October 24, 2015In Paul's JourneyBy Paul Cocker9 Minutes

Your first steps back into the world of physical activity can be scary, and I think this is possibly one of the hardest steps you have to take to start the journey of change. I was no different when it came to taking it. You can become frozen by negative thoughts and at that point the sofa and Xbox basically grow very welcoming arms.

So which step do you take?

How do you choose between the infinite ways to get off the sofa and out of your comfort zone?

Well I scratched my head at this and found myself in a little battle with my mind and its ability to make excuses to avoid being productive. Things like running in public didn’t appeal (way too much jiggling of wobbly bits at a slow pace), the gym lost out to the fear of looking stupid being clueless in front of buff gym veterans, and exercise classes were even worse as a choice for an uncoordinated chubby bloke. The lazy devil on my shoulder was in my ear at this point, whispering the benefits of crisps and maintaining the body shape dent in my favourite chair.

I found myself deciding that a bike would be the way forward, so I signed up to a cycle scheme at my work. Once the paperwork was sorted and I’d been in and picked my bike and kit up from the shop, I realised the first half step was now accompanied by the driving force that I had a financial commitment to my new shiny wheels. At this point I want to say that yes I see the irony of being out of shape and squeezing into Lycra in public, but the way I saw it was I’d be going at such a pace past people it wouldn’t matter so much. However, I’m sure the queue of cars behind me at times would disagree.

A month of cycling and maintaining my food changes began to show small but positive changes for me physically. I felt fitter for sure, and everyday life became easier. Mentally I began to feel stronger by bettering my last ride or making myself go out if the weather was not so inviting. It’s these little battles that you win that help drive you forward to get more results, and once you find something that engages you or gives you a chance to escape for an hour or two into your own world, then it becomes to be less of a chore and a step closer to a passion.

Feeling fitter and looking less like a badly packaged marshmallow, I decided I wanted to take another step forward and for me it was to join a gym. In my head I made a check list of what type of gym I wanted to join; things like locality, price and busyness were the main thoughts. I wanted somewhere I felt comfortable, in all honesty, and so I spoke to an old friend who is in annoyingly good shape and pretty knowledgeable. A big thank you at this point to Damian the Muscle Maven for continued help, guidance and putting up with my questions. He pointed me towards a new gym that had just opened up and was very reasonable in price, close to my work place, and also wasn’t over crowded. So I joined Exeter’s Peak Performance and from the off the staff were awesome, very welcoming and helpful.

I began my gym journey armed with a programme helpfully suggested by Damian, which was basically a 12 week beginner strength and conditioning programme readily available on Bodybuilding.com. Armed with some basic form pointers, I started to make my way through it. For me the most surprising part of this was how much I enjoyed it, and that I looked forward to my sessions. They quickly became a therapy of sorts from life and work, where in that session it was just me, my music and pushing myself.

Body changes happened quite quickly. My clothes got looser, I lost a chin or two and I felt stronger than I had in a very long time. But the best part is when other people comment on how well you look, or that you have lost weight. Now don’t get caught up thinking that it’s wrong to let that be a tiny part of your drive, because I’ll happily admit I made these changes to try to become averagely attractive to the female population. So all I am saying is enjoying receiving compliments is not a narcissistic thing, it’s just a bonus.

12 weeks on I had finished and didn’t want to lose momentum, so I needed the next step. This is where I contacted Sean, and decided on a programme that interested me.

Sean provided a very thorough questionnaire on what I wanted from the programme, and took into account so many life factors to help design a personal package for me. When I received it my head did spin for a bit, and this is where your head can tell you it’s too complicated, so just coast along doing your comfortable sessions. But in the end you just have to dive in and get it done to keep moving forward, so I just got on with it a week at a time. Just like the plan is written out for you.

Sean was always on hand for advice and encouragement, and the programme was designed so you don’t get a chance to get bored with the same old routine. And the food plan was easy to follow once I got myself organised; the age-old saying “preparation is key” is so true and will make life so much easier, and above save you from slipping back into bad old habits.

Now a year down the line I am a million miles from the unmotivated sofa dweller I was, and honestly life just feels better and less of a chore.

I am not saying I haven’t had blips or set backs, or even the odd weekend of drinks and crap food. The difference is neither of those things give me as much pleasure as eating healthy food and exercise anymore, and that’s enough motivation for me.

Thanks for reading, and I hope this might help anyone who is struggling to make that first step to healthy change.

Remember: slow and steady wins in the end. There is no quick fix, no pill or shake – just hard work and commitment to yourself. Make small changes, because they make for a strong foundation.