Endurance Test

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Today at the CF clinic I did an endurance test, something I do as part of my annual assessment to see if changes to my treatment are required. Usually, there are minor tweaks. Mainly new and better treatment that can replace one or more treatments I’m already on.

Anyway, I’m digressing here. Part of my lung function is to do an endurance test to see how my lungs work during cardio. This is done on an exercise bike whereby I’m attached to a computer that monitors my breathing, oxygen intake, carbon dioxide outtake, pulse rate, etc.

Last year my endurance improved compared to the previous year despite the fact I was unknowingly unwell at the time. This year with how well I’ve been due to a few changes in treatment, keeping on top of regular exercise, progressing with workouts and maintaining a healthy diet, my endurance test, as expected, showed a vast improvement in my lung function.

Improvements include:

  • controlled breathing during cardio exercise
  • opening my airways and lungs more and taking in more oxygen and expelling more carbon dioxide
  • lung function increased from 31% as recorded last year to 52 %
  • performance on the exercise bike where I was able to push myself further

Overall I was really made up with the outcome of this, which has boosted my confidence even more for pushing myself whilst at the gym.

I didn’t need the endurance test to show vast improvements in lung function. At the gym with the Personal Trainer, I manage to do approx 1 full workout and half of a second workout in an hour. The results get me breathing harder and quick recovery timing. The Personal Trainer often comments how I’m able to do that bit more, but need to be more confident, which is one thing I’m working on.

Now I’ve done the endurance test and seen how much lung function improvements have been made over the last year, this alone has given my confidence a boost.

CF & Fitness: Part 6

Originally published on Sunday, 1 January 2017

Last October I took part in the study, “Gastro-oesophageal reflux in patients with cystic fibrosis and its effect on lung function”.

The outcome of this is I was diagnosed with GORD (Heartburn and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease).

From doing further reading into what GORD is, I found treatment is fairly easy as it mainly involves small life changes.

The following is extracted from the GORD information link.

“You may find the following measures can help reduce heartburn and other symptoms of GORD:

  • Eat smaller and more frequent meals, rather than three large meals a day – don’t eat or drink alcohol within three or four hours before going to bed, and avoid having your largest meal of the day in the evening.
  • Avoid anything you think triggers your symptoms – common triggers include coffee, chocolate, tomatoes, alcohol, and fatty or spicy food.
  • Don’t wear tight clothing – clothes that are tight around your tummy may make your symptoms worse.
  • Raise the head of your bed by up to 20cm (8 inches) – placing a piece of wood or blocks underneath one end of your bed may reduce symptoms at night; don’t just use extra pillows, as this can put a strain on your tummy.
  • Try to relax – stress can make heartburn and GORD worse, so learning relaxation techniques may help if you’re often feeling stressed.
  • Maintain a healthy weight – if you’re overweight, losing weight may help reduce your symptoms.
  • Stop smoking – smoke can irritate your digestive system and may make your symptoms worse.

If you’re taking medication for other health conditions, check with your GP to find out whether they could be contributing to your symptoms.

Different medicines may be available, but don’t stop taking any prescribed medication without consulting your GP first.”

From looking at this, the action I need to take is eating smaller and more frequent meals. So this is my new year’s resolution to avoid the complications of GORD.

Beginning Nutrition: The Facts About Protein, Carbs & Fat

If you want to see the best results from your training program, proper nutrition is critical. This means the proper intake of calories, the proper ratio of macronutrients – protein, carbohydrates, and fats – and the proper timing of these macronutrients.

This also means understanding and maintaining a positive nitrogen balance. Many bodybuilders – beginners and otherwise – do not understand the basics of good nutrition from a bodybuilding standpoint.

The nutrients in food are broken down into the three types of macro-nutrients mentioned above. Macro-nutrients mean nutrients we need in large amounts. Micro-nutrients are vitamins and minerals – micro meaning we need these in small amounts. Each type of nutrient performs specific functions in the body but interacts with other nutrients to carry out those functions.

Protein

The word protein was coined by the Dutch chemist Gerardus Mulder in 1838 and comes from the Greek word “protos” which means “of prime importance”. Your body, after water, is largely made up of protein. Protein is used by the body to build, repair and maintain muscle tissue.

Protein consists of amino acids usually referred to as the “building blocks of protein.” There are approximately 20 amino acids, nine of which are considered essential because the body cannot make them, they must be supplied by the diet.

Protein is essential for growth and the building of new tissue as well as the repair of broken-down tissue – like what happens when you work out. When you hear the term “positive nitrogen balance,” it refers to being in a state of having enough protein available for the needs of the body and the needs of building muscle.

What does nitrogen have to do with protein? Nitrogen is one of the most important elements in all protein (Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, P. n-31). It is essential to animal life for tissue building.

This statement alone defines the key need for protein when lifting weights. For the most part, we are told to eat sufficient protein (every 3-4 hours) to maintain a positive nitrogen balance because your body is actually in an anabolic, or building up phase in this state, where a negative nitrogen balance, from lack of adequate protein, indicates a catabolic or tearing downstate.

This is one reason why protein (and eating enough throughout the day) is important: lack of adequate protein and your body begins to break down tissue (read: muscle) to meet its daily protein needs.

Our bodies constantly assemble, break down and use proteins (in the form of amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein), there are thousands of different protein combinations used by the body, each one has a specific function determined by its amino acid sequence.

Virtually all modern authorities agree that one to 1 ½ gram of protein per lb. of body weight is best for muscle growth. Besides taking in high-quality protein from food (lean beef, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs), the best way to keep your protein intake at the proper levels is through the use of protein shakes.

The other part of getting the most out of your protein intake and thereby maintaining a positive nitrogen balance is carb and fat intake; both are needed in reasonable amounts to insure protein synthesis.

As far as powders are concerned, whey protein is the best quality, meaning your body will absorb and use more of it.  Whey protein remains number one, because of its high quality, but milk-based proteins are making a comeback, largely because of their longer-lasting effects in the body: whey is typically touted as a fast-digesting protein, milk as a slow-digesting protein.

People always judge a protein powder by the number of advertised grams per serving: “This one only has 17 grams, it’s not as good as this one that has 50 grams!”

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Protein contains four calories per gram, that’s how it’s measured, meaning that it doesn’t matter what the label says, they are using different scoop sizes and number of scoops per serving to get that advertised amount.

Since protein is four calories per gram, and scoop sizes are measured in grams, if you used a standard scoop size and quantity, you would get the same amount of protein, regardless of the brand name (excepting minor variances for fat and carb content).

Test this out yourself, the next time you’re at the vitamin store, compare protein labels. Note the protein, carb and fat per serving. Now note the scoop size and how many scoops equal one serving. You will see that any label with a high advertised protein content is using a large scoop and probably two scoops a serving. A smaller scoop and serving amount correspond to a protein with a lower advertised amount.

Now let’s get back to my main topic regarding protein. The timing of protein is the key to maintaining a positive nitrogen balance and staying in an anabolic state. You should take in protein every 3-4 hours; your protein intake should be evenly divided up throughout the day over the course of 5-6 meals. This can be three main meals and 2-3 high protein snacks or shakes.

Other than that, there are some critical times to take in protein – first thing in the morning, with some simple carbohydrates because you have not eaten since the evening before and your body is in a catabolic state.

You should also be sure to take in a protein shake with fast carbohydrates – like fruit – about 1 hour before you train and you should take in a similar shake after you train – this should be, by the way, 40-60 grams of protein and about the same in carbohydrates. Finally, you should have a small protein shake or meal before bed, because during the night you typically fall into a catabolic state.

Good Food Choices For Protein

  • Lean beef
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Fish
  • Low-fat dairy

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates have gotten quite a bad rap lately with all this low carb stuff out there. Are they responsible for fat gain? Should bodybuilders avoid them? The answer is no to both. Carbohydrates are currently viewed as the main culprit for gaining body fat.

Ignored is the fact that carbohydrates are the preferred fuel source for your bodies – and brains – energy needs. It’s carb energy that fuels your workouts. There are two key components to carbohydrates that people need to understand: there are two types of carbohydrates, sugary or simple carbohydrates and complex, slower-burning carbohydrates.

The other thing people need to understand about carbohydrates is that too many calories, of any type, can lead to fat gain. With carbohydrates, people eat too many sugary carb foods, which also contain fat. And while it’s true that you need carbohydrates for energy, you only need so much.

If you overload your energy needs and are not active enough to burn the excess calories, they will be stored as fat. Most people are not that active and they also eat too many calories of all types, this is why obesity is the problem it is today.

Most people do not understand what a calorie is. The production of energy is measured in calories. The calorie content of a food is determined by measuring the amount of heat produced by that food in a laboratory device called a calorimeter.

Somewhere along the way, food became a matter of taste – the higher the fat and sugar content the better. The basic function of food was forgotten. As a bodybuilder, you should be concerned about your calorie needs and types, and also you should have at least an idea, and at best be keeping a diet log, of what you eat every day – in terms of types of calories and total calories.

When trying to gain mass, you need around 2-3 grams per lb. of bodyweight of preferably complex carbohydrates. If you have a high percentage of body fat, drop that amount to 1 ½ gram per lb. of body weight. The only real times to take in simple carbohydrates are with the pre/post-workout and morning shakes mentioned above.

As well, as a bodybuilder, you should have a far better understanding of carbohydrates than the average person. As I said before, carbohydrates are the bodies preferred energy source. Once ingested, they are turned into glucose, which, among other things, fuels muscular contractions and glycogen, which is stored in the muscles and liver for future use.

Without enough stored carbohydrate in the muscles, they take on a flat appearance and you lack the energy to train hard. As long as your carb intake doesn’t overwhelm your energy needs, you do not have to worry about fat gains from carb intake.

Good Food Choices For Carbohydrates Are

  • Whole grains
  • Oatmeal
  • Brown rice
  • Sweet potatoes
Simple Carbohydrates
  • Fruit juice
  • All sugars
Good Fruit Choices Include
  • Bananas
  • Pears
  • Apples
  • Oranges

Fats

Fats, technically called lipids, are the most energy-dense of the three macronutrients. They are composed of building blocks called fatty acids, which fall into three main categories:

1. Saturated

Found mainly in animal and dairy products, such as whole milk, cheese, beef, veal, lamb, pork and ham. Also, you will find this type of fat in some oils, such as coconut, palm kernel and vegetable shortening. Saturated fat is used by the liver to make cholesterol, which is involved in the production of hormones such as testosterone. This is important – you need some fat in your diet to keep your body’s hormone production where it should be.

2. Polyunsaturated

Found in things like corn, soybeans, safflower and sunflower oils. Some fish oils are also high in polyunsaturated fats. This type of fat may help lower total cholesterol. Since this includes good cholesterol, the intake of this type of fat should be limited.

3. Monounsaturated

Found in vegetable and nut oils, such as olive, peanut and canola. They can help lower LDL, or bad cholesterol without lowering HDL, or good cholesterol.

Most foods are a combination of all 3 fatty acid types, one is typically the dominant type which therefore dictates it’s classification.

Trans Fats

These occur when polyunsaturated oils are altered through hydrogenation, a process used to harden liquid vegetable oils into solid foods like margarine and shortening.

Fat intake should be kept low. In fact, many bodybuilders find that fat is naturally kept at low levels by simple eating “clean” – lean meat and dairy sources of protein, complex carbohydrates as listed below. Some bodybuilders add an omega 3 fatty acid supplement to their diet to ensure a source of healthy fats.

Food Choices For Fats Are

  • Flaxseed
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Canola oil
  • Olive oil
Fats To Avoid
  • Processed vegetable oils
Fats To Limit
  • Butter
  • Saturated fats

Diet Journal

It makes a lot of sense to keep a journal of how much protein, carb and fat grams you eat every day, time eaten and total calorie intake. If you’re serious about building muscle, why guess at the number of calories and grams of protein, etc? You don’t make gains by guessing. You can add your supplement schedule to this as well.

I hope this article takes some of the guesswork out of bodybuilding nutrition.

CF & Fitness: Part 5

Originally published on Friday, 27 May 2016

Up until now I always thought a high-fat diet in CF and fitness was important.

An article I read on www.bodybuilders.com suggested the best diet for fitness is high carbs and protein. The carbs are easier to turn into energy than fat during a workout, which makes sense given that you see carb drinks, not fat drinks in the vending machines at Pure, DW or whatever gym you attend.

Plus protein foods post-workout boost recovery and muscle repair.

In order of easiest to hardest for breaking down, carbs come first, then fat and then protein.

This article The Facts About Protein, Carbs & Fat is something I found interesting for understanding how diet and fitness work together.

It’s amazing that when you look into this how you see how easy it is to make small adjustments to your diet to get what you want from fitness.

I once discussed with my dietician what effect going on a low-fat diet would have on a person with CF.

The answer was simple…so long as you can maintain your weight by the calorie intake i.e. be able to take around 3000 calories per day on a low-fat diet, which means eating more food to get the target, then go ahead and do that.

So basically, low-fat loads of food OR high fat and small meals can both amount to the same number of calories per day.

The funny thing about all this is I do reasonably well to record what I’m eating using the Carbs and Cals app on my phone. As part of the setup of the app, I inputted my height, weight and DOB, my daily activity level and what I would like to gain from my diet in terms of whether I’d like to lose, maintain or gain weight.

This then gives me guidance as to how much carbs, kcals, fat and protein I should intake.

For me (5 foot 8 inches, 10.5 stone, high-level activity and wishing to gain a little weight), my daily nutrition goals are:

  • Carbs – 408g
  • Kcals – 3262
  • Fat – 127g
  • Protein – 122g

And without even trying I do often manage to reach these targets.

The main thing about all this is if you’re willing, strong-minded and really want to reach your goals, you will always find a way of doing so.

CF & Fitness: Part 4

Originally published on Thursday, 26 May 2016

If there’s one thing I love about fitness is to see what other people do and take on board any tips they have towards a good workout routine, diet and any supplements that contribute not just towards a healthy lifestyle, but also to keep in good shape too.

I’m not one for walking into something without first knowing what I’m about to step into.

I’ve asked dieticians, personal trainers, and the odd fellow gym-goer about their thoughts on certain things before making up my mind what I think is best for me.

I’ve tried things diet and fitness-wise and although it has taken a little time, I’ve found what works for me. However, I’m aware of what I do may or may not work for others.

Over the last 4 years, I’ve tried a couple of brands in the protein/whey powder shakes, creatine and more recently BCAA.

Plus I’ve tried a few techniques as shown by various gym instructors for getting a good workout.

However what has helped me the most is taking on a Personal Trainer (PT).

Since taking on my latest PT, he has taught me ways of making the most of my workouts and advised me on what he thinks is the best supplements as mentioned above.

As a result, I’ve learned this year to make all this work, I feel you have to include all the ingredients, not just pick and mix.

Employment wise I work 25 hours a week as a House Keeper.

In the past, I’ve worked retail, admin work in the Council and was an Activities Coordinator at a Care Home.

I’ve found my current job a huge boost to my fitness as it is very very active.

Plus this part-time post means I’ve more time to myself where I can focus on what I love best – fitness, film making and spending more time with my dogs.

Anyway, a typical routine I have for a workout day is (and this includes taking into account Personal Training sessions and employment):

Workout day:-

  • Breakfast drink (2x fortisip mixed with 300ml milk) with breakfast biscuits and creatine
  • 5-hour shift
  • Carbs build-up (1x fortisip, 300ml milk, 1x banana, 25g oats blended) and creatine
  • 1-hour workout (10 mins cardio, 40 mins weight training, 10 mins cardio)
  • Whey powder mixed with 300ml milk plus BCAA
  • High carb & protein lunch
  • High carb & protein dinner

Non-workout day:-

  • Breakfast drink (2x fortisip mixed with 300ml milk) with breakfast biscuits and creatine
  • 5-hour shift
  • High carb & protein lunch and creatine
  • High carb & protein dinner

Usually nutrition wise I reach all my daily targets.

Due to not really liking the effects red meat has due to high-fat content having a slightly uncomfortable effect on me, my diet mainly consists of poultry, fish, salad, veg, fruit, dairy.

I’m not a sweet and cake type of person.

Cereal wise I love porridge, Weetabix, shredded wheat. Anything sugary like frosties, sugar puffs, crunchy nut are a big no for me. Mainly because the amount of sugar leaves a sweet sickly taste.

It would be nice to hear what you get up to with your fitness and any tips you may have that may help improve what I do too.

CF & Fitness: Part 3

Originally published on Tuesday, 8 December 2015

I decided to quit my gyms.

Yes, you read right…gyms (as in plural).

I was a member of Nuffield gym in Manchester at the Printworks as well as my local gym, LiveWire.

Though fear not, I am now a member of Pure gym.

The difference?

Per year I am saving £502.92 on a gym membership.

The main difference between Pure and the other gyms is no pool, which I rarely used at Nuffield and never used at all at LiveWire.

What Pure lacks pool wise certainly makes up for in gym equipment by the quality, quantity and variety. Considering it costs considerably less than the other gyms combined, you certainly get your money’s worth.

Part of the money saved has gone towards a Personal Trainer. His name is Samson, whose profile is on the Altrincham page of the Pure Gym website.

One thing I like about Samson is he specialises in biomechanics and learning I have CF has sparked an interest with him. He certainly researched what CF is and what makes it tick, which he took into consideration when making my workout program.

He has given me a really good program to work on, which is more vigorous than what I had.

So what is the difference between my previous program and the one I have now?

My previous program saw me doing 4 sets of 8-12 reps of each exercise with 2 minutes rest between sets as shown in my previous fitness blog.

In this program I warm up with cardio, do 3 supersets and finish with core exercises and stretches.

For those who don’t know what a superset is, I do 4 sets of 12 reps of exercises of 2 different muscle groups one after the other with a 45 seconds rest.

Example of a superset:

  • 12 reps chest press machine
  • 12 reps overhead extension
  • 45-second rest
  • repeat another 3 times

Sounds easy? Compare this to the previous technique, you’ll realise this is more vigorous and works the muscles more. Especially with the 45 seconds rest rather than the 2 minutes as previous.

After each workout, I’ve worked up a sweat whereby I have to shower before I leave.

If anything I’ve surprised myself as I didn’t realise how strong I was until I started training with my Personal Trainer.

Even he is impressed with my form.

It’s great to have once more a Personal Trainer there to encourage and motivate.

CF & Fitness: Part 2

Originally published on Monday, 2 November 2015

It’s been over a year since I last wrote a blog about CF & Fitness.

What a year it has been too.

In October 2014 I was doing the following program:

Workout 1:

ExerciseWeight (kg)SetsReps
Incline dumbbell bench press1248-12
Chest press machine2548-12
Incline dumbbell fly1048-12
Overhead extension12310-12
Cable rope press down12.5310-12
Cable kickback2.5310-12

Workout 2:

Leg press5068-12
Leg extension3028-12
Leg curl3028-12
Dumbbell shoulder press1038-12

Workout 3:

Vertical traction3548-12
Dumbbell row1048-12
Underarm barbell row2548-12
Dumbbell row838-12
Cable curls12.538-12
Hammer curl638-12

In addition to this, I also did the cardio choice of rowing, cycling, jogging or swimming.

In 2015 I started working in a retirement home, where my physical activity level rose considerably.

Physical activity has gone from:

37 hours low activity job and 3 hours workout in the gym per week

to

25 hours of high activity job and 3 hours workout in the gym per week.

A BIG difference eh?

As a result of this, I’ve had to decrease the weights used in my workouts slightly and by October 2015 I noticed as I got used to my high physical activity job, I gained my strength in the gym back.

Family and friends have commented how bulky I’ve become as I gained strength over the last couple of years.

I’ve found it quite an achievement where I’m at now going from a life of no physical activity to not getting enough.

CF & Fitness: Part 1

Originally published on Sunday, 16 March 2014

My first experience
My first experience in a gym was when I was in college in 1999. I won a year’s free membership at a privately owned gym. However this was short-lived when I realised it wasn’t 100% free, so cancelled the contract.

I didn’t really like that particular gym anyway as it just didn’t feel right. It was empty and had no atmosphere that would help with motivation.

I tried to stick to cycling, which for a time became my main form of exercise. However, the problem with having a car is convenience.

I always wanted to get back into some form of fitness, as I knew how much it would benefit my health. However, my main problem was motivation and finding something I would enjoy.

A new start
Over the years I’ve seen vast improvements in medication offered to Cystic Fibrosis patients. The biggest in my time was the TOBI inhaler, which replaced the TOBI nebuliser.

As a result of starting the TOBI inhaler, my lung function improved. This made me wonder if an inhaler could do that to my lung function, what exercise would do.

Whenever I thought of exercise, I always wanted to add tone to my body. Often I would look at other toned guys wishing I had their physique rather than the thin body I had.

Although I wanted to join a gym, I had the perception I would get looked at, which put me off. Plus I felt intimidated by other gym members who were in better shape than me.

However, this didn’t stop me. I decided to hire a Personal Trainer (PT), who would visit my home once a week for an hour’s workout on free-weights.

My first session
My PT and I chatted about my diet, health, what exercise I’ve done (or not done) in the past, and what I wanted from exercise, he started me on a programme that best suited me.

One request I made to my PT was that he didn’t treat me any different because of my condition. He was happy with this request and like with any other client, he started me on a low weight and built up the weight according to my ability.

When we talked about my diet, I showed him my typical menu for the day, as detailed below. He thought this was perfect.

Breakfast Lunch Dinner Supper
60g porridge with 1/2pt semi-skimmed milk plus 1tsp set honey

and

1x fortisip (300kcal drink)
Sandwich (multi-seed bread spread with olive spread) with:

tuna/ham, lettuce, cucumber, low-fat mayo and / or low fat cheese spread sandwich plus tomato, with crisps or yoghurt

or

salad (tuna / corned beef, lettuce, tomato, cucumber and low-fat mayo – sometimes with diced cheese)

plus

green olives with a light drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar

and / or

Crisps
Chicken or fish (cod / breaded haddock / salmon)

with

salad (lettuce, tomato, cucumber & pepper)

or

mixed veg (carrots, broccoli & cauliflower)

with

jacket potato, chips or pasta

with

low-fat mayo or low-fat cheese spread
Glass of milk

or

2x fortisip (300kcal drink)

The only advice he gave was I ate something 2 hours before a workout and also 30 minutes after.

Before my workout, I had a 3-egg cheese and tomato omelette on toast before the workout and a Protein shake after. However, I was later advised by my dietician that 1 fortisip would be better and no expense spared either.

The programme was as follows (weight includes the weight of barbell):

ExerciseWeight (kg)No of setsReps per set
Shoulder press13.5312
Chest press16312
Back press16312

There was a 2-minute rest between each set.

After the first workout, I felt shattered but really pleased I got through it. My legs were numb and I walked like John Wayne for 2 days. However, it was worth it because it felt so good.

As expected with any form of exercise, I was breathless and felt my heart working hard, but with rests between exercises, I felt the benefit the impact the exercise had on me.

It did make me cough, but not as bad as I expected.

Over the weeks the Personal Trainer noticed my coughing became less. I still got breathless, though not as bad and recovery time got better too.

Mental and physical changes
As the weeks progressed, I started to show improvements to my mental health as well as physical.

Mentally I had better moods, slept better, maintained a good appetite, gained confidence in body image…the list goes on.

Physically noticed small changes at first, but over time I found I was showing bulk in particular in the shoulders.

My friends saw these changes too. The confidence this brought over the months was amazing.

The main change mentally as I started to love my body with how nice it started to look. Some may probably think this as vane, but when you’ve spent years hiding your body because you didn’t like how it looked, you’d understand why I felt the way I did.

An example of how happy and confident I became over my body image is that when I was on holiday in 2012, I wore shorts and a t-shirt on the beach. I didn’t want to go topless as I didn’t like how my body looked.

When I was on holiday in 2013 (4 months into my workout), I felt so confident about the body image I wore swimming shorts and no top.

Joining the gym
It was often suggested by my PT I should attend fitness classes such as Zumba, Spinning or possibly Circuit Training.

I wasn’t 100% sure I’d feel comfortable doing these. Not because I was incapable, but at the time I liked doing things in the privacy of my own home.

When I attended the children’s hospital clinics, I had to be examined by the Doctor whilst up to four medical students watched. I absolutely hated this. I found it embarrassing especially in my adolescent. Nowadays the Doctor has to ask permission whether I’d be ok having a student watch and learn processes of treatment given. You can say this had an impact in my adult years whereby I find it difficult to be able to do particular activities such as fitness classes where I’d be in a room full of people. I’d feel eyes are watching my every move.

When I brought this up with my PT I was told I had nothing to worry about as those attending were all there for the same reason and weren’t interested in what I did. They were only interested in the exercise they were doing.

My next concern about going into unknown territory was other members being well-built and I would stand out in comparison.

Whilst my PT reassured me of my good build, he also reminded me that everyone new to the gym starts off somewhere. They don’t walk into a gym already built up.

One person who helped me big time was Paul, a friend of mine who also goes to the gym. He told me he had been going for nearly a year and said once I was in the gym I would totally love it.

The more we spoke about fitness the more I wanted to join the gym. Paul told me about the benefits he felt from fitness training. He told me he was in a stressful job. He often said how he didn’t feel good about his body image or the way he felt at times and like I started weight training to get a better physique and take his mind off his problems. Not only did he benefit physically from the workout, but also mentally. He slept better, better moods, a good diet, and grew to love and admire his body.

Paul had doubts about my seriousness of wanting to keep fit, so one day, 6 months into my fitness training, I walked into my local gym and asked for information about becoming a member. I found the staff very helpful, friendly and welcoming. I took away information to read and returned later in the week to complete a membership form and arrange an induction.

I had an idea on what I was letting myself in for, but I didn’t know whether I’d like it or not.

My day of induction came and as I changed into my gym gear and commenced my induction, I started to feel enthusiastic by what was yet to come.

Upon entering the gym suite I realised there were people of all shapes and sizes. Not just toned or of a particular age. The atmosphere was really nice. Everyone was there for the same reason and got on with whatever workout they were doing.

My induction was done by a male instructor and there were 2 women there doing the induction with me.

He showed us some of the cardiovascular equipment, demonstrating how they worked, and then let us have a go. When it came to the weight machines, the women remarked how I made the lifting of the weights look easy. I was quite made up by their comments.

By the time the induction was complete, I wanted to stay and do my first workout. I started on the leg press, doing 3 sets of 12 reps on 50kg. Next, I moved onto other equipment I was shown during the induction and finished my workout on the exercise bike. I absolutely loved it. The atmosphere was brilliant. My worries were long gone. I left the fitness suite wondering why I made such a fuss. As soon as I could, I told Paul what I had done and he was really pleased.

My PT once mentioned that once I became a member of a gym, I wouldn’t require his services as much due to similar services being offered by the gym instructors. When I mentioned this to Paul, he suggested we went to the gym together so we could spot each other.

The time came for our first gym session together. Paul showed me some exercise techniques that would work my abs, which I found easier to do than expected. When I showed him what resistance machines I used, he suggested a minor alteration to my leg workout, which I benefited greatly from.

My workout on resistance machines is as followed:

MachineWeight (kg)No of setsReps per set
Adductor35312
Adductor35312
Leg press50312

Plus 5 minutes on the exercise bike for 5 minutes on a 3-4 setting.

Chest press 35312
Upper back 25312
Mat exerciseNo of setsReps per set
Abdominal floor crunches312
Torso twisting sit-ups312
Leg raises312

Exercise gets results
Mark comments how well I’m developing health-wise as a result of what I’ve been doing. He said my breathing has improved and I’m more active than I used to be.

He once requested that I be careful when applying the hand brake on the car as without realising my own strength, I’ve been pulling it on too tight resulting with him struggling to take the brake off.

Other people have noticed my strength. Whether at work or whilst out shopping. I’ve been lifting heavy items such as 15kg bags of dog food or crates of Nepro without noticing how heavy they are.

Build on fashion
Not only has fitness resulted in me feeling stronger, but also resulted in me loving who I am more. I love how my body looks and the impact fitness has on my health.

I started looking at what I was wearing compared to other guys who were gym fit. I thought their clothes complimented their bodies nicely. I spoke to Paul about this and he suggested we went clothes shopping. Christmas came and I received some money to treat myself, and when the sale came in the New Year, Paul and I went to the business at various clothes shops in Manchester at the Arndale Centre and Trafford Centre.

The clothes I bought were amazing. I never felt so good as I did. Paul told me I would have head-turning with how well the clothes complimented my body. The main thing I looked forward to was Mark’s reaction.

When Mark saw me in my new clobber, he commented on how it was about time I treated myself to good quality clothing. Even my work colleagues thought I looked amazing.

Confidence booster
Since I started my workout back in June 2013 I feel I’ve gone from being a shy guy who was unhappy about his body image to someone full of confidence and has changed in many ways as a result both physically and mentally.

If I could wind back time to 1999, I would have done things a lot different had I knew then what I know now about the importance of exercise.

If anyone told me they wanted to join a gym, but didn’t know where to start, I’d tell them not to worry. There are staff there who are willing to help and many other people who would be in the same boat as them. I’ll admit whilst the gym appears to be a daunting place to go for the first time, once you’re in there, you’ll totally love it. Especially when you notice the benefits of fitness.

A good friend of mine who attends the CF clinic told me last November he was planning to join the gym. He joined in January and told me he adores the benefits already.

I’d like to point out that no matter how bad your health is, there will always be something you can do in fitness that you will benefit from. You just need to find what that exercise is. Even if it means consulting with a physiotherapist. There will always be someone there to guide you.

Never be afraid to ask nor to give things a try. You never know where asking will get you.