In March 2018 I found myself in a position I hadn’t been in for almost 15 years: single. My marriage had unfortunately broken down and I found myself newly single, and alone. My career had hit a rocky patch and my confidence was at an all time low. I hated my dadbod, I had no idea how to be single any more, the dating world had moved on considerably since I was in my early twenties, and if I thought I was a terrible catch, then others must think the same too.
As part of our separation, I decided to sell my house and split the equity 50/50. I wanted to use the money to try and get back some self-esteem and confidence, and prepare me for the emotionally daunting dating market. I had followed Nick Mitchell’s Ultimate Performance for years across several platforms, but based in the centre of London and marketing towards the professional person, they seemed way out of my price range. The sale of my house meant that I could finally bridge that gap from fan to client, so in October I took the plunge and bought a 12 week body transformation package.
The process of allocating trainer to client seemed quite in depth and scientific, but given that many of the goals and comments that I had made in my questionnaire were unknown to my trainer, I have to question whether it was actually used or just for my sake to build confidence. The UP difference was that the trainers are just as invested in you as you are in the process and that, within reason, your trainer is available to you as and when you need them for help and advice. So when I was told to try and save any questions I had through the week, for a single email, I was a little disappointed and felt that I would be bothering him if I stepped outside of this arrangement.
The trainer himself was incredible. His knowledge of the body, its systems, and how best to manipulate them for maximal results was truly inspiring. You get swept up in it all, so much so that you don’t notice that the protein shake at the end of the session isn’t free, you accumulate a charge for them. You miss the fact that you’re being pressure sold supplements and extras that you probably don’t need, but feel you should take to maximise the results that you’re paying a lot of money for.
The sessions themselves were brutal. Well constructed, thought out, and delivered with ruthless professionalism. There was no quarter given, and I quickly learned that there was no bluffing my trainer. He was there to train me, not be my best friend. That’s not to say there was no sympathy or friendliness, there was, but my transformation matter just as much to him as it did to me. Maybe that’s because the trainers at UP’s jobs depend on the results, but I like to think it was professional pride on the part of the trainer.
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The weight of expectation is everywhere. In the people I manage, the people who manage me, my children, and many others but mostly in myself. I sometimes expect way too much of myself, and when it looks like I’m not living up to expectation I run. I hide. I convince myself that the outcome was never achievable anyway so I may as well cut my losses and quit. Then the mental gremlins come out of the shadows and remind me that I’m not [blank] enough and I should never have tried anyway. So I don’t. I had such a moment today with my personal trainer @jacknewmanfit and I actually used the words ‘I’m not good enough’ and ‘I don’t belong here’ at @upfitnesslive There was no pandering or acquiescence to placate me, there was no bootcamp screaming and shouting of insults, what there was was effective coaching to overcome that barrier, complete the workout, and keep me inspired to come back again. This is why they are the best at what they do!
There were incredible highs and awful lows through the sessions, I questioned why I was there many, many times. At one point I cried all the way home after a particularly humbling session where I had left everything on the gym floor but still felt I had under-performed, let myself down, let the trainer down, and quite frankly didn’t belong in that arena. It was an intimidating environment to be part of. The trainers are all incredibly well built, a calling card of UP trainers, but rather than inspire me, it just brought out all of my insecurities and made me feel inadequate. My issue, not theirs, but not something I felt I could tell my trainer in my weekly email. Being a soldier, there was already an expectation placed on me by the staff. “You’ll just get on with it” I was constantly told, so any time that I felt like I couldn’t ‘just get on with it’ I felt like I had failed to meet expectation. It was a lot of pressure, and I often felt crushed under its weight.
Nutritionally I was expecting to have a personally tailored meal plan given to me, telling me what to eat and when. Instead I got an exceptionally generic eat lean meat and veg 4 times a day style programme. I was given specific macronutrients that I had to try and follow, but I was a little bit underwhelmed by the lack of personalisation of it all. I signed up to the EatUP food delivery options but by week 6 of the transformation I had come off them because the orders were rarely correct and I simply couldn’t afford them anymore. This was the area that I failed myself on most.
I tracked my macros on MyFitnessPal and my trainer was linked to my account so he could see what I was eating and when, but what I entered was rarely the truth. I would emotionally eat throughout the process, then try to starve myself to compensate, but didn’t feel that I could talk to my trainer about it. I felt like I was letting him down, and I felt like I was letting the reputation of the Army down by failing to meet the expectation that was placed on me as a soldier from the start.
Despite the nutritional fails, and under-performances in the gym, the results kept coming and I was incredibly happy with the results. I regularly beat myself up for my shortcomings and as I sit here gorging on something entirely unhealthy for me, I can’t help but wonder what I could have achieved if only I had stuck to the plan properly and found the courage to engage with my trainer about my psychological and emotional needs, not just my physical.
We will never know I guess.