It is amazing thinking that one day I was a smart ass 17-year-old working behind a bar in New Zealand and now I’m 32 and working as an On-Premise Sales Manager for Bacardi Martini Australia. My role sees me in bars until the wee small hours although cleanups now consist of expense reports and trying to get to the office for early meetings the morning afterwards. I have always loved the pace and creativity of the hospitality industry and my role with Bacardi gives me this while affording me a work-life balance spending time on myself or with my Wife and 2 dogs.
I followed my girlfriend (now wife) over to London in 2007, they say that any Kiwi stepping off the plane gets given the ‘Heathrow Injection’ upon arrival. For those unfamiliar with this, it is an almost instant 10kg of weight gain that most of us antipodeans experience – now I was already a heavy-set bloke who lived a nocturnal existence, so the effect of this injection was somewhat amplified.
No idea how I managed it but I scored a job at Trailer Happiness in Notting Hill. Being an industry hangout I was never short of friends to visit behind a bar, late night lock-ins & there was usually a shot and a beer (compliments of the customers of course) sitting on my station next to my hawthorns. Nights became longer, sleep-ins got later eventually I was drinking to some extent most evenings then picking up the pieces by slamming cans of ice-cold Coke or ginger beer to deal with the hangover.
Looking after myself never really was a thought, food was a classic staff chip salad or other fried variants most evenings and never really thought much about how I looked or how I was feeling. Sure I wasn’t exactly feeling like an athlete but I could work busy shifts at Trailer and be first to make it to The Portobello Star for a knock-off, I was living in an ignorant bliss!
There was one day in 2012 when the combination of getting breathless walking to my 3rd floor flat and my sister’s wedding photos going online when it suddenly hit me what I was doing to myself. I looked grey, sweaty/greasy and huge….. The image I had of myself in my mind’s eye certainly was not the one that looked back at me from these photos and something had to change.
Growing up I played a lot of sport and was in the gym a fair amount so signing up to a gym and coming up with my own programming was the route I took. My wife has always been a great cook so cooking our own food for dinners became a rule and I completely cut sugar out of my day to day life (I have tried to make a stevia daiquiri….never again). If I was thirsty I drank water and if I needed to get somewhere I would walk if possible.
Every morning the alarm on my iPad would wake me up for the gym, with the worst photo of me staring back at me right next to the snooze button – seeing that person that I wasn’t first thing in the morning drove me to get up and spend some time working on myself before heading to work and made sure I wasn’t sleeping past midday anymore.
Beginning a fitness regime from scratch was a struggle and there were a bunch of times I felt as low as anything or ended up injuring myself and close to giving up – hindsight being 20/20 I should have spent time finding a good trainer or coach to make sure I was moving correctly and safely. That said a shit program followed 100% for a year is more effective than the perfect program followed half-assed for 6 months.
I set myself a lofty goal when I initially weighed in at 130kg aged 26 that by my 30th birthday I would have a 6 pack. Turns out it took a couple of extra years but I have completely changed my lifestyle for the better during this process.
Every day now my alarm goes off at a friendly 4:15 am so I can get up, eat and make it to training for 5:30 am eat again, walk the dogs 5km then make it to the office for 9 work a full day there or in trade with customers before heading home and walking my dogs another 5km. Getting up early used to be unthinkable now the moments before the sun comes up I feel spoilt that I am getting a jump on the day to have some me time and get my head straight before dealing with customers.
I train CrossFit a minimum of 6 days a week and will track my steps on my iPhone to ensure I hit 10,000 steps every day. In order to control what I eat, I use a meal service that drops off prepared lunches to me on Mondays, taking the guesswork out of nutrition has been the best thing I have ever done, plus it works out a lot cheaper than buying every day.
Keeping this structure means I not only feel ready for anything, but it also means that when I have a blowout and eat and drink unthinkable amounts I don’t feel guilty and bounce back to routine quickly.
If I could have the chance I would love to tell my younger self that you only get one body so treat it right. Bartending has given me so many opportunities and even introduced me to my wife, it has also left me with dodgy shoulders from pouring bottles and shaking drinks every night, a bad back from moving kegs with poor posture, hearing loss in my right ear from working in nightclubs and a coping strategy for stress that involves something called the holy trinity (shot of rye, sweet manhattan and a beer served in one round consumed as fast as possible). Wearing protective ear plugs, warming up shoulders & stretching and a fitness routine to balance stress should have been something I practised every day.
Even though I am only 32 as one of the older blokes at my gym now I am proof that its never too late to start looking after yourself better but damn it would have been a hell of a lot easier if I had started aged 21 rather than 26.