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A Fitness Story

Nick JohnsonNick Johnson

During most of university I was in pretty crap shape, but in the second year of my PhD my physical condition got particularly lousy. I caught a bus every morning which left from directly outside my flat and took me directly to the university. I did pretty much no exercise and ate an awful lot of takeaway. A few of my friends remarked that I'd gained weight. "Don't worry," they said "it's fine," in response to my mortified expression, I'm sure "You look well with it". But I knew I looked nothing of the sort. To paraphrase Eddie Izzard: when I looked in the mirror I sure as hell didn't want to have sex with myself.

Then, as part of the job which ran in tandem with my studies I spend a couple of weeks working offshore on a maintenance ship. Where there was pretty much nothing to do. A worked, I ate, I slept. I played my way through Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. But I also started to make use of the small gym on board the ship. Every day at around the same time I would go down, use the rowing machine for a while, use the cross trainer for a bit, maybe fiddle with the pec deck or the lat pulldown machine. Basically: I had no idea what I was doing… but I knew I had to do something.

Back on dry land I signed up for a gym and was given a workout program as part of a complementary training session. I told the trainer I wanted to use the machines and not the free weights, basically because I thought the guys who used the free weights were a bit douchey (based on the evidence I'd seen on the ship and the one time I'd visited the university gym). So for a year or two I diligently hit the gym three evenings a week and gradually increased the amount of weight I was moving around. Equally gradually I also started to like what I was seeing in the mirror.

It didn't last, though. My circumstances changed and I found myself working full time in a different part of the city, while also needing to finish writing my thesis. Getting to the gym in the evenings was now a lot harder… and so started to not happen. I fell back into bad habits and put back on a lot of the weight I'd lost.

I kept trying to get back on the wagon. Twice I started Couch to 5k, and twice I failed to make it all the way through. The first, ironically, because I was sent to work offshore again in my previous job, and then my second attempt was scuppered by a foot injury. Every once in a while I would manage to drag myself to the work gym down here in London… but I didn't have any sort of a plan and I didn't really make any sort of progress.

Then it happened. This is the part of the story I'm very hesitant about discussing further. It's deeply personal. But it's also key.

I found myself in a rather fantastic situation with a very attractive member of the opposite sex. One I'd wanted to be in for some time. It was, as I'm sure you can imagine, a very positive experience. But it was also mortifying, because I found myself looking at this gorgeous lady and realising how hard I was trying not to look at myself. The contrast between us was, to me, quite shocking. It was then that I thought to myself (and yes, I'm aware of the cliche) "I have to get myself in shape" and this time I really, really meant it.

What happened next? Well… fitness wise I got really geeky about it. Really geeky indeed. I'll talk about it more in a different post, but I will say this: I'm definitely making progress, much more successfully than I every did before. Project "look good naked" is in effect, and I'm bringing the technologies.

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