Then along came COVID-19. *Collective groan* - enough said...
Fast-forward to gyms re-opening and Amazon24 in it’s current form was born – no longer a private personal training studio and classes – new premises, and now a fully-fledged small independent gym. I dumped the large commercial gym membership and moved over. A great bunch of people, no egos, no judgement, just a group with a common desire to keep fit and be themselves. It’s a community and a family. For the first time, I felt like I fitted in. I began to really enjoy working out. It wasn’t just something to do to keep fit, it was now a passion. And what’s more it started to ease my anxiety, it eased my stress, it made me feel good. It also led me to discover powerlifting – the noble art of lifting the heaviest weight you possibly can in 3 disciplines – squat, bench press and deadlift.
Now, this lead to a bit of a dilemma. I’d spent years keeping off most of the weight I’d lost during my initial return to weightlifting. But to get stronger, I was going to need to bulk. To those not familiar with it, basically that involves deliberately getting heavier by eating more. A lot more. The idea is that a lot of the extra weight comes from muscle growth, but inevitably it increases body fat as well. I battled my phobia of gaining weight for months before deciding to trust in the advice I was being given and go for it.
That was 2 years ago now, so where am I today? A lot heavier, weighing in at just short of 120kg. But a lot stronger. It turns out that if you listen to expert advice, you really can turn all those extra calories into muscle. Yes, my body fat percentage has increased a bit, and I don’t have the classic ‘toned’ physique that lots of guys go to the gym for, but I’m the happiest with my body that I ever have been – living proof that you can be happy and healthy without six-pack abs (take that, social media…) And my life has changed immeasurably – anxiety down, self-confidence up. I’m married, happy, even studying for various fitness industry qualifications so I can start coaching others and spreading the positivity. I want to help others to change for the better, just as I was helped by Mel and the Amazon24 community – how’s that for a transformation? It can be done, you just need to let your guard down a little, allow yourself to be a bit vulnerable, and let people help you. I make no secret of it, I credit Mel with changing my life. She coached me, listened to me, understood me and built me up from my lowest point. That’s the power of exercise, and someone who wants the best for you. So, if you need help, ask. There’s a massive support community out there in the fitness industry, from personal trainers to gym members to online support groups run by weightlifters and fitness enthusiasts who have been through their own mental health battles. Try to worry less about following social media trends, and focus more on what’s actually going to make you happy. Give it a try, thank me later.