Well, here I go again! I did my first UP transformation 8 years ago, which changed my life in nearly every way possible, including coming to work for Nick Mitchell (my PT at the time and founder of Ultimate Performance), as his Head of Sales for London. We have since grown to become the world’s biggest dedicated Personal Training company, with a reputation for producing results which is second to none – that being said, I cannot take sole credit for this success.
Last time around, I was in my late 20’s, working in the City, crazy work hours, massively stressed, terrible eating patterns and consuming far too much of everything that was bad for me. That transformation saw me drop from 33% body fat to 12.5% in 12 weeks (a drop of 31 kgs of fat and a gain of 5kgs of muscle). I was immensely proud of this accomplishment and will be forever grateful to Nick Mitchell for helping turn my life around.
A lot has changed since then – I am now nearer to my 40th birthday than I care to admit, happily married, with two beautiful little daughters (both under the age of three) and still working all hours God sends…and I got fat again! As before, I managed to hide the fact pretty well, even from myself.
Following on from my first transformation I had continued training and achieved the shape of my life 3 years prior, just before the birth of my first daughter. However, I had slowly eased off on the diet and training since, happily ignoring the slow but steady weight gain. I found myself avoiding situations where I would have to bare my torso, such as swimming with my girls, or stripping off on a hot day to enjoy the sun but these happened infrequently enough for me to be able to brush the embarrassment (and shame) away until next time.
I work alongside some of the most motivated, dedicated Personal Trainers in the World but even with all this support on my door step, I had tried and failed several times to turn the situation around.
Lesson here is that, even with the best support possible, unless you are willing to commit fully to the process, the results will be average at best and a waste of time for all parties at worst.
My capitulation point came whilst looking back at photographs of me holding my youngest new born daughter. The photos had been taken 2 months prior and despite being a little ‘jowelly’ then, I was struck by how swollen and tired my face had become since. I jumped on the scales and was slightly taken-a-back by the figure I saw. In 3 years I had gone from possessing a body I was proud of, to a full on, bona fide Dad Bod. I was angry and disappointed with myself – this would have to change.
Smiling on the Outside
As luck would have it, from this decision point, 16 weeks would take me to the start of November where we would be having a UP Client Photoshoot – there is nothing quite like a bit of fear to motivate you; stripping off in front of the very people who I had told ‘transforming your body and life is possible’, was a huge driving factor for me!
UP Fitness offer both the 12 week LEAN UP and 16 week TRANSFORM UP packages and I am often asked when meeting prospective clients what kind of transformation can be achieved at each of these time points.
This exercise would hopefully show what a modern day father, with all the pressures of work and family life can really achieve in both time frames.
As with all aspects of modern life, timing was not great. Standing between me and my eventual 16 week target was a family holiday, a rugby World Cup, several BBQs/family/social gatherings, two small children with a penchant for irrational sleep patterns and all the while, trying to juggle some semblance of a work/family/life balance. I will be forever grateful to my wife Rachel, for being so supportive through the whole process – I cannot emphasise the importance of such support.
Next up, recruit the UP Fitness team to help me with this transformation – it took some convincing that I was serious about making the transformation this time (I may have talked a good game in the past but never fully followed through).
This time however, I wanted to be treated as a client, full accountability both sides, as we do with all clients who come through the doors. I promised them a transformation if they gave me all the support I needed – regular body fat measurements and full nutritional, supplement and training programmes. With the team assembled and various wagers made with disbelievers, we were ready to roll.
As with all new clients, first step was to do some very specific goal setting and take the various body composition measurements and photographs. I found the visual changes throughout the process especially motivating – seeing the results as they happened was such a powerful tool to keep me on track, very much a situation of me against myself and I HAD to do better each time the measurements were taken!
Saying that, the initial analysis was somewhat discouraging to say the least – seeing my ‘before’ pictures (a photo never lies), even my ever supportive wife exclaimed “wow – you did get fat!”. Thanks love. With a starting weight of 111kg and 25.6% body fat I certainly had my work cut out for the next 4 months! (Being tall with broad shoulders can hide all manner of sins…until you strip off).
I had been training on a regular basis for many years, but without any clear direction – my nutrition had been inconsistent at best. Eating ‘healthily’ during the week, albeit probably overeating, and massively underestimating what I consumed at the weekend. I had also reverted to using alcohol as a means of stress management – a glass/bottle of red wine had replaced the red bull and vodka I had used in my previous life.
The first two weeks of German Body Composition Training (big compound pressing and pulling movements with relatively high repetitions and short rest periods came as a nasty shock to the system). Coupled with a very low carb, high protein, boot camp diet, I can say that, without prejudice, it was horrible. Saying that, the ‘weight’ literally fell off (6kg in two weeks). Most interesting of all was, that despite this huge weight loss, I had shifted very little, if any fat at all – purely water weight, which is a sign of how inflamed my body had become. Who would have thought that poor sleep, too much booze and poor diet choices could have such an affect.
My fitness levels returned very quickly, to the point I actually started looking forward to my track sessions – pushing, pulling sleds up and down the AstroTurf which runs through the middle of both UP London facilities. I even came to relishing the much feared Dead Treds (powering the tred mill with nothing but leg power and sheer persistence).
In essence, I was getting leaner, stronger, fitter, I had more energy and we were not even a quarter of the way through the process.
The body fat started to shift after two weeks and did so at rate of approximately 1-2% a week. This remained the case throughout the whole process, which was inline with what my trainer and I targeted from the outset. The regular measurement checks, along with feedback to and from my trainer, ensured that the programme and nutrition were continually tweaked to prevent any plateauing – nothing more exciting than getting your next training plan with nutrition amendments following solid body composition progress (getting results does become addictive and I found myself pushing harder the better I did!).
Dieting with a Social Life
The family holiday came up quickly enough – I ensured I prepped my food and snacks for the week (this took planning) and I always made the best decision when eating out (the nutrition plan was flexible enough to really cater for any dining experience…(within reason).
Laying off the booze was tough but having become a little partial to fizzy water with a slice of lime (hardcore I know), socialising where alcohol was involved was a lot easier than first imagined. A lot of new clients ask whether no alcohol is mandatory as part of UP programmes and the answer, if you want the best results possible, is always ‘yes’, but sometimes work requirements and life get in the way, so make the best choices possible.
With this in mind, I made the decision to be ‘Tee Total’ for the duration of my programme which, alas, meant a dry Rugby World Cup for me. In all honesty, I am 100% that I would have enjoyed the competition more if I had quaffed an ale or ten but when I set my mind to something, there is no wiggle room. At UP we love our robot clients and this is what I was determined I would be.
Nutrition advice is usually something which new UP clients have been poorly serviced with in their previous encounters with Personal Trainers, but the UP approach is comprehensive at worst! Most new clients we have are primarily concerned about the food prep and not having enough time to prep properly in the evening – my best advice, and something I have followed through this whole process myself, is to buy a slow cooker, two thermos flasks and a week worth of food at one time.
Get home from work and throw in the meat (still be frozen), veg (also can be frozen) and spices etc so next morning you have a lovely home cooked, macro nutrient dense batch of food ready to be munched on during the day. Simple. This, however, initially takes some forethought and planning but once you have set meal plans in place, it will become part of your life and will also ensure the best chance of success.
Staying the Course
The further I moved through this whole process, the more fun the training became. Calories were lowered slightly from my starting point, but always high enough that my training did not suffer.
There were of course ‘off days’ where training felt a chore and the diet began to grind me down but having the UP Team, as well as our clients (most who I had signed up) behind me, it never mattered – I was going to get through the session regardless.
My back leaned up quickly and by the 6 week mark I was starting to see chest and shoulder definition again – this marked hitting the sub 20% mark. This milestone was real morale booster.
Morning low intensity cardio….actually I really enjoyed this part of my routine – helped clear my head for the day ahead.
At this point I was training 4 times a week with a PT and training twice a week with HIIT training on my own – hand on my heart, I could see the changes weekly and was loving the process. My trainer was aware that I did not want to impact family life unduly at weekends, so we scheduled one early morning HIIT session Saturday (before the kids woke up) and to include physical activity, involving the family – autumnal walks, crawling around soft play centres etc became the norm… And I loved this part the best.
The 12 week point came up quicker than I could have ever imagined – a couple of sunbeds and trim of the old chest wig and hopefully the results speak for themselves!
Body Fat 25.6%
Body Fat 11.2%
We did not finish there though! Having completed the 12 Week LEAN UP programme, I continued for a further 3 weeks in order to complete the 16 week TRANSFORM UP programme. Four weeks can make a big difference and I really want to see how far I could go. These final 4 weeks were by far the hardest both physically and mentally, but I had not come this far to fail at the final hurdle.
Body Fat 8.8%
I want to thank all the trainers for their support throughout the process – a positive word of encouragement midway through an arduous leg session can really empower you to get through. Same goes for our wonderful clients – it is usually me commending their hard work and results, but to show on the other foot has really empathised how great a motivating factor this can be.
Nick Mitchell, my boss and founder of UP fitness has created something very special, which was a huge motivating factor for me joining the company in the first place. I think this is something that makes UP very special – regardless of whether you are a client, fellow trainer or management, the support from all elements in and around the company will help you get through the hard times and the shared success of all makes the company stronger by the day.
So, What Advice Can I Pass on to other Dad Bod’s in Similar Situations?
Make sure you are mentally ready and have a specific goal. If you are finding excuses from the outset (not enough time to train, prep food etc) you are preparing yourself to fail or at the very least, not maximise the results of your hard work.
Find the right personal trainer for the job – accountability is key. The Team at UP are remunerated based on performance and results. Obviously I am biased but our company’s results speak volumes. No one consistently delivers what our team can, a fact I am very passionate and proud of.
Your trainer will give a detailed plan and all the tools available to ensure your success. The hard bit is creating the habit of preparation, especially after a hard day at work.
In order to accomplish this programme, I forced myself to get up an hour earlier to ensure I freed up an hour during the day to train. Horrible but force of will got me through.
My biggest mistake previously was being consistent for any period of time and using all the above excuses. Maintaining a good physique is far easier than getting it – put in the hard work, give up some of the pleasures in life and focus on your goal, whatever that may be.
Probably the hardest part for me was trying to ensure a work, family life, training balance. No doubt there are times when I could have been a better husband/father during this period but I hope that not lugging around 20kg of excess water and fat will mean I will be around longer to maximise this part of my life.