Delve into my gaming past with my top 10 favourite video games of all time!
With the storm that is Christmas and New Year blown over, the dust has settled and you are by now hopefully fully recovered and ready to attack 2018 with a sense of vitality, determination and a highly motivated mindset. For many, one of the common New Year’s Resolutions is to quite simply “get in shape”, otherwise phrased as “get fit” or “tone up.” These generic terms are swashed broadly across the blank canvas of your “new year, new me” mantra and while the intent is good, it’s often the lack of a sincere follow-through that prevents people from progressing, or even beginning at all.
At first glance, it’s a daunting prospect to make a serious commitment to changing your outward body appearance. The insecurities and fears that plague many, quickly bubbles to the surface and self-doubt kicks in with questions such as “will I get made fun of or judged in the gym” is prevalent. Combine this with the fact that you’ll need to seriously re-think your current diet plan (regardless of your goal) and you can see why things can unravel rapidly.
I’m here to tell you a few truths. As an avid gym goer for the better part of five years, I can assure you that you won’t be judged for entering a gym and trying to better yourself. In fact, people are usually too engrossed in their own workouts to really care or pay attention to what anyone else is up to. The only exception to this is if you’re doing something that could be deemed unsafe to yourself or others. So it boils down to a simple fight; you vs you. It’s a long, hard-fought battle, but one that can result in victory, if you dedicate yourself.
Who Do You Want To Be?
To begin the journey, Arnold Schwarzenegger provides the key question from his “rules of life” speech; Who do you want to be? (Go ahead and check this highly motivational video out here; here). Ask yourself, do you want to be the lazy person who drifts through life mindlessly scoffing junk food into their face as the latest Netflix show airs wondering why nothing is happening in their lives, or would you rather be the successful individual who works extremely hard in order to have the right opportunities presented to them? I’d guess the latter.
Define Your Vision
So why do people fail? In the main, it boils down to the initial motivation and goodwill of the fresh resolution quickly running out of steam if there’s no real plan in place. It’s vital to have it clear in your mind what your goal is. Refer back to the sweeping statements above. “Get fit”. What does this actually mean? Set a goal such as running 20km in a time that’s competitive. “Tone up”. Meaning what exactly? Define it. For me, I was clear in that I wanted to build muscle mass. I was always a skinny kid and found it hard to put on any real weight, despite partaking in plenty of sports and eating what I thought was a lot of food (more on diet later). So this may be your aim as well, or it could be taking off some excess weight ready for a summer holiday, whatever the case may be, get a clear set end goal in your mind.
Plan of Attack
With the end result now firmly established in your head, it’s time to mobilise the processes that will be needed to put together the masterpiece. Over the years, it took me a while to grasp that you need three main things to have a successful body transformation, namely training hard, good nutrition and plenty of rest. So let’s break down each category.
Training is the fun part. It might seem hard at first and it will be a complete shock to your system if you’ve never picked up a weight before, but don’t be afraid of the DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness), it’s all part of the growth and journey. Which leads to my next point; using weights. A lot of people are hesitant to move around the iron for fear of ending up “too bulky.” I can assure you, completing a few sets of squats will not suddenly turn you into the Incredible Hulk. Instead, combining weight lifting with cardiovascular exercise, for example, will greatly enhance the rate in which you shed the pounds and will also aid in increasing your fitness levels on the whole.
Finding the correct training programme can be a bit of a challenge. The Internet provides us with such rich content (just look at this blog post) but it’s very easy to find yourself bogged down in a myriad of information which contradicts what you saw ten minutes ago and vice versa. My tip is to keep things simple. I was fortunate to have a best friend guide me in my first months and we were using a variation of a program called Starting Strength which enabled me to rapidly increase my overall strength whilst introducing me to the most important exercises out there; squat, deadlift and bench press. With that said, gaining size and strength may not be your goal and instead, you might be looking to achieve a more defined physique. I can highly recommend The Cutting Plan by Chase Perfection as I have personally used this to achieve a more lean look for the Summer of 2017 and it’s something I’ll be going back to for 2018 without a shadow of a doubt.
Variety is the spice of life and it rings true in the gym as well. Sticking to the same routine for excessively long periods of time will cause two things to happen. Number one; boredom. Remember where we spoke about the initial motivation wearing out? This is where changing your training plan every so often (12-24 weeks is usually when I try and mix things up) allows you to keep things fresh and fun, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Secondly, your body will get accustomed to what you’re doing and your results will start to plateau, which again will cause your motivation to drop. So think about engaging different variations of exercises every now and then.
Finally, if you don’t have a gym partner and you’re a complete novice, I would recommend putting in some hours with a personal trainer at your gym. They are experienced, friendly and dedicated staff who will be able to direct you in the correct way which will not only see you get the optimum development but also steer you away from injury, which can occur if you train alone without any guidance in your first few weeks and months.
Eating the correct amount of calories per day which are comprised of the necessary macro-nutrients (macros) required in order to promote muscle growth or fat loss is something that can be demanding to say the least. I struggled for roughly two years before I was able to really get my diet to a place I was happy with, in that I was making strength and size gains whilst not resorting to a pizza or takeaway every night. So my lesson to you is simple; get your diet/nutrition organised and perfected as quickly as possible. You’ll need to eat more than you think as well, which is why “meal prep” is something to get into the habit of quickly. As an example, I come home from the gym and prepare my cooked meal for that night, as well as my second and third meals for the next day. The work you put in the kitchen can either enhance your training to whole new stratospheres, or it can hinder your workouts to such a degree that you’ll be caught “spinning your wheels”, i.e. making no progress. There are plenty of free to use calorie calculators online that can give you an estimate of the total calories and required macros that you’ll need, but ultimately a degree of experimentation will be required. In addition, there are thousands of recipes online that can provide alternatives to the usual chicken, broccoli and rice combination, so don’t get discouraged. A final point to make, going to the gym brought me the ability to be able to cook for myself, which is an invaluable life skill, so if nothing else, this is another great positive to glean.
The good news is, that you’ll probably be quite tired from this new lifestyle so sleep won’t be much of a problem! It is important however to note that a good eight hours of rest will be required in order to fully maximise the gains that you’ll be making in the gym.
Armed now with the tools and experiences that I have been through, make sure that 2018 is the year where you are able to follow through with your plans and make a real change – your body will thank you for it. Trust me. Finally, remember to be kind to yourself; you’re embarking on a life-changing adventure that will have its fair share of ups and downs so don’t sweat the small stuff, just stay dedicated, focussed and committed and you will get there.
What on Earth did we just watch?
Full disclosure, I enjoyed The Last Jedi, but it took me an entire day to process; that’s how vastly different and thought provoking this film is.
There are numerous points of contention. Huge character decisions and plot turns that leave the audience wide eyed and open mouthed, either in shock or disgust. Visually breathtaking scenes that remind you how truly awesome cinema can be are placed adjacent to scenes that have you scratching your head in confusion.
The film is not perfect. (What film is?) But it has already established itself as a decisive moment in Star Wars film history. It’s explicitly stated in the trailer by Luke Skywalker himself – it’s not going to go the way you think.
So what did I think going into this film? Like a lot of fans, I had spent the better part of two years since the Force Awakens came out imagining what was going to be revealed next. Much of the speculation and theories revolved around Supreme Leader Snoke, the mysterious yet seemingly all powerful leader of the First Order. Rey’s lineage was also a big topic of discussion amongst many. Related to Kylo and by extension, the daughter of either Han or Luke, or was she a Kenobi? Hell, maybe even a descendant of Palpatine, just look at how she fought Kylo at the climax of Force Awakens! Lastly, the burning thought at the forefront of my mind was how Luke would be portrayed. Self imposed exile would no doubt see him as somewhat of a recluse, but I believed we would be seeing new ground with what the Force can do.
In a way, I was right.
Ironically, however, the first “that’s not how the Force works” moment didn’t come from Luke, but rather his sister, Leia. If you’ve seen the film (which you should have, this is a spoiler filled look at the film, after all), then you know already what I’m about to say. Superwoman Leia. Flying so casually through space to save herself after being blown out of the bridge. Jaw dropping, eye popping WTF moment number one. I had a real issue with this, mainly because of the time difference between getting sucked into space and floating back to the safety of the ship. Surely, she would have died. Secondly, we haven’t seen anything from Leia in terms of Force ability apart from being able to communicate with Luke across vast distances and also feeling Han’s death when it happened. Bit of a leap to then get what we saw. A brave and bold choice by director Rian Johnson, who had no qualms in taking what we thought we knew and flipping everything on it’s axis.
Following on, Rian had another twist up his sleeve. Moreover, we come to my biggest disappointment in Supreme Leader Snoke. Or as I believed for a long while, Darth Plagueis. (It could still be true, you never know…) His introduction into this film sets him up again as a being of great power. He’s able to drag Hux onto the ground and embarrass him in front of his entire crew through the hologram projection and then when we see him in the flesh, boy does he give Kylo a dressing down. Making Kylo “take that ridiculous thing off” as well as summon a crack of Force Lightning to firmly put him back in his place, we see how vast the chasm of power between the two is, figuratively and literally. So we’re definitely going to see big things from Snoke, surely? No, he gets cut in half by his apprentice mid-way through the film and that’s the end of that. I mean, what? Really? That’s it? All the build up, the teasing and mystery led to that? In my eyes this was the biggest waste of a villain since Darth Maul died. Yes, I know he came back in other media such as novels, comics and two TV shows, but to the average viewer who only partakes in watching the films; Maul was killed in The Phantom Menace.
I understand however, why Snoke was killed. He served his purpose in the story. He was there to have us believing we had the next Palpatine that Kylo would eventually overthrow in order to join the light, however, as is the recurring theme, this was blown away and instead we get Kylo killing Snoke to further his own ambitions to become even more cemented in the Dark Side.
As I said however, it took me a while to get past my vision in my head of Snoke and accept the plot point laid before me. This is something I think a lot are struggling with currently.
Back to the good however and for me, the opening space battle was one of the best we’ve seen in the franchise. Again, it has a spin on the usual narrative. We’re accustomed to seeing the Rebels have their backs against the wall but rallying to victory in the end, yet this time, we got complete destruction of the majority of their force and the hot-head pilot leading the assault rightly chastised. I really bought in to this, as it reflects a realistic outlook on the grim prospect of fighting a war against a large machine such as the First Order; there’s going to be bloodshed on both sides.
Sticking with the Resistance (or Rebels, both interchangeable names can be used) we got one of the most striking scenes in any Star Wars film to date. You know what I’m talking about, jaw dropping, eye popping WTF moment number two (more positively this time, however).
Engaging hyperspace. Through. The. Fleet. Wow. Just absolutely phenomenal and something that I didn’t know I wanted. The self sacrifice by newly introduced Admiral Holdo is a redeeming moment for her otherwise bolshie character (she goes against our boy Poe, I mean that’s not cool) but what a way to go out with a statement. Unbelievably well shot and another defining moment in the saga.
Finally, the last big piece to talk about is Luke’s untimely demise. When he faded into the distance after yet another new interpretation of the Force was shown (essentially made himself into a hologram to “fight” Kylo) I was stunned and not happy. This is Luke Skywalker. Likely the most powerful Jedi ever, or so he should be and yet, what did he do, really? Blew a wall up, stopped himself from falling over and fake-fight Kylo. I wanted to see him wreck the Knights of Ren (conspicuous by their prolonged absence) or take on Snoke in a raging battle of Good vs Evil in Episode 9, but instead he goes out without much noise. Now, the other side of this is that the scene itself was amazingly shot, beautiful in it’s execution and evoked strong feelings of nostalgia, hope and yes, sadness. But even still, my expectations were not met. So again, another disappointment for me, but once more, a strong choice from Rian Johnson.
You can see a pattern emerging here. For every imagined theory or expectation, there was the unseen and unconsidered conclusion. Surprising, provocative and unpredictable, we certainly got something else with this film. More questions and analysis remain and be sure to check back soon for further in depth looks at other characters and aspects of this brave new direction for Star Wars.