So, we're underway. At this the start, it's a mixture of enthusiasm with mild dread. Right now, 10 weeks strangely feels both long and short. A long time to be so restricted on diet and alcohol. But, perhaps more tellingly, a short time to achieve the kind of results we're aiming for.
This is largely because our initial assessment reveals the damage done over Christmas is worst than I'd first feared. I'd really underestimated the impact of that family tin of Celebrations I'd almost single-handedly tackled in those lost days between Christmas and New Year.
And right now, it’s hard to see how this excess will disappear in just two and a half months.
My trainer Pete Fraser is thankfully much more positive.
The exercise plan in week one is surprisingly doable. The three resistance workouts do not leave me shaking and broken unable to get out of bed the day after. They're almost enjoyable.
"The first week is about getting the brain to connect with the muscles by developing the neural pathways to stimulate the muscles correctly," explains Pete. "This can be done with 1 or 2 sets of light resistance work of 8 – 12 reps. More work than this in the early stage of a programme is unnecessary and doesn’t produce more gain – but have no fear, as soon as these connections are developed the sets and resistance increases."
Sandwiched between the gym sessions are two low-intensity park runs or cycles. Pete tells me to stay within the fat-burning zones around 70% of my maximum heart rate which requires me to do an almost comically slow jog around the park to stay within the required paramaters on my heart rate monitor. With old Grannies surging past me, I report back to Pete that it feels counter-intuitive and shouldn't I be working harder?
"No!" comes the simple reply. "This is to specify the level of training just below the point at which lactate builds up in the working muscles. As far as aerobic development goes working within aerobic zones gets aerobic improvements – you become fitter quicker working this way. We keep the hard anaerobic work for later – this is where we push into the higher heart rate zones of 85% plus. Aerobic levels shouldn’t be confused with anaerobic levels, there is different physiology and the two should be trained at appropriate heart rates."
The nutrition is far and away the hardest hurdle of week one.
On paper, it's not so bad:
Breakfast: two slices of granary bread, 2 scrambled eggs (1 yolk), and a slice of smoked salmon (no butter)
Morning snack: 2x oatcakes with cottage cheese
Lunch: Chicken, avocado, brown rice
Afternoon snack: Nuts
Dinner: Salmon and steamed veg
But coming off the back of Christmas, the low-calorie, low-fat, low-carb approach is a big adjustment. But I’m assured this is my body agetting used to things. Energy levels are fine though. Possibly because of the extra sleep.
Meal-planning is extensive, but strangely enjoyable. My house is now awash with tupperware containing various lean proteins and slow-release carbohydrates.
"Broadly the plan is designed to provide the correct levels of micro and macro nutrients for the needs of the exercise programme whilst maintaining weight loss and muscular hypertrophy," says Pete. "The early stages (weeks 1 – 4) of the plan focus on significantly reducing the amount of calories available to the body to force a state of catabolism or breakdown and therefore fat reduction. This will then be revised in phase 2 as exercise intensity increases."
If week one was about acclimatisation, I get the feeling it's the calm before the storm.