Last week someone I know locally shared a little gem on Facebook:
“This area is full of really fit people who have broken hearts.”
She works out a lot, you see, and has noticed a common theme amongst those she shares sweat-space with. I’ll admit, I’m only halfway towards joining that particular crowd. For the first time, this year I actually set a new year’s resolution around my health and fitness. I’m not totally unfit – I’m 5’11” and weigh 11 stone 7 pounds (180cm and 73kgs for our metric friends out there), and can happily play a game of football or climb a mountain without dying.
I’ve never, however, been referred to as having a chiselled physique. I’ve never been beach-body ready, and never had biceps, pectorals or abs that any man has looked at with envy. Even when I was training for my local Aussie Rules team twice a week, playing two matches on Saturday and then swimming or going to the gym twice a week too, never did I get anywhere near looking like Ryan Reynolds in Blade 3.
(Incidentally, no, I am not obsessed with Ryan Reynolds. He just happens to be incredibly funny, friendly, approachable, admired, rich, good looking, has the body of a Greek god, success, with the respect of his peers, perfect children, a beautiful wife and memories of Scarlett Johannsson to think back on in dark moments. I’m not obsessed at all. Nor jealous. Much.)
Am I unhappy with the state of my physical shape? Not really. Am I satisfied with it, though? Definitely not. I know that I probably hide most of my fat not on my hips but in my arteries, and that’s never a good thing. I don’t eat badly, but nor do I regularly hit my five-a-day. I don’t know what quinoa tastes like, nor is kale anywhere near my shopping list. If I make 10k steps a day it’s unusual, and I know I’ll probably wake up one day with a pot-belly wondering what on earth I did to deserve it.
I also had an incident recently. I was enjoying some intimate moments with someone far, far out of my league and she mentioned that I was “too skinny for a man”. She is really into her fitness (it shows, big time) and her ex-husband was basically in the Russian army; a real muscle face. I know I’m not actually skinny – I’m slender, yes, but not so thin that I look like I have a problem – but no man likes being told that he looks weak! It didn’t even matter that I’d literally physically carried her up two flights of stairs to my room, either. The fact I didn’t have bulging biceps was enough to poke a bit of light-hearted fun at.
So I made a decision to address my physical form; not because of what she said, but because it’s something I’ve actually wanted to do for quite some time. I’ve wanted a body to surprise people for years, but thanks to spending my time doing other things (being a local councillor, football coach, school governor, dad of four that sort of thing) I simply hadn’t gotten round to it.
Fast forward to now and there’s no excuse. So I’ve bought myself a set of weights and thought back to some of the lessons I’ve learned about how to actually use them. When I was in Nepal, after I took my brother down in a helicopter as he had severe altitude sickness, we ended up stuck in a hotel for two weeks with nothing to do. They had a rudimentary gym with some weights and machines, so each day we went there and he showed me a range of moves and exercises to do. He’s been doing this for years and can easily lift twice what I could, but I didn’t let a little embarrassment deter me in front of him.
I’m now finding myself standing in my living room in front of a mirror every other evening while the kids are in bed and the tele is on, lifting my weights and feeling like I’m actually doing something good. I’m doing three different exercises each time (mixing them up each time), followed by three lots of 25 press-ups and three lots of 50 sit-ups. I’ve also got myself a pair of trainers ready for when the weather is just a little bit nicer. I want to get fit, but I’ll always at best be a fair weather exerciser.
I know there is a lot more I could do at a proper gym and with proper instruction, but not only don’t I have the time to regularly go down the gym (being a half-time dad to three and a full-time dad to another), it’s bloody expensive!
Not only that, but I’d find myself surrounded by two types of people. The first are buff gym bunnies who would no doubt look on me with utter disdain – me, a man whose arms are, after all, thinner than his legs. The other type are those aforementioned people of varying degrees of fitness but with varying degrees of unhappiness in their eyes and hurt in their hearts.
Right now I’m ready for neither, so a home gym substitute it will be. You never know, perhaps in a few short months my lingerie-wearing-more-than-sexy-friend might reflect on the fact that I do, in fact, look the right size for a man.