THE 12th and final week of my strength and conditioning programme at Paragon started with a lower body session.

After a brief warm-up on the bike, it was down to business and four rounds of split squats with 10kgh dumbbells, alternated with glute-ham raises.

As with last week’s legs work-out, Stephen made it bit more difficult by adding an extra dip to the split squats, and making me stretch as far back as possible on the glute-ham raises, pausing at the top while pushing my elbows up.

Then it was onto step-ups off a box with 8kg dumbbells combined with single leg bridging.

About half way through my sets of these, I went decidedly wobbly, and fearing that I was about to become a bit too well acquainted with the gym-floor, I had to have a sit down and a drink of water before I continued.

I was sure I’d had plenty to eat (scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast and a chicken sandwich for lunch) but when I thought back, I’d had a relatively carbohydrate-free tea the night before.

Stephen has spent a lot of our sessions talking to me about the importance of nutrition, in particular making sure you eat the right amount of carbs, in getting results, and my sudden attack of light-headedness was a pretty plain demonstration that if you want to make any sort of progress, then it’s a good idea to plan your meals properly.

We finished the session with three sets of 15 leg presses, and two days later, when I turn up for my final training, I’ve made sure I’ve eaten properly – even though it’s a 7.30am session, a time at which I don’t function well.

It was barbell lifts from behind the head to start, moving up in weight to finish with a total of 16kg.

This was followed by a round of assisted chin-ups combined with single arm lifts with an 8kg barbell.

The chin-ups were more manageable than last week’s efforts and in general, for someone who has never had any upper-body power whatsoever, I feel pretty strong.

In between sets I finally manage to make friends with Stephen’s Chihuahua puppy Phoebe, who is scampering about the place. She wants to play, but there isn’t time for slacking, and it’s onto face pulls alternated with rowing chest pulls (two handles – much harder than one which spreads the load).

And with that, my 12-week programme comes to an end.

Overall I feel stronger than I have for a long time, and my arms are certainly more toned.

A lot of the exercises Stephen chose for me were designed for hockey-fitness, and they seem to have really paid off in the summer league my club Northallerton plays in.

Although it’s only seven-a-side, it’s fairly intense, and those big end-to-end sprints seem to come a lot easier than they have in the past. I also feel like I recover from more quickly.

It shows what a difference strength and conditioning work can make – even if it’s only 12-weeks’ worth. As well as the physical training, I’ve learnt to take nutrition a lot more seriously.

I also know the difference between a barbell and a dumbbell, which I genuinely didn’t beforehand.

It’s been a steep learning curve, but I’ve enjoyed it all, and was never once made to feel like the total amateur I really am by Stephen, any of his staff or his members, who are a pretty friendly bunch.

A big thank-you to them all.