Building your best body, no time to feel shoddy…

Hello everyone and welcome to another collaboration post.

This month’s blog post star guest is Tom. Tom and I have been friends for a while now and used to work together. We would talk about fitness, health and psychology. Tom has a great platform on Instagram where we share his fitness and health videos and posts. He is a certified fitness instructor and has a real can do it attitude which is inspiring. I cannot wait to delve deeper with it through my Q&A style blog. We hope this gives you a some more insight into training and finally being able to reach your body goals.

Please feel free to share with all your friends and family! Here we go…

So Tom what was it that initially got you into fitness and nutrition?

Through childhood and adolescence, I was skinny and shy. I always admired physical specimens such as professional rugby players, bodybuilders, and fighters, as I envied their physical prowess. I always wanted to be muscular, strong, and athletic, like these professionals. I also had a difficult childhood, and I wanted to eradicate the resulting lack of confidence by achieving a great physique and great strength. 

Lifting weights was my route into fitness. I started at home with bodyweight exercises and jogging at around 17, and then graduated to heavier weight training when I started attending a gym regularly, at Swansea University at 19.

I had some online mentors who really got me engaged with fitness and nutrition through YouTube. The main mentor was a phenomenal personal trainer called Elliot Hulse. He is an inspiring man with a great story, and I urge you to check out his YouTube channels. I also remember Scott Herman being another useful mentor with educational fitness videos. 

Getting into nutrition was essentially just a byproduct of a desire to build a physique, as good nutrition is so vital to gaining muscle and strength. I started eating healthily to get big and strong, and the resulting positive effects on my mood and energy levels solidified my resolve to make this a regular habit.

I fell in love with fitness and nutrition when I started to see results. I started to see increases in muscularity, strength, energy levels and confidence, and this is truly when I permanently committed to a lifetime in fitness and nutrition. I became addicted to being healthy, both mentally and physically. My physical and mental growth through weightlifting proved to me that I could achieve something when childhood challenges caused me to doubt my ability to achieve my goals. This is what made me continue down this path. 

Have these methods helped you in your life? – if so how?

There were no real methods that I used to get into fitness and nutrition. I already had the motivation to be big and strong, and I took a leap of faith and learnt what worked through reading and trial and error.

To answer your question in a sense, fitness and nutrition have helped me tremendously in my life in general. Training in the gym is analogous to general life, in my view. The same set of skills which make one successful in the gym can be applied to other facets of life. 

For example…- Discipline manifested each completed repetition when I lacked the energy or motivation.- Consistency allowed me to make steady and continuous muscle and strength gains.- Work ethic rendered my training effective.

Transforming my body gave me all these great qualities and many more. Consequently, I can and do call on these attributes to complete other unrelated tasks.

I now possess an incredible work ethic, discipline, consistency, patience, tenacity, and motivation, largely thanks to my beautiful and epic journey through the realm of fitness and nutrition.

It also made me look in the mirror and be truly proud of my body, my physical strength, and my growth as a person. As a result of this, my self-esteem has grown exponentially.

Moreover, the gym was and still is my solace. As well as being a route to my goals, it was a coping mechanism for my mental health tribulations. The gym is a place where I can get out of my mind and into my body.

In short, fitness and nutrition gave me all the attributes that I need to be successful in general life and at peace within myself. For anyone seeking a motive to train, my advice would be that investing time in training your body has a stratospheric return on investment in life in general, even if you don’t care about how you look or how strong you are. The motive to train is to become an unstoppable machine in all domains of life.

Social media can put a lot of pressure on how we look, how do you feel we can tackle this potential body obsessive platform?

Ultimately, we can’t control what pictures and videos others post on social media, but we can control how we perceive them.

Social media is full of seemingly perfect bodies and I do agree that this can cause us to compare ourselves to these ‘perfect’ specimens. 

I think that the popularity of recent ‘body positivity’ ideals and movements has gone some way to change what we perceive as a ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’ body. The body positivity movement has gained a lot of traction recently.

That said, social media does still give us a false perception of what it means to have a normal and healthy body.

On the one hand, belief that formidable physiques and strength are possible in a healthy and natural way will benefit our training, as this motivates us strive for this eventuality. 

Amazing physiques and elite levels of strength are attainable while adhering to a happy and healthy lifestyle. I urge people not to doubt what is realistically possible for the human body just because of those who achieve such looks or strength unnaturally, with performance enhancing drugs or extreme supplements, lifestyles, and diets. I am living proof. Although I have a long way still to go with my strength journey, I have gained around 20-25 kilos of muscle, on a good day have an impressive physique, and I can lift a lot of weight. This kind of progress takes many years for the average person, but I have proved that it can be done healthily and naturally.

Notwithstanding, I think the first thing that we can do to combat this issue is to manage how we perceive images. I advise taking images on social media with a grain of salt. What this means is to believe that excellence in fitness and nutrition are entirely possible naturally, but to maintain a degree of scepticism when viewing these images.

Realise that people who make a living from fitness and nutrition are under incredible pressure to look amazing and to be strong. As their own lives and the lives of their loved ones depend on their success in the industry, many are willing to do things which are unnatural to succeed. 

So, my advise is, while harbouring the belief in your ability to excel naturally with fitness and nutrition, consider the following things when viewing images on social media.1. Many of the most popular pictures which you view on social media of ‘perfect bodies’ could quite easily have been manipulated by someone adept at editing photos. That is the first thing to realise. You may be looking at an edited photo rather than a real, unaltered image of a person.2. Some people within the industry are willing to go to extreme lengths to attain a certain level of muscularity or strength. For example, Arnold Schwarzenegger and many, if not all, professional bodybuilders of his era, took copious steroids, trained intensely for several hours each day, and followed extreme diets religiously and constantly during competition seasons. Skinny celebrities may also be starving themselves to look a certain way. These people are not comparable to the average person. There is no use in comparing oneself to people who will quite literally do whatever is required, no matter how dangerous for their health, to achieve their goals. 

It is a good thing to look after your health and to make sure that your training and diet are improving your health as well as you strength and physique.  A fitness lifestyle shouldn’t be designed solely to achieve elite body goals while your health and happiness deteriorate, or you even die in the process of striving for such goals.

My short answer to your question is the following…

Don’t compare yourself to the pictures of bodies which you are seeing on social media. These influencers and celebrities are the 1% of people who are willing to do whatever it takes to look ‘perfect’.

If you are unwilling to go to the same extreme lengths as the fitness and nutrition ‘elite’, you will likely not attain the same physique or physical strength. I truly believe, from all the experience I have gained in this field, that the potential consequences of going to unhealthy and unnatural lengths to have a ‘perfect’ body, are unequivocally not worth the potential reward. So, just set ambitious but attainable goals and disregard these extreme images, as these people don’t have the same goals or values as you.

Along with the physical benefits of exercise do you think it helps to improve your mental wellbeing?

Yes, I firmly believe that exercise can revolutionise one’s mental health, for the following reasons…

Exercise is like meditation for me, in a sense. As well as being a route to my physical health goals, it is equally a grounding activity. Challenging exercise forces my focus powerfully into the present moment. Undivided attention is necessary to keep me safe during heavy lifts and to render my sets effective. Exercise truly renders my mind still and focused, in precisely the same way as traditional meditation.

Following a structured training regime has also given my life structure. The structure and organisation that training has added to my life has helped me to feel in control of my time.

Furthermore, good nutrition and exercise have had an immeasurably positive impact on my energy levels. This has been a game changer. It has almost entirely banished lethargy to the most bygone depths of my memory.

Additionally, as touched on briefly earlier in the post, I strongly believe that the physical and mental growth which have resulted from my decade of training, has resulted in very healthy and deeply rooted self-esteem. This confidence in myself and my abilities gives me the equanimity to handle adversity and mental health difficulties.

As a consequence of all the things which I have covered above, I assert that fitness and nutrition have transformed my mood and my overall mental health.

Finally, it seems to me that this link between exercise and mental wellbeing is well documented in scientific research to date. The correlation to me seems undeniable, not solely due to my own anecdotal evidence.

What would be some of your favourite meals that you would recommend that is good for a healthy diet?

My diet is very monotonous. I wouldn’t say that my diet is the most diverse or the healthiest. That said, I do manage to eat somewhat healthily while leading a busy life, and I think this is a sustainable approach. Trying to be perfect with our diets takes time and effort, and realistically eating ‘perfectly’ isn’t sustainable for most people unless they have all the time in the world to do so. I find that trying to do so can often lead to choosing unhealthy food options which take less time to prepare or obtain.

I have a handful of different healthy foods which I eat repeatedly. For me, maintaining a healthy diet requires convenience. Each main meal comprises some form of complex carbohydrate source like bread or potatoes. I combine this with some form of meat or a vegan alternative, and often with tinned vegetables. I frequently have fruit as dessert, either by itself or with plain soya yoghurt. 

The following meals are my absolute favourites. They require minimal time and motivation to prepare and are packed with protein, filling carbohydrates, and micronutrients.1. Fruit muesli with plain soya yoghurt, goji berries and other berries. I usually combine blueberries with the goji berries.2. A bowl of fruit (any) with plain soya yoghurt. My favourites are black grapes, nectarines, peaches, blueberries, raspberries, and goji berries.3. Vegetable lasagne (cooked in bulk). All this requires is following a simple lasagne recipe and throwing a variety of canned vegetables into the dish in place of meat. Including pulses and legumes in this meal, such as lentils and beans, renders the dish filling and rich in protein. 

How can we know that we are on the right track with our fitness?

Knowing whether we are on the right track with our fitness really depends on our goals. Ultimately being on the right track just means moving in the right direction towards our fitness goals. We can still be on track even if our bodies aren’t quite how we would like them to be or we don’t perform as well as we would like to. If we are making progress towards our personal fitness goals, we are on track.

Seeing some form of improvement in most of your workouts is a good indicator that you are on track. Making consistent improvements means that you are challenging your body adequately (but not excessively), consuming enough of the right nutritious foods, managing your stress levels, and getting enough rest in the form of relaxation and sleep.

I advise keeping a workout log, in order to see the progress which you are making. If your progress starts to diminish, you will need to make a change or several changes to your training, diet, rest, or stress management. You may even need to make changes to several or all of these facets of your lifestyle. 

Making changes to these areas is more complex than I can express concisely in this blog post. Any specific questions about these changes are welcome on my social media accounts.

Finally, what would be your 3 top tips for a healthy, balanced life?

1. Don’t do anything extreme to achieve your fitness goals.

En route to achieving your gym goals, don’t follow extreme diets or exercise regimes, don’t starve yourself, don’t take performance enhancing drugs, and don’t take dietary supplements which come with marked detrimental side effects. Going to such extremes to achieve fitness goals is reserved for the handful of aspiring bodybuilding champions and star athletes who are willing to sacrifice health and longevity for fame and accolades.

A fitness lifestyle needs to be sustainable and benefit one’s mental and physical health. You shouldn’t sacrifice your physical health and contentment for unhealthy and unsustainable lifestyles. It simply isn’t worth it. Of course, we all ideally want to be supreme physical specimens, but our mental and physical health is more important. One can still achieve great things in fitness, without sacrificing physical health and happiness. However, the process is more gradual, and this leads me onto my second tip.

2. Embrace gradual progress.

Fully accept that progress in fitness as a natural athlete is gradual. Be patient and consistent. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Focus on making incremental progress on a consistent basis rather than rapid progress in short bursts interspersed with long periods of inactivity and stagnation. Allow this approach some time and you will see that the small bricks that you were laying on a consistent basis have become a vast structure and monumental progress.

3. Find diets and forms of exercise, or several forms, about which you can be passionate.

Exercise shouldn’t be a chore and it isn’t a punishment. You should look forward to your workouts as a result of them comprising modes of exercise which truly engage and excite you.

For example…

If you love socialising, you could find a local sports club such as a rowing or jogging club, where you can interact with others while you exercise.

If you love to be alone and you are an avid boxing fan, get yourself some boxing equipment and make that your method of exercising.

If you don’t particularly like any exercise but you love nature and scenery, plan regular hikes in scenic locations.

There are copious sports and activities to suit all tastes. You just need to find your passion. Discover a passion which can also be a form of exercise and provide you with great physical health, mental wellbeing, and longevity.

Tom what inspiration and motivation you’ve given us! I love thinking of fitness and sports like meditation. It doesn’t have to be silent and eyes closed it’s a way of letting go and grounding like you say. Great analogy. “You just need to find your passion” – it’s within all of us for sure we just have to tap into it and find it!

Want to know more about Tom?

If you are interested to see more of my fitness journey, and experience more of what I have to offer you along your own fitness journey, click the link below to my page.

www.instagram.com/formidabody

I also put an equal amount of passion into my mental health content. If you would like to also experience more of what I have to offer you in the field of mental wellbeing, click the link below to my mental health page.

www.instagram.com/inner_apex

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