Witness the Fitness: A Blog

We're trying to lose the pounds faster than we're gaining them

To repent for our gluttonous sins I Choose Birmingham is embarking on a fitness crusade care of the Cube’s Club & Spa. With weekly updates you can either join us and shed some pounds / tone up, or simply laugh along as we relay weekly, and in grave detail, our attempts to shift calories quicker than we’re taking them on.

MARCH 31...

Tom Cullen, Editor

Behold, my final post. I bid you farewell, dear reader, as I embark on the anchor leg of my preparations. Let's just assume the 150 mile cycle ride goes swimmingly, yeah, but if you want the gory details follow my Twitter. The X-ray came back showing nothing but, of course, the pain remains. I'd like to thank the Club & Spa for making me faster, fitter and stronger. And I'd like to thank my stupid-idiot-body for failing to keep up. Fingers crossed it'll be fully functioning come April 27th.


MARCH 23...

Katy Drohan, Deputy Editor

After an indecent number of holidays, my first session back at the gym was always going to be a bit of a downer - yoga on a yacht, in the sun, is an impossibly impossible act to follow. But with infinitely less gloomy starts to the day and the promise of daylight to accompany me at least as far as the doors of the gym, my subsequent visits have borne fruit of the kilogram variety.

My leg strength was reasonable from day one but in terms of my puny, neglected upper arms, there were machines I couldn't operate for more than five reps with the minimum weight measure attached. Two months in, the kgs are creeping up and the slightly awkward gym nods of approval from my fellow users are starting to kick in. I've never got a gym nod before.


MARCH 15...

Tom Cullen, Editor

There I was, 11 days ago on this very blog, giving it the big "I'm the new Chris Hoy", having managed to cycle for one hour. And now? Heading for an X-ray at the QE Hospital. That 60 minute, 20 mile workout has gone from giving me massive (unfounded) confidence, to causing me serious concern that my coast to coast cycle could be in genuine jeopardy. A dull and worsening ache in my ankle had me heading to the GP convinced, as always, that it's terminal. "It's not terminal, Tom" he said exhausted with me, "but it probably does need X-raying."

Bet it's bloody terminal.


MARCH 14...

Katy Drohan, Deputy Editor

Exercising whilst on holiday - though not technically criminal - was a bit of a never event for me. But on the advice of a friend, on a recent trip involving an eight hour time difference, I found the gym. And it felt annoyingly good.

While team sports and outdoor endeavours tend not to travel (or are at least far from appropriate at the strange hours in which jet lag often strikes), a basic gym and stretching routine can wake you up, exhaust you, or simply act as a justification for your third, fourth or - whisper it - fifth meal of the day. I also shook off the obligatory night flight shoulder syndrome which has until now been a basic tenet of any long haul flight in super quick time, which would seem to be anything but a coincidence.

So, consider a gym routine that travels, a little. Or don't. Either way, when you get back and you think you've done everything you possibly can to stay awake until an acceptable GMT bedtime, proceed directly to the Club & Spa's pool area, find the the elevated wooden bucket in the corner of the room, close your eyes and pull the chain attached to it. Enlivening? Barbaric? The cold, cold, cold water certainly makes you alert.


MARCH 4...

Tom Cullen, Editor

I learned two important things this week. The first thing is that taking a photo of your own workout summary makes you feel like a sizeable prick. The second is that these exercises I've been doing might actually be working. I've been so obsessed with the scales that I'd barely remembered that I will need to cycle 150 miles in three days, at the end of April. And whether I'm slim or not is (almost) irrelevant - I have to actually be able to do it.

The above shows that I cycled 20 miles in one hour. What it doesn't show is that I did the entire thing uphill (i.e. with the incline never dropping below 15%). Now I'm not saying I'm the next the next Chris Hoy (secretly, that's exactly what I'm saying), but there's no way on Earth I would have managed this without these spin classes and exercise routines. Sure, my legs have felt heavier than a fresher's hangover for three days since, but this is evidence, glorious and irrefutable evidence, that I might just manage this Coast To Coast ride.

Doing it halfway up the Pennines with gale force winds and driving, horizontal rain in my face is - at a guess - going to be tricker than in a luxury city centre gym, but don't you dare take this moment from me. I need this.

Read about what you can book for your mum for Mother's Day, at the Club & Spa, here. There's discounts within.



Katy Drohan, Deputy Editor

It happened. I pushed myself a little too hard and suffered the consequences by way of some less than pleasant sciatica. If you're a regular sufferer of the nerve pain, which is typically felt down the back of one leg, you probably have a sports-related nemesis. My nemesis is running.

Don't get me wrong, I can dash a few hundred metres for a train, but once you start adding the kilometre unit onto the end of a distance, pain free running has evaded me since I herniated a disc four years ago. It no longer hurts while I run - which is huge progress - but in the days that follow a gallop, sitting for prolonged periods, stairs and any form of speed become unavailable to me.

So completing the cardio portion of my work out care of a running machine last week wasn't big and it definitely wasn't clever. And after six days of recovery, it's back to the cross-trainer for me. It's also time to get back to concentrating on core - because however fit and strong you might be, without getting the basics right, I'm quickly realising an exercise programme can feel counter productive. So it's one of the Club & Spa's wildly popular yogalates classes at the top of my 'to do' list. But more on that next time.

NB - The Club & Spa are offering 20% off MANSPA treatments throughout February. More details




I have bad news. And by bad news I mean news that's utterly indifferent to you, but borderline devastating for me. I've put on weight. I was down to 79.7kg as we entered February and the moment I waved goodbye to the healthy living of January, I've gone and ballsed it all up. And do you know what I blame? Gin.

And laziness.

Mainly laziness.

I reckon I've reduced my gym going by about 50% in the last fortnight and the fat has been frustratingly fast at letting me know it. Panicking having seen the scales, I decided to cycle to spin class last Sunday. In the words of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman: "Big mistake. Huge." It seems that Sunday is a 'serious' spin session and the 30 minute cycle either side made the whole experience considerably tougher, particularly as the instructor chose this week to introduce 'spin squats' - a grotesque Devil's work that involves doing a bastardised press-up, while cycling. It's as ungainly as it sounds and considerably more demanding. I'd like to take this opportunity to apologise to the other four people in the class that had to witness that.

I'm not apologising to the instructor, though. That man's evil.


NB - The Club & Spa are offering 20% off MANSPA treatments throughout February. More details




It's been a number of years since I attended a gym regularly, so getting back into the routine hasn't been without its mental struggles and bargains. Measuring my performance against a previous visit is certainly one way to motivate - row further, push harder, complete a few more reps of weights. But - this weekend - I found something so much better.

By far my most successful work out of the year was directly following an audience with Iñárritu's epic The Revenant. As my target time expired on the cross-trainer, DiCaprio's pained, frosty face kept me going and when I thought I'd completed as many lifts as my weakling arms would allow, that bear spurred me on. And on. And on. And on.

So, for all of you with 156 minutes to burn on top of your appointment with a better you, I've cracked it. For everyone else, I'm still thinking.




There's a dark corner of my wardrobe known as Too Fat Canyon, where all the clothes that my stomach has long since *outgrown* live out their unhappy, unworn days. As the years have passed, the pile has towered.

Incredibly, the tide is turning. In recent days I have wrestled two shirts from the canyon's black hole-ian grip, two shirts that now fit thanks to a steady but noticeable decrease in fatness and increase in fitness.

The routine is finding its pattern. Two spin classes (both at the Club & Spa), two days of circuits (tailored by the Club & Spa) and two lengthy cycle rides (one outdoor and one in) make up six days of exercise in the seven God gave us, and, as it stands, I'm not yet bored to tears by any of it. It helps that the spa has a pool and steam room in which to flop my carcass, post-workout.

For those who have been waiting with bated breath to find out if I did indeed vomit after the first spin class (and why wouldn't you be on tenterhooks?), I did not. And for those who felt the need to tell me over Twitter that spin classes are "for women", well the ratios suggest otherwise and even if they were I'd sure as hell keep going.

There's a long way to go if I want to hit my targets, but as Churchill once said (and he was fanatical about fitness, right?) "This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."





….Are probably not the words I was expecting to come out of my gym inductor's mouth less than two thirds of the way through our initial circuit round the equipment, while I pushed and pulled my way toward one more rep.

You see, within less than five minutes of induction-based happenings, I had landed on my primary physical area for improvement. I can't do a single press-up. Not a one. Apparently I've got great technique, and look like I know precisely what I'm doing, it's just that once I've lowered myself sufficiently to get my nose hovering above the floor, I can't seem to propel my 5'7 self back skyward. So the focus for me – and suddenly for the very lovely Kelly – is on arm and upper body strength. Think press-ups, pull-ups, pull-downs and chest presses, plus all sorts of positions I didn't know I was capable of creating involving an inflatable ball.

And Kelly was right. In her well honed assertions about how much heavy I could handle, I hadn't told her I hated her – and I won't be. Because although that first time burned – even the motion of bringing my hands together to wash them the next day caused a knowing ache – a couple of visits later, I'm already feeling a little stronger and a little more toned. And for that, I bow down and kiss Kelly's feet.




Look at this graph. LOOK AT IT!

It's fairly rudimentary, but for purposes of public humiliation it will suffice. What it tells me (and you) is that last year I weighed a heart-troubling 86kg. I lost 6kg rapidly through misery-making fad diet ‘the 5:2' but then broke my arm and a rib by inexplicably hurling myself from a bicycle in the middle of Digbeth. Crestfallen, I proceeded to pile the pounds back on, jumping up to 86kg once more. I then, like all idiots, decided December 23 was a great date to start losing weight again, but to do it the old fashioned eat-less-move-more way. Unsurprisingly Christmas pretty much put pay to that less than watertight plan (see graph), but since seriously focusing on not being a fatty, that bothersome orange bar has been heading in the right direction. You can see my goal weight (73kg) at the end there.

Now then, my gym routine has been plotted by the fine people at The Club & Spa who have tailored an aerobic and anaerobic circuit to help me achieve my two goals: 1. Weight loss 2. Cycle 150 miles in April. It's a great routine that's interesting, achievable but utterly, utterly knackering. Part of the routine involves equipment called Battle Ropes, the sort of gym apparatus you'd imagine He-Man himself using. Check them out. Anyone who knows me knows I'm not really a "battle ropes" kind of a guy. Taking up half the gym they're hardly low profile and make more noise than your average yak. But, use them I do. I may look daft in the process, but I get the feeling that everyone in this gym either doesn't notice or thinks that anyone doing anything to improve their fitness, however idiotic they look, is very much a good thing. I thank them for that.

It's showing results, too – the whole routine is. My face is no longer the size of David Cameron's, but in weight loss terms the flab isn't coming off anywhere near as fast as it did during that fad diet. I've just got to put more faith in the Club & Spa than God put in Noah, and believe them when they say that people who lose weight slowly by eating less and exercising more, tend to keep the weight off.

I've booked my first spin class, too. "You'll definitely vomit after lesson number one" said a friend of mine who's a spin class regular.

With friends like these, who needs enemies?



TOM CULLEN, EDITOR: "I'm fat. I get it. At a post-Christmas weight of 84kg (bear in mind I'm shorter than your average whisky sour) things have hit a truly depressing low and, in April, I'll be cycling 150 miles in three days as part of a stag do (yes, a stag do) for which I am best man. As things stand I couldn't complete the first half of day one of that challenge, so I've got my work cut out. My goal is to lose 10kg in four months and complete my coast-to-coast ride. Not an impossible task, but then most people don't, essentially, eat and drink for a living."

KATY DROHAN, DEPUTY EDITOR: "In December, not only did I become a bridesmaid, twice, but I also got engaged. From the first few weeks of my various new duties it's become abundantly clear that a clear head is going to be pretty much as important as doing three rather important dresses as much justice as possible. So, while I am joining up to tone my (pushing-thirty) thighs et al, I'm also keen to reach and maintain a state of calm last experienced pre the days of having a real job. Or something like that."

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