For the first four weeks, I struggled with bouts of illness and the occasional onset of lethargy so bad I couldn’t put one leg in front of the other to walk to the gym, which happens to be across the road from where I live. But my coach, the long-suffering and extremely decent Hannes Loubser, has always been understanding and encouraging. He knows full well what a struggle this has been and he’s never anything other than friendly and encouraging.

As a result of his expert tutelage, that month did bring about some encouraging results. I'd lost centimetres where it matters (waist and chest), gained 3kg of muscle mass, and increases in my thigh and bicep measurements. My weight had increased, but those extra 400 grams were made of the right stuff. I was on the right track and then, as I covered in the last column, I went and changed my entire diet, practically overnight. As a result, neither me nor Loubser are expecting the results at the end of month two to be quite so impressive.

Taking my measurements only requires a few minutes, but deciphering what they mean takes longer and it's another day before I get the results. Happily, they're better than I'd feared.

My chest measurement has dropped by 4cm and my waist by 2cm, while my hips decreased in circumference by 1cm – that means my waist-to-hip ratio has improved more than last month. My biceps have increased by 1cm, as have my calf muscles, but I've lost 1cm around my thighs, which Loubser says isn't to worry about. Lean mass has decreased by nearly a kilo – something he puts down to some nights of poor sleep and stress caused by my young son's illness.

As for body fat percentage, that's down, too, by 0.69 per cent, which isn't ideal after a month's training, but Loubser says he knows the culprit. "Possible reasons can be the tummy that took time to settle due to the new diet," he says. "So the body 'protects' itself, and also I know the last week has been very tough on you guys sleep-wise and stress-wise. This has massive effects on cortisol, metabolism and fat percentage."

As is so often the case with me, life has gotten in the way of progress. But while the spreadsheet numbers aren’t going to set anyone’s world alight this time round, I don’t care. There’s plenty of time yet – and the really important thing is that I’m no longer suffering in silence – this is a training regime that does exactly what it says on the tin.


Read more from Kevin:

Cutting out animal products is one thing, eating healthily is another

Find the right coach to reach your goals

Results after a month of hurt

Staying the course when one is sick

Sorting out the diet one week at a time

Getting started with the first workout

Facing the hard truths

Sedentary with sciatica, it’s time for a fitness fix