Feature: After three months of agony at St Albans Nuffield gym, did it make a difference?
PUBLISHED: 10:53 05 April 2018 | UPDATED: 11:51 06 April 2018
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Gymming has been a roller coaster - there have been bad weeks, good weeks, motivated weeks, hurting weeks, and why-am-I-even-putting-myself-through-this weeks.
Three months ago I rocked up at Nuffield Health, Fitness and Wellbeing Gym to embark on a journey through personal training sessions, exercise classes, workout machines, free weights, and lots of sweat, in order to really test the facilities at a St Albans gym.
I would track my progress using the Nuffield Health MOT, which is a 12-point overall health assessment completed once every three months by a personal trainer (PT), health mentor or wellbeing advisor.
Although it does not replace GP check ups, it covers several broad fitness gauges and could flag up questions for a medical professional.
It also formats the results in handy progress charts so users can easily track their improvement.
Before that I had never been to the gym and rarely exercised. I had set out to go three to four times a week - which seemed difficult but ultimately manageable.
In practice, it was even more demanding than I imagined. I forced myself up at 6am, dragged myself there at 9.30pm, and (horror) set an alarm at the weekends.
But before long, a miracle happened. That may seem a little over dramatic but I promise it is valid.
I started enjoying it. I actually looked forward to breaking a sweat and pumping muscle (note: nothing I ever did can classify as actually pumping muscle. I mainly squatted and rowed).
So now, crunch time. How did I do? Did that week-hiatus set me back to square one? Did I push myself hard enough? Attendance had recently tailed off from four times to twice a week. Had I done enough?
It starts with a questionnaire covering sleep patterns, smoking and drinking habits, water intake, family health history, and a BMI check. None of that has changed.
At the beginning of December my main problem was my Vo2 Max, also known as aerobic fitness.
It was worryingly low, so bad it was off the scale. Anything lower than 27 is categorised as “very poor” and I was ranked 23.
This time, it is 36. That’s in the “fair” band, tipping into “average”. Nearly a three whole band improvement.
My blood pressure has dipped, my resting heart rate fallen from 73 to 60, and my cholesterol decreased.
I am amazed. I assumed getting fit would be a long hard slog with the horizon always just out of reach.
But this was not a lifestyle change. I still gorged at Christmas. I still ate pudding every day and drove to work. I only went to the gym for 45 minutes at a time, on average.
My overall health score has shot up to 81 - that’s in the top 30 per cent of people attending Nuffield. Still lots of room for improvement, but better.
Rebecca Masters, the lovely personal trainer who has guided me through the past few months, said: “People get too fixated on a belief that it has got to be a dramatic story, but really fitness is different for everybody. Improvement means your body is working better and you have been a really good example of your health and wellbeing improving, rather than just fitness.
“You were consistent. You took our sessions and applied it when you came in to work out on your own.
“That’s something you should be proud of.”
An unfortunate side-effect of this challenge has been becoming one of those annoying people who say it’s manageable to get fitter. I hate myself for that.
Life is hectic and juggling children, work, social lives, and countless other commitments means that for many, the gym is understandably just not a lifestyle priority.
All I will say is that little changes can make a surprisingly big difference.
To find out more about what Nuffield offer and to book a seven day trial, visit www.nuffieldhealth.com/campaigns/gyms/seven-day-pass