So, the 16th of March. Back in 2005 I’d fallen into bad habits. I was seriously overweight and spent most of my time watching TV, playing computer games and eating takeaways. Although I had a bike it only got used once or twice a month. However change was in the air. In January 2005 I bought a Sony PS2 and GTA San Andreas. As part of the game you can train at 3 martial arts gyms, one boxing, one kung fu and one kick boxing. I was kind of curious about the boxing so I bought some cheap shorts and gloves and decided to see if I could find somewhere to give it a go. After a bit of Googling I found a few boxing and kick boxing places that looked promising. Some had web sites while others just had email addresses. I left it for a few weeks but then in March 2005 I had to do some work in Cardiff so I called into a martial arts shop there and bought some Thai boxing shorts because the boxing shorts I had didn’t fit, with the proviso that if I was going to spend that kind of money I’d better use them. After watching a couple of old fights on the C5 show Now is the Time I finally got round to doing things and sent the following email to Richard Smith, the main instructor at Bad Company on the 8th of March:
I’m interested in joining the gym and coming to classes. Before I do, I was wondering if you had any requirements regarding health or level of fitness as it would be fair to say I’m somewhat unfit and overweight. In the past when I’ve spoken to my doctor he’s suggested that the best way for me to overcome this is to get more exercise, such as joining a gym. I’d also be interested to know if there is any particular equipment or clothing I should bring when I do come.
If you’d like to contact me over the phone, my number is xxx.
By the time I got a reply the next available open session was Wednesday the 16th. I was very nervous when I got there but I decided the best plan was to go with the flow and see what they could teach me. During the warmup Richard came over to me and told me to just do what I could, possibly the first and last time he’d not told me to try harder. Can’t remember much about that session but I do remember trying to do a push kick and falling backwards. I was pretty achy afterwards but I decided I was going to try doing six weeks and then decide whether to continue. Unfortunately after that I got mumps and had to miss the next couple of sessions. Certainly wouldn’t be the last time I was disappointed that illness or an injury meant I’d miss training.
However plans were already in place to do something about it.
A couple of weeks later I had to do some work in Edinburgh and while I was staying in the hotel I saw how I looked in a full length mirror when I got out of the shower. I was still in the 6 week probationary period but I decided this was the best opportunity I had to sort things out and I decided to continue indefinitely. Over summer 2005 I kept training usually once a week, sometimes twice. In August work launched a fitness drive called Workfit. I didn’t bother with most of what the plan had to say but it did encourage me to brave the scales for the first time in ages and find out my weight: 21 stone or 133 kg. I did have my own scales but I threw them away when it reported my weight as something like 22 and a half stone in March and I thought they were faulty. Whatever, it wasn’t nice to find out because I expected it to be something around 120 kg, but once you know it’s easier to do something about it.
From that point onwards I kept an eye on my weight but it didn’t change substantially because I was still eating a lot. In May 2006 I moved house to somewhere that wasn’t on a direct bus route so it took a bit longer to get home, but I still stuck with it. In November the gym announced they were going to have an interclub in February 2007 and at the time I decided I’d probably watch just to see what it involved.
In the first couple of days of 2007 I got one of those phone calls you really don’t want to hear: "it’s your uncle. He’s had a minor heart attack". In the end he turned out to be OK but he was warned that the next one would be the big one. It also got me thinking that if I didn’t do something I might end up having something similar happen to me. Despite reasonably regular training I was still around 130 kg and had a 48" waist. I decided I was going to enter the interclub after all (even with my excessive weight I thought I’d be able to have a decent stab after nearly 2 years training) and have a go at losing a stone in time for my mum’s birthday on the 22nd of Feb. I also started to change my diet. Lunch used to be a sandwich, sausage roll or pasty, muffin or giant cookie and drink. I first substituted the pasty for a bag of crisps, then cut out the muffin, and finally replaced the crisps with a piece of fruit. At the start of the year I was 131 kg. By the interclub I was 126, and by my mum’s birthday I was 124 kg. The interclub itself was hard work, but a lot of people were impressed that I’d done it at all:
Late in January I had some spare time so I was playing around with some dates by which I could lose a certain amount of weight. My mum’s birthday became milestone 1 and subsequent milestones were roughly 7 – 8 weeks apart by which time I’d have lost around 7 kg/1 stone. The main thing I did apart from training was changing my diet. It wasn’t strictly calorie controlled but I stopped eating between meals, swapped blocks of cheese for grated, and reduced the amount of fat. I also made a point of eating a regular breakfast, even if it was just a cereal bar and a cup of coffee at work.
Immediately after the interclub I had to work in Woking for a month. This involved living in hotels and a lot of travel. With so much taken out of my hands about the only areas I had any control over were what I ate and what I did in the evenings. As a business traveller it’s very easy to eat a big meal in the hotel, flake out in front of the TV and then go to bed. However what I did was contact a local Thai boxing gym and trained there once a week. I also ate a lot of grilled fish and salads. During all this I got flu at one point and ate virtually nothing for most of a week. 6 weeks after my mum’s birthday I’d lost another 7 kg despite all the business travel and was 117 kg.
There was another interclub in November. This was tough but for different reasons: it was a couple of weeks after my grandad’s funeral and a few weeks before I moved house. Also the first (and last) time my mum’s been to one of my fights.
In January 2008 I finally got my weight down to double figures. There was an interclub at the beginning of March where I weighed in at 100 kg but by the end of the month I’d got down to 95 kg and milestone 5: the final one of my original plan. It was also about this time I finally registered with a local GP and asked to be referred to a dietician. Despite having a lot of success losing weight it had got stuck and I needed some professional advice to get it moving.
In April 2008 I decided I wanted to increase the training a bit more so I started doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as well. Completely different from Thai boxing, both in focus (grappling rather than striking) and uniform (gi rather than shorts & t shirt). I was going the two separately with the intention of later combining them so I could do MMA.
More of the same until July 2008 when there was another interclub planned. I was training harder than ever for this one including cycling to the gym occasionally. Unfortunately one night I got distracted on the way there and this happened:
Ended up taking 10 weeks off work, 9 weeks off BJJ and 3 months off Thai boxing. This wasn’t supposed to happen! I had to go through rehab and made an effort to keep some fitness over summer 2008 with lots of running, sit ups and using an exercise bike. I finally got back to more or less full fitness in February 2009 when I had my next interclub and then after a few more months training was my first proper fight:
I lost on points (76-98) but I went the distance and as the photo shows I kept going despite being covered in my own blood. That fight was at 88 kg.
More training over summer without any unfortunate mishaps. Then I was told I’d been entered for another fight in October. Unfortunately it fell through twice within two weeks of when it was supposed to happen so I decided to use the time I would have spent training for it to bring forward my plans for doing MMA.
Final weight at the end of the year was 84 kg, a total loss of 49 kg. I also got my waist down from 48" to 33". My chest went down from 48" to 40" but now it’s more like 42" now I’m doing weights and muscling up.
From here I’m planning on continuing as long as I can. My strategy is making hay while the sun shines: at some point I won’t be able to train at this level and I may have to stop but that isn’t any time soon. Since the October fight fell through I’ve been wanting to fight again and I’d really like to get something organized, Thai boxing or MMA.
I’ve got various thoughts on the atrocious pseudoscience that infests areas such as sport and nutrition but I’ve written about them elsewhere. I’ve also got various thoughts the banal platitudes that some people use as motivational "systems". I think the problem is that people will try anything that might give them an edge regardless of how ludicrous it is which opens the door to snake oil merchants. Let’s just say that the proper scientific method works for nutrition and I’ve never been particularly keen on proprietary techniques such as NLP. The real test of a motivational technique is not when you’re sitting in a comfortable room while a charismatic person whispers warm sounding platitudes at you, but when you’re lying badly injured in a hospital bed or if you’ve suffered some other misfortune. I knew losing weight and getting up to fighting standard would be a long hard slog but I think it should be obvious from all this that I don’t give up easily and I’m pretty resilient.
Enough rambling. After 5 years in this game I had to write something just to mark the passing of time.