Your Fitness Journey

If you’re hoping there’s a short-cut on the road to getting in shape then you, my friend, are setting- yourself up for some bitter disappointment!

There is no short-cut. That road is long. The journey is a tough one and it needs to be navigated with the approach of an Ice-road Trucker – slow and steady – with some anxious steering around lots of setbacks.

It takes grit and determination to stay on track, and it takes time – I’m talking lots of time.

You’ll feel like you’re crawling. It gets exhausting and frustrating so the temptation, for many, is to try speeding things up, but trust me, that’s when the cracks appear. If you’re lucky you may just veer off track and your progress will slow down or stop for a while. The worst-case scenario is that a big f**king deep hole appears and down you go – Game Over.

If you’re after trying ‘the Quick-Fixes’ then let me point you towards the latest ‘Miracle-Diet’ or the supplements that promise you ‘Washboard Abs in 7 Days’ and I’ll watch you readily part with your hard-earned cash in exchange for kissing your hopes and aspirations goodbye.  

It’s not surprising that these promises of becoming ‘instantly ripped’ or ‘beach-body ready’ reel us in when you consider the INSANE scale on which we’re subjected to subconscious influences in our lives these days. We’re constantly bombarded with photoshopped images of ‘the perfect body’ and so we find ourselves trying to compete, or at least compare with something that’s NOT EVEN REAL and when we chase these rainbows, we seem to lose all of our rational decision- making skills. We’ve become a society so riddled with anxiety and self-doubt that we’re easy-meat for the marketing machine and we’re letting ourselves get completely sucked in. We’re a pretty desperate lot! I could tell you I’m going to turn your donkey into a f**king unicorn and someone would fall for it.

So, let’s try keeping it real here. Yes, you CAN get in shape – the best shape of your life…but that won’t come from a bottle full of empty promises – no matter what the ‘airbrushed, bikini-clad babe’ or ‘bronzed dude’ on the label says. It will come from good, old fashioned EFFORT. I promise you, spending your readies without investing your heart and soul just won’t cut it.  In the words of a certain Mr Schwarzenegger:

“A well-built physique is a status symbol. It reflects you worked hard for it, no money can buy it. You cannot borrow it, you cannot inherit it, you cannot steal it. You cannot hold onto it without constant work. It shows discipline, it shows self-respect, it shows patience, work ethic and passion. That is why I do what I do.”

Just keep your goals realistic and remember that no-one can sell you your dream. You have to work for it and you have to work damn hard. The progress will be slow and steady but if you’re after results that are sustainable then the harsh reality is, they will only come from hard work and commitment to making some serious long-term changes in your life. And, if you want it bad enough, then trust me the rewards will come – I don’t care who you are or what your starting point is.

Trust me, I know.

The skinny kid in the middle of the photograph – that’s me.

I was 17 and tiny.

My size had started to negatively affect me a few years prior to this photograph being taken but this was when it started really getting me down.  

I’d always been sporty and enjoyed football and rugby but when you walk on to a pitch and look like the kid who walked on to play with the ‘Big Boys’ by mistake it starts to get you down. Taking hits from guys twice your size when you have nothing to give back kind of takes the fun out of it.

Then of course there was the issue with girls. I was always the ‘cute’ one. That may well be a compliment but trust me, no self-respecting 17-year-old lad with an eye on the ladies and red blood in his veins wants to be called ‘cute’. ‘Cute’ doesn’t help when all the girls are after the big, muscly guys.

I was really struggling with self-confidence and this is something that has had a long-term effect. I think, in my mind, I will always be that small guy because these things stay with you. Even today when people tell me I’m looking in good shape I have bad days when I’ll look in the mirror and still see that skinny kid looking back. I know that, in reality, that’s not true but these things can leave you pretty damaged and screwed up. I’ll admit that I still find the concept of ‘cutting’ difficult because I’m in my comfort zone when I’m getting bigger.

My need to ‘get big’, back in the day, became a fixation, an obsession and I was willing to do anything to make it happen. I bought all the Body Building magazines and spent hours and hours online following anyone and everyone who gave advice. It took me years to filter the good from the bad and these days I still follow a handful of people who I believe give the most helpful and honest advice. These guys really know what they’re talking about and are worth checking out:

 As a small child, I watched my Dad lift weights in our garage at home. I remember being mesmerized and had given it a go but didn’t have much of a clue. One day, my rugby playing friends persuaded me to go to a local gym. I don’t think I would ever have had the balls to go on my own. My pre-conception was a room full of cocky ‘roid-heads’ who had their shit together and wouldn’t welcome a skinny, clueless kid. You just assume that it’s going to be the most intimidating place in the world. I fully expected to be laughed out of the room, hanging my head in shame. I can tell you that walking through that door was a nerve-racking ordeal.

I remember my first session vividly. The first thing I remember is the smell of the gym and the look of the machines. Both things I was instantly hooked on. The nervousness and anxiety in the pit of my stomach was instantly replaced with a feeling of excitement. I must have spent hours and hours at that first session – trying out every machine and trying to figure out what the hell was what. I had paid for a day pass and was determined to get the most for my money. The next day I was back, signing up for a membership and many years on I love it just as much.

Ironically, my size, which once caused me so much grief was the catalyst for a change in my life that led to a vocation that I love. But this is not a fairy story. As I said, the road was long and I crashed and burned too many times to mention. I made mistakes, wasted money and learnt a lot of very harsh lessons along the way but from that I have some great advice to share.

Initially, when I wanted to get big and to put on a lot of muscle mass I turned to the protein powders. I honestly believed that protein powders were some sort of miracle that would make me massive overnight. Looking back, I must have spent hundreds of pounds on powders alone. I had no allegiance to any brand because I must have tried them all in the hope of finding ‘the one’ that was going to make me look like the guy on the label. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to bash the supplement industry. There’s a place for them in moderation. The important thing to remember is that they are exactly that – ‘supplements’ and not ‘substitutes’ so should supplement your diet alongside REAL FOOD.

The mistake I made when I first started was completely underestimating the value of proper nutrition. I truly believed that if I killed myself in the gym and took a cocktail of supplements those 20” guns would appear overnight – screw the diet and nutrition part – I didn’t have time for that. I must have been eating just one or two meals a day and the rest would have been protein powders. So, did I get my guns? No of course I didn’t, I worked my arse off but the return I got was pretty negligible.  I was, however, feeling constantly physically sick and bloated. Oh, and I was also pretty damn miserable because I was constantly broke. This was just the start of my mistakes. Trust me, there’s a lot more to come but that’s for another day. For now, I would say the importance of getting the right raw materials into your diet from the food you take in just can’t be stressed enough and the first thing you need to do as a beginner is to learn about proper nutrition. Nutrition, supplementation, hydration, exercise – neglect any of these areas and you are facing shit creek without that paddle. Flap about frantically if you want but you’ll be getting nowhere.  

I can’t make it easy for you but in my blog you’ll find some open, honest advice that stem from my own learning journey. My posts will be full of sound advice on diet, nutrition and exercise – dispelling some of the myths and keeping it real. I’m hoping you’ll stick around. If you’re after some specific advice then be sure to comment or ask me a question. Tell me what you’d like to know so we get it covered in the coming weeks.

– Rhodri (RLlywelynPT)

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