My Fitness Journey: A Member’s Perspective

Share this Post

By Tom McGovern

Have you ever taken your t-shirt off on Day One of your summer holiday and said to yourself…. ‘I wish I was in better shape’. If you have, we have something in common.

In 2006, at the age of 16, I started lifting weights. I always dreamed of having a ripped physique. Between 2006 – 2016, I spent over 2,000 hours on the gym floor, tried countless amounts of programmes, joined heaps of gyms, spent hours running up hills and undertook all sorts of different diets. All of this was geared towards ‘having that amazing beach body’. During that period, this remained an imaginary dream.

In August 2016, days after returning from my latest summer holiday where I was only ‘content’ with my physique, I decided enough was enough. On the 3rd August 2016, I decided to make a change.

The next 8 months brought me down an unwalked path that concluded with me getting into the shape I had always dreamed of. Please see my change below and the 6 lessons I learnt throughout the journey:

Lesson 1: Have a rock solid reason forcing you to become obsessed with your goal

Between 2006 – 2016, my reasoning behind attempting to get the physique I dreamed of was not strong enough. My motivator every year was ‘to get an amazing beach body for my summer holiday to impress the people at the pool’. Upon reflection, I realised that having an okay body on my summer holidays was something I was actually totally comfortable with. For that reason, I never felt the need to break my bollox in the gym or be extremely strict with my diet the months prior to going away.

Once I identified this, I went back to the drawing board and asked myself ‘is there any other reason why getting in shape would motivate me?’ Looking good for next year’s summer holiday was definitely one reason, however, I knew that this reason alone wouldn’t hold up. You know the quote –

‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results’. My reasoning had to change.

For some time prior to this journey, I had felt that I had not achieved much independent success in my life. I have a business with two other partners and as we are a trio, sole success in an area of its success was hard to quantify. This was having a negative effect on my confidence. To overcome this, I knew it was necessary to accomplish an independent goal. Getting my body into the shape I dreamed of was a way to challenge and overcome this self doubt. For the first time, I had a rock-solid internal motivator.

The beauty with your body is that its shape is purely based on the independent work you put into it.

Whether it’s a number of times you go to the gym or the food you put into your mouth, these are personal choices you have full control of everyday.

Lesson 2: Invest in expert advice

In August 2016, I decided to invest in a trainer for the first time. His name was Ben Craughwell from Optimum Performance. Investments I had made in the past towards my physique goals were in the wrong places. I had spent thousands on different types of gym memberships and wardrobes full of gym clothes. Never had I invested in an expert who had achieved something similar to what I wanted. I always used the excuse that ‘getting a coach is too expensive’ or ‘ah sure I know what I am doing, I don’t need a coach’.

I will admit, trainers do cost more than a standard gym membership. I realised, that instead of using price as the excuse not to make a change, I was going to sacrifice other areas of my life to allow me to afford this investment. For example, I cut back on the number of times I was going out on the beer and reduced eating out/getting takeaways by cooking at home instead. I also asked Ben that if I paid him upfront for a 6 month period, could I get a reduced rate, which he agreed to. Paying upfront also ensured I was financially invested in my goal. These sacrifices and changes made the investment become far more affordable.

Ben played an integral role in my journey. All of a sudden, I was receiving guidance on my weightlifting, cardio and diet. Further to this, for the first time in the last 10 years, I had somebody to whom I was accountable. He assessed my progress every two weeks, tweaking parts of my training and my diet when necessary to overcome plateaus that we naturally encounter. He also pushed me to places I’d never went before when it came to lifting weights.

Lesson 3: Give yourself a tangible, visual benchmark to work towards

‘I want to be under 10% body fat before I go away’, ‘The aim is to be under 80kg by the holidays’. Have you ever set similar goals like these? I have. Did they get me the body I dreamed of? No. Why? Because they meant fuck all to me. They were just figures that I could not put a concrete meaning to.

I couldn’t visualise what 10% body fat looked like. What I could visualise was someone who I wanted to look like. Instead of setting myself a number to work towards, I set myself a body type. I chose Rob Lipsett as my benchmark. Rob is a well known sponsored athlete, personal trainer and social media influencer who grew up in Dublin. I wanted to have a physique similar to him. This was a game changer. It gave me a focus and a way to assess my progress. To see if I was close to achieving my goal, all I had to do was take a photo of myself and compare it to Rob’s Instagram page. If my abs didn’t look like his, I wasn’t there yet. Pretty simple.

Lesson 4: Set yourself a date

Set a date that you are going to achieve your goal by. On that date, ensure there is something in place that will put you out of your comfort zone and allow you to asses if you achieved your goal. For example, I pencilled in a physique photo shoot on Saturday 8th April 2017. By having this date to work towards and knowing that I was going in front of the lights gave me extreme focus. It made me work that extra bit harder in the gym and make sensible food choices. Should I get a takeaway or should I cook my own meal? Having that date set helped me answer such questions.

Lesson 5: Learn to say no

When trying to achieve something you’ve never achieved before, change must occur. This change means saying ‘no’ to certain things you would have done in the past. For example, saying ‘no’ to going on the beer every weekend or saying ‘no’ to the burger and chips when eating out. Saying ‘no’ is extremely difficult and the one thing I found most challenging throughout this journey. However, saying ‘no’ to what others want you to do is actually allowing you to say ‘yes’ to things you want to do. In the past, I had said ‘yes’ to people’s requests to please them as opposed to saying ‘no’ to please myself.

Lesson 6: Monitor your calorie intake

Using the app My Fitness Pal on a daily basis ensured my calorie intake was consistent each day.

This app allows you to count your calories by inputting what you eat into it. I’ve heard a number of people say in the past that using this app takes too much time and it’s unsustainable. After using it daily for the past 8 months, I totally disagree with those comments. It adds 5 minutes maximum to each meal. With your diet playing such a crucial role in shaping your body, are those few extra minutes each day too much to ask?

Everything in life is a reflection of a choice you have made. If you want different results, make different choices.