After a conversation with a friend I decided to try to really define and articulate what is it about health and fitness I find most appealing. I am attracted to this world for different reasons, both personally and professionally. Since each deserves its own full exploration, I’ve broken it down into two bite sized posts starting with my personal reasons.
The short answer…
“Exploring what is possible along the journey while maintaining a vibrant and athletic physical condition…”
The long answer…
For myself , this has changed and morphed over time. Hopefully you can learn some lessons from my journey, and find your real “why” without going through some of my bouncing around! In the beginning of many, many rotations of the earth around the sun ago, it was to put some muscle on my scrawny frame. It worked reasonably well, but got boring after a few years. This period was followed by social sporting teams, inconsistent periods of weight lifting, and a few stretches of serious TV watching (aka, nothing).
In 2008 my wife and I were watching the NBC coverage of the World Championship Ironman race in Hawaii and something sparked in me. I hired a coach and signed up for a full Ironman in 18 months time. Yikes! What had I done?! We each had our strengths, but both had a lot of work to do. I could ride a bike pretty well, but Kristen had never worn clips in pedals or ridden a road bike. Kristen had completed a few half marathons but I couldn’t run 3km without keeling over. Although I was comfortable body surfing at the beach, neither of us could swim a few lengths of a pool without a rest. After consistently prioritising our workouts and recovery, over the 18 months we completed a sprint, an olympic distance and three half ironman races culminating in the Busselton Ironman. It was the biggest project I had ever followed through on and completed. The sensation of crossing the finish line, (inside my goal time i might add) was transformative. What I learnt about myself that day and through that 18 month process has bled into every aspect of who I am.
Post Ironman blues is a real thing and I got hit hard. I did very little for the next two years and became the heaviest, and most out of shape version of myself I had ever been. At one point I snapped out of it and set myself another lofty goal: to lose weight or “get ripped”, and compete in a men’s physique competition in six months. I again hired a trainer and got to work. Over the six months I lost just over 18kgs and went from 22% body fat to 8%. Although I came 7th out of 8 on stage, I was really proud of my results. I had fallen into a pattern of needing structure, routine and “a challenge” to continuously incorporate fitness into my life.
Following this, was my competitive period where it was all about times, weights and PB’s. This naturally led me into a crossfit gym where I spent the next two years. Without sharing my view of how horrible the style of training crossfit is for the regular adult (whoops!), I will just say I swallowed the Koolaid until my body couldn’t take the abuse, and broke. Two badly bulging discs in my lower back woke me up to the craziness and led me to have a long and honest conversation with myself.
The first step was to avoid surgery and fix my back. It was at this point I told my ego to leave. I entered the Pilates studio where I learned to use my core properly, stabilise my joints, and improve my overall flexibility. It all began to eradicate the daily pain and difficulty I was living with. I also began cycling a lot because it is low impact and a way to socialise. I quickly began to ride more and booked a 10 day trip to France to climb some of the most iconic mountains from the Tour de France. Twelve months later I lived that dream in an epic trip, but again, the interest in cycling died down once I had completed the challenge. I was afraid to do much more than Pilates. However, I began researching alternative ways to exercise, and I thought, surely others have approached physical fitness in the same philosophical way as Joseph Pilates.
When we moved to Australia, I stumbled across the teachings of Ido Portal and more so Christopher Sommer. Again, I hired a coach and began learning the methods of reversing the damage our modern way of life causes. Joint stability and mobility, spinal flexibility, end range strengthening, core strength and conditioning, the list goes on.
What’s more important than how I choose to exercise is the evolution of my motivation. In a social media ruled world and a billion dollar fitness industry, it can be very difficult to avoid falling into the trap being told what to want. You can see dozens of guys with massive shoulders, chest and 6 pack abs or women with tiny waists and perfectly round bums without even leaving your house each morning, thanks Instagram! Yes, being a healthy weight will improve your quality of life, but will bigger shoulders or a more plump bottom? Probably not.
Another pit fall is trying to impress others, I know. In part, my motivation for completing an Ironman or losing a bunch of weight quickly was driven by a desire to be admired. This is were communities like Crossfit, F45 and OrangeTheory (the next plague, I mean, fad, I mean craze, coming to Australia) that can become dangerous, rather than inspiring.
These days, my primary desire is to maintain the physical abilities and athleticism I’ve built. I want to feel just as capable and youthful as I do now for the next 30 or more years. I’ve always had a competitive drive in me, and now that I’ve found a healthy, balanced way to express that, I genuinely enjoy the process. I’m in no hurry to reach any finish line or end result but I do still enjoy the progress. I feel like I’m playing a video game with myself as the character, gaining levels and unlocking skills along the way.
I have always loved problem solving and the “why” behind things. It’s why I enrolled in engineering at university a lifetime ago. No machine is more complex than the human body, and I’m passionate about learning more about my own and seeing what is possible. Reformer Pilates and Bodyweight/Calisthenic training are my primary tools for exploring this, but we each need to find our own. I enjoy these methods of exercise because I am constantly challenged and I’m forced to be in the moment when training either.
I think this gets at the heart of where my passion comes from, training has become my balancing “me time” and also an endless journey to search my potential in a healthy, balanced way.
I still enjoy riding my bike, and would love to explore Mallorca with Kristen one day. Oh, I plan to do the Rottnest Swim one day too, but that’s another story!