Here’s the thing. When I decided to set up I Be The Cool last year, the idea was for it to be a platform that primarily showcased music and fashion pieces. Whether you’re a rapper; singer, DJ, producer, fashion designer, artist, it didn’t matter. If your ‘art’ fits the pre-requisite, this is the place to be. But; you have to be the the muh-funkin’ cool. However, there was an ulterior motive. IBTC was a way for me to flex my literary skills and somewhat put my English degree to some good use. As some of you are aware via my daily gym uploads on Insta, at the point of writin’ this, I’m enterin’ my fourth consecutive month of trainin’. In that time, I’ve had numerous people ask questions regardin’ dietin’, trainin’ splits and the mental strength needed to persevere. Durin’ a rest period in the gym last week I thought to myself, why don’t I create a blog series about my journey? Then I thought to myself, the only platform I have at present is IBTC; that’s for music and fashion features. Then I realised, it’s my blog space; I’m the one payin’ for it. In the words of a former friend from uni: “I’ll do what I want!”. With that in mind, I created a new tab under the Lifestyle section. This week, I introduce to you: #OperationIdris – The Inception.
Before we go any further, I want to make one thing clear. I AM NOT A PERSONAL TRAINER. I’m merely a man that has inconsistently trained for 13 years who’s learned a thing or two along the way and wishes to share his journey. Like my cuz Cee Gordon says: “each one, teach one”. If by documentin’ I can help others in any capacity, that’ll be a beautiful thing. That’s what we’re all here for. What’s the point in accumulated knowledge if one isn’t willin’ to share? With that in mind, the idea is to do a weekly blog post for the next few weeks detailin’ the first three months and then monthly thereafter. Like my routine, that may change. But let’s go with that for now. Also, I don’t know how long this entry’s gonna be. Knowin’ me, if I was the person reading this, I’d grab the carrot sticks and hummus and kick back. We’re probably in for long’un.
Under the wing of my uncle, the first time I ever stepped into a gym I was 16. Since I was like 8, he used to pick me up every Saturday mornin’ and we’d ‘do road’. Those were the days! Like me, he’s not the tallest tree in the forest, but he was always well built. I wanted to be like him. I look like my pops, I had the gift of the gab, match that with a good physique, GAME OVER. I was one of those kids whose weight fluctuated though. I started off chubby, but I’d say by 14, I started to lean out. Lookin’ back, I looked a little malnourished still which makes no sense considerin’ (as mum loves to remind me), I’ve always been a greedy yout. But my first gym session, I’d never forget.
Unc told me from the day before “me a guh pick yuh up fi 8 a clock – mek sure yuh ready yuh nuh”. Calm – I was up and ready. Once we got to the gym, did changin’ room and stepped, we made it to the weights section. Oh, this was Moss Side gym btw. I won’t pretend to speak for the masses, but I can make my next statement with relative confidence. When it comes to gym, most guys from where I grew up only cared about two things: Arms and Chest. The hood’s filled with hella Johnny Bravo’s! Don’t @ me – you know it’s true! Man didn’t know bout no deadlifts, legpress and squats till I touched down at uni in ’13 – but we’ll get to that.
So boom, we enter the weights section and head straight for the free bench. Funnily enough it was a Monday, but being a padawan, I had no idea at this point that meant international chest day. Unc grabbed a free Olympic bar, racked it and said: “dem ya weigh 20 kilogram – we affi warm up fuss”. Calm. He went first and knocked out ten controlled reps. Looked easy enough. I went next. The motion took some gettin’ used to but I got my ten. We did another warm up in this manner then he said: “wi warm now – time fi load up”. Slappin’ 20kg on each side, again, he did 10 with ease. My turn. “Dem ya too heavy fi fuh – find two ten an forward”. I found some tens lying on the floor nearby. Carryin’ them was hard enough, but this ain’t a man you shown signs of weakness to! This time, he stood above in the spot position. “Inhale when yuh bring it dun and exhale when yuh push up”. I repeated this couple times and brought it down. The first 6 reps were… doable. By the 7th I was strugglin’ to push up. But here’s where it gets mad. Don’t think this guy didn’t stand above, arms BEHIND his back lookin’ down with an enraged intensity as I was strugglin’. “Yuh betta bloodcl*rt push it caah mi naah help yuh”. It took all I had to push that 40kg on the 7th rep. I was officially christened in the Church of Gainz.
For the next few years between different gyms, different cities and different trainin’ partners, I continued an inconsistent trainin’ method. I only trained upper body, and I’d say I trained around 3/4 days in any given week. I think in these formative years, I only managed around 3-5 months of some consistency, i.e not missing a week. As for diet. What diet? I mean I was never over weight, but I had no idea about macros and what worked. I honestly didn’t know the diet was as important, if not more important than what you do in the gym. Man genuinely thought, hey, at least if I eat somethin’, I’ll make the gainz.
Jump to the end of first year uni now (Summer ’14), and this is where some semblance of consistency kicked in. I’m not even gonna lie to ya. I’m not gonna keep it one hunna and tell you the real motivation that got me back in gym. We ain’t close like that. Yet. Just know the other reasons were spendin’ a year eating sh*t, drinkin’ heavily, f*cked up sleepin’ pattern and no trainin’. I went from turnin’ up relatively lean to lookin’ like an outta shape ‘used to get it in unc’. That summer, whilst the majority of people went home for summer, I stayed at uni (I had my reasons). I was cardio mad. Yes, I still did weights (upper body), but I was trainin’ 4/5 days a week doing an hour cardio everyday. 20 mins on the treadmill. 20 mins on the bike. 20 mins rowin’ machine. The result, the leanest I’ve ever been since liftin’. I was purposefully under-eatin’ (not even calorie deficit as I didn’t know about that yet), and over compensatin’ with cardio. It’s painful to look at at this picture tbh.
Forward to the start of second year. By this time, the uni gym staff knew my face, in particular, Jaki, who was also a PT. ‘longside Sam n Ash who I took under my wing, (I was older by a few years), we were unofficially under Jakki’s tutelage. Side note: my other hitta Boag used to bang gym with us from time to time, but he was more of a lone wolf. Anyhow, back to Jaki. It was him who introduced me to deadlifts, leg press and squats. It was time for my lower body to get some much needed attention. I couldn’t detail the first lower body session, but I can imagine it ended with us all resemblin’ a new born calf takin’ their first steps. Within around 4/5 months I went from lean to a relatively bulkier physqiue. I was sittin’ at 88.2kg in this picture. I look much healthier in my opinion.
In terms of consistency, uni was the best I’ve ever been. I was motivated. I was hungry. I was never satisfied. I think durin’ this period I trained 4-6 times a week for just over a year. And if we missed a week, I honestly cannot recall. We were ODT! Bein’ the strongest of the three, it was my job to remain so, but Sam, second in command was hot on my heels. I couldn’t allow him to surpass me. And Ash wasn’t far behind Sam. Trainin’ with people who have a similar mind-frame equates to healthy competition. Realisin’ we had somewhat ‘outgrown’ the uni gym, we signed up at Braventis – a local ‘old school’ iron house gym. Durin’ this period, I put up some decent one rep maxes. Squat – 165kg. Deadlift – 185kg. Bench Press – 150kg. I could dumbbell press 50kg for ten reps; shoulder press 47.5kg dumbbells for reps and curled 60kg on the Olympic bar. At this time this picture was taken, I was sittin’ at 91kg. In terms of consistency, physique and strength, this is the best I’ve ever been.
Leavin’ uni in Summer ’16 was difficult for many reasons. Not only was I sayin’ goodbye to a way of life that guided me in those three years (a year and half spent trainin’), I was sayin’ goodbye to some genuine people. Of course we still speak now and then, but the camaraderie is not the same when you no longer live or train together. With that in mind, I started trainin’ again, this time with my younger brother after work. We kept it up for a few months. We even started runnin’ in the local park a couple times a week. But again, I fell in the old habits. I was trainin’ after work. I was always tired. I would be in work and be thinkin’ “FFS, I’ve gotta go gym”. It was no longer enjoyable tbh. My brother is a hard worker in the gym. Strong for his age. Once he finishes school, if he’s interested, he’s trainin’ with me again. With his size at his age, with the right guidance, he could do extraordinary things.
Though I fell off, I always maintained a relatively clean diet, but that soon went to the wayside also. The wake up call came November ’18. Upon showin’ my sister the Abel and Cain campaign video (I knew I’d find a way to link actual IBTC material somewhere), she passed a comment. “I really like this – it would look have looked even better if you were a little slimmer”. Some would be offended. I wasn’t. I knew the overindulgin’ coupled with lack of trainin’ would catch up. With the revelation it was ‘noticeably outta control’, I decided there and then – it was time to put in work. I actually set out to start the gym that month, but an incident occurred where I thought I was superman and damaged the ligament in my knee. It still isn’t the same to this day. Knowin’ my character, I said to myself: “f*ck it! – see out the year, enjoy the Christmas and New Year festivities then start ’19 with a bang”. Which is exactly what I’ve done.
Referrin’ to my gym journey as an operation and incorporatin’ Idris’s name in the hashtag, (my boys at uni called me Idris – don’t ask), #OperationIdris began on January 9th 2019. But we shall leave it here for this week. This entry was merely a ‘brief’ prologue. Next week, I shall detail how the first month back in the Church of Gainz went. Praise to the most high.
“It always seem impossible, until it’s done.”