2018 in Review

If this post seems like bragging or boasting, I promise it is not. It is with sincere musings and satisfaction, that I share all I was able to accomplish. In retrospect, I wish to have done more. I spent a decent amount procrastinating here and there, and even as I wrote this, some of my morning was spent laying awake in bed, on various social media platforms, commerce apps (read: Amazon) and listening to music.

I began 2018 as an indoor spin instructor with no regular classes, a wide open calendar and no income. I was quick to hop on any and all opportunities to substitute classes. Fortunately, my new manager matched my “talent”/availability and gaps in coverage, and kicked a number of permanent classes my way very early on. Not sure she’ll ever see this, but thanks Sue! My first paycheck was literally a $36.99 take home. In September, I peaked with a figure closer to what I had been paid in my last corporate job. Having entered the Fitness and Health & Wellness Industry this past year, I cannot discredit my gradual successes. Unfortunately corporate benefits lack as many gyms are slow to offer hourly staff benefits due to the transient nature of the industry. I sorely miss the availability of low cost/high quality health care coverage, Paid Time Off and a 401k match. Even with the lack of benefits and stresses involved with guaranteed income, I find myself happier than I have been in a long time.

I also made some drastic changes in my personal health and fitness.

 

 

I went from an unofficial 240-250 lbs in January (17 – 17.75 stones for my UK friends) to a consistent 215 lbs with higher muscle mass and major strength improvements. Not surprising with the amount of time spent around the gym or on a bicycle. I now teach 11 indoor cycling classes a week, commute by bicycle and have regular personal training clients. Additionally, my diet has changed dramatically. My fiancé and I cook most of our meals and I typically enjoy our homemade meals more than dining out. Free meals will ALWAYS be the best. I drink less. I still love beer, but the frequency is down considerably. Hangovers still stink.

In addition to improving myself, I have been fortunate enough to work with some fantastic clients. I have had quite a range of clients in age and gender; each unique in their goals, physical abilities and personalities. I helped a marathoner shave 25 minutes off her pace (in really bad conditions, thanks Chicago) and her recovery was immediate with little to no soreness. The majority of my clients have dealt with some form of shoulder or back issues, and through our work together have improved their ailments regaining confidence in their movements.

My shoulder health improved as well. My body composition has improved. I have become a better cyclist and (extremely part-time) yogi. Riding has become easier, putting out more power and improved quickness on the bike. Mobility has vastly improved in various yoga poses. Although, I still cannot do a handstand, but am close to a shoulder stand with no shoulder stress and feel rock solid in a bridge pose. Pretty impressive for a 34 year old giant – I think.

It has been fascinating to see what a “better rounded”approach (strength and cardio) has done to improve my yoga experience. Confirming much of what I learned while studying for my Personal Training Certification. Everyday I increase my knowledge of the human body and effects of strength, conditioning and flexibility, completely changing my definition of “Fitness”. The beautiful part of that is it is different for everyone. And peoples’ definition of Fitness can/will change throughout time when goals art met and new challenges sought after.

When I started tracking body composition, I noticed how quickly things – muscle mass, body fat, etc. –  can fluctuate based on type and intensity of activity, and ones diet. I recently saw my best recorded numbers, even with a lax diet, late meals and plenty of sweets. When I say lax, I don’t mean I am eating burgers at every meal, but I don’t necessarily shy away from food of poorer nutritional quality. The biggest inhibitors to my diet, are likely timing of meals, portion control (binge eating) and sweets laden with processed flours & sugars. Understanding the amount of fuel required by the body is difficult as my activity levels fluctuate drastically between cycling, weight lifting and outdoor riding. If I am sedentary the day after expending 5,000 calories, I feel insatiable as my body (probably mind) wants to play catch up. If I had more self control I could mentally curtail it. Not that I can’t, I have decided not to.

In order to make further body composition improvements, but more importantly, provide better fuel, I must better understand energy expenditure and recovery. I do not fear carbs. Still love New York staples of bagels & pizza, but have learned to really enjoy and appreciate the lesser known carbs found in vegetables (sweet potatoes), fruits, nuts, legumes, etc. I can’t recommend fiber enough. Kale, spinach and Grape~Nuts are my homies. I love crock pot stews/soups, vegan lunches, soy milk in smoothies and coffee – though I am told soy will cause impotence or cancer – and hard boiled eggs. Fortunately these aren’t part of any fads diet, rather lifestyle changes, slowly implemented over the past few years. Improvements in eating habits provide noticeable changes in the level and quality of energy from day to day.

It’s been said that the best way to learn to do something is to teach it to someone. I fully believe that. And have a lot to study. Not only to elevate my understanding of the physiological concepts to implement in client programs, but to practice them and truly know them. I am at my best when I have the physical and mental connection to convey a training concept to someone. I believe one of my assets as a cycling instructor is the amount of time I have spent on a bike. I have not raced a road bike. I have climbed mountains. In severe headwinds. In 2018, I have spent more than couple hours on a spin bike having taught over 350 classes. When I successfully internalize something and teach it, everyone benefits. Class participants are stronger than when I started. Class structures are increasingly difficult to truly challenge my regulars.

At this rate, I am on pace to teach close to 600 next year alone. I promise you I haven’t spent every hour on the bike instructing, because I value my legs and can’t walk around like Frankenstein, hamstrings ready to snap at any moment. Starting this past May, I  now commute about 100 miles a week, with very limited reliance on subways or cars. Sleeping habits changed. I wake up between 4:45 am and 6 am most days. I fall asleep earlier with better quality sleep. If anyone knows my previous relationship with sleep, this improvement alone has made a huge difference in my life. I still don’t like getting up that early on principle, but this world is a beautiful place when you have it all to yourself in the waning minutes of twilight.

Goals for next year include learning more, using available time studying, being more active, working out, listening and talking. Less Netflix, Great British Baking Show, and commuting. More time cooking, mastering meal prep and successfully implementing it. Maybe teaching that to people. Getting married (one week!). Writing. I need to stop sitting around looking at my phone and grab a keyboard. I know I can type on my phone, but it doesn’t inspire. I do like Google Keep though. Saving more money. Jumping rope. Rowing. Earn more than the previous year. I hope to inspire. Inspire myself, inspire others. Pull more out of your day, week and year. To quote Dave Matthews, “…life is short, but sweet for certain”. Life cannot always be sweet, you need to put the hard work in and take leaps into activities outside of your comfort zone to truly recognize and understand the sweet parts of life.

Last year was certainly challenging, but overall great to me. If I continue the trend, 2019 is going to be insane. Writing the smaller details above allows me to smile about upcoming experiences bouncing around my head.

Thanks for reading! Let me know things you’ve done that you’re proud of and plan to keep going or improving upon! Or please leave any compliments or thoughts on the above.

Stay safe out there!

Graham

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