The title for this came from my friend Vince Vasilou, who runs Ultrabodies gym in Finedon, Northamptonshire. The photo of this article is of me, and I really had to think hard before putting it on show. I quite like it as a photo, but it is very ‘look at me’. I’m well aware of this. Two years ago (the week before Christmas 2009) I went to see Vince and asked him to put me on a weight-training programme that would build my back, chest, arms and shoulders. Although I’ve trained for 30 years (in martial arts, running and using weights) I’d never built significant size or shape. Vince is a great guy; very opinionated, but very knowledgeable with a terrific sense of humour. His gym is a fantastic place to work out, full of characters and physiques of all shapes and sizes. Vince was the man to ask about building myself up. What troubled me was that I was starting to look decidedly middle-aged. I was 46 years old with a bit of a belly and no upper body development. I looked crap to be honest.
It’s a lifestyle choice
I’m often asked about my lifestyle choices: why don’t you drink? Don’t you miss meat? Claims then follow of dying for a bacon sandwich. “I couldn’t live without caffeine.” I hear all these things a lot. They are usually followed by how boring my life must be. Well, here’s the thing. My life is neither boring, nor lacking for not eating meat, drinking caffeine, smoking or drinking alcohol. I’ve done all these things and at certain times in my life I’ve made the decision to stop doing them. Equal disbelief is often uttered when I mention some of the challenges I’ve done – especially the long distance running or walking events. I’m sure we all realise that we’re all different – I’m just a little more different than others!
If you run forward, at least you have a chance
Fear comes in many forms and many guises. Do you ever get scared of a particular challenge? Of doing something that will test you physically, emotionally and spiritually? Every year I find a challenge for myself – something that will push me, that will hurt me and which I will overcome. I’m yet to fail a challenge I have set myself, but only because I have planned and been well prepared. Sometimes life doesn’t give you those opportunities, but we have to face the pain anyway and move on. When I first saw ‘Saving Private Ryan’ I sat in the cinema transfixed to the battle scene at the start of the film; I couldn’t believe the ferocity and sat asking myself ‘what would I have done?’ After the film I phoned a friend of mine who served in the first Gulf War and many other campaigns. I asked him ‘what do you do in situations like that ? When you are under heavy fire and you are certain you will die’. He said ‘you have to move forward, it’s the only choice you have. If you stay where you are, you’ll die. If you run forward at least you have a chance’.
The art of turning up.
The biggest challenge to getting good at martial arts, or anything come to think of it, is consistency. The art of turning up. The hardest part of that is getting your butt out of the chair or the sofa. It’s no surprise to me that the busiest classes at UFS are usually the early classes. People don’t get the chance to sit down, they come straight from work and come to a class. Hey, there are even energy drinks at the centre now if you’re feeling a little tired! I’ve been teaching martial arts for over 24 years now and in that time I’ve seen really talented people, some really mediocre people and lots of people with a little talent. The same way I was when I began martial arts in 1981. What kept me going, took me to World Championship finals and competing in so many running races was the consistency. I’m a good trainer. I can be the laziest person you’ve met, but I’m also driven to train hard.