I have a colleague whose job involves client dinners and constant socialising. He’s not fat by any means, but he never exercises and he could do with losing a few pounds. I, on the other hand, avoid dinner engagements like the plague, rarely go out and eat buckets full of fruit and veg. I also exercise and even lift a few moderate weights. But I could still do with putting on a stone in muscle, and never seem to manage it.
And thus we wind up at the Natural Elements Spa & Fitness at Le Méridien Dubai, in an attempt to tackle these issues head on. Our mission is to complete the gym’s eight-week course using Fit Linxx technology. Our instructor Dominic explains how every member gets a unique code. You punch in the number on every machine, adjust the settings and weights to suit your size and goals, and then enter any changes as you go. Not only does that mean your progress and development is tracked, but the personalised settings help you avoid injury.
But before all this begins we are given a body analysis test. A machine passes an electrical current through us to measure how much fat and muscle we are carrying and establish our metabolic rate. The results show whether you are under or over the suggested targets. Not surprisingly I am under on most counts, although I have a surprisingly good cardiovascular system – my pulse is 58. My colleague actually has a more normal body shape, though his pulse rate is much higher, suggesting a lack of fitness.
This data is analysed, gym programmes are drawn up to meet our requirements, and diet sheets are devised. ‘The gym accounts for only 50 per cent of our strategy,’ cautions Dominic. That means I must eat six small meals, upping my protein levels. I must gain weight, but muscle mass, rather than fat.
That bit proves to be the hardest part – changing eating habits is far from easy. But in the gym having your progress tracked makes all the difference. Dominic guides us through the machines, and we update the changes as we go. It’s surprising just how much a difference this makes.
By knowing exactly what you lifted previously, you can add weights in increments, and I quickly realise I have doubled, and even tripled, my maximum weights in a month. That knowledge, along with the encouragement of a trainer subtly pushing you harder, has an amazing motivational effect. So many times I’ve promised myself I’ll get up an hour earlier and exercise, but it rarely happens. Suddenly, when you have targets to beat and a trainer waiting for you, it becomes a lot easier. Well, perhaps not easier, but you do it anyway.
So progress is swift in the gym. Alas it’s harder to stick as rigidly to the eating plan as I would like, but still I am more mindful of the need to eat regular meals that will provide me with the extra energy I need to train. And, while I’m no exactly bursting out of my T-shirt, I think I notice a difference. My colleague, too, is feeling the benefit of his first sustained period of exercise in years.
Six weeks later it’s time for the next body composition test to find out what is really happening. The results are extremely encouraging. My weight has increased by nearly 3kg – and most of that gain is in muscle mass, not fat. My blood pressure is down and my pulse rate has also fallen from 60 to 50 – an astonishing difference which must be down to the regular cardio we’ve been doing. My colleague has also progressed nicely – his cardio vascular system has improved and he has added muscle.
I still need to add weight and he still needs to lose some, but we are moving in the right direction. Dominic says it will become easier to go to the next level as our metabolic rates are increasing. The extra muscle we are adding will also help burn extra fat, so we’ll keep heading in the right direction if we stick at it.
And that’s the key to success, of course. We have to keep grafting away at this, increasing our weights, running further and eating better. It’s tough, but it’s a whole lot easier with some encouragement and real data to help chart your course.
Natural Elements Spa & Fitness at Le Méridien Dubai, 04 7022550. An eight week programme costs Dhs3,600 for members, Dhs4,400 non members. Complimentary body analysis assessments are available. Gym membership costs Dhs7,700 per year. This includes use of the pools, tennis courts, steam rooms and receipt of a Méridien Gourmet Card, which can be used across the hotel outlets.