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Mission Impossible 3

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Ben Dirs | 21:30 UK time, Saturday, 7 May 2011

In the first of a series of blogs, Ben Dirs outlined how and why he set upon the path to fitness. In the second, he described his early struggles with his new regime. In the third, he says all the work has started to pay off.

I am not a vain man. I once arrived at work, having travelled from Essex to west London, only to discover in the lift I had dried snot streaked all the way across my face. The moral of the story? Always look in the mirror after getting out of the shower.

I don't use fake tan, I don't wax, I don't wear hats. But last week, I must confess, I kissed the guns: me and my two biceps in the most bizarre of love triangles. I would like to think it was an ironic gesture, but I am not sure it is possible to be ironic with oneself.

We live in an instantaneous world and we no longer savour anticipation: that feeling of picking up a roll of film from the chemist, of waiting for that first phone call from a new girlfriend before the days of mobile phones. And it is the same with getting in shape: it takes time and it can be tremendously frustrating.

Three weeks in and I am on the verge of quitting. But then, but then... I notice, on one of my frequent visits to the bathroom mirror, that my jowls have gone. Melted into nothing. My ribs, for so long encased in blubber, are jutting proudly through. My biceps, formerly the consistency of brie, have solidified into something approaching comté. In short, I suddenly discover I look better than I used to standing around in my pants.

Ben Dirs

Dirs demonstrating just how much fun getting into shape can be

Matt Lovell, RFU and Tottenham Hotspur nutritionist and the man who set me on my path to fitness, notes that my skin looks clearer and that I have more of a colour in my face: battleship grey no longer. All that spinach, all that exercise, all those supplements.

"There's not a lot fish oil won't do," says Lovell. "I've only ever tested two people with the correct levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their body, most people are deficient. Fish oil enables the body to burn fat, it keeps the blood thin and it helps prevent cardio-vascular disease.

"Then you've got green tea extract, which is geared towards anti-ageing. They think a reason the Japanese have low instances of certain types of cancer, despite the fact they smoke more than most, is because of their intake of green tea. I'd advise you to drink six cups a day." I think I'll pass: my urine, for whatever reason, already resembles Chartreuse.

I seek out some scales and discover I have dropped a stone. I buy some new jeans and discover I have dropped two inches from my waist. So many happy discoveries - and some strange ones. For example, I am unable to use an iPod while exercising because the earphones keep falling out, the only possible conclusion being I have odd-shaped ears.

But overall, the knowledge that all the hard work is paying off serves to reinvigorate me. And anyway, I can't back out now, not now I've gone public. Imagine the shame.

I suddenly feel affinity with the fitness community. Fellow bikers tip their helmets to me as I cycle by. I talk back stretches and injuries with bloke down the gym. "Pain is weakness leaving the body," he tells me, which puts a whole new slant on childbirth.

The niggles are many, so that I am constantly having to rejig my regime: went too hard on the rowing machine, back gone, next time it's the bike; too hard on the weights, back gone, has to be cardio for the next two days; went running on the road, hip gone, back to the rowing.

Four meals a day, every day, but still people wonder about my energy. Truth is, even without the carbs, I don't honestly remember having more of it. The second burst of exercise, late in the evening, and the endorphins released mean I am having trouble sleeping some nights.

Food-wise, I am now a well-oiled machine. No chocolate, no crisps, no fizzy drinks, not for four weeks. However, there are some surreal moments. On a visit to the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield - home of British champions - I am forced to seek out a greasy spoon for an omelette because the canteen is only serving pasta. On another occasion, I find myself daydreaming about my first bad meal, like a man on death row, but sort of in reverse.

I am not going to lie to you, I have been going out. All work and no play would make me a very dull boy. But I had not factored in a wedding in Ibiza - and the best laid schemes of mice and men go oft awry when Beefa comes a-calling. "At least you'll get some sun," says Lovell. It rained for the first two days.

I will not go into detail, other than to say Beefa was as Beefa is. Too much booze, far too many fags. Even the odd potato. And no, that is not a euphemism. For three days I was an out of control train screeching down the tracks, sparks flying everywhere.

The first morning back in Blighty and the self-loathing is quite crushing. Cold sweats, maybe even a tear or two. But I manage to do it: I make it to the gym. And you know what? Shock of shocks, the break has done me good.

"The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender." Sorry, bloke down the gym again. He's got a point, though: if Beefa could not weary me, then surely nothing could.

As well as my blogs, you can follow me when I'm out and about - or on the sofa - at 


  • Comment number 1.

    "There's not a lot fish oil won't do," says Lovell. "I've only ever tested two people with the correct levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their body, most people are deficient. Fish oil enables the body to burn fat, it keeps the blood thin and it helps prevent cardio-vascular disease.

    "Then you've got green tea extract, which is geared towards anti-ageing. They think a reason the Japanese have low instances of certain types of cancer, despite the fact they smoke more than most, is because of their intake of green tea. I'd advise you to drink six cups a day." I think I'll pass: my urine, for whatever reason, already resembles Chartreuse. "

    Ben, I suggest you read 'Bad Science' by Ben Goldacre before you get too brainwashed by this pseudo-nutritionist rubbish. Eat a balanced diet and you'll get all the nutrients you need.

    Next time you speak to Mat Lovell, ask him to provide a list of the properly conducted studies that provide the evidence to back up his claims for you to take additional fish oil supplements.

  • Comment number 2.

    Have you found all the non-starchy carbs causing - how shall we put this politely - increased large intestine emissions? Ben Dirs - The lean, green farting machine...

  • Comment number 3.

    How are you finding (if any) the hunger pangs? Are there any foods you can eat as much as you like of e.g. broccoli, chicken, tuna?

  • Comment number 4.

    i wouldn't worry about your ears being oddly shaped. Its just the ear buds that apple supply which are rather poorly designed as they fall out of many people's ears. This is one of the most common complaints about ipods.

  • Comment number 5.

    Thanks for sharing this, I've just read the 3 entries back to back. I guess I'm kinda similar, I've been 'training' for 3 years with the aim of losing weight and toning up. That said I've hardly changed my eating habits, reading your blog has provided me some inspiration to really give it a go - thanks!

  • Comment number 6.

    I have never managed to gently introduce a dietry/training regime into my lifestyle and I think that as someone with an addictive personality I am better off doing a crash diet/training regime, much like yours. I'll be using Matt Lovells 4 weeks fat loss plan and training everyday for the duration, you've inspired me Dirsy!

  • Comment number 7.

    Ben you're living in the health & fitness dark ages! Using weights machines in the gym, the old "Pain is weakness leaving the body" tosh, chomping bucket loads of supplements - the world has moved on.

    For your own good (& that of anyone reading your blog for guidance) please seek informed, professional help!

  • Comment number 8.

    Also, if you've spent a lot of time looking in the mirror recently then you surely know that your ear-hole shape is the least of your aesthetic worries! ;-)

  • Comment number 9.

    Serious question does milk come into the diet at all?

    (I honestly don't think I could live without cow-juice!)

  • Comment number 10.

    Another great blog Ben. This paragraph had me spitting my lunch out at the computer screen in laughter:

    "The niggles are many, so that I am constantly having to rejig my regime: went too hard on the rowing machine, back gone, next time it's the bike; too hard on the weights, back gone, has to be cardio for the next two days; went running on the road, hip gone, back to the rowing."

    Sounds awfully familiar to me. I wonder what your blogs are doing to the sale of fish oil? Maybe you can get an advert out of this Ben....

    mattgeorgejack: Just because Ben Goldacre has rubbished the reporting of certain papers on fish oils (or more specifically omega-3 oils) does not mean that fish oil in itself does not have any effects, whether positive on negative, on human health. It might mean that none have been proved or disproved in double-blind, randomised clinical trials, but as with many of these things, it is uneconomical to test thousands of people when something is already on the market. If a surgeon manages to reattach a limb or some other appendage that you might have lost, it is plain (indeed there is empirical evidence) that it works. There will never be properly conducted studies to prove it because it's not morally justifiable to chop off lots of peoples' appendages only to sew them back on again, just to see if it works. Although you can try volunteering for such a trial if you want to help medicine be more scientific.

  • Comment number 11.

    There's a simple way to lose weight and get fit.
    Eat less, move more.

    Plenty of people manage that in addition to their jobs, not as part of it.

  • Comment number 12.

    Having read your previous 2 installments (and the many many comments) and been looking forward to the 3rd, I find it very strange that now that you are losing weight, feeling fitter, looking better(??) and seeing the benefits of your hard work that you now seem to be getting negative comments! If you read the comments on either of your other blogs in this series you'll be hard pushed to find one negative.

    Everybody loves to get behind a fat bloke, but once that fat disappears, so it would seem does the support!!

    Glad you're seeing some results Ben, well done, keep it up!

  • Comment number 13.

    mattgeorgejack - I'm not going to lie to you, I'm basically like Ben Johnson back in the day, I just take what's given to me, but I have asked Matt for a comment.

    Rob - No, to be honest, I haven't, my guts have been fine by and large.

    tastic_gers - Haven't had any hunger pangs because I'm eating four times a day. You can eat as much greens as you like...

    GingerMogwai - Good man (other than the mirror comment...) I don't actually like milk, so I didn't ask him, but I'm still having it in my tea. I've only just started eating muesli again, and I have milk on that. Don't think it's too much of a sticking point.

  • Comment number 14.

    tedrodgers - "Everybody loves to get behind a fat bloke". Haha, so true, so true...

  • Comment number 15.

    When will people learn that different things work for different people and differing body types. End of the day, Ben here has decided to do something about it and get into shape. Whether it's the tips given to him by Matt, or just the fact that he's being more conscious about it, it proves that if you want to do something about your weight/appearance you can do and it won't cost you the Earth or require Olympic regimes.

    Hang in there Dirsy - you're doing well, just stick to it until you get the results you're after

  • Comment number 16.

    This reminds me of a book I used to own of which I can't remember the name or the author. Not much help, but it was about an out of shape journalist who attempted to get fit enough to have a professional boxing match, and ended up succeeding.

    I've got some sort of recollection that he was based in sheffield and it would have been around the mid to late 90s. From what i remember he might have ended up fighting journeyman pro Matt Scriven, but i could be mistaken.

    Aside from the fact that the name of the book and author escapes me and it's doing my head in, i believe this is still relevant as it takes what Ben's decided to do to the extreme, and the guy ended up from nothing training and sparring with pro fighters and achieving his stated aim of competing in a pro fight.

    Someone out there must know what i'm talking about.

  • Comment number 17.

    Every pair of earphones, that are designed to sit in your ears, fall out of mine.

    I use therefore, good old 1980's pair that have two pretty amazing sized speakers covered in a nice orange foam, attached together by a lump of metal. I like to think the extra weight of the whole thing, and heat generated by the orange foam gives me the calorie burning edge.

  • Comment number 18.

    I like Skullcandy earphones Ben, they don't seem to fall out ever... And they come with 3 different size bits to put on if the holes in your ears really are obnormal!

    Great blogs by the way, really enjoying the series. Keep it up, a stone and a half in 5 weeks is great!!

  • Comment number 19.

    Totally off topic but I'm trying to spread the word so please forgive me,

    Some of you may be golf fans, you're certainly all sports fans so please take a moment to read this, thanks.

    I've just emailed the BBC with an idea and would like anyone who agrees with me to do the same.
    Firstly let me sat this. I can't think of anyone who has done as much for their sport as Seve. The European tour is now a global phenomenon and the Ryder Cup one of sports great occasions, golf is now percieved in a wholly different light to the fuddyduddy/rich man's game it once was. This transformation can be traced back to Seve's influence back in the late 70's and 80's. He was not only a great player but someone who touched peoples hearts and drew new fans to the game (let me add that this comes from someone who was a Jack fan rather than a Seve fan - though of course I liked him too)
    I've been trying to think of other sporting greats who had such an impact and the combination of greatness, ability to touch people's hearts and transcend their sport. Certainly not Jack or Tiger, Arnie maybe but only in the US. From other sports, Maradona no, Pele was before my time, Zidane no, Best perhaps here in the U.K. but beyond? Federer, Borg, Martina, no. Schumacher no etc.etc. The only name that springs to mind is Ali, now that's the highest reaches of sporting greatness!

    My idea is this. The BBC should open a tributes/book of condolences page which they should feature prominently on the sport homepage (with a picture of Seve smiling) for a week or longer and then print it bind it and give it to his family with all our thanks. As one of the Spanish commenters said above, it was the British fans who made the Spanish realise what a Superstar they had so I think it would be appropriate for us (through the BBC) to take the lead in doing this.

    Here's a shortcut to the email form

  • Comment number 20.

    I too will disagree with the fish oil recommendation. I've been a lifelong vegan and the lack of fish oil hasn't done me any wrong. Of course, I also don't drink alcohol or smoke. But I think I'm in pretty good shape. So, I think Mr. Lovell is wrong.
    I have the same problem with earphones. Here's a tip that worked for me: get yourself the in-ear earphones that will go right into the ear. These tend not to fall out and they do come in different sizes.

    Good Luck

  • Comment number 21.

    Rob, I'm trying roughly the same things as Ben without the professional co-ordination however I'm sure my misses would agree with the "increased large intestine emissions".

    Needless to say I'm starting to lose my gym visiting days, cricket season has come in full force and 90overs of wicketkeeping in a weekend (for a unseasoned 'keeper) has effectivily written off visiting the gym before Wednesday, effectivily meaning I lose 4 gym going days! =(

  • Comment number 22.

    mattgeorgejack - Here's Matt Lovell coming back atcha... (it's quite comprehensive)

    "On green tea and cancer: In general for nutrients like these there's just way too much positive scientific information out there which suggest it is rational to use them for health and longevity reasons. At the end of the day, if someone doesn’t want to take supplements that's their choice and you have to respect that - but as a smoker Ben - knowing the research below, I couldn’t not recommend you took these supplements."

    Matt has also provided me with 30 scientific papers on green tea and another 22 on fish oil - too long to post here, but he says he'll come on and have a chat later. My basic standpoint it, if it's good enough for Luka Modrić, it's good enough for me...

  • Comment number 23.

    Back injury from a rowing machine? You might want to take a look at your technique then.

    You don't put it on the highest drag factor do you?

  • Comment number 24.

    But Modric looks like a girl...

  • Comment number 25.

    Ten_Thousand_Fists - Don't fret, it's all OK now, just a little niggle... from riding my bike... nah, only put it on six or seven...

  • Comment number 26.

    Love the blog, I really must get on the rower that is sat behind me in the office at home, maybe later.......

  • Comment number 27.

    Ben, if you have earphone problems, try the ones made by Etymotic - they have foam earbuds that you compress and then insert in your ear canal, and they expand to stay in place. Or alternatively for £70 you can get custom ear moulds made... a bit OTT perhaps but if you have major problems then they'll sort it, and apparently they're very good indeed!

  • Comment number 28.

    Replying to myself, if that's possible, the book i was thinking about is Looking for a Fight by David Matthews. Would imagine some of you are familiar with it, highly recommended.

  • Comment number 29.

    You should set the drag factor to around 135. If you just use the number at the side of the flywheel you'll probably get a different one each time, and it could be way off depending on how the machine has been looked after.

  • Comment number 30.

    Headphones that won't budge when you exercise - try these: Sennheiser PMX 680i Sports

  • Comment number 31.

    Well done, Mr. Dirs. Keep it up!

    I agree with the correspondent who suggests different formulae will work for different people.

    Having said that, I cut out most meat and sugars from my diet recently. I vastly increased my intake of fresh/raw fruit and vegetables.

    For me there has been a drastic and pleasing reduction in the amount of intestinal gas. I also notice that ablutions can be accomplished in one very rapid sitting first thing in the morning (more information than you wanted, I know!). This last contrary to the surprising opinion of some that constipation should result.

    Whereas we are all aware of the dangers of too much fat, I feel those of sugars are equal if not greater.

  • Comment number 32.

    Oh, and on the headphone issue, I find body/ambient temperature is a significant factor in whether they stay in or not. In the summer I have no problem with mine. In winter they often fall out - colder/smaller ears I'm guessing.

  • Comment number 33.

    Get head phones with a little loop that goes over your ears (discreetly, not the massive wannabee rapper type). I have the same problem and without these running would be a nightmare! Good work

  • Comment number 34.

    Don't bother with spending even more money on headphones, just get some gaffer tape and wrap it round your head to hold them in. Cunningly if applied carefully it looks like you're wearing a headband so no one is any the wiser, it also acts as an additional buffer to any exterior noise, such as your own heavy breathing/panting.
    Be careful not to put the gaffer tape over your eyebrows as you may find they remain attached to the tape on removal. If this does happen, as it did to me, then use a black permanent marker to draw on some eyebrows. That's probably enough advice from me.

  • Comment number 35.

    "My biceps, formerly the consistency of brie, have solidified into something approaching comté."

    Laughed out loud a lot to this. Probably because I love cheese...

    In the last year I've gone through a bit of a renaissance like you are attempting here and I thought to give you some virtual encouragement. So, keep going Ben, it will be worth it! I'm following avidly...

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 37.

    Hi Ben,

    Thanks for the response. Happy to receive the links to the studies if Matt wants to forward them on. (I assume that you have access to my email?)

    My general point is whether you actually need to use supplements, not the efficacy of omega-3, as with any balanced diet you'll receive all the nutrients that you need. If you do what more omega-3, eat some oily fish, there's a lot of other good stuff in there as well.

    I look forward to the reading the studies on Green Tea and it's Cancer preventing properties.

  • Comment number 38.

    Ben I'm glad to hear the jowls have have taken a kicking. I'm not a particularly fat lad but whenever I catch a glimpse of my reflection in a shop window I always think.."who's that jowly bugger and why's he looking at me" Classic denial. I'm about to embark on a similar health kick if for no other reason than to make peace with the jowly fella in the shop window.

  • Comment number 39.

    Hi all - it's Matt Lovell here - ready to answer a few questions i'll be on for a bit and then I'll answer some stuff tomorrow as well.

    Plenty of comments wow! - all I can say is Ben's doign really well on the programme and he's taken the intensive phase on laonger than most would. We'll be meeting later this week to adjust things and bring him back into a maintenance phase which is easier to sustain for longer periods.

    Interesting stuff on the fish - I wont post all the studies as Ben's mentioned there's not really enough space - but if anyone wants to look on medline and put in a disease and human and fish oil - well you'll be there a long, long time reading peer reviewed research on the benefits - same goes for green tea and in fact any of the supplements I recommend.

    For the vegan chap who came on he's correct you dotn need fish oils as long as you take enough flax, walnuts and pumpkinseeds - although the conversion is less effective from these fat into the active hormones which control inflammation.

    also was interested in the negative comments - it's so true many poeple want you to fail and are basically envious of people who make good progress.


  • Comment number 40.

    Welcome Matt! For a vegetarian, what would recommend on the protein side? Thanks, PB.

  • Comment number 41.


    I have followed your blogs and have now been on the same diet for 2 weeks and have lost just short of a stone. I have found the diet easy and feel that exercising 1st thing (6.30am) leaves me feeling a lot more awake and alert for my day at work, and that exercising on the evening can often provide a good excuse to get a break from the missus and the kids for an hours peace.

    My routine is 06:30hrs - Cardio in the gym for 40mins
    08:00hrs protein shake for breakfast
    10:00hrs an apple
    12:00hrs soup for lunch
    14:00hrs low fat yoghurt
    16:30hrs evening meal, chicken or fish with veg
    18:00hrs cardio in the gym, squash or 5 a side
    19:30hrs 2nd evening meal, something lite like an omlette
    22:00hrs bed

    I've found this very easy to stick to so far and have not abstained from alcohol, I've merely gone a little bit girly and switched to white wine and soda's. I've also found that with the diet and the training its been a lot easier to lay off the fag's. Additionally I've found the link you provided on interval training very useful and have played around and created my own interval training sessions for the boxing bag, bike, and cross trainer.

    You've proved an inspiration and a great help. Many Thanks

  • Comment number 42.

    Cheers Matt, that's a big help.

    DamoTheLav - Top man, you know it makes sense. Funny you should mention white wine sodas - I met up with an ex last week and decided to drink white wine sodas, because she was on them. Should have stayed on lager that night, it didn't end well...

  • Comment number 43.

    Hey Ben. I have just discovered this blog and it's really interesting, and will hopefully help me to get back onto the wagon. Just getting over a serious shin splint/achilles tendonitis type injury and I am finding it incredibly difficult to get back into running. I now understand why professional sportsman find it so infuriating not being able to participate. I will read with interest! Thanks.

  • Comment number 44.

    @ratty - I tried looking for fish oil studies on the NLM website as you suggest but couldn't find anything that seemed relevant. Could you post some links?

    What I did find was Ben Goldacre's series of articles about the myths around the benefits of fish oil and the big marketing operation around such supplements. (Many relating to its supposed benefits for children, but still relevant to this subject, I think)

  • Comment number 45.

    Good effort Ben. It can't be easy to make such a change and stick to it but once you see the effect it does make it all worth while. Keep up the good work.

  • Comment number 46.

    Post 28 Edmatic. Perhaps not as good as journalist Ian Stafford who wrote a couple of books about his efforts to play pro sport. He went three rounds with Roy Jones Jnr. He also tried football for Everton, Rugby Union for Leicester Tigers, League for Wigan, cricket for Yorkshire, amongst other efforts. Wrote several books, one was called In your dreams I think.

  • Comment number 47.

    I'd like to add a bit more to comment #1,
    As well as a degree in Political Philosophy, Mr Lovell also claims to have studied at "The Institute of Optimum Nutrition". This institute was started by one Patrick Holford, a name that is all-to-familiar to readers of Ben Goldacre's "Bad Science" website.

  • Comment number 48.

    Interesting that Lovell does not give any links to proof of the efficacy of fish oil/green tea but instead professes that anyone who criticises are "envious". Skills learned at the laughable "The Institute of Optimum Nutrition" no doubt.

    Ben is doing great and big him up. But do not believe the nutritionist/snake oil salesman.

  • Comment number 49.

    Great just what the world needs - another BBC employee doing something which millions already do and going on and on about it like we really care. Seriously just do it for yourself, we don't need to know about it!

  • Comment number 50.

    lordloveus. this isnt funny/interesting. your cricket posts are. what happend to your sense of absurdity? green tea extract and the man down the gym? - £1.49. and the pics are daft.

  • Comment number 51.

    saw the comment about about hurting your back on the rowing machine, I'd really advise against using these machines unless you actually know how to row. I see loads of people (in gyms, not at the rowing club) doing hideous things to their lumbar spine region due to poor ergo technique.

    However, if you get informed professional help to use them, the workout they provide is excellent, I believe it's on of the highest calorie/hr workouts going, although my source for that is the Concept 2 website, and they sell rowing machines...

    This should provide more info than the basic pictures usually printed onto ergos...

  • Comment number 52.

    I agree with 'tedrodgers' here, far, far too many negative comments.

    Well done Ben, I look forward to each installment of this blog, you're doing really well, I hope you manage to maintain it. It would seem, there is hope for all of us.

  • Comment number 53.

    The claim that Omega 3 leads to a healthier cardiovasular system is, if you'll excuse the awful pun, a bit fishy.

    Sure there have been a huge amount of studys and papers written on the subject, some with reliable methodology, many more without it. The BMJ, a hugely respected medical journal, carried out a review of the topic in 2006. What they essentially did was to combine the results of over 15,000 papers, including 48 random control trials covering over 35,000 patients, and see if the results showed any significant benefits on avoiding cancer, cardiovascular events (heart attacks, heart disease, etc), or death. Here was their conclusion:

    "This systematic review assessed the health effects of long chain and shorter chain omega 3 fats (together or separately) on total mortality, cardiovascular events, cancer, and strokes in a wide group of participants and found no evidence of a clear benefit of omega 3 fats on health"

    That isn't to say there aren't benefits, but they made it clear that the evidence was sketchy and highly varied, and that more well designed research needed to be carried out.

    I'm not for one second suggesting Matt Lovell was lying or purposely misleading you in any way, i'm sure he wasn't, but i think it's worth noting that this is not an open and closed matter. There may be a lot of papers written on the subject, but a huge amount of them are based on poor methodology, published in sub-standard and poorly controlled journals, and funded and carried out by highly biased parties (read: the manufacturers of such supplements).

    There's probably no harm in taking the supplements, but i wouldn't splash out any of my hard-earned money on them.

    PS. Luka Modric is still my hero though, COYS!

  • Comment number 54.

    Oh, and keep up the good work Ben, i for one am enjoying these blogs.

  • Comment number 55.

    Dirsy... every time I read your blogs about this I suddenly really want to exercise and get fit... unfortunately I don't have time thanks to Med school and therefore a fairly intense exam schedule, fancy re-doing this whole thing in summer because without it I don't think I'll have the inspiration to actually do something.

    By the by... what are Matt's views on working out without a gym membership (skint student here)..? I have some weights at home.

    Keep it up, great to see you're getting into good shape, there is hope for all of us ;)

  • Comment number 56.

    @ Webbo412: Weights can be highly effective if used correctly. In fact I hear free weights are superior to machines as it is hard to replicate the negative movements of lifting plus the weights allow you to move your body in a more natural way which helps to build more natural strength which is more applicable to real life activities/sports.

    I should stress that to get good results you should lift properly. To do otherwise will increase your risks of injury. Ensure you do the major compound exercises such as bench-press, squat, dead lifts, barbell rows and overhead presses and do them with proper form. Better to lift less weight with good form than more weight with terrible form. Those should form the core of your exercise routine. You can then add various isolation exercises on top of that if you want to work on a particular area. By having some home weights you can save a lot of money and time which is what I do as I face similar problems to you.

    Also you should understand the concept of progressive overload where you are always challenging your body. For an all-round workout (i.e. a mixture of strength and endurance) aim to do 10 reps. Pick a weight where you can just manage 10 reps with good form. Off course if you want to place a greater emphasis on strength/size then I think you should shoot for the 4-6 rep range. If endurance is important then 15 reps is needed. As for the number of sets I am less sure I think 3 is about right, any more is just too much and you risk overtraining/injury.

  • Comment number 57.

    Great blog Ben! Very well written, inspiring and funny too. Prompted me to get back into shape and will be using a few tips from your article, keep up the good work!

  • Comment number 58.

    If you've got funny shaped ears get some of those headphones that clip over the tops of them. Works and treat and never fall off while running! :)

  • Comment number 59.

    Hey Ben, Started on a similar journey to you 8 months ago with the goal of running a half marathon this year (done) and then the hope of running the London Marathon next year (fingers crossed on the ballot) and I know exactly what you mean. Its a terrific feeling, keep up the good work.

    With regards to earphones I have found a good pair of sound isolating in ear headphones is a much better fit (because they are sound isolating they have a series of rubber inserts that are designed to make a tight fit to any ear) and wont fall out regardless of how hard you inadvertantly yank them (when I am running instead of the headphones coming out my iPod gets unhooked). I like to etymotic MC5s, not the cheapest headphones but exceptional sound quality and cut out the annoying background noise. I have found offers a very good price and is a quick and reliable service!

  • Comment number 60.

    Great to hear the improvements made by changes to your diet. I have more or less cut out starch from my diet due to an arthritic condition but one of side effects was losing pretty much all excess fat.

    However, I was curious about your fitness trainer advocating the use of machines for training.

    I had an excellent trainer for a couple of years and she gradually weaned me off machines altogether - just doing squats, dead lifts, kettle bell dynamic exercises, push ups, boxing etc and they have really built up my core strength. I have now incorporated these into a daily twenty to thirty minute daily routine and I found I didn't really even need any intensive cardio to keep in shape.

  • Comment number 61.

    Nice one Ben - very interesting reading!

    What's the fag situation now? Completely quit or just cut down?

  • Comment number 62.

    #55 Webbo - I suggest you get a fitness trainer if you can afford one. Just 3 to 6 months a couple of times a week with a good one can really help you. Good ones are expensive at 50 squids+ a session but I think are worth it as they educate you on how best to keep fit and exercise in the correct way and also give ideas about how to change your diet. I had one and she had a life changing effect on my health.

    If you can't I suggest you take on board the tips monsta666 made but worth checking out the internet for videos on the correct form for these exercises. Also investigate the use of power bags and kettle bells which I find excellent at isolating muscles, which reduces the chance of back injuries.

    There's a chinese bloke on the Ftiness Channel who does a strength routine who is excellent. Remember also form is more important than the weight you are using.

  • Comment number 63.

    hi ben very good blog,i started back at the gym last april going 2,3,or 4 times a week in an atempt to lose the middle age spread and help with the snoring,the misses is doing my head in about it.Have not changed my eating habits and still on the fosters,some thing you just cant live without.Gave up the fags 15 months ago and feel all the better for that,think ive finally cracked that nasty habit.Toned up a fair bit and lost 7lbs,word of warning for any gym goer drink plenty plenty water,had kidney stones last month,would not wish that pain on my worst enemy.Keep up the good work Ben,cheers

  • Comment number 64.

    ..."Pain is weakness leaving the body," ...

    No, pain is a warning that damage is being done. But you already knew that, of course?

  • Comment number 65.

    I'm amazed how negative some of the people commenting on your "Mission Impossible" blogs have been, Ben. You have inspired me to get fit again in time for my wedding next month - after a few weeks I'm already noticing the difference. Keep up the good work (as much detail as poss please!) Thanks

  • Comment number 66.

    I'd agree with the comments about technique on the rowing machine, I find the little pictures on the ergo pretty useless and like clusterbadger I see some weird and wonderful techniques down at the gym that are a recipe for disaster. And that includes plenty of people with a personal trainer stood over them, none the wiser (too busy selling fish oil, probably).

    I think (as this board shows) there's a huge amount of goodwill and encouragement for the mission so why not get in touch with a club and ask them to show you properly (including how to check the drag factor) in return for a name drop?

  • Comment number 67.

    Good going Ben. Do you get to go back on some carbs soon? I find trying to get anything low carb for lunch on the high street is quite hard and end up always making my lunch.

    Also, I was hoping someone would be able to provide a list of the properly conducted studies that provide the evidence to back up the claims that spending £50 on a personal trainer is more beneficial than either getting a good induction or looking at internet videos. I'd wager per £1 spent fish oil is probably the better deal.

  • Comment number 68.

    Can't believe how serious people can get about some chubby bloke sorting his self out. Anything that encourages a healthier lifestyle is brill...

  • Comment number 69.

    There are far too many people trying to pick holes in what Matt and Dirsy are doing. Stop whinging about credentials and nit picking things. There is more than one way to skin a cat but the point is it is working so credit where it is due.

    As Dirsy has said, 'As for Matt Lovell, all I can say is he's been employed by the England rugby team since 2002, so they clearly think he's doing something right'.

    @ greenandgoldtillsold - it might make you scoff but there may be next to no point commencing a workout routine if your diet is not in check. Bodybuilding and fitness is at least 80% nutrition.

  • Comment number 70.

    Dirsy since reading your first installment I decided to embark on a similar challenge, I've cut carbs out of my diet for 3 weeks now and have lost 12lbs so far. I'm struggling to fit in the time to exercise twice a day due to work and 2 young kids so am only exercising once a day, and have had a few beers now and then, but I've got to say it's been a lot easier to stick to the eating side of the plan than I expected and am definitely seeing results.

    Can't believe there's so many negative comments on here, it seems to me to have inspired quite a few people to try a similar thing for themselves which is definitely a good thing. If you don't agree with the plan fair enough, everyone's entitled to their opinion, but as you can see from Ben and others it does work. For those people who complain they're not interested just don't read it, simple as that.

  • Comment number 71.

    Hello Ben/Matt. Would a regime like this have an effect if you only did the low carb part every other day, or would the insulin produced on normal carb days hang around long enough to make fat the rest of the time. What I'm asking is, is this all or nothing?

  • Comment number 72.

    "67. At 20:58 10th May 2011, Stretcharm wrote:
    Good going Ben. Do you get to go back on some carbs soon? I find trying to get anything low carb for lunch on the high street is quite hard and end up always making my lunch.

    Also, I was hoping someone would be able to provide a list of the properly conducted studies that provide the evidence to back up the claims that spending £50 on a personal trainer is more beneficial than either getting a good induction or looking at internet videos. I'd wager per £1 spent fish oil is probably the better deal."

    Properly conducted studies? Sometimes you've just got to suck it and see! There isn't a Which guide to living your life lol. I had a fitness trainer and she helped me considerably although I admit there are some poor ones around. I was wasting a lot of my time working out on machines and it wasn't helping a great deal. Now I do all my work outs at home so now I'm saving on gym membership fees.

    Motivation, exercise advice, form, investigating different routines, diets and lifestyle habits was the areas in which she helped me. Not to mention a moving target for boxing;)

    At the end of the day its you that does the work and its your body. You just have to make a judgement as to whether its good for you. But I didn't check whether there was a properly conducted survey;) I just did it and it worked. For me.

    I agree about the difficulty of finding low carbs for a working lunch. Pret (if you have one) does some salads with chicken and fish so that is an option. Expensive option though.

  • Comment number 73.

    Would you have time in your busy shedule to cycle 500 miles around Wales between 5-11th June?
    If so check out
    Plenty of cardio there to help you in your quest.

  • Comment number 74.

    Im 20 6ft tall and weight about 12 stone 2lbs
    This is my diet basically for about 5 days of the next three weeks
    Porridge w/ skimmed milk
    3 cups of Green Tea
    Macoroni w/ tinned tomatoes
    Half tin tuna w/ cottage cheese on whole meal pitta
    Spaghetti w/ chicken, 1/2 tomato, 2 spring onions, 2 mushrooms, 1/2 onion with stri fry sauce.
    Works out at about 1500 calories and 200g carbs - Is that enough, just right, or too muchy?
    My routine consists of:
    Get up and have porridge
    Do an abs circuit (front and both side situps, plant and leg raises )and some press up
    Have the macoroni and tinned tomato
    Go gym - 10 mins bike (approx 4km) 20 mins running (approx 3.6 km)
    Then various weights
    Then have the tuna and pitta bread
    Then about 3/4 hours later have the stir fry
    Is that okay for a person like me?

  • Comment number 75.

    As regards Green Tea.......

    i drink Japanese Matcha Green Tea....its a green power...137 times more of the anti-oxident ECGC in it compared to normal green tea

    6 cups of normal green tea would mean half the day spent in the toilet so i find this stuff far better......kinda expensive though....€20 for a 30g jar.....but it makes more sense for me than drinking cup after cup of normal green tea


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