Working harder and smarter

Mar 01, 2016
Ashley Ann Lawrie


Martin McEwan is one retired grandfather who would have fared better than most tackling the messy aftermath of Ottawa’s Snowmageddon. 

Not only does he have the strength and capacity to wield a shovel, he’s learned the right techniques to move a mountain (or manage any of the manly jobs around the house) without putting his health at risk.

Martin has been a regular at Free Form Fitness’s Kanata location for two-and-a-half years. He first walked in the door after a dire wake up call during a routine physical.

“On my annual physical the blood test came up pre-diabetic with borderline high blood pressure,” he said. “You just don’t want to go that way. That was my prime motivator. I had to do something or I would be in deep trouble.”

Martin knew this from first hand experience. His father had Type II diabetes. Martin had seen how he had endured injections and struggled to find the right balance with a cocktail of meds to manage his blood sugar.

Years in a sedentary desk job had taken their toll. At his peak, Martin had 230 pounds packed onto his average build. He had tried changing his diet, with a low-carb, high-protein nutrition plan, but the weight loss didn’t last. He realized it had to be combined with exercise.

Even then, he struggled to achieve lasting results. He tried different gyms and even some sessions with a personal trainer. But while his strength went up, his body fat didn’t come down, despite hitting the treadmill for an hour at a time.

After that fateful blood test, he decided to give FFF a try, since the Kanata location was close to home.

“I realized there was no realistic alternative,” he said. “I didn’t know how to do it by myself. Working harder isn’t necessarily smarter.”

45 pounds lighter

Within six months, he lost 45 pounds. Two-and-a-half years later, the weight has stayed off.

Consistency is key. Coming in twice a week for training sessions tailored just for him, combined with a healthier diet, has changed how Martin’s body handles food. Now if he wants to enjoy some carbs, or even indulge himself for a week or two while on a vacation trip, it won’t show up on his waistline.

“One of the really good things I have found out from the trainers here is that you can actually go a week or two, with caution, and it doesn’t make any difference,” he said. “You’ve changed how your metabolism functions.”

He’s even regained the mobility he had lost in one shoulder from an old injury. The FFF team not only worked around the problem, they helped Martin rehabilitate it. Investing in the proper conditioning has also helped him with chronic problems with his Achilles tendon.

The perfect match: Technique + Strength 

And then there are the everyday things at home, like being able to handle those slippery 65-pound plastic bags of stone dust from the home improvement store, move furniture, or shovel snow.

“All of the trainers I’ve had at FFF have taught me a huge amount about performing exercises correctly, and much of that can carry over into everyday life,” Martin said.

He especially credits current trainer Ryan Williams for teaching him about proper lifting and other exercise movement techniques, and the importance of good posture, flexibility, lean muscle mass and endurance. Even now, Martin still relies on Ryan and the rest of the team to keep him on track to get the most out of his time in the gym, safely.

“If I’m trying to work out myself I can’t stick with it to the same length and extent,” he said. “And spotting your flaws in technique by yourself is really difficult.”

But other people have no trouble spotting the changes in him.

“I’ll go back to see friends and family in Vancouver, and they’ll go ‘wow, you’ve lost weight,’” Martin said. “It’s encouraging when people notice. I think I’m in better shape now than I was in my 30s.”

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