The body behind the megaphone is the body of a young athlete, a body that played high level basketball. That same body found it an excellent idea to cross the island of Crete from the North coast to the South, a 120 kilometer hike, in 3 days ... over the highest peak of the island.
That body was mine ... about a quarter of a century ago. 25 years later that body is fat, weak, slow and awkward. Until a couple of years ago, my body still allowed me to do pretty much anything I forced it to do, despite the bulk, the bad knees, the weak ankles and the sore back. But then it took revenge. Every time I asked it to do anything more stressful than a light stroll, it got back to me the next day with pain and soreness.
In the twelve years I've been a professional photographer, I've spent tons of money on gear to give my clients better quality pictures and I have invested countless hours in learning and perfecting my craft. The one thing I neglected was to invest in the body that is carrying all that expensive gear and that brain full of knowledge. Being a photographer is a pretty physical job. We are on are feet for long hours, carry a lot of stuff, twist our bodies in weird angles to get the shot and often rely on quick bad food to keep our engine running. The next day we are spending more long hours but this time immobile staring at a screen. I know a lot of photographers who consider pain part of the job, unfortunately. For a while now, I've been wanting to get that body back in shape. I don't have the illusion to get it back to the shape of the beginning of this article, but at least I want to be able to work without pain and have more energy to get better pictures.
In the past couple of years, I tried a lot of ways to get back in shape. I wore a watch that counted my 10.000 steps a day, I tracked calories, I enrolled in a program in the gym, I did the first 3 exercises of Start to Run, ... All these things were either too boring or forced me to stop prematurely because of injured body parts. I kind of gave up on getting back in shape until I met Bert Poffé. The man is a beast, in the months that I've known him, I've never heard him breathe. Bert has a lot of experience with expeditions and he decided to share his knowledge with others as a lifestyle coach. As a fan of the outdoors (as long as I could reach it by car), I immediately related to Bert's approach. "Rewilding" is the keyword, it's all about getting back in touch with our natural side. I did have my reservations though. Bert has studied native people all over the world as an inspiration for his own lifestyle and his coaching approach. In my first impressions, Bert was surrounded by a bit of a spiritual Dances with Wolves vibe.
Luckily I quickly found out that Bert is not a fluffy new age guy. He's down to earth and isn't adverse to modern technology and society. I figure he's a bit like me and believes modern technology is great but shouldn't let us forget about what was great years or centuries ago.
I made a series of pictures for Bert to show the services he and his lovely wife Kiki offer. I was most excited about photographing things like his bushcraft techniques. I was also going to shoot a workout with one of his coaching clients but I saw that shoot as just work. It was only while I was editing this shoot that it struck me ... it looked like something I could actually enjoy.
Over a week or so that workout kept popping up in my brain:
Would this be something for me?
Nah, my knees probably can't handle it.
But could the one-on-one approach maybe find a way to work out within my limitations?
Possibly, but I like good food too much to make it work
If others can do it, why can't I?
I'm way too busy and it's going to cost a lot of money
I kept going back and forth and it was clear that I wouldn't find the answers unless I tried it. So I send a message to Bert: "Is their a way for me to try out if your personal coaching program could work for me?" Bert replied immediately and said: "Let's do a trial workout and talk about the possibilities.
That first workout was horrible. My heart and lungs almost jumped out of my chest and I felt like an 80 year old while trying not to die. But at the same time it felt good to work out and somehow Bert managed to push me without having sore knees afterwards. The frustration from not being able to perform basic exercises turned into a motivation to finally do something about it.
"Let's do it", I said and Bert worked out a 3 month plan to get me in a better shape, starting after our trip to Spain.
Bert gave me some reading material to explain his philosophy about natural movement, food, rest, ... While we were in Spain, I already noticed that my mindset was starting to change. I wasn't that adverse to physical exercise anymore, in fact I started welcoming it. We also started experimenting a bit with different eating habits and found out it wasn't that bad.
By the time we got back, I couldn't wait to start working out with Bert. We are now a month into the program. I've been working out with Bert 2 to 3 times a week, last week Noa and Maya even joined in (and took the pictures below).
So far, I've lost a considerable amount of fat and added some muscle. Hell, I even look better but what's even more important is that I feel better. It's amazing how much easier a long day with the camera has become in just a few weeks. What surprises me the most is the shift in my mindset. I may never have the megaphone guy's body anymore but his longing for adventure and physical activity is coming back quickly.
My family's support is essential in this adventure, I couldn't do it without their encouragement. And Bert is the key to success. He does so much more than telling me what exercises to do and what to eat. He's tapping into the former athlete and adventurer who are still somewhere in my brain.
Just getting fit again, has proven to be insufficient as a motivation to work out and change my lifestyle before. But being able to do stuff that I really enjoy does make me get my running shoes on and ignore junk food. Last week my reward for all this was a day hike with the whole family. It wasn't that hard of a hike and I'm sure I could have done it a month ago too. But I would have experienced it as a grueling expedition and now I truly enjoyed every minute of it. I made a story of the hike for the KAGE Collective, check it out here.
I've only completed 30% of my coaching trajectory with Bert and even after I have finished it, I'll still have only scratched the surface. But I believe this change is crucial for my work and my life. I know tech reviews and technique post will always be more popular on photography blogs but I consider health at least as important. I will report back in a month and I hope my fat-to-fit story will inspire some of you who struggle with the same issues.
For those of you in Belgium who are interested to work with Bert, check out his website and get in touch with him.
(I was not paid or compensated in any way to give Bert a plug. I'm just so impressed with what he is achieving with me, that I want to recommend him highly.)