Ch. 14 – The gym, with a purpose.

For the fourteenth chapter in my blog “Fatman to Ironman” I will describe how I would fully embrace strength and conditioning as part of my winter training. I would be using the gym properly for the first time in my life, and and loving it.

As you have read in my blog I have suffered through injury many times. Going to the gym was now even more important than ever before.

I had visited the gym sporadically in the past. The usual New Year effort which would fizzle away. More recently I had the privilege of using the Wattbikes at work (In the period I didn’t have a bike). But now I was an aspiring endurance distance athlete. I was in a totally different headspace when I went to the gym for the first time, in a very long time. It was the 17th October 2018.


I headed down to my local Gym straight after work on that Friday evening. Billy (TriForce) had discussed at length with me, the routine I would be starting with. I had printed out some graphics of examples, and was eager to get going.

In the past I had suffered, like many I suppose, the usual image consciousness whilst exercising in the gym. The feeling everyone is watching you? Or in someway judging you. This is probably why I never really stuck it out in the past. I was a pretty hefty guy at one point.

This time the gym was different. I was focussed on my goal, perhaps the fact that I had a goal had made all the difference. I never hung around in the car park, or in the changing room like I had in my early swimming lessons. I just cracked on with it and got into the gym. My first gym session would go by without the fear of what other people were thinking. Mostly, they have their headphones in and are all focussed on their own goal. I didn’t care either way.

I would be introduced to a new word in that first gym session “Potentiation” I think this is where you are effectively warming muscle groups up prior to increasing load or intensity. Either way, I thought you just got in the gym and did a bit of whatever, then showered and went home. No! These were going to be very structured sessions.

Having done my 10 minute easy treadmill I would have a blast with the foam roller, and then go through a series of Lunges, Squats, Glute Bridges and Leg Aductors etc. I was sweating profusely and hadn’t even been near anything heavy yet.

I would then start off with various things like leg presses, curls, Lat pull downs etc. etc. The gym staff very kindly showed me the ropes, and the session would go very smoothly. I would start off with 3 x 6 receptions on each muscle group and then a 90 second break. 90 seconds seems like a long time. I am learning that recovery is so important and key to consistent training. I would be disciplined and adhere to the plan.

I wasn’t lifting anything big. I had been told not to. Firstly technique was most important, I was to make sure I was getting the complete movement or rotation. The weight would be built gradually.

After completing the various weight machines I though I was done. But no! These were  very structured sessions indeed. I would now have to complete a circuit three times. I had a choice which circuit I could do. The circuits are a mix of Aleknas, press ups, press up/pull through, face pulls and cable pulls amongst other things. Oh and a plank or two for good measure. Then still not finished, I would go through a stretch routine.

I finished the gym session having drank every last drop of water I had taken with me. I showered, and would go home very content. I would be doing this twice a week. Gradually building the load, and intensity as we went. I couldn’t wait for the next session.

I would grow to love the gym over the next few weeks. I began to make acquaintances as the familiar faces that showed up each week began to chat. It just made so much sense what I was doing. I also began to notice gains every week. Most weeks I would be lifting more than the previous weeks. The circuits became routine, where as before I had to keep referring to my notes. The potentiation would continue to get me sweaty before I had even done anything, but I guess thats its purpose.

The gym became quite an amusing place. I am a keen people watcher and the gym is full of all sorts.

People watching

Most amusing is the teenager trying to get ripped. He turns up and is the fastest on the rowing machine, oblivious to the risks, and lifting the heaviest of weights. However, he burns out in seconds and achieves nothing. This guy returns every week, and is there for about 15 minutes.

Then there is the travelling community. These guys really do respect their bodies. But they train in a group, each feeding off the others endorphines, like a pack of wolves.

One of my favourites is the guy who shows up in a vest so small his nipples are on show… Really? He isn’t there a lot fortunately. The ladies don’t do this pal, why should you.

The body builder amazes me every time. He is always there before I turn up, and he is still there when I leave. He doesn’t always lift big, but when he does it is impressive. His repetitions are consistent, and he respects the recovery time. Religiously writing down the weight each time.

Then there are the guys who look at themselves in the mirror, whilst doing their set. These are an odd, clearly self obsessed bunch. I smile in amusement when they take selfies of their tensed muscles.

The ladies are a different bunch all together. They don’t feel the need to make loud noises or exaggerated gasps when lifting weights. They don’t tense up their faces either.

Then there is the fat guy. I look at him with admiration each time he shows up. I remember where I was once and think “Good on you” at least you are here. He returns every week.

The older generation amaze me. There are a few clearly in their seventies, maybe older? They aren’t just working out because the doctor told them too. They are on a mission. Clearly they all have goals and ambitions. Their sessions are just as tough as mine. Good on them.


During this period I had been listening to my music collection through my iPhone but was beginning to get bored of the same shuffle repeats. I had dowloaded a few compilations and a few new albums, but really couldn’t find the right thing for me for when I was training.

A while ago I remembered listening to Fenella Langridges Podcast through Team Oxygen Addict. I had downloaded it via a link from a Facebook page. This was the first ever podcast I had listened to. I would revisit the world of podcasts and change the way I trained.

I would listen intently to the various podcasts I had downloaded that week, on the drive to the gym and whilst exercising. I would zone out and smash my training whilst listening to all kinds of subjects. Nutrition, sweating, recovery, heart rate training, and so on. The list is endless. Naturally I was focussing towards Ironman related podcasts. However, Im sure there is a podcast out there for everyone.

Amongst the podcasts I have listened to, two stand out above all;

Tim Don – The man with the Halo

An exceptionally talented athlete who suffered an extremely serious cycling accident shortly before his “A” race of the year – The Ironman World Championships at KONA. With a broken neck he was forced out of training and racing, and into a HALO.

This is a truly epic story. He has recently released two videos describing his return to racing.

Johnny McEvoy – From armed robbery to professional athlete – One man reformed through the power of sport.

Johnny has a truly remarkable to story to tell and hopefully the title of his podcast sums it up.

I won’t spoil the experience for you by repeating their stories here now. I just encourage you to have a listen. Suffice it to say they are two very inspirational people that have been on an epic journey. Neither have ever given up on their goals or their dreams. They have always found a positive out of whatever negative situation they have found themselves in. As a result they continue to be very successful at what they do. In some way I hope to have taken a little out of their mantra and applied it to my own.

Thank you for reading the latest chapter in my blog.

Please take the time to read the previous chapters in my journey. Chapters 1-14 have been a lot of fun to write, and I welcome your comments and opinions.

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’”– Muhammad Ali

Unlike this great champion, I have never “hated” my training. For sure there are days when I find it tough. Or moments when I feel like giving up. But like him I want to be able to live that dream. I may not be the champion, but in my own mind I will have won the battle and successfully completed my journey.

For the next chapter in my blog I will describe how I began to shape my 2019 training and race season


Previous chapters in my Journey “Fatman – Ironman”


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