Getting ready for 2021

KH after photo
KH after photo
Reading time: 5 minutes

It started as vanity and curiosity…and it led to somewhere completely unexpected…

Back in February, when the roadmap relating to coming out of lockdown was announced, something was clear to me. I wasn’t ready.

Sure, I’d been walking and doing some cardio but it was what I call my fat boy training. Ticking over, staying well but pretty out of shape. I wanted to feel ready for a different world that would involve more of the old stuff – travel, face to face meetings, going out – and I felt far from that.

I was at a point where my physicality wasn’t in harmony with my mentality and I wasn’t about to change my mentality.

I knew I had to do something and my instincts told me to start with my body. My physicality has always been the foundation of both feeling good and my performance at work, so it seemed like a sensible place to start.

I just wasn’t sure what I was going to do and then a guy I have the privilege of working with, Adam Morris, showed me the before and after pictures from some work he’d been doing with a physique coach. The shift was dramatic and my curiosity was awoken. Adam looked amazing and I wondered what would happen if a man who will be 60 in a few months (that man is me) gave it a go, working with the same coach. If I could look better, be happier with my body and feel strong and ready, that would be good. I decided to give it a go and work with the same coach.

What I discovered

The good stuff

The last time I felt mad changes in my body like this from day to day was when I was a teenager. It felt like rejuvenation. It brought with it the same intoxicating sense of possibility that I remember back then. My body felt lighter, quicker, springier.

I learned to love and honour food. Sometimes a piece of chicken or sweet potato felt so good, I wanted to savour every mouthful and consume it really slowly.

My sweet tooth changed. I could taste the sweetness in things where I’d never tasted it before. Carrots were an obvious one. But smoked salmon? Hummus?

No foods were banned – I had chocolate and alcohol. But the programme made me make choices because I only had so many calories and macronutrients to spend that day. I found myself wanting to eat things that would nourish me deeply, not just give me transient pleasure.

My body began to really thank me for giving it the nutrients it wanted. Eating became at times, a deeply intense, personal and sensual experience – that was very new for me.

I could feel my body rejuvenating from the inside – sometimes it felt like I was growing a new skeleton that belonged to someone a lot younger. My nails looked healthier. My vision sharpened up.

My digestive system thanked me every day. I won’t go into too much detail here other than to say the evidence was compelling, though it’s all been flushed away now.

It made me question why I ate like I did before when it wasn’t what my body wanted. For me it was because I was eating with my thoughts and emotions, not my physiological needs. It made me confront some deep shit.

I was already pretty tuned into my body, but this took it to another level. It made me really listen to my body and give it what it wanted, not just what I fancied giving it. Eating became a “listening deeply to my body” thing. Previously I’d simply be noticing the effect of what I had fed it.

For the first time in years, I felt happy with my body…in the words of Tim McGraw, I could finally stand the man in the mirror I see.

The hard stuff

There were days when I felt hungry. Not many, though a lot in the last few weeks when we really started to focus. I had to get into the feeling of feeling hungry, choose to accept it and not seek to fix it immediately. It meant I had to manage my mood state a lot – I am the work diva, but there’s only so much my team mates and customers would tolerate.

At times in the last couple of weeks of that first phase my energy levels felt really low – then some food would plug me in and I’d be good to go again. Like I said, I became much more sensitive and grateful for good nutrition. I had become so used to eating whenever I felt the tiniest bit hungry or when I was tired, that I’d stopped honouring my food. I didn’t actually get round to saying grace before each meal (not really my thing), though I got pretty close to it. I definitely honoured my food much more through preparation, cooking and savouring each gorgeous mouthful.

What I brought to it

I know how to train. I’m a 9 x Ironman and have done countless marathons, half marathons, monster cycling events etc. So I’m very tuned into my body and I know the difference between discomfort and pain and that really helped.

I’m very coachable and disciplined. I had a great coach (see below) and I never negotiated with him or the plan or myself. I committed to the plan and followed it every day, without deviation. Though there was occasional hesitation and a fucking lot of repetition.

It took time, over 30 hours a week of activity and even in the thick of ironman training, I never hit that in one week, let alone 16 weeks on the bounce. Maybe if I had, I’d have gone a bit quicker.

I know how to organise my day so I can get done what I need to get done, including work and domestic chores as well as training.

The advantages I had

I am privileged. I could afford to pay a coach. I founded the company I work for, so my ability to influence my day is strong. I could buy good quality food and the equipment I needed, particularly when the gyms were shut.

I had amazing support from my girlfriend, my team mates at work and particularly Adam who had been through this journey and could help guide, support and encourage me.

Our work culture also meant that I could make the necessary commitment without hindrance or guilt.

My coach

Do not – I repeat – do not attempt to do this without an expert coach.

I knew more than most people about my body and nutrition basics as a result of both my work and my previous training. Tarek (my coach) brought a whole new level of insight and expertise and without him the results would never have been as good and more likely, I’d have made myself ill or disappointed or both.

He was amazing and it’s even more incredible given that we’ve never actually met in person. Planning on fixing that shit soon though.

Here’s the headline stats and click through to see the before and after photos of what I achieved in 16 weeks…

What Sessions Hours How far Calorie burn Steps
Strength sessions 75 150 N/A 19000
Walking 112 275 1071 km 55000 1,571,400
Peloton 93 79 1100 km 37400
Total 280 504 2171 km 111400
Calories Total Average per day
Calories consumed 207200 1850
Calories burned 111400 995
Net calories consumed 95800 855
Weight Starting weight Weight after 16 weeks Weight loss
89 kilos 74 kilos 15 kilos