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Word staff writer Owen Salisbury has started to take his fitness seriously: he’s hired a trainer. In the second of a series of columns, Owen learns the value of patience

 

Dem gainz, goes the ancient bodybuilding proverb.

 

I know I said I’d discuss nutrition this month, but this is the halfway mark and I thought I would stop and take stock of how far I’ve come.

 

So, let’s talk about gains.

 

Progress is usually incremental, so it’s often when we look back at where we started that we truly appreciate the length of road behind us.

 

When I began hitting the gym again after years away, I’d be out of breath after half a dozen reps. My shoulder ached constantly, due to an old series of injuries. When I began, I slouched, pulling my shoulders up and back. I was sick for nearly four months.

 

Checking In

 

 

In the last 10 weeks, my strength has increased by an average of 80% to 120% in the basic exercises we do. I can safely squat 80kg, and safely deadlift 110kg. When I began, I could barely manage the proper form without weights.

 

My endurance shot up. Now I lift until my muscles burn, tremble and fail instead of seeing spots and greying out after half a dozen reps. Now when Dan says: “Get 15 to 20,” I aim for 20 and as often than not, I hit it. When I began, Dan coddled me along. Now he has to hold me back.

 

My waist shrunk a good 8.5cm; soon I’ll need a new wardrobe. Shadows of definition have appeared in my chest, arms, back and shoulders. I no longer walk with my shoulder pulled back and the pain is at its lowest in years, even though I regularly tweak the weakened joint in the gym.

 

True, I still have the spare tire. It’s shrunk, and it will shrink more. By the end of this six-month series, it will be gone. I’ve decided this, and I will make it happen.

 

I feel good. My energy levels are up, my appetite is up, my enthusiasm is up. When I began, I was recovering from a concussion. I was sick for nearly four months due to the recurrence of a viral infection. I had insomnia most nights, when I began.

 

What excites me most is something Dan said: “Now we’re ready for real work.” He meant that all that progress was prologue, and that the real transformation is yet to come.

 

The Point of All This

 

 

There’s a real point to me telling you all this, and it is this: anybody can do it. You may be sick; I was. You may be tired; I was. You may be out of shape and overweight; I was.

 

I won’t say these things don’t matter. Of course they do. But you can overcome them. We all have the capacity to astonish ourselves. We can all make ourselves better.

 

Taking the First Step

 

Start as small as you have to. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk to the store. Find a local gym. Just take that first step. I did, and I cannot express how much it’s helped.

 

The biggest barrier to improving your health is psychological inertia. Taking that first step means the second step is a fraction easier, the third easier still. It never gets easy — I watch Dan sweat and puff and grit his teeth as he does sets of 100 squats. It’s hard work, but he keeps going.

 

The real gains, after all, are quality of life. That’s what exercise is about; improving your health, helping you feel well. Trust me — it works.

 

And really, what do you have to lose?

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Owen Salisbury

Owen Salisbury is a fairly typical example of Homo Expatrius. Originally from California, he moved to Vietnam in 2011. He loves to write, take photos, travel, eat well, and learn.

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