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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


Every road has its rough spots.


One of the main reasons I hired Dan and hit the gym was to improve my overall health; my immune system hit back by going on strike, and I spent the month alternately coughing, spitting up sputum and vomiting as I tried to work my pecs out and my belly in.


I had to train sick, balancing progress with maintenance. Most of it is common sense. You can do it, but understand your limits. Listen to your body — one of Dan’s oft-emphasized lessons. Be patient with the slower progress.


That’s not easy for me. The month feels like an utter wash; we delay serious alterations to my diet as it would just be too stressful. Relaxation is recovery.
He shares ideas for some healthy snacks, protein for building muscle.


“Be patient,” he says. This will become a familiar refrain.


How To Train Sick


This is where having a trainer is excellent. I may be down, but Dan gets me going again. I’m ready to quit, but he pushes me another step forward, to lift one more time, keeping a critical eye on my form and overall demeanour.


“If you reach the end of every session feeling like crap, I’m a stupid coach,” he says.


If you hire a trainer, listen when he tells you to stop. Part of his job is knowing when you have hit your wall, and when you still have that last set in you.
We do light days. I don’t get sicker, and I maintain the momentum and rhythm of going to the gym three days a week. Getting into better habits is a matter of repetition; why let bronchitis interfere if I can train through it safely? And don’t hesitate to adjust your programme or your supplements to accommodate your well-being.


I lose my breakfast a couple of times, and he ends the sessions.


“Be patient.” It’s a mantra we all could adopt.



Lucky Day 13


Progress. My form is solid enough to add weights to the mix. As I learnt last month, you need good form before you start hefting those kilos.


The importance is driven home two ways.


Playing around with my students, I mildly strain my left Achilles tendon.


It was from nothing, a simple pivot, but neatly demonstrates the fragility of the body — especially as its age inches up.


A pivot on my foot, playing; just think of what could happen if you’re squatting 100 kilos and your form breaks down.


Dan has to coach me on how to move and stand under the weight so I don’t aggravate it. We do some squats and deadlifts. My back muscles harden like over-vulcanized rubber for days.


Second, we do dumbbell presses. I hoist more weight more easily than I thought I could. I do 12 reps, and feel like I could do 20. More progress.


My muscles are working efficiently together, which is important as the weight increases. More weight equals more risk, so your muscles and central nervous system need to play nice with each other. Interestingly, my posture improves without my noticing.


Goodbye Steak, Hello Health


Getting under the bars feels great, even if I’m still lifting low weights.


Dan is dismissive of racking up plates on the bar when it’s done as some sort of end in itself. It can’t be repeated enough; knowing your goals is crucial to achievement.


In my case, it’s not having another month like this one. Next month, we’ll get to my diet, so I must get ready to wave goodbye to my Scotch and steaks.
But not just yet, thankfully. I can’t face it after this month.


Dan’s advice?


“Be patient.”

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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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