Men, Minds & Muscles
A Journey Of Mental & Physical Health

   When I was first asked to write this blog, I had grand ideas of creating a written masterpiece, with carefully curated paragraphs, powerful punchlines and an ending worthy of the best Hollywood script-writers. Then I got real, realised all that’s been done before, and that the best writing comes from the heart. So, as the title suggests, here goes a story about me (one standard-issue man), the oddities of my mind, and a years-long mission to build muscle. Oh, and how finding the right gym and the right people changed my life...

 Not so long ago, I was a very different person. Back at the tail end of 2017, I’d just come out of a long-term, but unhappy, relationship. Years of stress in both my personal and work life had taken its toll, and I was overweight, angry, drinking habitually and just generally fed up with life. I was existing, but not living. I isolated myself, never went out socially and spent my evenings eating and drinking too much to deal with the anxiety that had now become a permanent feature of my life.

Things changed when a colleague took pity on me and, realising that I wasn’t in the best place mentally, asked me if I wanted to start getting fit with them. We both had a history of weightlifting, but neither of us had bothered with it for many a year. ‘OK’, I thought. ‘What have I got to lose?’
And so it began, the journey that would change the course of my life. Sounds dramatic, yes, but it’s true.

So we started, as most people do, in the large commercial gyms. I lost weight (94kg down to 77kg) and toned up, but didn’t really feel like I fitted in there. The kit got mistreated, people didn’t have much respect for the equipment or the other people there, and as somebody with zero self-confidence, I felt like an antelope in a room full of lions. It would make be feel stressed and anxious, and I couldn’t enjoy my workouts. Now, I’m not saying that’s representative of all big gyms, and I’m not saying the large commercial gyms are bad. They have their place in the fitness industry. I’m just saying they aren’t for me.

Fortunately, about 4 years ago, I was introduced to Mel, a personal trainer. I knew nothing about her, but was told she was nice, knew her stuff, and I should go and have a chat with her. A big step for me, someone who had, by this point, perfected the art of avoiding speaking to anyone new. After mulling it over for ages, and repeated prompts by the person who pointed me in her direction, I made an appointment. It went well, and I started having personal training sessions once per week, the only real social interaction in my life. But Mel got me, knew how to handle my ups and downs and we got on well. I wanted to build a bit of muscle and tone up, and Mel coached my to achieve just that. With extra muscle came a little bit of extra bodyweight, up into the mid-80’s now. But something else was happening in the background, slowly and quietly, something else was building too – self-confidence. I started to socialise – tentatively at first, but I did something I hadn’t done in years – I made a friend. ‘Big deal’, I hear you say, but for somebody who has spent years suffering with anxiety and avoiding as much human contact as possible, it was a massive step (plot twist, that friend is now my wife).

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.

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© 2024 Amazon24 Fitness.
All rights reserved