The human body – yes, even mine after all the years of neglect and abuse I’ve put it through – is a thing of never-ending wonder. It’s something I’ve been pondering after my second and third training sessions at Iconic Fitness in Dubai, where I enrolled on the Lower Back Fix programme. The aim is to get into a shape that isn’t round, and banish the aches and pains that I’ve developed in my back due to a mostly sedentary lifestyle. And the reason for my musing? After a bit of a duff start, where I ended up nearly passing out, I have quickly adapted to this new regime.
My form, says my trainer, Hannes Loubser, has vastly improved after just a couple of sessions, and already I’m lifting heavier weights. I’m doing inverted rows, push-ups and other exercises without let-up, and the back treatment – which involves rolling about on various balls to target areas that need stimulation – is hurting less. I might still feel like the unhealthiest person alive as I saunter home for a shower before heading to work, but Loubser says I’m responding well and that, right now, is all that matters.
The LBF programme is about more than exercise, however. There’s a diet element to it, too, and this is where I can see problems on the horizon. Because whatever I end up eating will impact my wife and son, especially as Mrs H does the lion’s share of the cooking at home. Nevertheless, as Loubser points out, when it comes to losing weight, the best results come about via the kitchen, not the gym.
I'm provided with a meal plan that covers breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner and another snack in the evening. As expected, it's devoid of processed food (which I'd mainly cut out of my diet, anyway), and heavy on healthy fats, fruit, vegetables and meat. It all looks good, with hardly anything that I dislike enough to completely avoid (life is too short for celery).
“The idea behind it is to have quick and easy-to-prepare meals,” says Loubser. “You’ll see that the snacks are ‘in-front-of-the-computer friendly’. The dinner can be used for lunch the next day; it just needs some heating up. The meals repeat themselves, so that you can get into the habit of saving time when preparing.”
He suggests that we try this for a fortnight and see how I adapt to it, with me making notes about which elements (if any) prevent me from following it to the letter. "Keep in mind that it takes a meal plan four weeks to show its true value and effect," he tells me, "so I'm happy to make a few adjustments if needed, but let's try our best to push through."
He says he’ll be sending me a new nutrition plan each week. “It will have all the recipes and meal plans for the whole week, as well as the shopping list. Prep work is key – if you don’t prepare the food the day or the evening before, it will be difficult to maintain.”
As Oscar Wilde once said, I can resist everything except temptation, so I explain to Mrs H that I’ll need her to help police my eating and drinking habits if I’m to have a chance of succeeding with this. It’s not that we have a bad diet, it’s just that if someone offers me something I really shouldn’t be eating, chances are I’ll say: “Oh, go on then”, without stopping to think about the consequences. And if we ever eat out, discipline and self-control tend to be left at the door. Like most men, I am a creature of habit – I just need to adjust some of them, which should become easier if and when I start to see some positive results.
In the meantime, while I’ve not yet reached the stage where I’m actually enjoying the gym workouts, the fact that I’m getting better with each one is a cause for minor celebration. Only it won’t involve cake, biscuits, chocolates or anything else verboten by he who must be obeyed. When I’m next on his scales and he’s got his tape measure out, there will be no hiding.