One man’s quest to lose weight. Fast!
In a bid to get ready for the summer, we sign up with Ultimate Performance Dubai. Here’s how much we’ve progressed.Meryl D'Souza May 11, 2017
In my 27 years, I’ve been to only a handful of gyms. Not one of those visits was for more than a day. For the longest time, I didn’t need to go to one but when I needed to, I wasn’t motivated enough.
In March this year, I decided I needed to do something about the protruding planet I call a belly – not to mention the sagging moobs. And so, I signed up for a three-month transformation session with Ultimate Performance Dubai - the swanky gym from London that specialises in body transformations opened its doors on March 20.
Before my first session, I was asked to fill out a Pre-Exercise Appraisal form. It’s essentially a form with over 50 questions that asks you to explain your lifestyle in great detail. I take my time filling up the form, but I know it’s just a redundant formality. At least, I thought it was.
Day 01: The initiation
A couple of days after filling out the form, I was called into UP fitness’ Dubai headquarters at the Emirates Financial Towers, DIFC. I walked through the glass doors and was surprised to find that the gym didn’t smell like sweat. From what I heard, most gyms did.
A smiling, jacked up young man greets me at the reception. He’s shorter than I am but looks more than capable of lifting me with just one hand. “Hi, I’m Nathan. It’s Meryl, right?” he says extending his hand. Still taking in the popping veins from his bulging biceps, I only manage a nod.
There isn’t any time for pleasantries here. Nathan ushers me into the changing room. Before he does, I notice a wall-of-fame of body transformations. I make a mental note to check it out in detail later.
After I’m done changing, Nathan takes me into a little room where we start taking body measurements. I say body measurements, but it’s actually fat measurements with a caliper. At this point, my dignity is on the floor, threatening to go lower.
"Being embarrassed is good,” Nathan says as he continues to clip on the fat. “Remember this moment when you start feeling like you want to cheat or quit.”
Not cheating is a big part of the transformation. Not because I’m going to slack off on the workout – Nathan makes sure that doesn’t happen – but because the diet is what makes the whole thing possible.
And that is my Achilles heel: diet. A quick insight into my daily routine: Get up, skip breakfast so that I can sleep a little longer, get to work, order something for lunch, eat nothing until dinner, gorge when dinner comes. My lunches or dinner would include junk food at least twice a week. Of course, Nathan already knows that thanks to the appraisal form. In fact, the man has studied it and checks on me at least twice every day to ensure I don’t stray. Don’t you just hate WhatsApp?
Since this is my initiation, today’s session will only be drills to gauge my (non-existent) fitness levels. We start with squats. Nathan corrects my posture as I struggle through – but finish – ten. I was quite proud of myself until he introduced me to the Pendulum. For those of you who have had the good fortune of never meeting this abomination, it’s a piece of equipment that makes you do squats but with weight because apparently doing squats wasn’t enough.
We do a couple of more different exercises before we call it a day. It’s only been 30-minutes, but I’m winded and paralysed. Still, it’s a start.
Day 03: The struggle is real
“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” That’s a line from Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. Truer words were never spoken. Two days into my diet and I find myself craving comfort food. The universe conspired for me to have it too.
In the two days since I started, we had a tiramisu cake brought in for a colleague’s birthday. Life was teasing me. I think I cried a little when I declined to have a piece and sat with my broccoli and chicken in front of me. Besides, Nathan kept checking up on me every day. I could not let him down.
To his credit, Nathan gave me a whole list of things I could make, but chicken and broccoli were the easiest. Plus, I had never even heard of some of those ingredients on the healthy menu.
Day 07: The first week
Friends or relatives who have ever been to a gym will tell you that your first day at the gym is the worst. Don’t believe them. The first day is relatively easy to what follows. Since I have another twelve weeks to write about and explain what goes into transforming your body with UP fitness, let me simply show you a glimpse of what my first week was like:
Day 13-21: The holiday and the first cheat day
I know what you’re thinking, “Didn’t he just start?” I did, but this holiday was planned and booked before I even thought of joining UP fitness. Nathan knew about the trip and his rules were – seemingly – simple: stick to the diet and walk or run for at least 30 minutes every day.
My holiday was great (thanks for asking) although I did end up cheating. In my defence, I met a friend from college and didn’t want to look like a salad-eating snob while he feasted on meat. Hey, I never said it was a good defence.
I’m more of a glass half-full kind of person (not entirely exclusive to this one instance) so I chose to look at a guy who went on a holiday for a week and cheated just the one time. That’s commendable. Maybe Nathan will see it that way too. For my sake, I hope.
Day 23: The epiphany
I used to look down on bro nods and fist bumps. I never really understood their significance. I always imagined it to be a superficial way that jocks would use to communicate. I know better now.
Gym rats use those gestures as a sign of respect towards one another. It’s essentially a nod mutual appreciation because each of them knows how much hard work the other is putting in. This epiphany didn’t come easily.
On my first day back to the gym following my holiday, I entered to find Nathan waiting for me. His trusty iPad in hand – Nathan logs my progress and exercise routines on his iPad – Nathan asked me to get into gear and get on the weighing scale.
Afraid of what was going to come next, I confessed to Nathan. I told him I cheated the one day in London and went all out. His face fell a little. After a few stabs on his iPad, he told me that he was still going to check the weight.
I changed, got on that scale and saw that I had actually lost about 3 kilogrammes. Nathan was happy, but immediately told me it could have been more had I not cheated. I felt guilty of course and swore I’d give this session my all. And I did... until my arms we so weak, I couldn’t lift up 12kg dumbbells.
I ploughed through the remainder of the session with whatever little strength I had left and by the time I finished my post-holiday session, I needed to throw up. It was there, sitting on the restroom floor with my head bent over the commode while puking out what I noticed was an excess of green, that I had my epiphany.
A part of me believes Nathan pushed me extra hard because I cheated. I’m too ashamed to ask. I did the crime, so I had to do the time.
Day 27: The schadenfreude
Being Friday, the gym was crowded than I was used to. Nathan told me that business was so good, they’ve had to hire more trainers to keep up with the demand. Seeing the gym so packed felt good, but it also brings with itself a weird pressure. Now there’s competition and you don’t want to look like a wuss in front of the others.
All those feelings of competition went away as soon as I started working out. As far as I can recall, I was shouting and glaring at Nathan for making me work so hard. To be fair, I was frustrated before I even entered the gym because I knew what day it was: Paralyzer day.
The good news is that I got to wait for an extra minute or so before I could get started on my second set on that godawful machine because someone else occupied it. As I paced around waiting for my turn, I noticed that the girl working on the paralyzer struggled a little more than I did.
I’m not even remotely ashamed to say that I felt great seeing her struggle. Her trainer was so lenient, that he didn’t even make her do it with weights. I won’t lie, to see someone beg and grovel like that for the torture to end made me feel mighty good about myself. It’s good knowing that you’re not the only one suffering.
That pleasure though was short-lived. She finished and I was beckoned by Nathan. It was my turn to beg and grovel. And so I did. I finished the session with a couple of laps with the prowler. Although this time, I felt a stinging pain just below my right shoulder blade.
I was slithering on the floor in agony when Nathan helped me up and coolly asked me to walk it off. I didn’t think I could but Nathan was far more concerned this time. He said, “Walk or there’s a good chance you’ll pass out.”
I walked and didn’t pass out.