The question as to whether extrinsic or intrinsic motivation is the more effective, is one of those circular debates, like the nature versus nurture conundrum, that can never adequately be proven either way. Despite repeated scholarly musings over the fullness of time, in most instances, we are forced to fall back on mere anecdote to explain our conclusions or viewpoint.
For instance, take our cats: Paw Paw and Tromszo. The former was found as a stray, living in the back alley behind a ropey chip shop on Prudhoe Street in North Shields. When we took him in, he was scrawny, wild eyed and nervous. Four years on he’s placid, affectionate and content to spend most of his days indoors, snuggling up to either of us or contentedly sleeping on the chaise longue. Obviously, it’s our nurturing that has transformed his personality. Meanwhile Tromszo was born across the road as part of Misty’s 2015 litter. She’s moved literally 100 yards from place of birth to permanent residence, where she is loved and indulged, on the rare occasions she is indoors. You see most of Tromszo’s days are spent hunting, killing and devouring mice, bank voles, the occasional bird and even rats, though she draws the line at eating the slaughtered long tails. When she’s not on manoeuvres, she picks fights with other local cats, especially her timid beau Junior and fecund sister Rogue who also lives a few doors away. Surely, we haven’t taught her behave in such a way? Of course not; however, she could well have inherited such base and murderous instincts from the genes of her itinerant sex machine father Feral Errol, who is the alpha male feline Fritzl of NE30. Nature undoubtedly wins out in Tromszo’s case.
And so; motivation. Let us not confuse it with ambition, targets or goals. For instance, I want to be the best writer I can, which is why I spend a great deal of time over my blogs, polishing and refining them before inflicting them on the public. Too many bloggers publish their grammatically aberrant thoughts without so much as a cursory proofread; that is an insult to readers and a failure in their craft. Such attention to detail on my part is what I see as a major part of my ambition to constantly improve, which I’m hoping to demonstrate with this piece, especially in the time between the completion of my first draft and the eventual published version.
Moving on, my target for summer 2018 is to play social, rather than competitive cricket, in the midweek league. It is a modest target, but potentially attainable, if I can squeeze into slightly too snug-fitting whites. Hence my goal is to lose as much weight as possible before the season starts in mid-May. The NHS BMI calculator suggests a person of my height ought to be looking at an upper weight limit of 12st 9lb, which I’ve probably not been since I was about 16 and seems a ludicrously unrealistic target. Instead, I’ve set myself the goal of losing 70lb, over the whole of 2018. That’s 5 stones and, at the point of writing, I’ve shifted a stone and a half thus far. Not a bad start, but there’s still a hell of a long way to go, as I’m still very obese and simply can’t bear to look at photographic evidence of how awful I continue to look. This stinging self-loathing will continue to drive me on, as much as the positive comments, support and help I get from my wonderful friends.
My method of choice, intended to help me achieve my goal is the elite transform project, which combines 3 gym sessions a week, 3 other days of cardio “homework” (cycling mainly in my case) and a stringent no carb diet, from which I am enjoying a scheduled week off, though I’m still intending to eat properly and get as much exercise as possible. I must admit I’m looking forward to sneaking a few beers and some naughty foods in here and there, before getting back in the saddle on Tuesday 26th February for another 6 weeks and, potentially, another 15 weeks after that. If I reach my goal sooner than anticipated, great. If it takes longer to achieve, so be it; at least I’m more active and learning just what benefits even a modest amount of fitness can do.
Hence, I have demonstrated the distinctions between my current ambitions, targets and goals. But what are the reasons behind these three tangible and intangible monoliths? What is my fundamental motivation? Putting it bluntly; I wish to achieve personal, emotional and intellectual revenge on those who have judged, derided and dismissed me. Without even mentioning it to those self-appointed arbiters of my worth as a human being, much less attempting to engage these terminally hard of thinking, rude mechanicals with scabrous social media accounts in debate, I want to be able to look myself in the mirror and know I have proved the doubters, naysayers and boorish, baldy, imbarrathin reprobates, along with their lickspittle enablers, who circle me like tricoteueses bearing nests of vipers, wrong. So, this is for you: the Winston Wolves, the Bona Drag Popinjays, the Kriss-Kris-Chris South Tyneside Superfans, the Special School Soup Kitchen and the Marden Estate Falangists, not to mention the Big Florist and her Grasses.
A fortnight before Christmas, wasting time on social media when I should have been grafting, Facebook spat out one of those supposedly tailored adverts, masquerading as a suggested group I might want to join. It was for elite transform fitness, showing a bloke crossing the finishing line of a cross country race, covered head to toe in clarts, but throwing his arms up in triumph and grinning with immense pleasure. The accompanying blurb told me this fella, we’ll call him Steve, was 44 years old and had lost 93lb in a year with elite transform; that’s six and a half stones. The before and after photos showed him to have morphed from the kind of grotesque human space hopper you see in betting shops, takeaways and Wetherspoons in all the wrong places into a confident, trim, almost radiant middle-aged bloke who was clearly adoring life. Oh, how I envied him. And for once, I actually did something about it.
I did a quick Google search to find out if elite existed in these parts, as though I’d heard of people doing such a plan and achieving incredible successes, I had no knowledge of location or anything else. Finding out that there was a local outlet in NE6 spurred me on and I sent an email asking for more details. The day after, I got a call from the bloke who manages the place, telling me in no uncertain terms what the programme consisted of and the sacrifices I’d have to make. This was the unvarnished truth and I decided, through gritted teeth, this was the ideal time for me to grasp the nettle. Luckily, as I’ll return to in next week’s blog, a certain change in my employment status had opened up a window of opportunity that provided me with both the time to do this, not to mention the readies to pay for it. Basically, it’s £260 for 6 weeks of classes, three times a week, plus a diet plan and as much support as you need, with the incentive that if you shed 20lb, you got your money back. Being honest that was only a tiny part of the reason I signed up. The fact was I really wanted to be as happy as Steve in the advert, though I’d obviously swap a game of cricket for the cross country running.
I paid my cash and on Saturday 6th January, I headed to Hoult’s Yard in Byker for the induction. Being honest, it was highly intimidating walking in there for the first time. It didn’t get any easier when my fears were confirmed, and it became clear I was probably the oldest and fattest bloke there, though there were a couple of older and a couple of larger women. Much of the induction went over my head, partly because I couldn’t hear half of what was said, because of how fast the staff spoke and their words drifting upwards to the roof of the metal and concrete box we stood in. Anxiety coursed through my veins and I doubted I’d last the distance. Still slightly disorientated, I was weighed and then left with a timetable of classes. My first class was the following Tuesday at 5.30pm. In preparation, I went to see Benfield v Coleshill in the FA Vase, then for a few pints with Harry and on to my pal Lid’s 50th birthday do on the Saturday. It was my last hurrah and I got battered.
Predictably Sunday was a write-off and Monday was a hell of a shock as it marked the start of the diet. The first thing they ram home to you is hydration; you’ve got to guzzle between 2 and 5 litres of water a day and green tea is the only hot beverage you’re allowed. Basically, as far as food goes, it’s porridge for breakfast on the days you train and egg whites when you don’t. Lunch is almost always tuna and salad, which is no hardship and dinner is 3 days chicken and veg, 3 days fish and veg and, special treat, an omelette on Thursday. Strangely enough, I’ve always hated eggs, but in this short period of time I’ve grown accustomed to their taste and probably look forward to Thursday night the most of any in the week.
The last time I went on a sustained weight loss programme, back in 2005 when I shed 4 stones with Weight Watchers, I learned the need to be both fastidious and consistent in my food consumption. For 6 weeks I’ve lived without: pork, cheese, chips, bread, pizza, curries, pasta, crisps, biscuits, cake, alcohol and coffee. Most of those on the banned list are self-explanatory and I was prepared for their disappearance. Indeed, the hardest thing to do without was coffee, as I’m a lifelong beanhead; the caffeine withdrawal headaches, and the fact green tea is unhelpfully flavourless, though undeniably refreshing, made the first week a bit of a slog. Additionally, the change of diet made a marked impression on my toilet habits. Dirty green piss that verged on displaying a tinge of brown showed straightaway that I was losing fat, though the condition of my stools that initially resembled a kind of meconium paste were less reassuring. Of course, within a fortnight, things had settled down to the extent Gillian McKeith would have stood up to applaud every time I downloaded a fresh lot of software. I digress…
The dietary element is only one part of the elite transform programme. Of equal importance are the exercise classes; even if you lose 20lb in a week, you must attend all 18 sessions if you want to claim your money back. Gulping hard, sweating nervously and fearing ridicule, I opened the door to my first session. At the time it was agony and, when I start it all over again next week, I’m sure it will be agony again. However, during the course of the 6 weeks I learned to love these punishing sessions, putting my increasing deafness to one side as I learned to follow what the rest of the class did rather than repeatedly asking for explanations. After a fortnight of falling asleep as soon as I got in from the classes, I began to deal with the aches and exhaustion, to the extent of even yearning for them on days I did not train. It was not so much that I got better, as there are certain exercises such as burpees and sit-ups whose mastery eludes me still, while my pacific nature ensures I’ll never be a natural at boxercise, but the incredible serotonin buzz that kicked in during week 2 drove me onwards. At first, I was focussed on the end of the programme and the chance to have a few beers and a curry; it was if I was doing time and couldn’t wait to be free again. Then, once I felt the euphoria of serotonin flooding my brain, I began to love the classes, however hard they were. I happily rose at 6.00 on a Monday for 7.30 classes, feeling justified and reassured when I saw Tynemouth captain Ben Debnam attending a 6.30 workout. At first, I worried about the walk back up the hill to Byker Metro being too far for me, but by week 5 I was itching to cycle to and from my classes, only to be thrown off course by the mother of all punctures at Willington Quay on Tuesday 13th February, that necessitated not only a new tyre, but a new back wheel as well. Ah well, there’s another 105 pounds I’ve lost….
I’ve not only made steps towards fitness, lost weight and inches, as well as improving my mental wellbeing. Before Christmas I was a tearful, angst-ridden emotional wreck; now I’m feeling confident, happy and almost content. I’m sleeping properly between 11 and 7 every night. My skin is almost clear of psoriasis placques and I feel wonderful. All of this has been achieved through the elite transform programme; even if I’d not made the 20lb loss, I’d have happily paid again such are the benefits I’ve gained from it.
Here’s something very telling about the elite transform programme; the trainers are simply wonderful people. The care, support and help they provide goes far beyond anything I had expected. They genuinely want you to succeed and, providing you put the graft in, they will support you every inch of the way. Never having done this sort of thing before, I was apprehensive about the attitude of others in my classes, fretting about sneering attitudes from perma-tanned, lycra-clad fitness fanatics. I needn’t have worried. At the outset, people are too concerned with their own fitness to waste energy on sneering at the old fat bloke with the ridiculous dreads. Then, once you’ve been doing it for a couple of weeks, a genuine camaraderie and esprit de corps develops and we all supported each other through the rest of the course. For ideological reasons, I really wasn’t keen on boxercise at first, but it was absolutely key in building up trust, warmth and co-operation between us all. It is one of the reasons why I’d recommend elite transform to anyone.
When I came out after my final weigh-in on Friday 16th February, having hit the target and arranged to roll over my refund to pay for another 6-week programme, I literally could have burst into tears of joy. I felt so happy at what I’d achieved, though I was able to remain grounded as I know all I’ve completed is merely a single step on a journey of a thousand miles to my ideal weight. I’d initially expected I would have headed to Greggs on Shields Road and demolished what they had on offer, but instead I came home for a coffee and a slice of gorgeous chocolate birthday cake that Laura, who has been inspirational and the reason why I stayed on track, had made for Ann. At night, I treated myself to 4 pints of Bass in The Lodge; thankfully I hadn’t lost the taste for it. Yes, it seems wildly indulgent compared to the previous 6 weeks of eating to train, rather than training to eat, but that was nowt compared to how it used to be.
Over the week to come, I intend to go out for a beer on a couple of occasions, though I won’t be rounding the evening off with a deep fried, battered kebab meat pizza with cheesy chips. I’ll also look to do at least 50 miles on the bike, as well as fitting in a couple of games of five a side. It’ll all be very pleasant, but what I’m looking forward to most of all, is 5.30pm on Tuesday 27th February when the classes start again.
Let’s all raises our glasses (of green tea) and drink to that!