Forty-seven days have passed since I last had my body composition tested, after which I declared absolute war on body fat—with a stern determination to cut fat and build lean muscle mass. After dozens of training sessions, over six weeks of obsessing over everything I ate, whilst burning somewhere in the region of 164,000 calories (I can’t be more accurate because my Fitbit broke, so being without it for a few weeks, I’ve taken an average of 3,500 calories a day)—I will get to measure my progress. Sure, I’ve weighed myself at home and seen how my weight has dropped from around 95kg to 92kg, but the method I use at home is quite arbitrary, whereas the Tanita machine I’ll use this week in Amsterdam is a more accurate and will give me a wealth of information to measure my progress. I’m looking forward to being in Amsterdam again, but unfortunately an unexpected turn of events cast a very dark cloud over this week.
Naturally, Sunday started with a training session at the gym—I was fresh and well rested after taking a week off from working out. It was a great feeling to have a completely recovered body, I wasn’t carrying any niggles or tightness. I did a fast treadmill session to warm up, and although I only ran for ten minutes, I felt I could have gone for a lot longer! I caught up with Dave, my PT and Paul, one of the Sunday morning regulars and worked my way around the various weights before heading home for what should have been a relaxing afternoon with Maggie and Isobel.
One of our cats, Frieda has been a little off-colour lately, being quite lethargic and not so spritely as usual—sadly over the past day or so she’s taken a turn for the worse and looks in a bad way. We got Frieda from Cats Protection in Sutton Coldfield back in 2009, when she was an adorable kitten named Tinkerbell. We brought her home on Halloween and she immediately became a very loved member of the family, full of energy and mischief. Frieda was a small and agile cat who often behaved more like a squirrel, climbing up furniture and even the living room curtains! When our other cat Hermann, joined us from Croatia (where he had to spend a period of time in quarantine), they faced each other off for about half an hour before becoming the best of friends—a feline husband and wife. Apart from being a wild soul and too timid to enjoy being picked up or stroked—Frieda never caused us any trouble, she was an adorable cat who never bothered us or asked for anything.
Over the weekend Frieda had spent a lot of time sitting outside in the bushes, something which cats do when they’re really not very well. We brought her in, but she laboured her tired body back outside again a few minutes later. We left her to it, assuming that she wanted some fresh air—but Maggie and I were seriously concerned by now.
By night time she hadn’t come back and we were getting worried. I went upstairs to take a shower but came running back down when I heard Maggie passionately sobbing in the kitchen. Frieda had returned, too weak to get through the cat flap she meowed for attention. When Maggie brought her in the poor cat was so bad she couldn’t walk at all and was dragging her failed limbs across the floor with what little energy she had left. Heartbroken to see our dear pet in such a way, we knew that an emergency appointment at the vets on Monday was the only way to go, and that the prognosis probably wouldn’t be good. Maggie spent the night on the couch with Frieda curled up in a small cat’s bed. Nobody slept very well that night.
I went to work on Monday morning in a mournful mood. Whilst I would have stayed at home today, I had an important interview with a candidate who will replace Callum when his internship ends in the summer and he returns to university. Being out of the office for three days this week, it was also essential that I make sure the team are up to speed with what needs to be done in my absence. Having made the appointment for mid-afternoon, I did my best to put Frieda to the back of my mind and focus on squeezing a day’s worth of work into a morning.
Ruby’s CV was the first one I received, and I was immediately impressed. We left the vacancy open for a few further weeks to see what else came in, but she was always the outstanding candidate. Interviewing her, I saw that not only is her knowledge and expertise perfect for what I need, she will naturally fit into the team and has a brilliant work ethic. Considering I was so impressed by her CV, it amazed me to discover that Ruby has a wealth of other talents which aren’t referred to on her resume. Not only is a she a graphic design graduate, Ruby can also edit video—a skill in very high demand in my department. It took very little consideration after the interview to decide that Ruby was the right person for the job, hence I had recruited my new team member in as quick and stress-free manner anybody could ask for. It felt quite bizarre to be happy and satisfied in what was otherwise a very sad day.
Frieda had got no better since Sunday and was even making muffled noises as though she’s in pain. With a heavy heart, Maggie and I made the drive to Townsend Vets in nearby Bromsgrove with Frieda in her carrier in the back of the car. We’ve always been to the same vets, even after moving out of Bromsgrove, they’re just so caring and professional. Cian, the vet we saw was immediately concerned about Frieda. The initial prognosis was that she’s in a very bad way, suffering from a form of progressive paralysis. Whilst we discussed several options of what we could do to help Frieda, the further we discussed it and the more tests Cian did—it became increasingly apparent that euthanasia was the most practical and kindest option.
What a difficult decision to make—there were options to care for Frieda and to conduct tests to discover exactly what was wrong with her (Cian gave two likely conditions which could be causing her symptoms, but I won’t go into that much detail), it would have cost a lot of money and caused significant discomfort to Frieda. We discussed taking her home to say goodbye to Hermann and Isobel, one last night with her family, but in the end, we took the very difficult decision to put Frieda to sleep and away from her suffering that afternoon. Clearly, there’s no happy outcome to this, but I do take comfort that we gave Frieda a home where she was loved, well fed and felt safe for ten years. She passed away purring and being stroked by Maggie and I who will both miss her dearly.
I had a lunchtime flight to Amsterdam on Tuesday, so could take Isobel to school in the morning. She took the news about Frieda in her stride and was her usual mischievous self as we attempted the short walk from Co-op carpark to school. She’s such a lively and happy girl, but she doesn’t listen to a word anybody says—it would be more constructive having a conversation with a bush!
After a quick haircut I headed to the airport. Arriving in Amsterdam was a bizarre feeling. I normally enjoy my time here so much, but with Frieda’s passing so fresh and my cold still irritating me—I wasn’t really in the mood. I popped into the Old Wembley late afternoon and had the remarkable experience of knowing everyone one in there, staff and regulars! To say this place feels like home is a bit of an understatement. Feeling really tired I didn’t have a late night, preparing myself for the big weigh in at Fresh on Wednesday morning.
After clearing my nose so I could breathe again and taking a shower, I donned my gym kit and headed out onto the sun-soaked streets of Amsterdam. Whilst there was quite a bitter wind blowing, the blue sky and sun lifted my mood. I was excited to see what progress I’ve made, as well as enjoy a workout in a gym I really love. Careful not to eat too much prior to my body composition test, I grabbed a cappuccino and granola bar (I still needed energy to work out). When I was in Amsterdam in February I stayed literally a stone’s throw away from Fresh, but this time I’m about half an hour away.
I expected to be more nervous when I stepped on the scale, but I knew I’d lost weight and was intrigued to see the results. Although what greeted me was a bit of a surprise. Weighing in at 92.1kg I was 4.2kg lighter than in February. Although, I weighed myself then mid-afternoon after having breakfast and lunch. I was delighted to see that my body fat percentage had dropped below 12% for the first time that I can remember, but I was a little dismayed to learn that I seem to have lost some muscle mass. Whilst my overall percentage of muscle has increased by 0.4%, my muscle mass has dropped by 3.1kg. Although it’s worth noting that these machines are not anywhere near 100% accurate, and what is actually interpreted as muscle mass is defined as non-fatty mass and includes water held in the muscles(1).
Body composition compared to February:
February March Difference
Weight: 96.3kg 92.1kg -4.2kg
Body fat: 12.0kg 11.0kg -1.0kg
Body fat %: 12.5% 11.9% -0.6%
Muscle: 80.2kg 77.1kg -3.1kg
Muscle %: 83.3% 83.7% +0.4%
Water %: 61.4% 61.7% +0.3%
Visceral fat: 4 4 0
BMR: 2465kcal 2358kcal -107kcal
I wasn’t sure what to make of it really, whilst I was delighted to have lost a kilogram of fat and be below 12%—I was pretty annoyed to have lost muscle mass, and quite a lot of it. On the flip side, it goes to show that all the hard work I have done over the past couple of months has really paid off. I didn’t lose anywhere near as much weight between December and February, so to shed 4kg in less than 2 months is no small feat. After doing a little more research and speaking to David at my gym when I got back, I am interpreting these figures with a lot more caution and accept that whilst they give a very good indication, they are by no means conclusive.
With a lot to think about, I went into the gym and had a good workout, almost exclusively biased towards resistance training rather than cardio—as I shift my focus on building more muscle. I always enjoy working out at Fresh, it’s such a happy, friendly gym and a comfortable environment to be in. After visiting here in February, I spoke to the owner of both Fresh Fitness facilities in Amsterdam, Markus Torenstra—who has kindly agreed to be interviewed tomorrow morning. I’m excited to discuss his journey and discover what motivates him to take Fresh from strength to strength.
I went into Amsterdam for a few meetings before heading back to the apartment for a rest ahead of the evening. My bunged-up nose was still bothering me and really took the shine off of my trip. Ali would be working in the evening and I would finally get the opportunity to give him a little gift to say thanks for the neighbourly hospitality shown to me by everyone at the Old Wembley during my week in Amsterdam in February. As I walked back to the apartment, I couldn’t help but think of Frieda. I spoke with Maggie on the phone who was missing her dearly too, but nothing could compare with the sense of loss felt by poor Hermann, who kept looking in the bushes for her and sat guarding the cat flap, should she return. After a few days had passed, it seemed so surreal, the onset of whatever it was had come so quickly, a week ago she had been fine and now she was gone. We’d chosen to have her cremated, I called the vets with our choice of urn and to make sure they spell her name correctly on the engraved plate. It feels so unfair to be having to deal with these things.
Keen to have a healthy meal before heading into town to the Old Wembley, I grabbed some dinner from a trendy Cous Cous street food bar near my apartment. Who knew that cous cous could be so expensive? For a bowl of wholegrain cous cous with various vegetables and chicken and a can of Whole Earth cola (I never knew such a thing existed)—it cost €15! It was really tasty, but I think that’s quite expensive.
Ali and Margarita were working in the bar, both were as pleased to see me as I was to be there. Ali owns the bar, with his brother Mo—out of all the great people I know in Amsterdam, I think Ali and I get on best of all, we share a lot of similarities and common interests. Ali also has a young daughter, the same age as Isobel, although I’m led to believe she might be slightly better behaved. Ali was delighted and a little humbled when I gave him my gift—it wasn’t much but they were all so good to me in February, particularly on my birthday, I really wanted to give them something for the bar. I scoured the internet for artwork of the old Wembley stadium and came across a fold out poster and a postcard, both of which I got framed and packed well for the short flight over. I stayed for a few drinks but didn’t want to have one of my crazy late Amsterdam nights because I had an interview the following morning!
Markus Torenstra is a fascinating guy, bouncing back from the trauma of breaking his back during a snowboarding holiday in 2000, to develop his career as a physiotherapist and personal trainer before opening the first of two Fresh Fitness clubs in 2004—I was really excited to listen to his story and discover more about his personal and professional journey.
We spent over an hour talking about everything from how he balances his work and personal life, to what motivates him and the qualities needed to be a successful personal trainer. I approach every interview with an open mind, although I have a good idea of the direction the conversation will take, it never ceases to intrigue me how different people will offer contrasting opinions to the same question. Talking with Markus, I learnt so much about him and the fitness business in general. I’m privileged to be able to have these conversations with people and what makes it even more worthwhile is when the person I’ve been interviewing for the last hour or so thanks me at the end of it. Markus said how much he enjoyed the opportunity to talk, and how often you can become so engaged in your daily projects that you don’t get the chance to view them from afar and remind yourself why you started doing them in the first place.
My flight back to Birmingham was a late one, by the time I landed I was feeling thoroughly rotten again—I had hoped that when my cold started over two weeks ago that I would have been able to shake it off for Amsterdam, but that never happened. Sure, I didn’t feel anywhere near as rough as I did those first few days—but the incessant snivelling and recurring headaches are getting a bit too much. I know, it’s only a cold, but I was really happy to finally get into my own bed and have a good rest.
Although, Friday was yet another busy day catching up with what I missed out on by being out the office. I had thought about going to the gym, but it’s best I get as much rest as I can, we had busy weekend ahead and I was still tired from my late flight.
By 08:30 Saturday morning we were on the road to Lincolnshire to go and see my mum for Mother’s Day! Naturally, travelling with a four-year-old isn’t straight forward. Despite not needing a wee when we set off, she announced that she was bursting just a few minutes later—so we made our first stop of the trip at a motorway services. Ten minutes after getting back on the road she vomited over herself and we had to stop again. By this point I was getting a little worried that we might never make it there at all, I needn’t have stressed though, the rest of the journey was uneventful, and we arrived around the time I had originally planned anyway.
We had a table booked at Pizza Express, I was comfortable with welcoming carbohydrates back into my diet. I had a delicious tomato and mozzarella salad to start, with a Sloppy Giuseppe pizza for main (we had dessert back at my mum’s). The pizza was okay, but if I’m honest I’m a little disappointed—it wasn’t any better that the same Pizza Express branded pizza you can buy in Tesco and cook yourself. Maggie had a Romana base pizza topped with spinach and a whole host of other vegetables I can’t remember—which I tried a piece from and it was much better than mine. Isobel had recovered from being sick earlier and enjoyed her children’s meal and the opportunity to cause chaos running around the restaurant!
The rest of the day was spent visiting my dad’s grave (I still can’t believe I’m writing that) and spending time at my mum’s house drinking coffee and eating a heavenly cake Maggie had made. By the time we left I was already feeling tired and rough (blowing my nose every fifteen or twenty minutes). The journey was okay, but it still took two and a half hours before we got home. After reading Isobel a story I went to lie on the bed and fell asleep instantly, without turning the light off or brushing my teeth. My Saturday was done.
I would normally end my blog here, starting a new post every Sunday—but I’ve taken the decision to post monthly from now on, which will give me more time to focus on writing the content I want this blog to be well known for: in-depth and informative articles and interviews with people from all areas of the world of health, fitness and well-being. I think it’s still important to document my life, so you know as much about me as a person as I’m willing to share (which is quite a lot)—however, maybe writing about each week individually is a little indulgent. Therefore, I plan to do one ‘blog’ post a month, full of information and anecdotes about what I’ve been up to. I also plan to do special posts documenting a holiday or something out of the ordinary. So, watch this space for that!
In the meantime, I’ve still got Sunday 31st March to tell you about—Mother’s Day. Isobel and I took great pride giving Maggie her card and gifts first thing in the morning. It was great to have a lie-in together. Later in the morning I went to the gym, I quizzed David and Paul (a regular there who can bench press a hell of a lot, I spotted him on 130kg the other week) on how I can increase my strength and be able to bench more. We did a few things differently and increased the weight from 60kg to 70kg but for three reps rather than five. I felt a sense of elation at being able to press more! Obviously, I did a range of other exercises including my beloved woodchopper, before heading home to spend the rest of the day with Maggie and Isobel.
Although we had planned on visiting a National Trust property, we ended up taking Isobel to the park in Bromsgrove to ride her scooter, as we had some shopping to do there. Isobel had a great time, during which she tried to ride and run around the skate park—she’s a little too young for that right now, but I’m sure she’ll be magnetised to such places when she’s older! We enjoyed a delightful dinner together of Shrimp Scampi and green pasta—not the type of scampi which comes in breadcrumbs, but the shell-on version which is a typical meal in Croatia (where Maggie is from). It was absolutely delicious, if not a little messy to eat. It had been an eventful week, one which we hadn’t foreseen. It seemed remarkable to think that just seven days before dear Frieda would still have been with us, and we didn’t have any clue that she may be taken so soon. Life throws up random and unexpected challenges, from which we can only rise and learn from.