Chapter Four - Week One

Charlie woke up the next day and felt a little different.

He wasn’t as stiff as he usually was, but he wasn’t “better”.

For some reason he decided to go for a walk around the block with his morning coffee. He used to do this when he worked closer to home. He remembered the birds serenading him through the small park nearby and would often chuckle at the ducks arguing over a meaningless but seemingly important part of the pond.

After 10 minutes he returned home and felt a little lighter. The moment he walked through the door his wife, Penny grabbed him and said “dogs sick, need to get to the vet, kids lunches are half made, can you take them to school?”.

Charlie felt as though whatever lightness he felt was gone.

“Uh sure, love you”

“Love you too, hope all goes well with Riley today”

A peck on the cheek and Penny was out the door.

Hope all goes well.

Penny had seemed a little reserved about Charlie starting sessions with Riley. It was only until Charlie explained that Riley had agreed that him and Charlie were playing the long game with his health. Too many times Charlie had tried and failed with different ways of exercise. Penny had merely given up trying to encourage Charlie.

But this was the first time Charlie had sat down with Penny and asked for her support.

“I need to do this not just for myself, but for everyone around me. I feel like I’ll be a better person if I’m a bit fitter’ he had told Penny.

He recalled the smile she gave her, almost as to say: "It’s both, but it's you first."

It wasn’t exactly an easy conversation, but it wasn’t as hard as he had thought. Penny supported him and although the pressure to change was real, the support was even more real.

Charlie half-frantically got the kids lunches made and off to school before dashing to the office in time for his first meeting. Slightly sweaty walking into the boardroom he was greeted by one of his managers.

“Boss, sorry to tell you this so early in the day… leak in the roof needs an urgent repair and it’s destroyed two laptops over night. Plumbers on his way and we need to get that report done so I’ve just gone out and bought two more laptops”

“His stomach dropped. He could feel the heat in his head. Charlie no longer exploded at his staff these days but he felt all the same way inside whilst frozen to the floor.”

“Also, we need to pay the window cleaners today”

Frustration, dread, anxiety. Charlie was uncomfortable with it all therefore it generally came out as anger.

Anger; 'fear shown publicly' he once read.

Greg, his Team manager had done no wrong, he did what was needed.

Charlie removed himself abruptly from the conversation and spent the morning in his office wondering what the hell had happened since watching the ducks duel in the pond.

12pm came and he was out the door for his first session with Riley at 12:30.

Arriving on time was something he always did well. Sweat towel in one hand and water bottle in the other. He was ready. Ready for what, he was unsure. But ready.

Riley greeted him in her usual friendly way, opening with those sleep questions again followed by asking him how he felt

“I can't say good can I?” He asked.

“Could you give me a percentage?”

“I could make you a pie graph?”

“Out of 100% let's say 100% being the greatest you’ve felt in the past year and 50% being lower than usual”

“I would say, 80% this morning when I went out for a walk, then after everything that happened between then and now, 60%. Energy is pretty standard at the moment”

He bored Riley with some brief details. She seemed more interested than he thought.

“Thank you for telling me, there are some really cool things to unpack regarding stress, we can talk about if you want to at some point?”

“Sounds good” He felt assured.

“So day one of exercise technically starts today, but today we are going to explore some areas of focus for you initially in which I’ll explain as best as possible”

“Back, shoulder, ankle, weight loss my areas of focus?” He asked.

“Let’s start with the back. Some of the testing we did yesterday involved two key points of focus; mobility and strength”

“Strength? But we didn’t lift anything”

"There are many types of strength. Strength endurance, maximal strength, propulsive strength, reactive strength. Think of the word strength as anything we do to move our bodies. Whether its standing up from a chair, lifting heavy objects, jumping or going for a long walk, its all different types of strength. Getting the body good at all of these things is kind of like building the ultimate car."

“You mean one that goes fast, has good range, can tow and is fun to drive over windy roads”

“Precisely, we can make our body capable of all of those things”

“And what fuel will it run off?” Charlie queried.

“78% Nitrogen, 21% Oxygen, some carbon dioxide and whatever else you feed it”

“Ok, I’d say mine is probably a pizza wagon lubricated by some wine and beer to keep me from seizing up. Will this car we’re building look good too?” Charlie saw Riley smile.

“That’s actually a really good question. We could put most people’s goals into 3 categories; performance, aesthetics and longevity (health). I find that if people work on getting their bodies performing better and set it up well for the long term, the aesthetic component tends to come on its own with looking and feeling healthier. Aiming for aesthetics is worth a mention, but it comes with a price tag”

“Like a french car that looks good but falls apart when you put your foot down”

“That’s the one. We need to build from the inside out.”

“One of the first things we like to see is how mobile someone is. This gives us a picture of whether you have any restrictions that we might need to work on. Usual areas for people are ankles, hips, spine and shoulders. For now we can call this ROM, range of motion.

“ROM and building the ultimate car, got it”

“Your back is a great example of something that is weak and seems to panic when it does things its not used to. Described one of your recent episodes of your back giving you grief."

“When I threw it out two weeks ago”

“Throw out, blow out, exploding vertebrae, whatever you want to call it for now… That ‘locking up’ in your lower back showed all of the signs of a spine that a) needs a little more movement and b) needs to be a lot stronger to not only keep you upright, but to lift and carry things too”

Riley began running Charlie through some spinal movements getting him to feel what his body felt like when it started to articulate movements in a controlled manner.

“I hear this one's called the cat/cow in yoga”

“Correct, another way to think of it is like moving links in a chain. One at a time and each follows one another”

He felt a little less stiff now. Surprising. Maybe being locked up didn’t have to be a regular occurrence.

“Next let's explore the shoulder. This one, as it's probably easiest to explain. Charlie, you couldn’t quite get your arms straight over your head but when I helped you by guiding it a little further, you could”

“I remember, my left side was tighter, even though that the side I play tennis with”

“Yes, the ability to get your arm above your head is your dynamic range. When I helped you get your arm about 15% further, that was your passive range”

“So what’s the difference then, am I flexible?”

“Let’s put it simply, your muscles work to a point, and then there’s not enough strength to get you that extra bit”

“Why is that important?”

“Well, you told me how you injured your shoulder, by hitting a tennis forehand. Your muscles worked during part of the movement, as momentum carried your arm further through the hit, there was nothing to support your shoulder in the final stages. Only hope”

“Hope is not a strategy” Charlie added.

“No, but strength training is”

“Ok let's get into it” Charlie felt even more ready.

As with the spine, Riley took Charlie through some gentle movements, moving the shoulder in circles, rotating inwards and outwards followed by some random shoulder rolls and that was it.

“At the end of the session Riley presented Charlie with a program to complete twice before they saw each other the following week.”

“Shouldn’t take you longer than 20 minutes per session”

“I told you I could train 8 hours per week though”

“I know, but remember, we are playing the long game. For the next four weeks, the focus is about consistency and technique. Once we have that locked in we’ll start to increase the intensity. And if you complete these two sessions, it will be more than what you’ve done in years. It will essentially be a personal best!”

“I’ll aim to not overachieve then, just merely achieve” Charlie noted

“And by achieving, you’re over achieving what your previous self has done”

“I’m hooking my future self up”

“Well put”

“See you in a week Riley!”

Charlie left the gym with not what he would call a spring in his step (suspension upgrade was to come apparently) but most certainly not as stiff as he used to be.

The sun was shining outside, Charlie saw some birds fly by and wondered if they felt motivation the way humans did.