Stories of Men

Lifting, the habit that changed my life

Lifting, the habit that changed my life

There are a lot of reasons why you might want to consider getting into lifting weights. It’s good for your health, it makes you stronger, and it boosts your self-esteem.

When I first started lifting weights at 14 years old, I was thinking about one thing and one thing only: attracting the attention of women. Or, as I called it as a scrawny teenager: ‘getting fit birds to like me’.  

Of course, I wouldn’t have admitted that that was the main reason. I was too proud to say that. I’m sure many of you reading would’ve had a similar opinion then…or even now.

With this in mind, it was 2001 and I strode into a gym called Cosgroves. It was 5 minutes away from where I lived, just opposite Atherton train station. I went there with my mate, Dave and we stared in awe at the massive bodybuilders who stood before us. 

I never really had any desire to get to that level – their size felt too big to me. I didn’t fancy having veins that popped out of my bed. However, I really admired their dedication and there were things I could learn from them.

Dave and I trained at Cosgroves regularly for about a year and what began as a way of looking good in front of women, quickly became a competition amongst ourselves.

The other big benefit to my life was to be able to actually stick to something for a good length of time. We all quit things from time to time but if it becomes a habit, it can for sure have detrimental effects. All the best things in life, in my opinion, come from the discipline of creating good habits.

Both Dave and I wanted to lift as much weight as we could so we could show how strong we’d become. We were always in competition with each other as to who could lift the most. 

At the same time, technique/form went completely out the window! We didn’t really care about that. This mentality screwed me badly when I tried to deadlift a huge amount of weight and severely hurt my back.

I had excruciating pain for 2 weeks until it finally healed – it makes you realise that the back really is one of the worst muscle groups to hurt. You’d think I’d learn a lesson about lower weights and better technique but I didn’t.

So much of my early days of lifting weights were about gaining recognition and feeding the ego. The main reason for going (girls) didn’t actually work. I had zero confidence in myself and I didn’t facially look like Brad Pitt…however not many do.

A spanner soon entered the works during my time at Cosgroves. One of the gym staff got particularly angry at Dave and I, accusing us of leaving weights on the bench press machine. 

The weights in question were three 20kg plates on each side. Something at the age of 15 that I would’ve given my right arm to be able to press (if it were possible to press without a right arm).

We made this point to the member of staff, who refused to see reason. So we were banned. Quite funny to look back on but it annoyed my dad and he wrote a scathing letter to them which they never replied to! But all this didn’t put me off and it was to be just the beginning of my gym journey.

Dave and I decided to sign up to another gym and continued to develop our routine. In time, I was able to go beyond the need to just lift as much weight as I could.

I learnt more about form and the importance of controlling the weight at all times to get the most growth and to limit the risk of injury.

I also learnt about some of the fundamental concepts of resistance training. You should push yourself right to the edge of your ability, or, to put it another way, train to failure.

Pushing your muscles as far as they will go is a great way to generate growth. This is what I learned from reading about Arnold Schwarzenegger and other famous bodybuilders. 

However, I’ve since learned it’s not necessarily always about pushing yourself to failure and sometimes it’s more about leaning just beyond your edge.

I’m no expert in this area but as long as I feel it in my muscles the next day after training, I’m happy. It’s worth pointing out that there are many different arguments for this. Some say train to failure whilst others disagree.

Resistance training is like no other form of exercise in the sense that you can feel the results immediately. The burn in the muscles tells you that you’ve worked them to the fullest. And the reward for your consistency is that your efforts will be reflected back at you when you look in the mirror.

The results you get from exercise aren’t the only thing that helps it become such a strong habit. There is a strong social element to going to the gym.

Going to the gym with Dave was great because we were able to keep each other accountable and we made a commitment to go to the gym at a certain time on certain days which promotes punctuality and discipline. 

Essentially, we didn’t want to let each other down. 

Developing the habit of lifting weights also helped to keep me out of trouble. Before going to the gym, I’d hung about in the streets and got involved in petty, antisocial behaviour.

For instance, a group of lads and I would do things like throwing eggs at the windows of the local restaurant so we could get the buzz of being chased. Or putting fireworks in exhaust pipes and lighting them. So dangerous when I look back on all that.

All of that came to an end once I’d got into a positive gym routine. If you want to find out more about how lacking goals in life can lead to antisocial behaviour, listen to this episode where Tim, a social worker, talks about trying to guide a troubled young boy into adulthood.

Working out also gave me a strong motivation to eat healthier and drink less alcohol.

You can’t do a proper gym session if you’re hungover. I’ve had many hangovers in my time as I’m sure some of you have. It literally zaps any morsel of energy out of you to the point where you can’t be bothered doing anything.

You also can’t perform at your best if you’re not feeding yourself the nutrients and vitamins your body needs to recover and grow.

I think the biggest reason why working out has come to play such a big role in my life is that it gives me a goal to focus on. In the gym, just like in life, discipline leads to results. And the satisfaction of achieving those results leads to greater discipline, which then produces even better results. And so the cycle continues…

It’s a benign circle of achievement and it’s an activity that very quickly becomes a habit. Entrepreneur Charlie Munger once said that “the chains of habit are too light to be felt until they’re too strong to be broken”. It’s one of my favourite quotes.

The earlier you start the habit in your life, the easier it will be to keep it going consistently over time. Starting weight training at 70, after having never done it in your life will be difficult. It’s not impossible, but your habits and the way you’re conditioned has been set for so many decades.

Once you start your lifting journey, you’ll very quickly be looking forward to finding out just what you can achieve.

However, unlike many fears, the gym does not have to take over your entire life. If one day you really don’t feel like going to the gym, promise yourself you’ll go for at least one minute. I do this many times and I always stay the course.

Employing this strategy decreases the resistance and you think to yourself, ‘well, one minute isn’t so difficult, ok I’ll go.’ It’s a way to trick your brain because, of course, why would you make the effort to go to the gym for just one minute.

Our brains want to keep us in comfort and therein lies the problem of what many consider to be ‘the comfort crisis’ that we live in in the western world.

I would estimate that I don’t want to go to the gym 60% of the time but it’s become such a firmly fixed habit now that I don’t think. I just go. 

Once you get there, you’ll find you’ll want to stay for longer. But you don’t need to be there for all that long to get quality results. In fact, you can get a great session in no more than 45 minutes in my experience.

Even 30 minutes is a good starting point as long as you’re not looking at your phone endlessly between sets.

If you’ve never done weights before, I’d highly recommend a personal trainer to get going so that you know how to do the exercises and therefore won’t hurt yourself. Even ask them if you can take videos of them demoing so you can watch them back when they’re not with you in future.

You can also work out while listening to your favourite podcast. You could listen to this episode of Stories of Men, for example, where Isaac talks about the intense adrenaline-rush he experienced when going skydiving.

So, going to the gym is a step that we can take that will improve our physical health and our mental wellbeing. It’s something that can help us look good and feel good while improving our social network. 

Start the habit that you won’t want to break today and allow yourself to feel the hard-earned rewards. You owe it to yourself and your body and mind will thank you for it too.



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Laura is the mix engineer for the Stories of Men podcast. She has a BA in Music from Nottingham University and an Advanced Diploma in Music Production and Sound Engineering from Abbey Road Institute. Alongside working for Our Voices she is a freelance sound designer and technician. Her highlights include sound design for JK Rowling audiobook ‘The Christmas Pig’, and sound effects editing on The Outlaws, on the BBC.

For the Stories of Men podcast, Laura is typically provided with a Voice Over and interview. She then cleans the dialogue, integrates the podcast intro and outros, chooses the music that will add to the storytelling and pacing of the episode, then bring all the elements together in the mix, followed by mastering and then delivering the final edit.

Experience in Industry: 3


Favourite Food: Potatoes

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Favourite Movie: Anything Marvel

Favourite City: London

Hobby: Music

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I’m the community manager at Stories of Men. I spend most of my time focusing on the implementation of our marketing strategy, achieving goals and KPIs, and the rest of the time listening to the amazing stories of our guests. What I love most about working for Stories of men is the impact it has on peoples’ lives. It requires a lot of courage to tell your story out loud so I make sure these stories are heard by as many people as possible.

I was born and raised in Pakistan and I’ve been living in Hungary for over two years now. I have a Master’s degree in Marketing and I live for mastering the art of digital marketing.

Industry experience: 3 Years


Favourite Food: Biryani – introduced by the Mughal rulers in the Indian subcontinent; this dish is an absolute delight. Also, can never say no to a good burger – extra cheese!

Favourite Sport: Cricket – I grew up playing and watching cricket with friends and family.

Favourite Show: Stranger Things – I love how an odd group of friends fight against challenges bigger than themselves.

Favourite Movie: Harry Potter – The only movie I can watch over and over again!

Favourite City: Prague – Absolutely love the Baroque and Gothic vibe of this city.

Hobby: Netflix, Travelling, and Eating- I want to try different cuisines from every country once in my lifetime!

Favourite Book: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown – A fast-paced thriller that keeps you hooked from the first page to the last.


I run Fascinate Productions, the production company behind the Stories of Men podcast. I’ve had a wide variety of roles in media, from underwater videography, to live televised sporting events around the world. But since listening to my first audiobook in 2016, I’ve been all about audio and jumped in with two feet. Podcasts are enabling the world to democratise its most valuable information. They’re about spreading messages, and sharing ideas, and it’s my mission to help those holding the knowledge, to distribute it far and wide.

When Alex approached us with the idea of making a short stories podcast, with a big social impact, he got our attention. As the producer of the show, I’ve heard his guests’ highest highs, their lowest lows, and the moments of change that made them who they are – it’s been a privilege helping to craft their most intimate experiences into stories for you to enjoy.

 Experience in Industry: 5 years


Favourite Food: Ice cream. It’s just the greatest culinary invention.

Favourite Sport: Rugby. I played from the age of 5 until 26 when a dislocated shoulder put me out of action. Still like to watch now though.

Favourite Show: The 100 – I love those ‘what if humans nearly got wiped out?’ type shows.

Favourite Movie: Gladiator

Favourite City: London. As a country boy from Yorkshire, I never thought I’d enjoy living here.

Hobby: Listening to podcasts while on long walks with my dog Alfie.

Favourite Book: I love to read anything business/startup related… One of the most recent great ones was Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt



Richard Willan is the CEO of Fascinate productions, a podcast production and promotion company. Before starting Fascinate, he worked an audio engineer, mastering tracks for artists on major and independent labels.

He is an executive producer for ‘Stories of Men’ where he assists with production, creative direction of the show, and marketing strategy.  





Favourite Food: I love Indian food – My favourite dish is a Dansak. It’s a rich combination of hot, sweet and sour flavours, made from lamb and lentils.

Favourite Sport: I enjoy watching combat sports like MMA – Isreal Adesanya is my favourite fighter at the moment, due to his Tae Kwon Do base and speed. 

Favourite Show: Succession – an American satirical drama. The character development is incredible, and the writing is top notch. 

Favourite Movie: True Lies. I find it amazing that someone who can’t act (Arni) has so many great films.

Favourite City: London, because it is a melting pot of culture and the music scene is amazing. 

Hobby: Making music, going to gym and eating out. 

Favourite Book:  The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I love the world she created, and the incremental path the characters take into darkness. It’s amazing.


I am responsible for writing blog articles for the Stories of Men podcast. I have the privilege of listening to fascinating stories on the topics and issues regarding men that are of greatest relevance to our society today. Once I’ve done this, I create articles that provide an overview and description of the conversations in order to help spread them to the widest possible audience. My job is to make these articles as engaging as the conversations themselves.

As an English teacher who has worked with students from all over the world for over 10 years, I have got used to successfully communicating with those from different backgrounds and cultures. This has helped me to appreciate the value of connection across borders and boundaries. It has also helped me to appreciate that we are all able to learn from each other’s experiences.



Favourite Food: Chocolate. It’s an indulgence, I know, but it tastes so good. I particularly enjoy dark chocolate for its richness and smoothness. 

Favourite Sport: Football.Unfortunately, my local team (Nottingham Forest) is not in that top league but I hope that one day it will be.

Favourite Show: The Wire. 

Favourite Movie: The Godfather. 

Favourite City: Reykjavik. I had the pleasure of spending two weeks there a number of years ago and I loved the place for its beauty, culture and calmness. It’s rare that you can be in a capital city and experience genuine space and peace and quiet. There’s also a black sand beach to walk along, although, due to the cold, I wouldn’t recommend bathing in the sea!

Hobby: Watching films. I love films, foreign films, classic films, contemporary films, just all good films.

Favourite Book: “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer. 

I’m the Editor of Stories of men. I craft compelling narratives from the stories of our fantastic guests, editing their interviews and scripting the episodes. I’m a freelance journalist and audio producer from Northern Ireland, currently based in California. I cover social issues, health and gender – with reporting in The Guardian, Vice, NPR, Cosmopolitan and many others. My focus is shining a light on the communities and initiatives that improve people’s lives. I have a background in the nonprofit space, having worked in communications for a mental health charity, as well as an education start-up. I mentor young female writers and sit on the board of an NGO that empowers women in global supply chains. 

Favourite Food:  In a word, sandwiches. The possibilities are endless.

Favourite Sport: Show jumping. When I was little I wanted to be a professional horse-rider, and I still get a kick out of watching the pros in action.

Favourite Show: Fleabag: the writing and acting create a thrilling kind of intimacy I haven’t seen anywhere else.

Favourite Movie: Victoria is an incredible German thriller that’s all shot in one take – it’s a real trip. Plus it’s beautifully soundtracked by Nils Frahm.

Favourite City: Very hard to choose, but it’s got to be Barcelona. The food, the pace of life, the winding streets – there’s nowhere else like it. 

Hobby: exploring city streets on my bike – preferably while listening (safely!) to a podcast – is when I’m at my happiest. 

Favourite Book: Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other is a stunning, utterly unique portrait of womanhood, race, ageing and the principles we choose to live 

I am the host of Stories of Men. I help to find men that have a powerful voice to share and then I speak to them and help to tease the stories out of them that will have a positive impact on the listener. 

While running Swoosh English, an online English school from 2013 – 2021, I had the opportunity to meet men from all walks of life and many of these guys had incredible stories. This inspired me to start ‘Stories of Men’ because I wanted to give these men a platform to share their stories with the world.

I love the detail that people go into and how people craft stories in different ways. My dream and vision for the future would be countless people messaging to tell us how a particular episode has changed their lives!


Favourite Food: Avocados – an incredibly delicious fruit that can be used in so many dishes. My favourite is guacamole with nachos!

Favourite Sport: Boxing and football (couldn’t choose one!)

Favourite Show: 2 comedy series: Alan Partridge and The Office (UK version). I just love English humour!

Favourite Movie: Shawshank Redemption: An unbelievable journey full of twists and turns.

Favourite City:  New York – Living there for a year in 2008 changed my life. It made me believe that anything in life was possible if you want something badly enough.

Hobby: Football, boxing, reading, learning Spanish, travelling and watching fascinating conversations on Youtube.

Favourite Book: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts – a book about an incredible journey.