Harley Young goes on a fitness kick with Corporation Street gym The Olympus Projects

Working as a journalist in the Food & Drink industry is good fun. You’re the first to know about any exciting new restaurant openings, meet some of the most talented, influential chefs and foodie entrepreneurs, and you’re invited to try all their wonderful dishes. 

But, like all things that are done in excess, constantly eating rich and plentiful dishes starts to take its toll on the body and, before you know it, you’ve piled on a few extra pounds (or stones, in my case) than you’d accounted for.

In order to improve my relationship with food, grow muscle and get back to a position I’m happy with, I’ve teamed up with The Olympus Projects’ PT and strength & conditioning coach AJ to take part in a 12-week intensive course designed to help me kick the gluttony and tone my body. Alongside this, I’ll be periodically checking in with nutritionist Oliver to manage protein goals and keep my healthy eating habits on track. 

For reference, I’m 5ft3 and my starting weight is 78kg. 

Now the spiel is out of the way, let's get down to business. 💪

This article documents weeks one and two of the 12-week course. Check back in two weeks time for another progress update. 

2024 05 08 Olympus Projects Starting Weight
My starting weight Image: The Olympus Projects

Week 1

Monday 22 April

I started my first session with AJ at 8am sharp, nervous but determined to shift the stubborn lockdown ‘treat yourself’ weight that had snowballed into ‘eat what you want, when you want’ weight and had me hiding under baggy jumpers and long coats. 

With summer on the way, and my new role meaning I had to spend a lot more time in front of the camera rather than just behind it, I decided it was the right time to make a change.

As I walked down the steps to the gym I could feel my palms sweating, worried that there’d be a bunch of muscular gym rats staring at me awkwardly and laughing. But there was none of that. Just AJ ready to greet me with a beaming grin and high five. 

The well-equipped gym was nice and quiet with just a few others training and I didn’t feel judged or like I’d walked into the wrong place. Just welcome. 

After giving me a tour of the gym and its facilities, taking my measurements and giving me a brief rundown of how the next 12 weeks would go, AJ wasted no time in putting me through my paces, seeing what my balance and core stability was like by getting me to do a few squats and lunges. Wobbling around like a baby fawn, I quickly realised we had a lot of work to do to turn me into a Greek goddess. 

Thankfully, AJ was incredibly patient and took things at my own pace, only pushing me to weights I was comfortable with and making sure I had my posture and positioning correct before attempting to lift a thing. 

By the end of the session I was feeling more comfortable with light weight dumbbell squats and deadlifts (and feeling pretty good about it).

Pumped, I headed into work. 

2024 05 08 Inside The Gym
Inside the gym Image: The Olympus Projects

Wednesday 24 April

We’d agreed that three sessions a week would be a good starting point whilst my body adjusted to the extra output and exertion it wasn’t used to. 

When my alarm went off at 6am, ready for a 7am session, I tried to stand up and almost fell over; those post leg day aches are no joke. But, I pushed through and waddled my way over to Corporation Street for another session. This time, a higher intensity workout that focused on ‘pull’ movements. 

Here, I learned how to lift kettlebells correctly and row with dumbells. I quickly figured that my arms are much weaker than my legs (AJ reassured me that this is usually the case with novice gym-goers) and we got to work on strengthening my biceps and triceps with a few reps of varying weights. 

I also caught up with Nutritionist Oliver via Zoom who noted all my eating and sleeping habits and advised me what foods are best to eat on a weight loss and strength training journey. I started cutting out unnecessary extra sugars and carbs and replacing them with protein rich foods like chicken and eggs.

2024 05 08 Olympus Projects No Pain
No pain, no gain... Image: The Olympus Projects

Friday 26 April

Legs still getting used to the aches (no pain, no gain, right?) I got up bright and early before work again and headed in for my third and final session of the week. Today we focused on ‘push’ exercises, so lots of ‘tearing the floor’ with bench presses and driving forward with my thighs on the leg press machine. 

By now, I was getting into a rhythm with the warm up and cool down exercises and leaving each session more accomplished than before. Sure, I was looking forward to a weekend of no super early mornings, but I was also curious about what next week’s training sessions would look like and keen to continue getting stronger. 

Week 2

Monday 29 April

Today, I decided to come to the early morning Herculean trials class - a high intensity, high output session that focuses on circuits and supersets - and was greeted by a few other Olympus Project gym goers, all at different stages in their fitness journey. I felt a little intimidated at first but quickly realised that these people were all so supportive of each other and it was motivating to see other people’s form which helped me better correct mine. 

At one point we were all using the squat rack and working together in one fluid movement. I had to admit, I felt pretty badass for being able to keep up. 

2024 05 08 Olympus Projects Chin Press
Putting the work in Image: The Olympus Projects

Tuesday 30 April 

Today was another solo session with AJ so we just focused on upping the amount of weight I could lift and working various strength training exercises into circuits and super sets. I also finally got to use one of those weight sleds you see in movies - it’s bloody harder than it looks. 

The plan for this week was to up training to four sessions, but I was nervous about the insertion of my Allurion temporary gastric balloon (keep an eye out for my article documenting this soon) and knew the recovery would be rough, so decided to not overexert myself and just stuck with two sessions until I had regained some energy. 

I’m now five days post balloon insertion and, I won’t lie, it’s been a tough ride so far. But my energy is slowly coming back to me day by day and I’m looking forward to getting back to the gym to train with AJ. I can’t wait to have my confidence back.

One thing I have noticed about these one hour sessions is that, despite them putting me through my paces, they don’t feel arduous or like a chore. I feel like I’m actually giving my body the challenge that it needs and learning that my limits are far higher than I inititally thought they were. 

Week 2 weigh-in

Drum roll please… 

In just under 2 weeks of training with AJ and eating better, drinking more water and cutting out sweet treats and fizzy drinks, I was down to 76kg - that’s 2kg (4.4lbs) down from my starting weight. Now, to keep it up. 

Interested in reaching your body goals? Enquire at The Olympus Projects.  

The Olympus Projects, 109 Corporation St, Manchester M4 4DX

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