Guest Blog: an athletes experience of normal life!

By Gordon Thomson

So who am I and why am I writing this blog? Excellent questions. I am Gordon Thomson 33 years old and retired professional badminton player and pursuing a more mundane career in law enforcement (I will leave it at that!). As to why I am writing this blog that is due to a recent personal project I have under taken and a recent conversation with one of my very best friends and best physiotherapist I’ve ever worked with Mr Stewart Kerr.This conversation took place at a recent gathering of old friends and families and was a long overdue catch up. During this we discussed a number of topics and shared stories. Stewart then asked me if I would mind writing a blog to share my story and experiences.So here goes…..I suppose I should tell you the project goal and reason behind all this. 

Having come from a background in professional sport which came to an end around 6 years ago mainly through funding and injury issues which I won’t bore you with. I like many athletes struggled initially with the transition to a less active and less exciting way of life. I have always enjoyed the training process and the good feeling created by pushing myself physically and mentally to a goal. I continued to keep myself fit and enjoyed functional fitness/crossfit training. Then a chance meeting with a personal trainer with a background in muay Thai kickboxing ultimately lead me to a fresh and new challenge. After one session punching and kicking pads I was hooked and added these sessions to my regular gym sessions. Pad sessions became sparring sessions and within a couple of months the seed was planted “could I have a fight and what would it take to prepare”. That was around two years ago for context.To clarify I have always been aware of diet advice and nutrition but being naturally fairly lean and light have never really paid it enough attention and I include my badminton career in this. My diet was average at best. Further to this other than training hard I again with the benefit of hindsight neglected the other aspects of fitness mainly flexibility/mobility and the mental side of sport. In June of this year I was at a Thai kickboxing show to watch my coach fight with a number of friends and we made a day/night of it with plenty of questionable food and drink consumed. It was at this show that I learned there was an opportunity for me to have a fight on a similar show in October. I accepted the offer without hesitation. Then watching the fights it dawned on me the magnitude of the challenge ahead and that I would have to make changes to my lifestyle in the build up to this. I promised myself there and then that I would be in the best condition I ever had been if I was to step in that ring. Reasons were 1. If I didn’t I could be embarrassed in front of a lot of people. And 2. Most importantly fear. Fear of getting seriously hurt if I did not respect the sport and the dangers.If you bear with me a little longer I will try to answer the following questions;What have I changed?What have been the results?What have I learned and how can that benefit you?

Changes

The main change I made was mind set and approach to training.By setting a daunting and challenging goal my focus became absolute. I identified my strengths and weaknesses and from that where I could make marginal gains in performance. My fight was matched at 64kg (10 stone) and previously my normal walking about weight was around 69-70kg which is just shy of 11 stone for reference I am 5ft 11inches tall. So in summary naturally tall and skinny. This was the first time I had to be mindful of my weight or had a weight target so to speak. Many fighters dehydrate massively in order to make weight but I did not wish any part of that. I wanted to solely focus on diet and nutrition in order to maximise my performance and training in the lead up to fight night. So 12 weeks out from the fight I contacted a meal prep company and worked with them to create meals to suit my tastes and keep me interested. If my diet was too bland or restrictive I knew I would lose interest and it would be counterproductive. Portion control was taken care of and the biggest change was introducing vegetables to every meal. I was the world’s worst for declaring that I didn’t like salad or greens or any vegetables. However spurred on by my new focus and maturity I embraced vegetables and in a way trained myself to like them. food was looked on as fuel and veg was key to helping my body and training the positives outweighed any negative thoughts on veg. Maybe seems small for many people but honestly a huge change for me. I also replaced unhealthy snacks and was prepared with food for work. Chocolate bar and crisps became protein flapjack and banana for example. With my meals already prepped I avoided fried and processed food. I also took more notice of my hydration and only drank water or diluting orange sugar free completely cutting out fizzy drinks and alcohol. Initially this all took a lot of disapline and I fought cravings for dirty or sugary foods but as I said the focus was absolute if it wasn’t going to benefit me or my performance I wasn’t interested. Further to this the respect and admiration for my disapline that I received from friends and colleagues really spurred me on. Almost instantly as in within a week I noticed the difference this approach was having. I had more energy, less bloating after meals, recovery was better following work outs, less muscle soreness and my quality of sleep improved as my general stress levels dropped. The more I leaned out and saw and felt the results the more motivation I gained and the more I enjoyed my veg and no one was more surprised than me. To this new diet I added small treats to keep me on track mentally more than anything I love Oreos and chocolate so I trained hard and treated myself to the odd few squares of chocolate with a coffee. Never the whole bar though I felt it gave me a buzz to stay disaplined even when treating, it kept me going.I then looked at other ways I could build my body and mind towards being the best possible version of myself. Previously I have acknowledged my neglect of flexibility and mobility, so I found a yoga teacher and what a revelation it has been. Mentally and physically I feel great and again see the benefit within my sport, kicks are freer and faster my breathing more controlled under stress. I also researched and tried meditation, however it wasn’t really as effective and not for me but I tried which is more than I ever had before. I treated it all as building blocks to my performance and a way of life a lifestyle. Alongside these changes I continued to train as before but added in more technical kick boxing sessions and studied videos of fighters and great fights including this video analysis and visualisation into my training. 

What have been the results?

I think I have covered most of them but to summarise quickly;Improved sleep quality.Improved mental health less stress, body fat drop, increased flexibility and mobility.By training at fight weight my strength to weight ratio has increased.Increased energy and productivity work and training.I now like vegetables. There is another side to the story a week before my scheduled fight I learned that my opponent had pulled out injured and no replacement could be found. I had 40 tickets sold and friends travelling from London and new York believe it or not. Having sacrificed so much I was devastated. I had been on holiday with my wide during camp and was sober and training for the fight throughout I had also been on one of my best friends stag dos again training and sober in fight mode. I was given a new date 5 weeks from that time and advised to relax my diet and enjoy a few days off to avoid over training.This was extremely difficult mentally more than anything as I was building to peak nicely and excited. However that night I ordered take away and irn bru and tucked in happily. But do you know what I felt awful and sluggish almost instantly the salt and saturated fat clearly didn’t agree with me. I lasted two days off my clean diet and went back to it and felt better but rested from training. Those two days were my most disrupted night’s sleep and I have no doubt the food I had consumed played a part I also felt anxious and foggy in the head and my concentration at work suffered noticeably. It has been pointed out to me by a number of close friends who have known me throughout my sporting career that had I shown the levels of dedication and attention to detail to diet and mental approach during my professional badminton career then I would have been a much better player and athlete. I whole heartedly agree I also think I would have extended my career and would not have certain aches and pains I have today. I think the combination of the fear of being hurt and the focus on a new and exciting challenge has brought the best out in me as a person and athlete. To clarify I do not suggest that agreeing to fight people will be for everyone. But the principle of a goal that gets you going should hopefully resonate. Also that feeling of getting results seeing and feeling the difference mentally and physically is a great motivation. They say you are what you eat and I would have sneered at that as a younger athlete and just ate what I felt like, turns out it is very true and has so many benefits sporting and in general life. Also there are so many different aspects to fitness and wellness and picking from the menu of exercise and making your own recipe for success is key (little pun on nutrition intended).Also you never know unless you try just get out and do something positive something new and challenging. Out with your comfort zone physically and or mentally is where the magic happens so it seems anyway. It would have been easy for me to stick to what I knew and what came easily to me but by learning new skills I have had a new lease of life it’s well worth thinking about to get try new things and not fear change. Two weeks out from the fight and I feel great and I feel that no matter what happens win or lose I will be the best version of myself so in that mission accomplished and on to the next one and I have really enjoyed the process and the progress and am constantly learning and tweaking things to make it fun and sustainable. I’ve invested time, effort and money in myself and my wellbeing and will continue to do so as it now seems madness not to. You get out what you put in; I am a big believer in that.Thanks for reading. 

If any of the points raised resonate with you and you would like to discuss ways we might be able to assist, please contact Life Fit Wellness.

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