Gym, discipline, entrepreneurship and the last person standing

Good story, and rings so true to mine. I woke up one morning after being in denial for nearly 2 years since being told I had Type 2 diabetes. At that moment I realised not only was I going to die a horrible death, but that the only person who could action a change was — me.

I had to start moving.

There is some kind change in your belief system that kicks in to make this happen, I still can’t quite explain it.

At this stage — 15 years ago — I looked down my nose at the folks that went to gym, I was disdainful.

Not of their desire to be fit or healthy, I respected that; but of their need for doing it as a “fashion” thing in a gym or needing to be part of a group. I didn’t need that.

I still don’t but I’ve learnt to appreciate the group and people aspects and to respect the value others see in that.

I didn’t have any radical adjustments to make to my diet, something which always puzzled the doctors when they reviewed my annual dietary survey — “nothing really to change but I’m a bit worried about the upward trend in your blood glucose levels”.

Eat 20% less, exercise 20% more.

I went to the gym and enrolled, and turned up about 4 times a week and exercised.

I found that I didn’t like the walking machines and their variants but I liked Spin. I did Spin twice a week and played around with weights and resistance exercises. Then moved to do Spin 3 times a week and 2 other visits.

I ate 20% less. I starting losing about 1kg per month. I was happy with that.

Like you, I read a bit. The advice from GPs never mentioned exercise in anything more than a general sense. Such things as activities — do some walking, or swimming.

That they didn’t know more made sense. How many GPs do you know who are fit, healthy and strong? They don’t know about exercise.

I knew I’d have to do my own research.

I gradually discovered that muscle was a very important organ, as is fat, and I’d never thought of either of them that way before.

That really clicked with me, as I could suddenly think of these “organs” as part of a system, and take a systems approach to how to rehabilitate them and how to recruit muscles to my cause.

Muscle is an organ, which atrophies by 3% per annum in people after 40.

People said Bodypump. I said no — that’s for wankers.

I asked the Spin instructor who I respected as the most cerebral and clear thinking about exercise. He said “try the Bodypump class”. I went to Bodypump.

That changed my gym life and my fitness life.

It also changed the shape of my body, and because of the “release” system of new exercises it provided muscle shock and all-round strengthening. I pushed the loads — progressive overload — and after 3 years I was very much stronger, leaner and fitter

I would lose a litre of sweat each session. As you said, you have to work and push yourself and I went there to train not just to hang and “work out”.

The combination of Spin and Bodypump easily shed my target of a modest 6kg, but as I mentioned earlier I wasn’t overweight or eating badly at the beginning.

Toning up the fat organ.

Muscle is more dense than fat, and I was shedding a lot of fat while staying the same weight by putting on muscle. That was toning me up to look better, and also revitalising my “fat organ”.

What happens is that the bad fat — the metabolic fat — decreases while the good fat starts to perform better in support of the organs.

The exercise increases the demand for blood to move through all parts of the body and to meet the peak capacity demand new channels are formed, and the muscle and fat organs perform more effectively.

And finally, there was functional muscle.

I was Bodypumping and Spinning and building great strength and endurance — almost without exception in the top 2 or 3 of each class. But I wasn’t happy with my fiddling about with weights and other resistance exercises.

I asked a personal trainer to give me some resistance training instruction and he said: “why don’t you try kettlebells”.

It turned out that he was one of the top-rated kettlebell instructors in the state.

That changed my gym life and helped my broader life forever, in ways similar to your points.

Because proper kettlebell exercises combine technique, timing, strength and conditioning it means after a few years you have tremendous conditioning and strength. Even better, because it is completely functional exercise it means all the movements you do in normal life are easy and better supported by your new body.

I never do kettlebell classes, they’re more about color and movement and often result in injuries to shoulders, lower back and knees. People tell me all the time how they hate kettlebells and how they injured themselves — always from not being properly taught.

I do hard-core properly coached solo exercises — about 14 variations in a continuous sequence lasting 35–45 minutes (it took me about 3 years to build up to this).

People approach me in the gym and say that I’ve inspired them to get fit and to work hard. That’s because they see the result of the kettlebells — although none have ever taken up kettlebells seriously.

Outcomes from my disciplined exercises

  1. My diabetes symptoms disappeared (the condition itself never disappears, unfortunately).
  2. Fat disappeared from my body, as a side-effect of my efforts never a direct focus of my training.
  3. My resting heart rate dropped from 65 to 44.
  4. When I was told I had cancer with a prognosis of me being dead in 5 years the surgeon, after 5 1/2 hours of surgery, told me “I’ve had a good look inside you and you’re a very fit man, you’re far better off out of hospital so you can go home now”. I was home 23 hours after surgery and recovered in 6 months rather than the 12 the surgeon predicted.
  5. When life has its moments, and things started to crash in on top of me — separation, cancer, financial disaster — the regular hard exercise I believe probably saved my life by releasing the stress.
  6. I’m substantially stronger than I was 15 years ago and still getting stronger, and given that muscle is heavier than fat and I am maintaining a steady weight then I assume that my body composition is improving.
  7. On most Body Age tests I score about 15 years younger than my calendar age. On the well regarded and robust one from the Norwegian University of Technology and Science, I scored 20 years younger.

And as for endurance, in relation to entrepreneurs — I believe one of the secrets is to make sure that you are the last person standing. If you’re not then you have far less chance of success, you can’t succeed if you are not there.

The discipline of consistent, hard “progressive overload” training at the gym helps give you the mental, emotional and physical strength to be the person standing.

Buddha demonstrated practically how the mind and body are one. I don’t just believe that but I’ve experienced it, as anyone can, and that’s the connection with physical discipline.

Good luck with your training, stick with it.

Don’t let people who don’t have the discipline tell you or infer that you are hardcore or obsessive. No one wants to get out of bed day after month after year to be at the gym at 6 am. You have to have the beliefs and mental discipline to do it.

Most people don’t, just as they don’t have the discipline to eat 20% less and exercise 20% more.

Follow me on Quora for more health and fitness tips.

If you liked this post you may also find this one interesting: How to keep your weight off with daily walks — 5 fun level-ups that everyone can do and Building a stronger body in 5 minutes

Good luck.

I’m Walter. I write articles on fitness, health, and motivation for men and women over 50. However, curiosity is my main distinction. I’ve been lucky enough to have experienced a bolt of lightning hitting me in Korea, crash landing in a 747 (LAX), being sucked into a thundercloud at 4,000m in a sailplane (Australia), jumping freefall from 3,000m on my 1st ever parachute jump (Florida), and two different lethal cancers. In 2000 I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes which sparked my interested in exercise, nutrition, motivation and cognitive fitness. University qualified in mathematical statistics, and computing science (Masters); have a professional diploma in sports nutrition; certified social media strategist. Feel free to message/email me with any comments, questions, or collaboration ideas. Blog: walteradamson.com

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