Giving up judo and tennis were bearable disappointments, but closing the lid on piano lessons was particularly disheartening for my parents – they had high hopes for my cultural development. For me, it was a load-off. The repetition and endless practising, whether it was hitting a ball against a wall or hitting the C scales, left me cold. In high school I was similarly disinterested in cross-country or anything that required senselessly lapping a circuit. But give me a fast-paced, high-intensity game of koppestamp against the loose forwards or the pace of touch rugby and I’d be in my element.
It took me 16 years to work out that I’m more sprinter than endurance athlete. While I’m sure my ADD tendencies had much to do with it, I found myself drawn to Muscle! Strength! Power! rather than The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner.
For me, most workouts have fallen into the repetitive and mind-numbing category. I’ve tried many of the programmes and moves from the mag, trained with mates and a few personal trainers, but it was work and never inspired me. Unsurprisingly, I never saw huge gains. I did just enough to stay lean through my years as a Men’s Health editor.
But then 40 hit. Well, if I’m honest, age 38. My body changed. No longer could I get away with eating well, living better and letting my fitness tick over. My metabolism slowed and so did my workout routine. My reliably lean body began to go soft on me, pretty much around the middle, just like the elders tell you. I cursed and pulled in my belt, determined my body would rebound. That lasted for a while, but deep down I knew I had to come back hard. Unfortunately for most of us, this realisation is driven more by vanity than by health. Perhaps it was a little of both.
I missed the first Staff Six-Pack Challenge early last year, but wasn’t going to let this opportunity go by, especially since the amazing response to the Belly Off Reader Challenge. With both the MH team and readers signing up in their numbers, I scrambled to find a workout that would fulfil my goal of a leaner, stronger body. (Anything that resembled about age 27 would be fine with me.)
Given my short attention span and affinity for sprints and lifts, I was interested in a CrossFit-style of training and looked into a few options before settling on a new outfit called Roark Gyms (http://www.roarkgyms.com) set up by James White (who was blogging for us about the CrossFit training he was doing in the US). After meeting James and explaining my goals, we shook on it. His no-nonsense approach and new garage-style gym resonated with me.
After an assessment and a few workouts I was sore and stiff, but felt that rush of energy you get after a game of touch or ultimate Frisbee. The Roark method is short on rest time and TVs, but big on strength and intensity. It’s focused and tough, and I feel like I’m training with a team. With the big game just 10 weeks away, the wolfpack grew by one.