A few weeks after I started my Herbalife program, in late April I also started training once a week with my former personal trainer from London, Reza. I used to live in London, I lived there for 15 years. I’ve worked with a few personal trainers, they’ve all been excellent and we all went on different missions together but there’s something quite different about Reza. The first time I met him was at a spin class in Finchley. I used to go boxing every Saturday morning but on this particular week the boxing class was cancelled. I checked the gym class schedule and noticed there was a space free for spin so I booked in and went along. I had no idea what I was turning up too. There was a queue of really fit, attractive girls waiting outside the studio. When the class before ended there was a huge rush and everyone waiting surged forward to grab a bike, I just held back and watched with surprise. I entered the studio and found myself on a bike at the front, I thought nothing of it, I was OK at spin, I was fairly fit at this point. I think this was 2009, I’d recently started road biking. Previously I’d been mountain biking since 2003.
Reza arrived, he had this presence, and he was in command of those ladies, all of them. He switched the music on and we were in full flight from the off. I was in the front row so I had to give it my all. We did moves on that bike that I’ve never seen before. He played the most awesome music that kept the energy so high. I wouldn’t survive the classes without the music. I made it all the way until the end of the class, I was bright purple in the face at the end but I’d done it. I went home and collapsed on the sofa, I stayed there for about 4 hours and didn’t speak for the rest of the day. I’d trained at my maximum level, my body was done but I wanted to go back for more.
I wasn’t aware that I’d broken in to a little spinning cult. This group of girls were so dedicated they would get up at 06:00 a week before on the Friday morning when the gym’s booking system opened to book themselves in to that class. The places would be gone by 06:05. They had their own systems in place, they would share membership numbers and login details and take it turns to get up just before 06:00 to do the booking in shift. Unfortunately I was now hooked and became part of this cult too but I didn’t have anyone to share with so I had to routinely get up each Friday morning an hour before my alarm, login to the booking system, go through this frantic 5 minute panic where you’d watch the numbers available go from 14 to 0 in a matter of minutes and pray that one of the places was mine. Sometimes it all happened so quickly and I was half asleep at the time that I didn’t know if I’d got a place until I got the confirmation email through. I feel totally weird that I did that for months and months, even when I was away on holiday but there was no other way to get in that class.
So I’m back training with Reza in 2013, I don’t live in London anymore so I’m driving 50 miles to his new gym in London. He’s moved on quite a long way. He’s bought his own gym with his brother, Park View in Finchley. It’s got a great vibe, all the right equipment for the way Reza trains, a nice sized studio with excellent spin bikes and really good staff. Week 1, I hadn’t trained with Reza for over 12 months so he said we’re going back to level 1. Wow! I forgot how much this hurt but it was a different kind of pain to cutting your finger, it’s the kind of pain you can tolerate because you know there’s going to be an amazing result. I decided to start training with Reza again because by this point I was doing some decent mileage on my bike and my confidence was growing. The fear of crossing the line before 9hrs had pretty much vanished in my mind and I was starting to think I could actually consider a decent time around 6 or 7hrs. Reza had different ideas, from day 1 he had his mind set on a goal of sub 5hr30 I just didn’t know at the time. We focused on endurance and strength training. I would do 30 minutes of spin, followed by 30 minutes of core work then have a 10 – 15 minute rest and a quick refuel, usually a carb drink. Then the real work would start, a 1hr personal training (PT) session. The PT session with Reza is not conventional. His training focuses on functional training, using your own body with some weight work. He’s so in tune with how the body works, he completely engineers exercises to a different level compared to how I’ve worked with PT’s in the past. He also does pretty ridiculous exercises, there were moments when I had a bungee around my waist and I’d be running across the gym trying to fight his force pulling me back. I’ve had to run around the studio dragging him behind me sat on a towel, he has a whole work out designed using a towel and it’s one of the most painful group of exercises I’ve ever done. Whatever he made me do, he got it so right. Alongside my Herbalife nutrition program and regular cycling within 6 weeks my body was transformed, the power was back in my legs, my endurance was improving and with all this came confidence and self-belief. There was also a lot of pain. I worked my legs so hard I would struggle to walk out of the gym sometimes and for days after I would be in agony. Sometimes I couldn’t ride my bike as planned because Reza had worked me so hard. The training was getting so intense I’d need to take my Mum or my sister with me, I required a chauffeur to drive me home. I was physically exhausted and totally incapable of the 50 mile drive. I was also worried if I got stuck in traffic my legs might seize up.
I can’t remember the exact words he used but Reza had this theory. To do with women who’ve just had a baby, he thought they were in their prime to train for sports events. We’ve been through a pain threshold, we’ve felt deep emotion and we were on the right level to make that connection with our bodies and go to the next level. I definitely went to a different place during Ride 100 and I’ll never know for sure if having a baby prepared me for it but it makes some sense to me. I switched off from all the pain that I felt in my body, I attached myself to the emotion and let that take me home to the finish line. I like to think I have good mental strength anyway, I have the ability to tell myself to keep going against the odds and I think this is required for a long, endurance event if you want to cross the line in a good time. You can ride an event like Ride 100 in 9hrs and have a really enjoyable day, stop at the feed stations, go at 12mph and see all the sights or you can push yourself and ride at 18mph or faster and get back without knowing where you’ve really been. It doesn’t matter how you do it, do it your own way neither is better or right.