As of 2003

December 1997 I moved back to Toronto from Ottawa. For the first six months I was physically inactive with work and school taking all of my time. An eight hour day at work to be faced with four hours of school work after I got home took it’s toll and I gained weight – 260, 265, 275, 285. 290 was when my internal alarm bell went off – I had to do something. Scott, my other half, wanted to do something – so we joined a gym.What a disaster – we found every excuse not to go and essentially wasted money. By the time I was starting to get into it, the gym closed down. This was June 1999.

By October 1999, I was up to the heaviest I had ever been – 308 lbs.

So I searched for a gym at the beginning of October. I had my eye on the YMCA downtown, but decided to check a few other places. At Bally’s, I was talked down to, belittled, and told, “If you walk out of here without signing a contract, you’re not serious about losing weight.” BULLSHIT! Since then, i found out that 90% of the employees at this establishment were fired at the end of October 1999.

I walked over to the Y and signed up – no high pressure sales tactics, and everyone was warm and inviting. It was cheaper, had better equipment, and while it was busier, it certainly was not intimidating. Over the year from October 1999 to October 2000 I concentrated on aerobic activities – cycling and cross-trainers. I was using weights but nothing too serious and I certainly was not pushing myself. You could find me at the Y at least once a week but usually two or three times. I lost 15lbs.

Throughout this whole period, I was working out by myself. Brian and Drew moved from Montreal and were interested in being workout partners. It ended up Brian found a group of guys who were getting together on Thursdays and Sundays at Alfie’s Gym. I visited the gym for a tour and found it to have an inviting atmosphere. It’s a serious gym without the attitude and intimidation that other gyms have. The employees and the patrons are really friendly.

From September to December I joined the guys on Thursdays and Sunday to lift weights, and then pick an arbitrary day to go to the YMCA to work on cardio. I also shifted my focus from concentrating on my weight to keeping an eye on measurements and photos. At the time I was looking to get stronger and in many ways bigger – increase the muscle mass and reduce the fat.

In October 2000, Bob, at the time living in Medford, NJ; attended the Celtic Classic, held every year in Bethlehem, PA. Bob decided that he wanted to start training for the Highland Games. I decided to join him in his resolution for the new year. We searched the Internet for any information we could find on the sport and came across a number of links. By December 2000, I had found training partners, Terry and Colleen, who were interested in sharing what they knew of the sport.

As of January 2001 I stepped up my gym routine to five days – two or three specific days dedicated to cardio and three days dedicated to lifting. I entered the Transformation Challenge at Alfie’s Gym with the specific goals of increasing the strength in my upper body significantly, and reducing the size of my midsection (stomach, love handles). I stopped my membership at the YMCA as I wanted to consolidate all of my activities to one gym.

April 6th, 2001 will forever be a day that I will never forget. This is the first day I started throwing. By the end of May I had attended my first training camp and thrown in my first competition, at the Prince Edward County Highland Games. By the end of August I had attended one additional training camp, and thrown in two competitions – Cobourg Highland Games and the Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games.

One of the mistakes I made throughout my life is the fact that I got down to where I wanted and did not keep up the effort required to keep the weight off or stay fit. Working towards better health has to be for life – a lifestyle change.

A lot of people don’t think they can transform themselves – to quote a line from the movie “Flawless” – “Can’t lives on Won’t Street” Give yourself a challenge. You might start and stop and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Get back up and get at it again. Listening to, and pacing yourself is the key. When you’re really ready, bite the bullet and go for it. You’ll feel better. You have to want to change yourself and no one else can do it for you.

The Physical Education program in Ontario, Canada and quite possibly in North America needs to change. It rightly awards those who have a gift and feels like punishment to those who find Phys. Ed. a challenge. Forcing a kid to run miles every day doesn’t teach them a thing where interacting on a playing field does. While a variety of sports are introduced, they’re all based on aerobic activities. What about anaerobic activities?

Physical Education needs to be made enjoyable for all children and more choices need to be made available.Parents need to make exercise fun rather than feeling like a chore, and to encourage their children to be active – and not through a half hearted attempt either.

Finally, the Government of Canada, and the provinces within Canada must spend more money on amateur sport within Canada. Canada is the laughing stock of the western world with how little is spent on sport. From my days of playing Rugby in Ottawa, the EORU has had all kinds of problems raising funds from private sources. How can we be the best without encouragement?

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