Friday, May 16, 2014

I did some secret business and then I couldn't walk. And you should too.

If you've ever met me, two things quickly become apparent. 1) I have less hair (and attitude) than Bruce Willis and 2) I have the fitness level of a long term unemployed unmotivated sumo wrestler.

Yeah that looks like me.

Which meant when I got an invite from my mate Arj (who has hair and could wrestle a bear) to one of his 'Secret Men's Business training sessions' I really should have thought twice. Or warmed up properlly. Or both.

But boy am I glad I did. 


For the unitiated, the Secret Men's Business training sessions are the brainchild of Arj after contemplating ways for guys to do the one thing that they struggle with: talking about what they're going through. As men we are completely rubbish with this concept and will put on more brave faces than underwear when the chips are really down and really go out on a limb to prove that nothing is bothering us. Even with the exact opposite is happening deep down and we feel lost, miserable and generally crapped on.

We. Just. Don't. Talk. 


The armour stays strapped on, the shield continues to get raised and we keep it completely on the down low where it festers and ultimately causes more harm than good. And sometimes it's all too much and we lose mates and brothers and dads and uncles and nephews, the men who mean so much to us because they were afraid to talk about what they were feeling and nobody ever realised the extent of how they were tracking.

What most guys do when things go south.

As much as we'd like to beleive we're all superheros, we're completely mortal with thoughts and feelings and good times and bad. For some of us it seems more bad than good. And it doesn't matter if you live in a mansion or in the front seat of your car, we all hit the same walls. The shit feeling you go through doesn't care about your nationality, status in society, car you drive or job you do - we all bleed red, we all fall down occasionally. Welcome to humanity.
The thing is though, we can all benefit from talking to someone about it. Sometimes anyone.

Since Arj lives and breathes the fitness industry, he came up with the idea of 'Secret Men's Business' where blokes from all walks of life can come together in group fitness sessions, get rid of some of their frustrations through intense excercise sessions, meet new mates and get things off their chest. There's no tribal drums, no animal skins or secret chants and if there's some special man club secret handshake then I obviously missed it. it's not a game show like Survivor or Big Brother, it just requires a place to really work your guts out the willingness to show up and give it one hell of a crack.

Which is why I said yes when Arj asked me to come down for a look, forgetting I make my living talking and not being fit in any shape or form. But surely Arj would see my amazing physique and decide then and there that a couple of pushups and maybe a light deadlift would be it for the day?
Have you met me? I'm one hell of a daydreamer.
The destination was the Human Mechanics in Bendigo - a place that looked very similar to the training area most of the cast of the TV series Spartacus trained in. Tractor tires, olympic bars, kettleballs and benches so solid they could withstand a nuclear attack. The sign explained it all: 'Where fat is burnt and respect is earnt'.

Like this but with less actors

After the crew had assembled (a bunch of blokes of all ages, all careers and vary forms of facial hair) Arj revealed that the day's work out would consist of Tabata training (which is Japanese for 'Kick your system into complete overdrive') and before I had the chance to pray to any god within earshot, it was on. Some jogging on the spot and side steps to get us started, some ice skate looking move to make the unwary trip and then came the waves of planks. Front planks, side planks and even a T-Bar pushup hold for good measure. Plenty of squats and some half squats and then some pushups and some squats thrown in for good measure. Then he added in some more squats and some pushups when my body was really asking for a cold beer and 48 hours sleep.
There was a part where burpees were involved but by that time I was gasping and weezing like a 78 Datsun on very shaky legs. I reckon I got three out and only one of them would have vaguely been with half decent form. My core started feeling like a red hot exhaust and there was enough sweat on my stomach alone to boil a chicken in..

The fast paced music pumped loud (a big grin when Rob Zombie's Dragula came on), there were grunts and groans during the holds and sometimes I hit the padded floor, my arms asking for the rest of the year off. But it wasn't bootcamp and Arj didn't stomp over asking for twenty more pushups and calling me maggot, he was incredibly supportive and encouraging. As were the other blokes in the room who I'd met for all of 35 minutes. Because it's not supposed to be a competition and it's definately not a case of who's the strongest or the last man standing - it's all fitness levels and you do what you can. You push yourself sure, but the bloke on either side doesn't care if you're ahead or behind him in the number of reps, he's happy you're there and he's concentrating on feeling good about himself through doing excercise.    

At the end of it, I was doing a passable impression of a heavy breathing 400 degrees floor tile but one of the blokes came over to help me up then shook my hand once I was on my feet. The one after the other, they all did and I was hit by this amazing sense of pride - I was probably (actually undoubtedly) the unfittest bloke in there but nobody gave a damn. I made it to the end and that was more than enough for these guys who just glad to be in a place where they could take their mind off whatever was going through their lives. I drank 84 litres of water to cool myself off, waved goodbye and crawled to my car.

Now I won't lie, after the workout the clutch in my car felt like trying to shift 1000kg with one foot and over the next couple of days I felt like I'd stradled a cruise missle all the way to the moon I was that sore. My arms couldn't lift past my shoulders without me wincing and I walked in slow motion like I was ready to yell 'draw' in a cheap western. It's been 3 days and there's a tiny amount of soreness lingering. I have never pushed myself through a workout like this before and my body was as prepared as Paris Hilton attempting a histoy exam in Norweigan.

But......... I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

You will feel strong whoever you are.


Because of the amazing sense of the acheivement and mateship and the great feeling that getting through hard work gives you. There's no time to dwell on the negatives or your shortcomings or bills or your overbearing boss or the fact that you missed that promotion or the girl you love is with someone else or whatver you've been holding onto for too long, you focus on the excercise part, you push yourself.
And then you walk out (slowly) with your head up high and realise after getting your frustrations out and talking through your situation, sometimes those problems that keep you up at night aren't worth the angst you give them. Maybe the world isn't as dark as you thought it was before you started. And maybe even a 34 year old Radio Announcer can make it through a propper workout session without throwing in the towel.

Get talking gents, you've got nothing to lose. (And don't forget to check out the Secret Men's Business Facebook page for info about a session near you.)  

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