Fighting fit at 40: Our man Ian Gaughran’s 50 days to rediscover his fitness

By | October 13, 2021

TELL me why I don’t like Mondays.

alse starts, broken promises, a new dawn that never rises – always on a Monday.

‘I’ll start on Monday’ became something of a mantra since the turn of the year.

There are plenty of us in the ‘I will start on Monday’ fitness (or diet) brigade. I was that guy for the guts of six months – I hated Mondays.

Granted, there were factors. A pandemic, organising a wedding and buying a house, all after the arrival of a new baby – may prove beyond the best of us.

Throw the surprising downer attached to turning 40 into the mix and you are left with a combination of factors that can, and did, lead to a complete lack of motivation to get off the couch, put the extra bag of crisps down, lose body fat and change lifestyle habits.

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Our man Ian putting in the hard yards

Our man Ian putting in the hard yards

Our man Ian putting in the hard yards

But I couldn’t – it felt like I wouldn’t – and the longer things went on the further away that starting Monday became.

The majority of us, at one stage or another over the course of these past 18 months, have let things slide from a fitness and wellbeing perspective. Human nature etc. We’ve baked, walked within our 2km, and some had fleeting dalliances with the gym – before they were shut back down.

Most of us don’t like being lazy, we don’t like allowing ourselves to let things get out of hand and, as a result, we sure don’t enjoy being unhappy with our appearance.

So we’ll start on Monday.

My first Monday of training in Power Gym, in the basement of the Dean Hotel on Dublin’s Harcourt Street, was everything I had imagined – and worse. ‘Before’ shots were taken and they were pretty bad – but there was a fit man inside ready to return.

He would have to wait, however, before reappearing – as the fitness levels of years-gone-by had sadly deserted me.

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Ian Gaughran before embarking on his fitness programme at Power Gym

Ian Gaughran before embarking on his fitness programme at Power Gym

Ian Gaughran before embarking on his fitness programme at Power Gym

Being there, ready to kick things off in the gym was a start but a big bloated belly, rolls of flab around the ‘spare tyre region’ and man boobs left me under no illusions as to the task at hand. A fitness test later (prowler, rowing machine, push-ups and pull-ups) and I was left gasping for air, on the verge of vomiting.

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But Steven Gannon, my coach, mortal enemy and slave driver for the next seven weeks was confident as to what could be achieved. That was enough for me. Ben Leonard-Kane, Head of Fitness and Wellness at the PressUp group, who own Power Gym, was fully sure that Power could hold up their end of the bargain.

“What you’ll get from Power Gym is an experience,” Ben says. “We’ve put so much thought into the standards and the fit-out of the club so that it is an experience, not just a club.

“Everything is premium, the equipment, the fixtures and fittings, the showers, even the lighting has been thought out so the club is that bit more experiential.

“The same applies to our classes. It’s an experience. We didn’t want our classes to just be classes. The lighting and the sound is designed to give more of a nightclub feel so when you layer that audiovisual experience on top of the best coaching and programming, it truly is up there as the best HIIT class experience in the country.

“And you’ll notice I use the word club. We don’t see ourselves as just a gym, we see ourselves as a club. We aim to have hundreds of members, not thousands and for that reason everyone who comes through the door is a person, not a number.”

For Steven, the tools were there – he could sense the determination. For me, Power Gym was providing the tools I needed to get back into shape and rid myself of the sense of indignation I had allowed to build inside me.

The plan was simple – work hard, eat better and stay disciplined. Three and easy.

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At the end of his 50-day training plan, Ian had visibly shed fat and gained lean muscle

At the end of his 50-day training plan, Ian had visibly shed fat and gained lean muscle

At the end of his 50-day training plan, Ian had visibly shed fat and gained lean muscle

We would train together twice a week and I would work out on my own twice. The daily step count would raise and I would follow Steven’s diet plan.

Steven, also a trainee psychotherapist, is a firm believer in sustainability and longevity when it comes to a training plan. That showed straight off the bat. Our training programme wasn’t focused on particular ‘days’ – every day was a full body workout, but every day was different, with muscles targeted that wouldn’t be fatigued from the previous session.

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It felt as though the body was always guessing, which was particularly enjoyable (although not the Bulgarian split squats) and while I was eating cleaner, it wasn’t a case of chicken, broccoli and brown rice every day.

That made a world of difference – enjoying training and enjoying every meal meant I remained happy throughout, and never got to starvation mode. Bar the odd weekend, discipline remained intact and results began to follow.

“I wanted to help you to achieve your goals of losing some body fat, building muscle and, most importantly building up your confidence in yourself again after the lockdown,” Steven says.

“From the first session I realised you were very determined but also very hard on yourself so the approach was about maintaining a balance between pushing you close to the edge while helping you to believe in yourself in terms of training and your approach overall.

“Consistency is without a doubt the main thing. Training three times a week over time, having a balanced approach with food and making incremental improvements is much better and more sustainable than a crash diet and super intense short training programme.”

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Ian after a gruelling session with Steven Gannon

Ian after a gruelling session with Steven Gannon

Ian after a gruelling session with Steven Gannon

That sounded right up my alley – the diet plan was easy, tasty and I never went hungry, while the gym in Power is as high-spec as they come. Everything was there for me to make a right go of this.

“We are all about balance at Power,” adds Steven. “A hard-earned session deserves kudos, so we encourage members to chill in the thermal suite and sauna.

“There is a great atmosphere in the gym and we firmly believe in the idea of work hard, play hard. Keep your training consistent, have a treat every now and then, and enjoy life. Balance is everything.”

After that first session (which felt like torture), I can genuinely say that at no point of the seven weeks did I think “I can’t be bothered anymore with this” and that was crucial to the process.

Things became progressively easier as they got tougher, it was taking more and more to raise the heart rate into what was starting to be known as the ‘death zone’ and, despite never leaving anything on the gym floor, my recovery became faster and better.

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Power Gym’s thermal suite certainly helped in that department. At the end of the harder sessions, I would take a dip into the jacuzzi pool and sauna before hitting the shower, and I would leave the gym floating on that unique endorphin high.

This was never more apparent than after finishing the Power Box classes, which are one of the four main categories of classes – Power Run, Power Pedal and Power Climb are also available and extremely enjoyable.

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Ian used the treadmill to ensure he kept on top of his cardio workouts

Ian used the treadmill to ensure he kept on top of his cardio workouts

Ian used the treadmill to ensure he kept on top of his cardio workouts

But getting to throw punches is satisfying and therapeutic, but also throwing them properly and in sequence as part of combinations gives a real sense of achievement – again, a mental workout to go along with the physical.

The weekly check-in photos would always garner a positive response from Steven, and I could see myself the progress being made. Thankfully, for my own sanity, weighing scales were not a factor in this challenge and I genuinely never once checked the scales throughout.

But results came and as we closed in on a finishing date, the physical differences were there to see. More importantly, though, was the mental difference. Happiness, confidence, and pride are precious commodities and when they have been missing because of the physical, their return is glorious.

Not needing to suck your belly in because it is half the size it used to be makes an incredible difference to the day. As someone who would suck in my gut even when nobody else is around, this made my day-to-day life infinitely more comfortable.

As to the major takeaways (no, not that kind) from this challenge; diet discipline, increased exercising and, perhaps most importantly, enjoying the process are the lessons learned as to keeping the demons from the door.

Staying lean, fit and happy are aspirations that are more than achievable if we arm ourselves with the right tools. More Power to us!

For the best way to trial what Power is about, the introductory offer of two classes for the price of one (Dublin €23 and Cork €20) is well worth your consideration. See www.powergym.ie

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