Attitude and Altitude: How I lost 10kg in just seven weeks with innovative workout regime
‘WHEN are you going to come out and train with me in the chamber?'
The chamber being referred to at the end of that question is a glass box where the oxygen levels are depleted to 15pc and the temperature is ramped up above 50°C.
By 'train', Jay Byrne, pro boxer and owner of Supreme Altitude in Bray, Co. Wicklow, means altitude class on a bike — in said chamber. At 6.30am every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Us journalists are not known for being early risers — deadlines dictate otherwise. We’re not traditionally known as the healthiest either — guilty as charged.
It’s seven weeks out from Jay taking on Scotsman Marc Kerr in Glasgow to win the British Boxing Board of Control’s Celtic Championship, seven weeks from an actual weigh-in date and I’m weighing 91.2kg.
This is shock number one. Number two comes when Jay sets the final target weight as 81.2kg. Lose 10kg in seven weeks!
Number three comes when I’m told to whip off my top and take the dreaded 'before' pictures. We’ll call it bravery but, in all honesty, it’s embarrassing beyond belief.
To be fair, at the starting line I’m in as bad shape as I’ve been for years and, therefore, there is a glimmer of hope that Jay may well fulfil his promise and have me in the shape of my life, feeling better than ever and ready to turn a challenge into a lifestyle change.
There is most certainly an inner demon inside me, housed under a layer of fat and bloat. When challenged, I have always risen, dug in and got the job done. This, however, felt different. At 27, maybe. At 37?
There is also no place for slacking once you’re strapped in and strapped up, as Supreme Altitude uses Polar heart monitoring to gauge effort through heart rates. Breathing is key as you enter orange and red zones, maintain effort and get the most out of your workouts.
In essence, what Jay is doing in his chamber is hypoxic training, which is a technique aimed at improving performance by way of adaptation to reduced oxygen. The benefits include:
Increased vo2 max (maximum oxygen intake)
Improved sprint ability performance
Improved muscle hypertrophy (or growth, to the uneducated like me), strength, power and anabolic response
Helping maintain fitness and optimal body weight for anyone struggling with an injury by doing unloaded cross training during rehab
Enhanced acclimatisation to high altitude for a training camp, competition or challenge
In his late 20s and with a successful career as a modular wiring and lighting control manager at Core Electrical, as well as a switch to become a pro boxer looming, wasn’t it a bit of a leap of faith for Jay to open his own gym?
"It’s not a gym, actually," he tells Herald Health. "I prefer fitness centre. I don’t like the idea of big commercial gyms, not that they don’t serve their purpose.
"I had done a bit of altitude training and found it to be massively beneficial — my fitness levels were much improved, there was less impact on the body and it was a much more efficient way of weight-cutting before fights.
"I thought, ‘there’s a market here for me and for the area here’, so I put the feelers out and got some people in for a few weeks to test it out.
"They loved it. They found my classes really enjoyable and the results they were seeing, even that early, were remarkable.
"Those clients are still with me and are still training hard, so I certainly take that as a good sign.”
Stephen Kelly has been training in Supreme since it opened in November 2016, and swears by their training methods.
At 45, Stephen has gone beyond what is recognised as his prime fitness years but is one of Supreme’s highest performing members — and has never felt fitter.
An ex-goalkeeper, he admits that he never really had the fitness levels of his teammates and, coincidentally, retired from soccer at around 37.
When he was asked to trial Jay’s altitude chamber in those early days he approached with trepidation, but he tells Herald Health it’s the best thing he has ever done.
"I genuinely couldn’t speak any higher of what is done in Supreme Altitude," Stephen says.
"This isn’t like the rest of the other gyms, where there’s lads with huge arms going around looking at themselves in the mirror — it’s like a family here. We’re all friends and we all help each other out.
"Like plenty of other lads who played football, I retired in my late 30s. I wouldn’t have been as fit as some of the outfield players though, so there was something there for me to work on and I started with Jay before he actually opened. He trialled it on me — the ultimate test, I suppose.
"But I love it, and I’m now eyeing up running my first Dublin Marathon this year — it’s all down to my work in Supreme, and in that chamber.
"And that’s all great but, like I said, it’s more than all that — we’ve done Hell and Back together as a group, really bonding, and last year we raised €8,800 for Suicide Or Survive when we all cycled 300km each in the chamber.
"Those kind of things give you such a thrill, it’s just fantastic to be a part of."
It’s day one and, having been given a run-through, some detail input and a pep talk from Jay, I’m strapped up but last into the chamber — rookie mistake. Perched on the bike directly underneath the heater in the corner, my 750ml of water don’t last long and I struggle, big time.
On the plus side, judging by my T-shirt, shorts, socks and runners, I have lost more than 750ml through sweat — and after a few minutes locating my lungs and some human levels of oxygen, I feel fantastic and can’t wait to get up at 5.30am that Wednesday to get back inside the glass case of hell.
Perhaps there’s an addictive personality lurking inside me but every session adds to the want for more, with Jay offering more motivation than I needed.
The members are a mix of very young, young and old, of varying shapes, sizes and fitness levels and are very much like a family. There is something special going on in Supreme Altitude; these are more than just members, they’re on each other’s journey.
When the heat is on, literally, and it starts getting hard to breathe, everyone within those four walls would pick each other up and drag them through — it’s a massive help as there are plenty of times when the white flag comes very close to being raised.
All the training in the world will only get you so far, and in my case a new attitude towards my eating habits was required.
Diet discipline is an essential when looking to physically transform your body, and Jay’s food plan was a massive help.
Breaking down my daily intake into what, when and how much made the process that much easier and, with treats thrown into the mix, it meant my sanity was retained.
In fact, as a health coach, it’s here where Jay really excels. His training methods and motivational techniques while clients are flat to the boards are fantastic, but it’s the little bits of advice and the constant readiness to offer support, night and day, which made all the difference.
There was a stage around halfway through the process where I felt the weight simply wasn’t coming off.
Again this is where a good mentor earns his crust and Jay reassured me that the scales are not even close to being the be-all or the end-all. A quick body analysis showed I was making great strides and, from then on, everything really clicked into gear.
As it turns out, my body was simply converting fat to muscle. The transformation was in full swing — I just wasn’t seeing it on the scales.
That, and I was still eating like a horse! My portions were healthy but huge and I was not-so-gently encouraged to reduce, or I would simply bulk up. That wasn’t part of the plan and I began to eat smaller portions.
We added a couple of strength and conditioning sessions per week alongside Jay as he prepared for his fight and it was here that the results started to show. My fitness levels went through the roof, recovery became infinitely quicker and muscle pain was non-existent.
I was flying, and I was loving every second of my fitness journey. I was hurtling towards reaching my targets and, with the weeks ticking down I couldn’t wait to get up at stupid o’clock every morning to go train.
Come the finish, after my last session in the chamber, the 10kg had come off, plus an extra 0.2kg, leaving me at 81.0kg from 91.2 – and delighted.
My body fat was reduced to 18pc, a massive loss which included a 6pc loss of visceral fat from 11pc to 5pc, while my hydration levels increased from 54pc to over 60pc.
Overall, I couldn’t have been happier with the results, all while shocking myself as to the levels I can push my body. Like Jay had asked for at the beginning, it has become a lifestyle change instead of a challenge and I’ll never look back.
"I genuinely feel that I can help my clients see better results by being on their journey with them," Jay says.
"That’s why I’m up at the crack of dawn with them in that chamber, working just as hard as they are — so they know that I’m with them every step of the way.
"When you came to me with your measurements and weight, I knew that, if what you were telling me was to be believed and that you would listen and take my advice every step of the way, that you could drop 10kg.
"When we took your body analysis, we could quickly identify and calculate what needed to be done. They’re all numbers though, and numbers are great — they give you that target and that result.
"Strangely, it’s not the numbers I’m most interested in. I said it to you at the start. You called it a challenge and you mentioned your goals and targets.
"My target for you was for you to make a lifestyle change. For you to change how you go about living, day-to-day.
And I think I achieved that. That gives me most satisfaction."