In many respects 2016 was a terrible year. Looking at the goings on in the wider world then it was what the Queen would call an annus horribilis. Celebrity deaths, Brexit and Trump getting elected are all events which caused great turmoil for many people.
In my little bubble, however, 2016 was a good year. Not quite an annus mirabilis (I now know twice the amount of latin I did before starting to write this!) but, definitely a good year. What follows is my year in review. Sprinkled in there are some good resources, tips and lessons which will help you.
So, let’s start with my bread and butter…clients. – A great year with clients helping them to be healthier, happier and self-confident. Not much else to say other than I am fortunate to do a job I enjoy and work with enthusiastic, dedicated and successful people who I am pleased to call friends.
One of the highlights as far as client goes was having two of them featured in the mass media. This happened towards the end of the year when two of my clients (Ahmed & Phill) were featured in the Daily Mail.
The articles showcased their transformations and highlighted what ‘regular’ guys with regular jobs can achieve. I was really pleased to have them featured in the mass media like this. Obviously, it is good PR for me but, more importantly it was a nice big pat on the back for Ahmed and Phill.
They are normal guys with normal jobs who have achieved something extraordinary. Let’s be honest it is extraordinary to be single digit bodyfat. They aren’t special or gifted with their physiques. In fact, both would tell you they have poor genetics for building muscle and that is why they sought me out. What they do both have in abundance is work ethic. If I ask them to do a certain number of sets they are the ones wanting to push for more. They both asked if there was anything extra they could do to help their results. Extra cardio? Fit a bodyweight session in on weekends? They both were driven and prepared to do whatever it took to reach their goals. This is a great lesson!
Education/Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
Over the course of every year I try to improve my knowledge by reading books, articles, blogs, listening to podcasts, watching webinars and YouTube vids (not the ones of cats or fail compilations – well I do watch them just not in the name of CPD) and attending courses and seminars. Here are a few highlights on the CPD front from 2016:
Seminars – In May I attended the Renaissance Periodization seminar hosted by Mike Samuels (HLHL) and Steve Hall (Revive Stronger). Over the two days a relentless stream of knowledge bombs were dropped by Dr. Mike Israetel and Dr. James Hoffman. In fact, I really should write up my notes from the two days to give you an insight into the content (I promise to do that – a mini goal of mine right there).
The content was phenomenal and I highly recommend you check these guys out. Especially Mike. He is phenomenal. His knowledge is first class but his ability to explain detailed concepts and make them understandable is first class. You can learn more about these guys here.
In July I headed off to Dublin with the lads. No not for a massive piss up. Myself, Joe, Theo and Alejandro went for the ISI Symposium. This was three excellent days of learning from John Meadows, Eric Serrano, and Eoin Lacey. For a full write up of what was involved in all the lectures go here.
Good books – One of the best bits about going on holiday is being able to catch up on some reading. Here are 3 great books from our first holiday. All well worth a read if you want to improve yourself, your productivity, your business and your life:
- The Power of Less
- The Prosperous Coach
Two other fantastic books I read in 2016 were the Nutrition Pyramid by Eric Helms and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.
The former is an excellent book which uses the available scientific literature and weight of practical evidence to build a hierarchy of needs when it comes to your nutrition. This is great if you are unsure where to invest the most effort when it comes to improving your diet. I have found the principles from the book helpful when explaining to clients why they should be focusing on total calories and their macros before stressing about supplements or finding the ultimate clean superfood detox.
The Alchemist was written in just two weeks back in 1987. It is now something of phenomenon having been translated into 69 languages and selling over 150 million copies worldwide. Some 29 years later I have read it (always been cutting edge ;)). The story is a parable about a young shepherd who follows his is dream to find treasure.
I found the book insightful, inspiring and motivational. It is full of wisdom which translates into your own life. If you are trying to find your calling or are struggling to get a big project going then I suggest you read this book.
Here is an excerpt from the book to give you an idea…
“Everyone believes the world’s greatest lie…” says the mysterious old man. “What is the world’s greatest lie?” the little boy asks. The old man replies, “It’s this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.”
Bonus info – rumour has it that Idris Elba is going to star in the movie version of the book. Keep your eyes peeled for that!
Podcasts – In 2016 I added the Macros, Bodybuilding and Powerlifting Podcast to my essential listening list. This is from Steve Hall of Revive Stronger. In it he covers everything bodybuilding, macro and powerlifting related through a combination of his thoughts and interviews with experts. One such expert is the aforementioned Dr. Mike Israetel from RP. All of these episodes are gold and I would advise anyone who wants to get stronger &/or more jacked gives them a listen.
The other podcast which became a mainstay in 2016 was Jamie Alderton aka GrenadeJay Mindset with Muscle. This is excellent! A brilliant combo of his insights and that of a wide variety of experts from all sorts of different industries. Want a kick up the backside and a motivational slap around the chops? Then this is for you!
2016 was the year of my first visit to the London Coffee Festival. It was held at the Truman Brewery in Shoreditch and drew ridiculous crowds. The queue literally went out the door, down the street, round the corner and then snaked back on itself in a loop. Fortunately, it was pretty fast moving and we got inside about 20 mins later. Inside it was a throng of overly caffeinated trendy types, with techno pumping. After 5 samples of espressos I was WIRED and needed to escape. All in all, a bit of a disappointment to be honest. Perhaps my expectations were a little too high as I was picturing some sort of coffee nirvana. Instead all I got was an overdose of caffeine and heard my years quota of techno.
Stepped on Stage/Competed
Since giving up rugby through injury I haven’t been able to compete as often as I used to. I have trained for and competed in the British Indoor Rowing Championships and The UK’s Strongest Athlete. The results from these periods of training were without doubt some of the best I’ve ever achieved. Why? Because I had a definite goal with a set deadline. It is amazing how this can help you to get that laser like focus going and drive you on to all-time best performances. So, I entered 2016 wanting some of that in my life again. I didn’t know exactly what form it would take but, I knew I wanted to do something which gave me a real goal to get stuck into.
This ended up being a Men’s Physique Show with the UKDFBA (UK Drug Free Bodybuilding Association). Initially, I started out dieting for our holiday. We had been to the same place two years before and I decided I wanted to be leaner than I was the last time we visited.
I combined my dieting, and weights with some cardio on the spin bike (the exact reason for the bike will be revealed later). Anyway, the fat loss was going well. My head was in the right place and I was enjoying the process. So after 10 weeks of dieting I decided to enter a physique show. It was only 3 weeks away and I hadn’t done any posing practice but I decided to jump in at the deep end and get the application in before I talked myself out of it. Anyway, it turns out my posing was AWFUL but, I got some nice feedback from the judges about my physique and where I could improve.
What was best about this whole experience was that I enjoyed the process. As an extremely shy individual I also surprised myself with my confidence on stage. Even though my posing sucked I still felt quite comfortable up there walking around and flexing while looking like I’d been coated in Nutella.
Another valuable lesson from this experience was that I could get extremely lean without having to live out of a Tupperware. In fact, my diet was 75% bough out. I prepped about 6 meals worth of food every Sunday, had breakfast and dinner at home most days but ate 2-3 meals every day purchased from Tossed &/or Pod. In fact, the first half of my diet the meals out were almost entirely from Tossed. Then they stopped doing their 50% off offer and I had to find a new budget busting alternative. Up stepped Pod who ran the same offer of 50% for the last hour of the day. I would go in everyday just before closing and load up on salads for the following day.
By tracking my macros and hitting the goals set I was able to have a pretty flexible diet. This allowed me to enjoy family gatherings, birthdays and meeting up with friends. That is until the final 3 weeks of the diet when I had actually entered the comp. For those weeks I went full ‘monk’ mode and didn’t drink any alcohol or have any ‘cheat/free’ meals. I remember that I met up with friends to watch the Europa League Cup final and just drank water. This was about 2 weeks before the comp. Not that big of a deal and the lads were surprisingly nice about it. Normally I would have expected a lot of abuse but, they didn’t seem to fussed and just got on with watching the match and the usual banter that goes on.
My physique – another great thing was the feedback I got from the judges. Essentially, I could do with bigger arms and shoulders. So, that’s a double edge sword…a bit meh because I have small arms and shoulders BUT on the other hand who doesn’t love being given license to smash shoulders and arms more frequently?
Pedal Power (or lack of)
In September I did a Triathlon. This explains why the spin bike was my cardio of choice. Now full disclosure I didn’t do the whole thing. It was a team triathlon me and two mates (well actually one dropped out…you know who you are Mullet) and I did the bike leg of it. 40km. How hard can it be? Turns out…bloody hard! I hadn’t ridden a bike since school (save for on a mates Stag do and that doesn’t really count). Now I’m an old bastard so that is a long time. But as the old saying goes…” it’s like riding a bike…you never forget”.
I did get some training under my belt on the spin bikes at work and this improved my cardio and performance on the bike. It did not, however, fully prepare me for the super hilly course on the roads around Hever Castle. I didn’t get off to a good start my not being able to get both feet in the cage thingy (technical term) on the pedals. So, I did the whole thing with me left foot in and my right foot out. Less than ideal. Many other competitors pointed this out to during the 40km (as they went flying past me) but, it wasn’t like this was a tactical decision on my part. Simply me being crap at riding a bike. In fact, my bike skills were so bad that when I wanted a drink I had to stop the first time because I couldn’t get the bottle out of its holder and drink it without swerving violently into the middle of the road. So, after struggling to lug my 98kg frame up the hills I enjoyed the rest freewheeling back down until I was going so fast I was scared shitless. My eyes were literally watering as the wind hit me in the fast and I thought to myself ‘if I come off the bike now I’ll die. There is no way anyone can go quicker than this.’ At which point some bloke on an expensive looking bike went flying by in a full tuck position as if it was perfectly normal. Flash git!
Long story short I eventually finished the 40km and hopped off my bike to hand over to my buddy for him to complete the triathlon with a 10km run. I say hopped off. In all honesty, I gingerly got off and attempted to run towards him. Only problem was my legs didn’t work. Instead I half limped, half wobbled towards him for about 10 metres before they finally kicked in and I could break into a pathetic jog. Baton happily passed over I collapsed on the floor and thought…’never again.’
Coffee Geek (Part II)
In October I finally got round to attending Workshop Coffee’s home brewing masterclass. Sally had got me this as a birthday present back in April and for one reason or another I hadn’t been able to go. I finally decided enough was enough. I needed to step my coffee game up and this was the way to do it. This Saturday morning masterclass taught us all about the process of coffee going from being a fruit right up until it is ready for drinking. We also trialed various methods of coffee brewing over the 3.5hrs. The coffee was made with Workshops Marimira AA beans and tasted great. We used these beans for the rest of the workshop when making coffees with the French Press, V60 and Aeropress.
A full write up of the masterclass is here.
Walking on Fire
In November I walked on burning embers for the charity Kids. They do great work helping disabled children and their families. It was a cold and wet November night but, the embers weren’t affected measuring a toasty 666o. Anyway, it turns out you can walk on fire and not end up in A&E. I was a little nervous but, after seeing a few other people do it I thought “if they can do it so can you”. Turned out this was true. Just felt like hot sand as I made my way over the 20ft “Firewalk”. Just to prove it wasn’t a fluke I had another go. Job done and money raised for charity. Not a bad evening!
Keeping Myself Regular
Regular blogging on my site that is – 2016 saw me make a concerted effort to regularly post content on the site. This went pretty well and I managed to write 42 blog posts in the year.
The goal for 2017…52 posts. So, one a week (I’m already behind schedule!).
Some of the posts went into very specific areas but other provided an overview into some broader topics. For example, my top 10 tips for Hardgainers, everything you need to know about muscle gain, and plateau busting fat loss strategies. Oh, and if you want some coffee related info how about London’s top 5 Flat Whites or a Review of the Workshop Coffee home brewing course.
As well as making a concerted effort to provide more content on my website I also had my work published elsewhere. This included a guest blog for HealthyLivingHeavyLifitng and for MuscleMonsters. These are two great sites full of high quality content and I’m proud to say my work is featured there. They also have a big readership so it made sense from my point of view to spread my thoughts on training and nutrition to a wider audience. I plan on doing this more in 2017. In fact, the goal is to have 5 articles featured on other websites.
You can find my articles here:
Home is Where the Heart Is
As mentioned earlier in the book section we managed to get away on a couple of holiday. Both were awesome – 2 weeks in Tenerife and a week in Portugal with the family. Fantastic time on both and the kids had a ball. Can’t wait to get away again for some R&R this year. Although I must say that chasing two kids around all day is exhausting and I usually feel like I need a holiday from my holiday. Getting back in the gym training clients is a doddle by comparison!
Embracing the #SoftLife
After the competition in June I stayed relatively lean until the end of our holiday in July. After that the gloves were off and it was time for a serious mass gaining phase. This lasted through to the end of September when we went to Portugal. At that point I had a few weeks at maintenance before pushing on again to the end of the year. This lead me into December or as anyone bulking at that time calls it ‘Decembulk’. This mass gain phase was extremely productive. I got to my heaviest weight of 224lbs/102kg which was very pleasing. I did this without getting too fat. Obviously, some fat was accumulated but nothing I can’t diet off relatively quickly and that’s what January is for.