Wednesday, 12 October 2011

On using the gym...

I have been a member of the Swansea University gym ever since I first came to work here. Up until that point, I had never really used one.

In school, I was always very sporty. Despite being told to take a "proper" subject by some, I took GCSE  and A-level PE largely because I enjoyed every aspect of it. The A-level course was excellent as it involved modules on the history of sport and sports science and biology. I loved playing football and rugby and, thanks to my pace, I was not too bad at both. When I was 18 however, I started to get problems with my knees and noticed that my 100 metre times were taking a dive.

As a consequence of my dodgy knees (and because I often didn't get up at a good hour!), I limited my sporting activity in University to playing for CathSoc. After the end of my first year in University though, I gone from an 8 Stone flying winger to a 14 stone Jan Molby. I wasn't fit at any point during my time there.

When I left University, I eventually ended up playing some 5-aside and 11-aside football and that helped me lose a little weight but not enough for me to consider myself fit. Eventually, my weekend was largely planned around our weekly Wednesday evening 5-aside matches at the Cefn Hengoed arena - it really was great fun and I was slowly starting to get fit.

At this point, I joined Swansea University and as the gym was a reasonable £17 a month, I decided to join that to - initially to supplement the exercise I got at football in order to prolong my "career". I quickly found out that like school, running long distances didn't come naturally - it was something I was going to have to work on. I therefore started using the treadmills and found the challenge to be quite addictive. Quite a fellow members of staff were taking part in the Swansea 10k that year so I decided that I would aim to try and get my time down on the treadmill to 50 minutes before having a go myself the year after. That was 4 years ago!

Achieving 50 minutes for a 10k run on the treadmill is definitely not beyond me - however, every time I get near the time - I get an injury! First, my knees refused to play along so I had to wear supports and follow a good stretching regime. Then I pulled my right hamstring. Next I managed to slip a disk whilst coughing. The most recent injuries include a dislocated right ankle picked up playing football and the excruciatingly painful Plantar Fasciitis in my left foot. At present, I can't really run for more than 30 minutes which means running 10k is not really an option - I also have to take it easy after 30 minutes or so of football.

On account of these recent running woes, I have found myself increasingly using the weights facilities. Lifting weights has never really appealed to me as I've never actually been involved at sport "professionally" enough for strength to matter. I'm also not a big fan of the whole gym culture and ridiculous posing that can sometimes go on with hulking types. When I was younger and did things like gymnastic, I was always light enough to have excellent control over my body. Having piled on the pounds during University though, I have increasingly found that is not the case anymore! I have therefore decided to use weights to try and get to a point where I feel I have better weight-strength control.

When I started doing weights, the initial results were quite pleasing - largely because I was so weak that gains in strength were quite noticeable. I have therefore gone from not being able to do any press-ups to being able to do 15. I was enjoying the trips to the gym so much that I even went as far to buy and try some Maximuscle Cyclone which was on offer at Tesco. When strength gains began to plateau out, I quickly became frustrated but eventually recognised that was always going to be part of the process.

Perhaps the most important thing I have discovered about using the gym are its psychological benefits. Not only does exercise release endorphins, it also helps to blow of steam. Concentrating on what you're doing in the gym can also help to take your mind of things though that is some times impaired by the rubbish the gym plays over its speakers and displays on its TVs - I'll have a good rant about that in another post though!

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