The (W)rites of Rob Knipe

Comic Fantasy and Sci-Fi Author, Brush and Boltgun, Sentient Cat Bed

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So the last post (parp-parp) was very much an introduction to where I was last year, and how I’m not there anymore, and this post is going to be a little bit about going into fitness and how I started training again, and, returning to the gym.

Since somewhere in my mid-twenties I’ve always tried to maintain a reasonable amount of fitness, with peaks, such as training to do the Liverpool Marathon in 2012 (or Liverpool Death March, because I did NOT enjoy it) where I probably ruined my knees, to learning to skate and playing ice hockey in 2014/15. With the illness and general fatigue of the last couple of years I’d piled on a few lbs, I say a few, about two or three stone. When I played ice hockey (Go Raiders!) I was around 13-13.5 stone, and last August I was that weight but without any kind of fitness or muscle mass. I weighed myself while visiting my pal Tracy and was gutted.

I decided that I’d start by canning my medication – this isn’t advice to anyone, I’m not medical and took a bloody big risk doing so. Feeling doped up and foggy all the time helped no one, and at times it felt like I was taking part in a dream, so, by getting rid of the medication, it freed my brain up a little, and brought back the myalgia pain and aches that put me onto the medication in the first place. Then I started to walk. The park by mine is about a mile around it’s outside edge, and I started walking that a few times a week. I was under no illusion that I was unfit, and didn’t want to try running and either do myself in with an injury, or mentally by realising how unfit I was. So I did a few weeks of walking around it once or twice about three times a week. It’s a short enough route that, if i came a cropper in any way I was only a short walk from the house, and didn’t need to call for help.

After a few walks I could feel myself getting motivated to do more, but knew I wasn’t in any shape to just go for it. I’d been discussing training with one of my old ice hockey team mates, Matt who (after we both had reactions to jabs) was now super fit, so he started running with me on a Sunday morning. He has the patience of a saint. As well as motivating me to get out and run, he also waited while I walked for a bit, or slowed, or even stopped to catch my breath. If you’re looking for someone to train with, find yourself a Matt. He kept me going, retaught me things about breathing (I now tend to run with breathing in two for two/three steps, and out for the same).

A couple of months of this and the weather started getting grimmer. Anyone who knows me will know what I think of the old ‘If it ain’t raining, it ain’t training’. Bollocks. If I can run on a treadmill when the weather’s bad, then I’ll see you indoors. Matt, unfazed by the weather kept running many, many miles each week while I signed back up with the local Lifestyles gym and took the second lot of steps to try and get back in shape.

Returning to the gym at 44

Returning to the gym was interesting. I used to go here a lot about 6 years ago, but when my daughter was born time, and a variety of excuses prevented me from going, then after sickness, weight gain and general malaise I felt the dread of going back. I was bigger, weaker and far from as healthy as I had been – I was going back as a total beginner again, so here’s a few things for any new starters going to a gym for the first time:

1) No one is looking at you or judging you – The huge majority of people who go to the gym are their to do their thing and go home. No one is watching you and laughing, no one is hoping you fail. If anything they’re probably hoping to see you improve your fitness and get better and better.

2) Everyone does everything slightly differently – While there’s certain exercises that can be done slightly different for slightly different benefits (take side shoulder raises for example), generally everyone has a different routine that will work for them. Don’t take someone’s routine and expect it to work just as well for you, as everyone is different.

3) Not everyone looks like a sweaty bag of shite at the end of a training session – I definitely do. I train hard, and since long covid my body seems to struggle with maintaining temperature properly. Give me a cool breeze on a 10k run that used to be refreshing and I’ll feel cold part way round. Put on a long sleeve top even when it’s not that warm and I’ll sweat buckets. Some people sweat more than others. If you’re sweating more or less than others, don’t worry, wipe the machine/equipment down as everyone should and crack on (remember 1, no one is watching or judging).

4) Different people come at different times – I go first thing in the morning, because after work I want to relax, so I turn up about 0700, head home about 0800-0815 and then get ready for work. The people vary from day to day, and time to time.

5) Sometimes people sit on one machine for 10-15 minutes and only do a few exercises during that time. If you’re after using it, ask to cut in and do a set between theirs. Sometimes time flies between sets and people sit there longer than they realise. I’ve never had anyone be rude when asking if I could cut in between sets. Again, usually people are just there to train and understand.

There may be more to add as I go on.

I was disappointed when I returned that some of the old guys I used to chat to were no longer there, and I hope it’s not because they succumbed to illness or something in the past six years. However, I did spot one guy who I hadn’t seen since the first covid lockdown, when he’d picked it up and it had knackered his lungs. He got out of breath walking about 20m, or up a flight of stairs. A year and a bit later I’d totally know what that was like. But he’s alive and well, and we chatted for a bit. Most of the time though, there’ll be a few people I chat to a little, or say hello to, but generally everyone goes there to workout.

One thing I noticed which I’m pretty sure is age related, is that parts of me click more and it’s a lot easier to suddenly become injured (like waking up in the morning with a trapped nerve… cue four weeks with no training). So my main thing was to start easy and build up slowly. How did I start?

When I first returned, my training week was similar to now but with way more cardio. I do three days to cover all body parts, and train four days a week, so that every three weeks every part is trained four times (see below).

On my cardio I’d walk with a bit of an incline and a reasonable pace because you burn a lot of calories and it’s less impact on your joints than if you run. If you’re running a bit anyway, don’t be afraid to slow to a walk and walk a bit if you become out of breath. The main thing is to keep moving, even if you need to move slowly, it’ll improve with time. When I first returned I was in rag order and walked more than I ran. The worst thing to do is push yourself and either cause injury (and time off from training) or demotivate yourself because you think you should be better. Always look to the future, you will be better, and you will improve.

The weights exercises were done with light weights to get the parts moving. Again, don’t push yourself too much start LIGHT. If you start with ones that are feeling heavy for you straight away you’re going to hurt the next day so you may not be able to train, and this can also lead to disappointment when you can’t lift as much as you once could.

30 minutes treadmill – slow run/walk.
2 types of chest exercise (3 sets of 10 reps)
2 types of back exercise (3 sets of 10 reps)
2 types of ab exercises (3 sets of as many as you can) – I did toes to sky and flat back curl ups

30 minutes treadmill – slow run/walk.
2 types of bicep exercises (3 sets of 10 reps)
2 types of tricep exercises (3 sets of 10 reps)

30 minutes treadmill – slow run/walk.
2 types of shoulder exercises (3 sets of 10 reps)
2 sets of leg exercises (3 sets of 10 reps)

Rest Day.

2 types of chest exercise (3 sets of 10 reps)
2 types of back exercise (3 sets of 10 reps)
2 types of ab exercises (3 sets of as many as you can)

60 minutes cardio – I did a walk/run

Rest Day.

Is this going to win you running medals? Nope. Is it going to win you body building medals? Nope. What it did for me though, is get my body working at an easy pace to build upon. It’s the initial start that builds the routine, and if you can avoid breaking that routine by injury, pain or exhaustion then do so.

One of the most important things though, if you have scales at home, put them away as they can be hugely demoralising. When you first start exercising and training, your weight may barely change. It can even go up, because muscle weighs more than fat. What this looks like on the scales is that nothing has changed, but the difference can be unseen. After four months I weighed exactly the same, but I looked VERY much different. Hide the scales, or use them once a month. Remember the time of day can make a difference, whether you’ve just eaten, been to the loo, etc. Don’t let the scales put you on a downer.

Next time I’ll go into how I approached increasing everything and building on a reasonable start.

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