Satirical Slaughter of the fitness ‘Profession’

 

After writing, submitting and performing a rather melancholic piece at the first 9Hirji spoken word event, I decided to take a lighter approach to my writing for last Friday’s event. I am only too familiar with basing my writing, whether it be poems or prose on a solemn subject matter and so toying with humour is somewhat of a more challenging affair. I played with a lot of topics for this event and wrote numerous lines, complete and incomplete pieces but nothing really felt right.

It was only when I stopped really thinking and glanced aimlessly through my Facebook and Instagram feeds that the idea hit me. As a fitness fanatic with pretty extensive knowledge and experience of competing at an elite level, nothing grinds on me more than these get-fit-quick schemes and Instagram ‘like’ whores. There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t see someone touting the latest diet phenomenon or sensationalising basic work-out principles; Juiceplus and Herbalife, Caveman diets and 60-second ab workouts. Last week I even read something about Breatharianism, yes, a diet on which people exist solely on air alone…AIR. If only someone could direct this Breatharian lifestyle to the millions affected by world hunger we could put OXFAM and Feed the Children out of business.19452985_1868872706766486_222520762331115035_o

Nonetheless, before I get onto my soapbox so-to-speak and rant about the diabolical nature the multi-million-pound diet and fitness industry, I’ll get to the point. During my Facebook flicking and Instagramming, I started to word vomit a few lines of what would become my piece for the 9Hirji event. This piece attempts to tear into the morality of the modern fitness industry and highlight the fickle nature of many “qualified” personal trainers. It is a satirical and sarcastic attempt to reveal the truth behind the filtered fitness profession; one I feel passionate and at times genuinely pissed-off about.

 

It is definitely more of a performance piece, so I’m not entirely sure how it will read, but take from it what you will:

 

 

“First of the year, sign you up, new you, new me, new us,

Pull on those joggers, lace up those trainers it’s time to see what all the fuss…

Is about down in new gymnasium, the one with the fancy machines.

The one that steals half of your pay cheque and swallows up half of your dreams.”

 

“Rise and shine.

Drag your arse out of bed, the avocado won’t smash itself.

Glug down the green mixture, with the slimiest texture,

I swear it is good for your health.”

 

“Step up, step down and repeat again,

You’ll get used to it I swear.

Yes, it’s monotonous.

Yes, it’s mundane.

But listen, I don’t really care.”

 

“Sign up right now to my 60-day plan and commit to some cheese grater abs,

Biceps and triceps, lats and traps, and the coveted Kardashian ass.

Sign up for 90, I’ll throw in a shaker and some Instagram filter lessons,

Cos face it, that matters more than my cut and paste gym sessions.”

 

“Now, Get on the treadmill and up the pace, before we move on to some Zumba,

Cross fit you say?

Show me your snatch,

Don’t forget to dip before going under,

Now hit 50 reps in 60 secs and don’t stop until your back starts to burn,

If it ain’t hurting, it ain’t working,

And no, you don’t get no desert.”

 

“Well, maybe on your cheat days, I’ll throw in a couple of Krispy Kremes,

Let you take five guys to Maccy Ds,

As long as 6 out of 7 you’re eating ‘clean’,

My plan will give you the body of your dreams.”

 

“No, I’m not lying, my transformations tell the story,

Photo-shopped and filtered in all their glory.

No, you don’t have those abs or tiny waist.

But you gotta admit, the lighting’s great!”

 

“Fake?

Of course, it’s not fake, just like this shake,

Juice plus,

Slim without the fuss

30-day guarantee,

If it doesn’t work,

You’ll get the next month free.”

 

“Lose a few pounds, drop a dress size,

Reward yourself with extra fries.

A burger, some nachos and a diet coke,

Watch your money go up in smoke.”

 

“Start Monday, new week, new you,

Back on the waggon, round two.

Those shakes seemed to work, my plan was just right.

Show me your money, don’t put up a fight.”

 

“Step up, step down and repeat again,

You’ll get used to it I swear.

Yes, it’s monotonous.

Yes, it’s mundane.

But listen, I don’t really care.”

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Images courtesy of Dubai Poetics and photographer Myriam Nehmeh  instagram.com/mashrou3_suwar

 

 

Finding my way back to writing…

Since work has now decided to slowly subside, or maybe I have started to place less emphasis on the importance of work, (more likely the latter!), I have decided to restart my blog. Don’t expect any breakthrough moments of brilliance or anything of key importance. This is just simply a regurgitation of my weekly, ok maybe monthly (let’s not make too much of a commitment eh) goings on as I try to amble through adult life in the desert.

Last week was a turning point for me; I found my way back into the world of writing as I stumbled across the Dubai Poetics group on Facebook. In excitement, I hastened to join the workshop that was taking place in Dubai Mall on Tuesday evening, expecting it to be a discussion of writing styles, techniques and genres. However, on receiving confirmation of my attendance, I was asked to submit a piece of my own poetry or writing for discussion; shock horror! Of course, I have pieces that I have written over the years but where were they? Nowhere to be found amongst the thousands of files on my laptop and hard drive. In panic, I decided it was time to start writing something new.

I took on a piece that I had begun a long time ago. Two stanzas were briefly played with, but the topic of the piece was something that lies very close to the heart. Thus, I never really got around to finishing It back then, as I guess the emotions at the time were a little too raw. Anyway, I pulled up the first part and spent an hour or so battling with a mix of emotion and writer’s block before coming up with my first drafted article. Using the same refrain throughout it was easy to piece together the topic and create an almost melancholic story. I say almost, because I don’t want my pieces to mournful or filled with sorrow, yet this particular piece left me with little other options.

The workshop itself turned out to be an eye-opening and insightful experience. I have written blogs, poems and excerpts in the past but never with an intention to perform the pieces. Spoken word is something I’ve only ever watched or listened to on Youtube or the radio and so it was interesting to meet those with much more than and as little experience as I have. Sharing our texts helped me to understand how my work may be interpreted by others and the difference it makes to only reading it myself. The power of punctuation really is more than just a cliché!

I decided to attend Friday’s spoken word event to get a feel for the performances and gauge the suitable topics (we are in the UAE after all!). I had no intention of performing myself, with hopes of leaving that until next Friday’s event, when I had a little more time to prepare. Nonetheless, the event was drawing to a close with around 20 minutes left for an open mic session. I felt that slight buzz of nervousness and hesitation as my brain ticked over the thought of performing. I had a few pieces in mind but none but the most recently written one to hand. It wasn’t memorised and not really written to perform. Yet I’d shared the piece to receive great reviews at the workshop and so that gave me a little confidence to volunteer myself. Seconds later, I found myself stood in the 9Hijri Exhibition in the middle of Dubai Mall’s Souk, performing my first ever spoken word piece. A little shaky at first,  the finger-clicks throughout my performance calmed by nerves and reassured me that I’d made the right decision.

I love writing, I have shied away from it for much too long now allowing life to get in the way a little too often. Writing has always been quite a private thing for me. I’m not talking deepest darkest secrets and confessions, private. But private in a word vomit kind of way. Sometimes it’s nice to throw all of your thoughts onto paper because the ink is much less transient than a feeling. It’s nice to revisit written prose and to reflect and gain clarity on a situation. I love writing, poems, short stories, diary pieces and excerpts. I’ve tried and succeeded in written word publication but now I think it’s time to challenge myself further. Joining in on Friday has given me a little more motivation for writing and much more motivation for Spoken Word. Hopefully, I can use my time out here in the sandbox to gain much more than just motivation.

Anyway, enough of discussing my innermost thoughts and feelings on my new love of Spoken Word. Here’s the piece I shared on Friday… in case you’re interested that is!

I’ll let you make your own conclusions and interpretations…

“Age is a terrible thing”

Physical decline, mental frustration,
Infantile mannerisms return as the days hasten.
A fragile frame, with the same soul existing.
Age is a terrible thing.

A shadow, a shell, a hollow and muted memory,
He sits in his armchair, watching in misery,
The clock ticks deafeningly on.

A gallant old gentleman with stories untold,
Now lost in the abyss, as the memories grow cold.
Age is a terrible thing.

Memories of walking hand in hand to the park,
I remember those eyes, crystalline, blue,
I remember those eyes before the onslaught of the dark,
I remember those times, if only he could too.

So full of energy at times, but others he’s spent, finished.
Days go by, all signs of life, diminished.
Age is a terrible thing.

He once was my best friend, now I’m unsure,
Now he doesn’t recognise me, sometimes, when I walk through the door.
Sometimes there is a glimmer, a flicker of him,
Sometimes there is a smile, a laugh or a grin.

He is healthy, he is strong, he is sound of mind,
A young man, a young soul that now lays confined.
Age is a terrible thing.

His stories light up his eyes, they light up my days,
His smile is infectious and his mood cascades.
With a flick of a switch he is home, he is here,
With a flick of a switch, he is gone.

He is tired, he is weary, he is ready to depart,
I am afraid, I am selfish, I can’t let go in my heart.
Age is a terrible thing.

 

 

Mountains, Monkeys and Momos- A Nepali Adventure

So Kathmandu, where to begin? From the second we stepped off the plane it was mind-blowing. The temperature was much milder than expected, sunny yet cool with a slight chill as the wind blew across the tarmac but nowhere near the big freeze, Kristina was clearly expecting! Well, that was for the time being anyway, we were soon to find out that us desert dwellers aren’t quite cut out for a December trip to Nepal, despite the frantic last-minute shopping trip for hats, scarves, and jackets.

Anyway enough about the weather (I’ll bore you with more whines later), and more about the experience that was our airport pick up. We were greeted by a hotel representative outside the small airport terminal and guided, in between traffic, to our mighty carriage; a small indefinable car with rugs on the backseat and a distinct lack of passenger seatbelts, never mind, “when in Rome” as they say. Then again, Rome has traffic lights, lane separators, and traffic laws, which are clearly lacking across Nepal. The drive through busy Kathmandu to even busier Thamel was pupil dilating; roads filled with buses, trucks, scooters and bikes dashing this way and that to avoid pedestrians and the occasional cow (yes, you did read that correctly), since sidewalks and pavements were filled with Nepali locals selling everything from clothing to your fruit and two veg.

Arriving at the hotel, we were thrilled to find out we had been upgraded to a suite room and having been assured this was one of the best in the hotel we eagerly climbed the several flights of stairs to reach our room. This was where the real fun began… FREEZING!!! The room was absolutely freezing, despite the almost balmy outside temperatures, we had entered an igloo, cue using the AC unit as a heater and blocking all sources of a draft with excess bed sheets. Yes, we did stuff the window vents with a comforter to block out the cold air and nope, this was not an excessive measure.

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the local area and coming to terms with the absolute lawlessness that is the roads of Thamel. I would not be exaggerating if I mentioned almost dying on more than one occasion, motorbikes and taxis do not slow down for dithering, unfamiliar tourists, neither do rickshaws for that matter.

Once we’d done a little exploring, we made it back to our igloo for a nanny nap only to find ourselves being serenaded by the sounds of Bob Marley coming from the ‘Irish bar’ across the way. Nonetheless, we did manage a little shut-eye before donning all of the layers and heading out to explore Thamel by night. Since the Irish bar was so close by we decided to give it a go only to find ourselves emerging onto a half built rooftop (no sign of a bar) and in the company of around 10 hippie-types surrounding a trashcan-esque fire; now that explains the Marley family soundtrack! Giving this party a quick swerve we found ourselves heading deeper into Thamel ending up on the rooftop of the Reggae Bar accompanied by a great sounding Nepali band, shisha, and decent local beers… result!

We began day two with a trip to Kathmandu Durbar square; one of the major tourist attractions of the city. Having come to terms with the traffic (sort of) we found it much easier to negotiate our way through the small and sometimes rubble-filled streets. One thing that struck me whilst walking through the streets of Thamel was the sheer energy that filled the atmosphere; whether it was street sellers vying for our attention, taxis and rickshaws squeezing through the narrow alleyways, kids making their daily commute to school or people evidently rebuilding their homes and businesses in the aftermath of last year’s earthquake, there was a constant buzz.

Durbar square was a humbling experience; the history within those streets is overwhelming, despite the vast amounts of damage inflicted by the earthquakes. We were given an excellent guided tour through the history of the square, a lesson on Buddhism and even caught sight of the Kumari; the living goddess. The story of the Kumari is fascinating, a young girl who is selected to be the town’s living goddess until she reaches puberty. Selection is based upon the belief she is a reincarnation of Kali, possesses 32 specific features and shows fearlessness and courage tested by her ability to face the decapitation of 108 buffalo alone amongst other harrowing tasks. Seeing this young girl in person and knowing her story was slightly unnerving yet equally awe-inspiring and experience that will live with me for a very long time.

Thus, even though we were suckered at the end of the tour by the guide’s “request” for payment despite paying an entrance fee, all in all, we enjoyed an educational and interesting experience. Later that afternoon it was time for the Swayambhunath or the Monkey Temple as it is now more commonly known.

Starving, we jumped out of the taxi and headed to a local street seller for a samosa and a couple of other interesting looking Nepali treats, much-needed fuel for the 365 step steep ascent to the top of Swayambhunath. We found a nice spot below a tree to enjoy our snacks unsuspectingly stumbling upon monkey feeding territory. Before we knew it, the cheeky little buggers had snatched the food straight from our lips, not once but three times! Samosa, GONE, indiscriminate sweetie thing, GONE…Pretzel type thing… yup gone too! Oh, how we laughed and were laughed at! Failing to feed, we started our ascent only to be faced with dodging a cascade of monkeys (who may or may not have been responding to a feeding call from their thieving friends) running and swinging 60mph down the stairs towards us; what an experience, incredible and one I definitely won’t forget in a hurry.

Swayambhunath is shrouded in history, and despite obvious earthquake damage its beauty in architecture is absolutely evident. It stands just outside Kathmandu, aloft, with spanning views across the city, surrounding areas and the far-off Himalayas. Everything from the prayer wheels, carvings and brass monuments captivates the imagination of even the least religious souls. After exploring, taking snaps, and being possibly a little too enthusiastic about the monkeys (guilty as charged) we climbed through a tiny gap into a café which rose even higher above the Stupa. Sat together, huddled in our scarves and jackets it was the perfect place to watch the sunset and enjoy a hot lemon and honey, customarily served in a glass (yes, 3rd-degree burns are all part of the experience).

As day two came to a close, it was another eventful trip back to the hotel getting slightly lost on the way. Noticing the increasing throb in my knee (Dr had advised no stairs, no long walks etc…ooops) we decided to jump into a cab in which the driver seemed equally as confused. Low and behold, tourist fail number 2 of the day! Finally, when we appeared to be approaching Thamel, it was time to ditch the cab and make our own way back. An early night was in order after another hectic day and an imminent 4 am alarm, and so we grabbed dinner across the street at the lovely Blueberry Kitchen, sank another Nepali Beer; Nepal Ice this time (delightful, I may add) and headed straight for bed.

Day three began with a less than welcomed pre-dawn alarm forcing us, bleary-eyed to stumble out of bed and embrace the deep freeze that was the outside world. Yes, 4 degrees may not seem so bad to my fellow Brits but having spent a considerable amount of time basking in the desert heat it definitely froze the bones. We were picked up by our guide and driver at 4.45am and taken to Nagarkot ahead of the sunrise. The trip down was filled initially with interesting facts from our guide and inevitably, snores from the backseat as we napped before our hike.

As we arrived at Nagarkot, about 1 hour 30 minutes outside of Kathmandu it was already daylight, yet the sun was nowhere to be seen as we climbed to stairs towards the viewing tower. The view from the hill-top was outstanding, even more so when we made the climb up the viewing tower ladder. From there, every aspect of the Himalayas was prominent including the shadowy peaks of Mt Everest on which the sun began to rise. It was an unforgettable experience, a moment to be present and just enjoy and one that can’t be captured in even the finest of photographs (even though I did try!). After carefully descending the tower, it was time for a warm by a roaring barrel fire with some Nepali tea (excessively sweet and milky, much to our delight) before beginning our 4-hour hike back down through the mountainous villages.

The hike was something else, initially beginning on road-like terrain before crossing over fields, gravel and crumbling rubble (much to the delight of my own crumbling knees). This was real Nepal. There were women trekking through the forest and jungle areas carrying huge loads of vines, leaves, and grass on their shoulders for farming, men rebuilding their homes in the wake of last year’s events and kids making the daily hike to school. It was eye-opening to see and a world away from the modern existence I have grown used to in Dubai and the western world alike. The views again, were breath-taking, farmland, forests and mountain tops disappearing into the distant clouds. We passed through farms where goats and cows roamed free, passed a yard of water buffalo waiting for sale and certainly intrigued the young locals who didn’t hesitate to say hello.

Once the hike came to a close, we headed back to Thamel in search of some well-earned lunch finding solace in the form of Vegetarian café OR2K (yes, I was very sceptical beforehand). The food was amazing, though, traditional Dhal-Bat and a not so traditional veggie burger to share. The café has a definitive Hippie-like vibe, with floor cushioned seating, low lighting, and interesting wall art, a sure favourite of our trip.

We spent our final evening back at the Reggae Bar from the first night after a brief stop at the Purple Haze rock bar (a little put off by the not so rocky boy-band crowd). This time we chose inside seating avoiding a couple of luring locals asking for pictures with us (only the 3rd request of the trip!). The band was great again, the drinks also very good but after a 4 am wake-up call we were both beginning to lag a little. That was until two local guys joined us at our table; being typical tentative tourists, we attempted to shrug them off before realising they were actually really bloody interesting! We shared experiences from our lives and learnt a lot more about the area; what to see, what not to see (would have been really useful on our first night actually, sod’s law, I believe) and before we knew it, it was 2.30am. We turned down an invite to a local club (Thamel has clubs, who knew?!) and headed home after an awesome night; one of the best things about travelling is not only the places you see but also the people you meet along the way (gotta love a cliché).

Our fourth and final day began with a later start than originally planned as we headed to the Garden of Dreams on the outskirts of Thamel. This place was a great way to spend a couple of relaxing hours guarded against the hustle and bustle of the outside city; seemingly a place where local couples meet due to its romantic feel and tranquil atmosphere. The gardens only take a little time to explore but the chipmunks there kept us entertained for much, much longer; so playful and intelligent. Whilst feeding them was not advised, they were happy to play around us inquisitively and were the highlight of the visit!

Unsure how to spend our final few hours in Thamel we decided to snoop around for some token souvenirs (a shot glass and postcard for my growing collection) and search for traditional Nepali Momo (steamed dumplings), to round off our trip. We found the latter in a cute courtyard restaurant after a very frustrating GPS failure that led to walking round in circles in search of a specific Momo café. As a reward (or consolation) for our 3rd tourist fail of the trip, our Momo’s were joined by a very welcome glass of mulled wine and a buttered rum punch (interesting, to say the least).

The sun was starting to set on our Nepali adventure but with an 11 pm flight we still had ample time to escape the cold and cuddle up on the cushioned floors of OR2K ( yup, we went back, creatures of habit) with some spiced cider and apple pie to round off the day before our airport transfer.

Overall, our 4-day escape to Kathmandu was a trip I most certainly will not forget; the bustling streets of Thamel which descended into nothingness after dark, the sunrises and the sunsets, the culture and the wildlife, and the history surrounded by the steep guard of the Himalayas. Although Kathmandu only provides a small insight into Nepal, it is as a vibrant and intense as one could imagine and provides an experience that is both humbling and captivating. This city has captured our hearts and minds and left us keen to explore everything else Nepal has to offer…Everest base-camp, we’re coming for you… eventually!

Desert Life: WODs and Wadis!

So this weekend marks 6 weeks on my Dubai life calendar and the time has absolutely flown by. Life in the desert is pretty much everything I imagined and more and it is safe to say, so far so good! As with all my travelling escapades, life really only becomes normal when I find myself a gym or somewhere to train to my full capacity, and Dubai so far has most certainly given me endless opportunities.  Despite my overuse of hotel gyms and dalliances with outdoor sessions, my real gym search began when I moved into my apartment a couple of weeks back. Cue, my introduction to Crossfit…SHOCK HORROR!

Yes, after many, many conversations in the past taking digs at Crossfit competitions, I have found myself in the mist of the Crossfit revolution that is Dubai, oh the irony. These gyms, or “Boxes” as I now know they call them, are all over Dubai and with the chance to take on a new challenge, plus the free trial incentive, it was kinda hard to refuse to give it a go. I attended Crossfit Duo for two weeks, with my trial sadly coming to a close recently and I must say I am more than tempted to continue as a full member.

The classes have been challenging to say the least and I have well and truly lost my status as a big fish in the powerlifting pond. Whilst, I feel I can hold my own during most sessions, some parts of the WOD (workout of the day for the layman) do leave me drowning in true beginner’s style; I mean what even is “kipping handstand push up” anyway!

Even so, I find this somewhat refreshing at times; I am constantly learning new techniques and challenging my fitness to levels that I haven’t touched on during my time as a Powerlifter. The cardio, the anaerobic involvement, the repetitions, blood, sweat, more sweat and a little more sweat has kept me interested and feeling invigorated after every session, as well as keen to go back for more.

Don’t get me wrong, I most definitely have not lost my love for lifting, or my hunger for those 9 white lights, I even miss squats… honestly! But actually participating in Crossfit classes has opened my eyes to what it really is like, dispelling many a myth along the way. However, I still can’t help but internally criticise some of the events, techniques or methods used during a WOD or when watching competitions. It isn’t necessarily the techniques or events that leave Crossfit open to criticism, but the principles on which competitions are based. When taught properly and seamlessly (as it is a Duo) Crossfit is an excellent way of improving fitness, but in practice, true form and technique is often lost in the pursuit of maximising AMRAPs (as many reps as possible). Thus, I am still heavily undecided about my continuation into the Crossfit world, as much as I have enjoyed the challenge of something new, I am still not entirely convinced it is the life for me.

Cue the decision to look for more gyms, more free trials and generally just expand my horizons on the Dubai fitness circuit; which is looking pretty spectacular to be honest. I mean, in the past 6 weeks I have attended Fit Fest, Yoga Fest (Yes, no typo here, I actually went to a Yoga Festival), and Dubai Fitness Expo, as well as Canyoning through the waters of Wadi Showka, and so health and fitness is evidently a huge part of desert living.  On top of that, the opportunity to workout al fresco now the weather is delightfully tepid is expansive, with outdoor gyms on the beach, boot camps and purpose made running tracks that are “knee” friendly I really have no excuse to limit my training.

Anyway, I guess the next couple of weeks; I’ll be on the lookout for my new gym “home”, using this time to explore and test the waters before settling down so-to-speak. I am yet to try out Gold’s Gym, and still waiting for my opportunity to get down to the world famous Warehouse Gym for a session; which I believe has its own powerlifting club and regular competitions, so I have all of the reasons not to settle just yet.

I am taking this opportunity to really explore my options and leave no weight un-lifted until I find the right place for me. Powerlifting has served me well over the years, the temptation of figure and physique still hangs close by (although not as close as the Tim Horton’s underneath my building) and now my introduction to Crossfit has sparked an interest that I may find hard to dampen. Thus, a new life in the desert, has given me more reason than ever to maybe rethink and restart my fitness journey, even if for now, it’s only to avoid the dreaded “Dubai Stone”!

Lift for Cancer’s weekend by the Sea

Over a week has passed since Lift for Cancer’s Seaside Showdown and it isn’t just this niggling shoulder injury that has kept last weekend’s deadlift drama at the forefront of my mind.

Lifters from across the country met at Scarborough’s Spa complex to engage in a beachfront battle that captivated tattoo clad conventioneers and everyday beach goers alike. As a last minute entrant to the competition I became instantly thankful I’d made the commitment to lift. The whole set-up differed from any other Powerlifting competition I had been to, with the stage outside against a beautiful beach backdrop, what wasn’t to
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The lifting took place over two days, the ladies and the lighter men on Saturday whilst the battle of the big boys took centre stage on Sunday. It was extremely refreshing to lift alongside a number of first time lifters, all of which showed strength, class and passion on the platform. Powerlifting appears to be growing rapidly and recruiting some very strong ladies along the way.

I opened on 130kg lifting to the not so serious  Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls just wanna have fun”, which believe it or not wasn’t out of place amongst the other track choices; Barbie Gir13392084_1086516898052997_6684775373257826996_ol and Pretty Woman to name a few.

Yes, this was no ordinary Powerlifting meet.

Most lifters chose a fun track to accompany their first lift often with some rather questionable dance moves to complement these choices; guilty as charged. The lift felt easy, the crowd supportive and so I went ahead with a second of 142.5kg, a training lift at best, this time opting for The Prodigy to spur me on. With the second lift in, the final decision was already made, 150kg; I hadn’t hit this for a while and I hadn’t trained much either but I’m never satisfied unless 150kg is at least attempted. I did attempt it and it just wasn’t there, no matter how hard the crowd screamed and how much I pulled, I had to succumb and drop the bar. Whilst personally I felt pretty annoyed with myself, it was a charity event and the only numbers that really mattered on the day were the coins in the buckets. As it turned out my 142.5kg was enough to win the class and I’m pretty proud to be one of the winners at the first ever Seaside Showdown.

13346246_1086529054718448_4701973645779687903_oSunday’s lifting was a clash of epic proportions where lifts in excess of 300kg were far from uncommon. Crowds gathered to watch a battle of the giants where newcomers and Powerlifting veterans showcased their strength on the platform. A variety of unofficial world records were broken including a 310kg Master’s record lift from my own Coach, Gary Boulton; a personal best, proving age is nothing but a number in this game. Another lifter dominating the platform was Jay Ho13412030_1086527331385287_1934374768456129220_ollingsworth, whom delayed procedures when tape was needed to secure his colossal attempts to the bar; finishing on 372.5kg at just 109kg body weight and attracting generous donations from the crowd.

 

To close the show, I was proud as a Lift for Cancer athlete to be asked to give out the medals and awards to lifters as a token of their efforts on the final day. I feel honoured to have been a part of such a successful and positive event which is sure to map out a prosperous future for Lift for Cancer.  Overall, the weekend was a resounding success, raising the profile of the Lift for Cancer campaign as well as over £1000 toward the cause.

To find out more about Lift for Cancer head over to the website at: http://www.liftforcancer.wix.com/charity

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/liftforcancer/

Photo’s by Prime Photographic: http://www.facebook.com/primephotographic/

Raising the Titanic: The Pain and the Pride

The iron is now rested, the muscles not so much, but the aches are soon to diminish leaving nothing but memories of the epic event that was “Raising the Titanic”. Yes, long after that ship has sailed, the day will be remembered, a day when not only lifters, but regular everyday gym goers came together to give their all for Macmillan Cancer Support.

The event was well-scripted and excellently executed before the first lift had even left the platform. When I arrived, I personally had one goal in mind, yet the goal posts were soon to move continually throughout the day; 25 tonnes turned to 50 which turned to 54 by the final hour. This was due to the “give it all” atmosphere which swelled within the walls of the Olympic gym. This atmosphere was driven by two massive goals, one was to break the world record for amount deadlifted in 12 solid hours by 12 people, the other to lift as much weight as possible as a collective gym effort and “raise the titanic”.

Whilst the select 12 lifters had a mammoth task on their hands, each one showed their support to the masses in the back-room, who had come to join this powerlifting party. From 9am- 9pm there was not a bar left untouched, with a continuous flow of willing participants. This was not an exclusive event; lifters were of all shapes and sizes, newbies shared the platforms with World Champions, and even the powerlifting legend that is Andy Bolton came along to donate some deadlifts.

The “dirty” soon to become “delirious” dozen matched their target of 471,000kg with just under half of the day to spare but continued on relentlessly managing a massive 751,000kg as a collective. The numbers in the back room were growing and growing as each hour went by. As the grimaces grew determination prevailed and by the end of a painstaking 12 hours the gym reached an incredible 2, 560,700kg or 2560.7 tonnes; the equivalent of four and a half Airbus 380 aircrafts! Despite this, the event is not over yet with gyms across the country continuing to participate in this incredible feat all with one aim; to “Raise the Titanic!”

Although the lifters shared the majority of the limelight yesterday, this event would not have been possible without the assistance of a team of volunteers; with everything from food to sports massages on hand to support them through their endeavour. All proceeds generated were donated to MacMillan Cancer Support; £1300 was collected at the event alone with some help from the previous day’s visit to Imjin army barracks. Text donations were registered continually through persistent social media sharing and by the end of the day over £6000 had been raised, yet this is just the tip of the iceberg and more help is needed if we are to meet the £10,000 target.

All in all, the event has been a resounding success due to the efforts of all of those involved. Whilst the lifters including myself will be nursing a little more than an iron “hangover” today, the aches, pains and bruises are sure to be numbed by an overwhelming sense of achievement. Not only has it pushed the boundaries of lifting it has also raised both money and awareness for a very worthy cause. This is an event which will evoke memories of both pain and pride; “Raising the Titanic” has become a fundraising icon.

Donations can still be made by texting LIFT97 £3/£5 to 70070 or visiting  https://www.justgiving.com/Raisingthetitanic

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“Lady” Riders or Just Rally Drivers?

My time at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge was an excellent experience to say the least. Am I now a desert rally convert, you may ask? My answer to that would be leaning towards the side of yes, however I am definitely not ready to don a helmet, jump on a KTM and ride off into the dunes of Liwa any time soon. Nonetheless, I do have the utmost respect for all those who do take on such an incredible feat of both mental and physical prowess; the Empty Quarter is exactly that.

One major thing I did notice whilst working on the challenge was the mutual respect shar944013_10156752915240721_497683000045885936_ned across the competitors, be it riders, drivers or co-pilots, there was a sense of family; a sense of “we are all in this together”. This was epitomised on the final day when Spanish rider Laia Sanz halted her push for top spot to come to the aid of fellow Spaniard Txomin Cobeaga, who had unfortunately took quite a nasty tumble 20km from the end of the final stage. Sanz’s humanism was rewarded when her time was later recovered, placing her 6th overall, an incredible achievement for a desert debutant, even more so for one of the few lady riders in the competition.

Or was it?

 
Of course it was an amazing achievement but is this even more so due to the fact she is a woman? No, not at all, rally driving has been accessible to women since the early 1900’s when pioneers such as Camille Du Gast and Dorothy Levitt made their mark in the rally history books. Thus, the question that springs to mind is why are female competitors being primarily introduced via their gender when rallies and races are not differentiated in any way; males and females run the same course, have the same vehicle specifications and the same rules. This was something very eloquently addressed by Italian quad competitor Camelia Liparoti at the end of a tiresome stage three of the ADDC;

“I have such a passion for the desert and as a woman I don’t think there is a separate track, I may be the only lady in the quads but there is lots of respect amongst the drivers, it doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman”

From a competitors perspective there is no difference and so why the public eye so fixated on making this differentiation is beyond me, yet it is present in all sports; same rules, same games, different fixation, as a competitive powerlifter I can also speak from personal experience. Whilst male competitors speak freely about their challenge experience, are addressed as drivers before men, females still battle with this notion that they are women before competitors. There are no allowances for females, no reductions in length, no additional aid should they get stuck in the dunes, the desert is equally harsh as it is hot for both sexes. Whilst mutual respect is obviously existent amongst the Desert Challenge competitors the ladies are clearly tired of hearing these same inferences. Liparoti later went on;

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“It’s so refreshing to be asked about my experience of the desert, rallying and my love for it. I often get questions about how it is to be a woman but it is no different. I love the desert, I came from skiing and the dunes are very much like the mountains. Sometimes, I do lose myself in the scenery, get lost for a minute and then realise I am competing. This is my favourite place. Today was
difficult since I was sick, dune sick, but I love the desert so much I just had to finish still, I just love riding out here.”

She was somewhat shocked to be asked anything but questions relating to her gender, something which struck me as both sad and thought-provoking. Her passionate account and deep adoration for rallying is something I felt privileged to hear first-hand and the eyes of those present were far from dry including my own. This question was out of the ordinary for Liparoti, something she appears to have never been given the opportunity to discuss. Consequently, I fear we as a public are missing out on such stories due to an unnecessary focus on gender during post-event interviews. This is something that in my opinion must be addressed, since when a task is equal, gender bares no relevance in the outcome.

At the end of it all, rally riders and drivers, male or female are of the same breed, the same blood courses their veins and they battle the same dunes and tackle the same torturous heat. They are brave, enduring and talented, some of them just happen to be female too.