Torture in the gym: I fall off the bike then vomit in the loo
Dominique McMullan is on a three-month mission to get fit. Today: the fitness assessment
On the ball: Dominique McMullan at The Vaults personal training gym in Dublin. Photograph: Dave Meehan
Week two of training and I’ve completed two sessions in John Belton’s torture chamber (gym).
To recap: I’m 30 years old and my aim is to fit into my wedding dress in three months. More importantly, my aim is to learn how to maintain a healthier lifestyle.
I’m not asking much. I’ve never been a gym goer, or really an exerciser at all, apart from another series I wrote where I learned to swim a mile in 12 weeks. (It takes the eyes of a nation to get me to the gym.)
When I arrive for my first session with Belton, I’m enthusiastic and nervous. He takes me into a very small and dark back room and starts asking me all sorts of questions about my life. Do I often feel tired? Yes. Do I often feel stressed? Yes. Does my heart sometimes race? Yes. He looks up at me. “Well it depends what you mean by race . . . relatively, you know . . . ”
I feel a bit like I’m getting a spray tan as I’m ordered to lift my arms, turn to the side, bend the right knee. But this isn’t like getting a spray tan at all
We decide to start again. I try to swallow my dramatic tendencies. After a few more questions, it turns out I probably don’t have any thyroid or adrenal issues. But it also becomes apparent that I don’t have the reasonably healthy lifestyle I think I have. Apart for the occasional splash around in the pool and a bit of gentle yoga at home, I do no exercise. What was once a 45-minute daily walk into work became a nice comfy lift during winter and has remained that way now that it’s summer.
Food is where the real problem lies, though. Thing is, I eat healthy meals. I love vegetables, wholegrains and beans, etc but like most people it’s the snacking that trips me up. Working in the features department in The Irish Times means a constant supply of chocolate, muffins, cake and caramel (I know, tough life) and I never say no to any of them.
The small room becomes significantly smaller when Belton takes out the callipers. I feel a bit like I’m getting a spray tan as I’m ordered to lift my arms, turn to the side, bend the right knee. But this isn’t like getting a spray tan at all. He measures what feels like every square inch of me. The most humiliating bit is a toss-up between the back fat and the chin. He’s seen it all before, I tell myself quietly.
We sit down to discuss the results. I quickly realise that there is serious work to do, but this is the man to help me do it.
Screens are now banned from the bedroom, a black-out blind is being used, and 10 minutes of meditation before bed is prescribed
My calf measures 28.8 inches. The ideal is 15 inches. The difference indicates that there is a lack of recovery taking place in my body, and my disrupted sleeping is probably the reason behind this. I’ve had strange sleeping patterns for years, but Belton didn’t know that. He tells me that sleep is more important than drinking water when it comes to health and fitness, and that if you are not sleeping correctly you will have a difficult time getting into shape.
He recommends a magnesium supplement to take before bed, which helps my brain as well as my muscles relax. Screens are now banned from the bedroom, a black-out blind is being used, and 10 minutes of meditation before bed is prescribed.
I’ve always felt the benefit of meditation, especially when using apps such as Insight Timer and Headspace, so I’m pleased to be persuaded back into the habit.
Next, he looks at my hip and thigh measurements. They are also (surprise, surprise) way higher than they should be. Rather embarrassingly, while being measured, I’d said that I was quite happy with my hips and legs. The measurements indicate a high level of oestrogen in my body. Belton says this is something that can be worked on with exercise, but that I should also consider coming off any medication that might be having an effect.
We move onto my upper arms and around my back. This is the area where I most want to see change, and this is where my wedding dress is just a little bit tight. Most women put on weight around their bums and thighs, but the first area I notice weight gain is my chest and arms.
In a shocking turn of events, the measurements Belton takes from me here are high as well. Interestingly, he tells me that this indicates that I’m not processing glucose as well as I should, and he recommends cutting out carbohydrates (more on this next week).
As I begin my long lunge back, my legs go wobbly and, puff, my confidence disappears. If I were on my own, it’s at this point that I would probably give up
We head out to the torture chamber (gym) floor and get started on some movements. “I really just want to see what level you’re at,” Belton tells me.
I hop on an uncomfortable bike that has handles that move with the pedals. It’s called an Assault Bike, and in about 20 minutes I can see why. I’m quickly out of breath, but we move on to lunges. I lunge all the way up the room. “This isn’t too difficult,” I think to myself. But as I begin my long lunge back, my legs go wobbly and, puff, my confidence disappears. If I were on my own, it’s at this point that I would probably give up. But we continue.
I struggle with a large blow-up ball and lift some 2kg weights. Once again I think, “this isn’t too hard”, and once again only seconds later I’m finding it impossible. I begin to think that perhaps this is representative of my approach to life.
As the end the session I am back on the Assault Bike. Belton tells me I need to get the calorie-counter on the bike to 30, and this should only take a few minutes, so go as fast as I can. I give it my all.
When the calorie-counter turns to 3, I fall off the bike and only just make it to the loo before vomiting. I think I’ve a while to go yet.