About a year ago…okay…maybe a little more than a year, I decided that when I turned forty, I was going to be rocking the best body of my life! I started with a simple challenge of 100 push-ups a day for 30 days with every intention to move on to bigger and better workouts and of course bigger and better biceps, pecs, quads and all the rest. The challenge was a success, I completed 100 push-ups every day without fail. With great determination, I pushed through the shoulder pain in week two and ignored the advice that repetitive movements would just result in injury. What I should have done, was not do a 100 push-up’s a day. It totally messed up my shoulder and I was pretty much out of action for a year! Yep, in the end, I entered my 40’s the same way I left my 30’s. Squishy!
Now, with 41 on the horizon, the itch to get into shape started looming its squishy head and I decided the challenge was still on. Maybe it’s a mid-life crisis, but I didn’t like the fact that someone told me I had a “dad bod” (you know who you are) when I hadn’t even had the privilege of becoming a dad yet. So, I decided to show all the young guns out there that us 40-year-olds still have some juice in the tank. Man, I sound old! Who even says “juice in the tank” anymore!?
As fate would have it the folks from The Arrow Club reached out to me with the offer of a 3-month body transformation. Better still, they decided to take both Elzaan (not that she needs it) and I on their journey of training, nutrition, education, and mentality together! We’re both relatively fit and lead a reasonably healthy lifestyle (or so we thought) so we were definitely up for the challenge. To up the ante, however, we decided to put it all out there for you to see – nothing like a bit of an online audience to keep you accountable right?
SPOILER ALERT!!! At the end of this post, you’ll have some before and after pics to judge us on : )
The Arrow Club is the brainchild of body transformation specialists Mark and Georgia Garlik who after running The Arrow Club successfully in London, decided to make Cape Town their new home. Who can blame them? Their gym is located at their home in Vredehoek, but this is no home gym, in fact, you never see their home and the training studio is better equipped than most gym’s in Cape Town – but you probably got that from the picks above. It does, however, have the benefit of a Cardi G, the worlds most chilled Boston Terrier puppy who sits in his bed and watches you as you perform your reps, giving out a little motivational nod every now and then to keep you going! You don’t get that in most Cape Town gyms either!
As I mentioned above, The Arrow Clubs approach to training is a little different, rather than focus on only one aspect of your fitness they take a holistic view of your health. I thought the best way to describe it all was through our personal experience with each.
This has probably been the biggest learning curve for both of us. Elzaan and I always thought we were healthy eaters and we prided ourselves on our good choices – when we made them of course. Basically, carbs were the devil and our morning smoothies were filled with so many nuts and seeds that we were basically birds. It’s not that we didn’t like carbs (I mean…who doesn’t), but does anyone eat rice and potatoes anymore?
The Arrow Club has completely changed this for us by working on the most scientific approach of energy in and energy out! Your body needs a certain amount of calories to perform its daily functions, eat less than it needs and you’ll lose weight, it more than it needs and you’ll put on weight. Simple. They gave us each a bespoke eating plan with our calorie allowance (we were put on a calorie deficit) as well as a macronutrient breakdown of our recommended daily allowance for protein, carbs, and fat.
The process of weighing food and tracking your calories does take a little getting used to but it serves a bigger purpose. Understanding the caloric value of food really helps you understand portion size as well as the energy contained in those portions. They recommended My Fitness Pal to track our calories and gave us a plan with 4 meals a day. After a while you start getting a handle of portion sizes and the scale starts being less important.
I can without a doubt say that we’ve never enjoyed a ‘diet’ more. We’re back to eating bread, rice and potatoes and even enjoying a glass of wine and piece of chocolate at night. We’re never hungry and we’re never tired which just makes it super easy to stick to.
Elzaan and I have both been doing high-intensity training for the last few years. Some HIIT workouts and a little CrossFit thrown in seemed to be the best way to burn the calories and achieve those #BodyGoals. Only that it mostly didn’t and it was exhausting with very little muscle building results – at least for me. Elzaan would shape up quickly but find her arms getting bulkier than she wanted and her waist would square out as she lost body fat. Having suffered from neck and shoulder injuries my whole life I would very easily find myself spasming out during a session and living on anti-inflammatories for a couple of days. In the end, neither of us ever got the results we wanted.
The Arrow Club has a 4 step approach to training which goes like this: Mobilise, Activate, Overload and Condition. Mobilising is basically a very slow warm-up that gets you ready to start moving. Activating is preparing your muscles for the upcoming workout. This really has been a game changer for me. Activating makes use of exercise bands and movements that target the range of motion and tells those muscles “yo, wake up”. In doing these activations alone, I’ve realized how much I have struggled to use the correct muscles during the most basic exercises my entire life – It’s also stopped me from getting neck and shoulder injuries during overloading. Overloading is, well, just that, giving your muscles more resistance than they are used to. The exercises here are usually very simple movements with a MASSIVE focus on form, Mark and Georgia are constantly telling us what needs to be where and what we should be feeling. Every session ends off with a bit of conditioning, which basically takes whatever energy you have left and sucks it out of you on the assault bike!
Mentality and Education
I think I’ve touched a little on both of these above. Guiding us through a mindset change on food and exercise has been prolific in this journey. Understanding calories and how they affect your body has totally changed how I look at food and what I considered clean eating to be. One conversation with Mark about Ketosis helped dispell all the myths around this holy grail of fat loss – in short, he said “Obviously every experiment shows that people on ketogenic diets burn fat for fuel…they’re not eating anything else” Never thought about it like that before!
My approach to exercise has also changed, thinking that longer and harder sessions were the way to go and that being stiff the next day was a sign of a good session has been completely smashed! My ego was put to the test when I told Mark I didn’t feel we were doing heavy enough weights as I wasn’t sore the next day. He replied with ” I can’t send you out on to the PGA tour if you don’t know how to swing a golf club”. The attention to building strength through the correct form and posture has become paramount and the constant adjustments and corrections make all the difference. Their approach has shattered every view I’ve ever had of a personal trainer – It sure beats the hell out of someone turning the treadmill on for you while he scrolls through his Instagram!
In the end, the proof of the pudding is in the eating right? What were the results? Also, now I feel like pudding!
Nearly 5 kilos down and over 2% drop in body fat, I’m pretty happy with the results. When I think about the fact that I’m never hungry and can still go out and enjoy a drink or 2 with friends, it makes me realize what a massive achievement it really is. I wasn’t the biggest guy, to begin with, but was definitely skinny fat. Not that my squishyness is all gone just yet, I can definitely feel the 4 CM loss around my waist in how my clothes fit – for someone who wears a lot of fitted suits I don’t have much wiggle room.
The biggest visual improvement is definitely in my posture and my back, with a hint of abs popping out I’m pretty excited to see what the next 4 weeks will bring. I’m a little disappointed to not see any measured gains in my chest or arms, but I’m aware of all the groundwork being done to build muscles that have never been built before!
In the spirit of complete transparency, I just wanted to drop a quick disclaimer: For those who have been following the journey on my Instagram stories, you will notice a change in my starting weight. We were using a 15-year-old scale at the start of this journey and when it started spitting out ridiculous weights every time we got on it we purchased a new one that gave us a more accurate reading on our weight, body fat and water percentage. Our before and after pics were also taken in totally different lighting conditions so I’ve kept the images black and white and pretty flat so as not to enhance or hide anything.
For someone who looked amazing to begin with Elzaan has had a massive transformation. Loosing 3,2 kilos and 2,5% body fat on such a small frame is incredible! Her visual changes are really impressive. Most impressive though is how easily she has stuck to this eating plan and how much she enjoys the food. Not one for being deprived for too long Elzaan tends to rebel against strict diets and fall of the wagon into a pizza, bag of crisps or slab of chocolate – she’s going to kill me when she reads this.
She has also gotten incredibly strong very quickly and I’m really excited to see where she ends up in 3 months!
For those who saw some training gear they want to get their hands on, all items (except Elzans prized Stella McCartney sneakers) are available on Adidas.co.za – I highly recommend the ultra boosts 18 for running and training, hands down the most comfortable trainers I’ve ever owned!
That’s it! I’ll be back in about 4 weeks with another update! In the meantime, you can keep an eye on my Instagram stories for what’s going down!
Okay. Stay fit and fancy.