Health & Fitness

The 12 Week Challenge with Virgin Active

posted by on 09/04/2013

Woah woah woah. Awoh! That’s me making noises about what I’ve been doing. If you’ve been keeping track with the site for a few months then you’ll know late last year I started training at Virgin Active as part of their Be Your Personal Best campaign. The constant Foursquare check-ins should have given you a clue, hop on after the cut to see some hilarious imagery of me in the gym. Sorry about the awkward sex/I’m dying faces in most. Ugh.



Can we take a moment for the image above? That’s me picking up a weight and place it onto the bar. Who’d have thought? Hahaha. Also excuse the blurry imagery, all shot on a Lumix. It’ll be shot on a 5D Mark II next time.

Me, the boy who cried wolf whenever a fitness orientated regime was initiated. The British 10k after hyping it up with a post of this scale never happened for me since I procrastinated, gave up and quit. The gym changed all that for me, I enjoy fitness now and heck, even look forward to going back the next time after each session. Those powerful endorphins yo. What has changed? After 8 years of inactivity, I decided I needed to make a change. If I’m going to maintain my ‘With Everything‘ motto in all aspects of life then health and fitness should be done.

My endless journey to refine narcissism fuels me on. I joke, I feel more alive – harder, faster and stronger. I’ve even started running with Food&Lycra ladies on their #SuperSteepSundays adventures around London which I personally find the most fascinating since I could barely run more than 2k on my own. With their help, I managed to do 14.5k on my first go. Crazy. The key ingredient to achieving that feat was the mindset, I never said I can’t. Winning the battle of the mind was key but Lord only knows why I was so inactive from the age of 16 to 24. I literally haven’t done any consistent sports/fitness exercise since.

So what have I got myself into in the six few weeks? A whole new level of fitness that requires more discipline than ever. Strict meal preparation, working out 4 times a week on all aspects of my body with the help of a dope personal trainer. Meet Caroline, a personal trainer at Virgin Active’s Aldersgate Classic Health Club. It’s head and shoulders above every other gym in London but you already know that from my constant praise for the place haha. She’s the UK’s ONLY female top level master personal trainer and now she’s training me! humble brag.



When I initially sat down with her in January and went for a trial session, my body was destroyed by lunges, powerlifts and bench press. Weights always give me really bad DOMS so I’ve had to shift dietary plan a bit so there’s more pure protein intake to help rebuild the muscle quicker for my next workout. My friend @GeekySneaks educated me on the various types of shake since my initial preconception thinking all they did was make you bulky.

Yes all of you may laugh at the photograph of me on the left. It looks like I’m about to unleash a poop of epic proportions. Sorry, I have an annoying gym face. Burpees with kettle-bell deadlifts are painful and tiring.

You see the what I mean about the sex faces and sweaty I’m dying face? Yep I’m ever so attractive. Reworking Bang’s ‘Be pretty on rest days’ to ‘Be handsome on rest days‘. Or after your workout for that matter.

Heading to day 1 of the 12 weeks, I was slightly anxious after receiving Caroline’s message the previous – ‘Scary!!!! Big journey for you now…..give up everything for three months and your sacrifices will be worthwhile!’. *Gulps* What have I got myself into? Little did she know I had already controlled my food intake but the nutrition plan she gave me takes it all to another level. It has pretty much been pure meat and protein, I have forgotten the taste of chocolates and all other tasty but deadly cheat meals. All worth it, I don’t miss them one bit and I’m loving my meal plan. Anything with chicken, bacon, beef, salmon – protein sources generally work well for a carnivorous human like myself.

The first two weeks were all about form and I had no clue all that jazz even mattered. How a slight difference in the arch of your back could cause injury, how dead lifts should be a swift pivoting movement and everything revolves around the core. Holds those abs in with everything you do. Gosh, it’s almost like rocket science when you’ve got to get each action perfect for the most effective results.

The only reason I’m using the smyth machine for squats is purely because of my technique. I hate squats with passion and getting the technique right for the heavier weights always causes me problem. When it’s so heavy, my mindset automatically focuses primarily on holding it up and forgetting about form. Straight back, hip movement, keeping chest out and head up straight. I’m getting better at it now (Week 6)


I have been told off for not paying attention several times. It’s key to get the technique right to make sure it’s effective and to ensure I don’t end up broken in bed the next day. The first few weeks I was alternating strength exercises between my legs and upper body, 4 times a week (2 each) with long runs on Sunday on top of that. With one personal training session a week, the rest of the three sessions were up to me. It’s been hard finding the balance since starting my new job which requires me to be in the office by 9am so early morning gym requires to wake up at 5am! I’ve had to temporarily cut out Sunday long-runs to make up for the missed sessions.

After the first two weeks, we headed into the hypertrophy phase which in the dictionary means ‘the enlargement of an organ or tissue from the increase in size of its cells.’ 3 sessions a week + one day of HIIT cardio/weights; the three sessions revolved around chest and arms, legs and back. More sets and more reps. Imagine doing 20 squats back to back. My legs are now reaching Beyoncé level. Don’t watch how skinny they look in the running tights.

Finally for the past week, I’ve been in BLAST phase which focuses on less repetitions and more heavy weights. As with the last one, focuses primarily on chest and arms, legs and back.

Now for the important part, my nutrition. I’ve been starting and ending my days with meat. All chicken everything since steak doesn’t sit well with my stomach. Lots of fish too. I’ve been eating a fair amount of salmon, no breadcrumbs with vegetables. I’ll do a step by step of a meal on the blog soon so you can call me Jamie Oliver.

Important advice. Drink a lot of water and don’t snack on crap. If you do make it lettuce or nuts (good natural source of fats). For water, I tend to carry around a little flask with me at work and keep refilling it during the day at work.

As much as I want to ‘look’ the part, I also want to feel fit and have the endurance. That’s why we do HIIT cardio to mix it up, there’s no point looking like an athlete when you aren’t fit. I’m not about the image ting life. This 12 week project isn’t about weightloss, that’s just something that comes with working out as an additional bolt on. I checked my weight for the first time since 2012 earlier this week, I’ve lost over a stone. Crazy.

What’s my goal? Well I’m not training for a marathon nor am I doing a Tough Mudder-esque course. I actually just want to get fit and look good. When my personal trainer sat me down for the first time and asked what I wanted to achieve; I pulled out my phone, searched Ryan Gosling and showed her this photograph. Pause. I want to be able to wear a suit and not look fat (hench folks generally do) and not to look fat/skinny when topless. I’m not about going to a beach and showcasing rolls but that’s my personal insecurity.

Many thanks to Caroline and the folks at Virgin Active for transforming my fitness life. I actually love it. From waking up 5am to head to the gym and feel smug enroute to work, the DOMS and the transformation. If I can do this, so can you. *daydreams of being Brown Gosling*

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location 200 Aldersgate by Virgin Active Classic

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