One Ordinary Bloke's Health success!

Updated: Nov 23, 2020

Words and pictures by Lester Gaulton.

I don’t profess to being an “expert” on the contents of this article by any means. I am not a health professional, a psychologist and certainly not a pro cyclist! I qualify for this site solely for being male and mid-fifties, as it “says on the tin”. This is simply me sharing with you my sense of achievement, going back over the last year or so, of re-inventing myself. Not for vanity sake but more seriously, my current and future health was at stake. Hopefully anyone reading this can see it for what it is: an ordinary man who is proud of his achievement on a personal level and who hopes that it can inspire others to improve their health and well-being with simple changes, or just one change in my case. The web and publications are full of advice and stories of how, normally celebrities, have lost weight and got fitter generally through the advantage of having unlimited time and money to throw at the project, which in all honesty most of the general public don’t have access to. This article attempts to show how simple changes can have positive effects on your health and well-being.

A bit of background…

Without getting bogged down in nostalgia and too much detail, my background when it comes to health and fitness is pretty standard. I played a lot of rugby in my youth and adulthood; the only sport that existed in my eyes for years. As an adult I played for my local club to a reasonable level (captained First XV for two seasons) from my mid-twenties until early thirties. I played in the front row, at hooker, where strength and weight are important attributes – in my case 175cm (5’9”) height and 105kg (16.5 stones) weight. Small by today’s standards but “fit for purpose” during my era!

For me, and every other player of my playing years, the attitude was eat and drink what you like, when you like, because you’ll burn off the calories during Tuesday and Thursday training. That was fine when I was playing but not when first stepping back into coaching (still part of the playing culture of “train, eat, drink…repeat”) and worse still, coming away from the game as a participant completely. My problem was I didn’t adapt my lifestyle and diet to reflect that I couldn’t burn the calories off anymore.

The slippery slope…

Things came to a head when at the age of 44, I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. After the initial shock of the diagnosis, I managed my condition without the help of medication for nearly 5 years. This should be achieved through diet and exercise and while I did, with the support of my family make changes to my diet, not exercising was my downfall.

Help the Type 2 with exercise otherwise you know where you will end up

As I stated at the start of this article this is not about vanity. Worse for me was the effects that a condition like diabetes can cause on circulation, for example, that can lead to strain on the heart. The effects on the inside of your body are far worse than the outside as far as I was concerned. This hit home when five years after being diagnosed, my doctor put me on medication to combat the condition as while my weight wasn’t changing, my important stats like glucose levels etc were all going in the wrong direction. Sadly, my attitude was that I didn’t need to help myself as the meds would do it for me. Not a good attitude I know and I was paying the price on the inside of my body and on the outside back pain and swollen legs was a sure sign of carrying too much weight. My doctor intervened again when, at the age of 54, three years ago, he strongly advised me to shed weight to combat the effects of diabetes, which would definitely lead to other health issues. He set me a target of losing 10kg, from my weight of 105kg, which he was sure would help hugely.

Dog, Fitbit and Trainers (all my best friends!)…

As a family we acquired a dog. Dogs require walking, especially larger ones like the Fox-red Labrador we have! Now I am not advocating you go out and buy a dog just as a means to an end regarding your fitness. There are too many unwanted pooches in the world already! Having a dog however meant I had to walk, and helped by a Fitbit birthday present during the following 18 months I had lost 5 of the 10 kg my doctor had requested – not a great deal over that amount of time but heading in the right direction. I was feeling better by getting outside and starting to be competitive with my timings and distance thanks to my Fitbit where recording my walks led to setting targets in distance and time which kept my interest going. However, I was still not happy with the weight not coming off as much as I hoped. It was great news that I was getting fitter, this being reflected in the results from regular tests at my surgery relative to my diabetes. However, given my competitive nature and the constant urge to achieve more in terms of weight loss I sought out an additional way shedding some timber.

Bit the bullet and become a M.A.M.I.L

In the summer of 2019, I thought to myself “lets’ give cycling a go”. My sporty competitiveness kicked in straight away as my decision to get a road race bike and suitable kit was probably not the way to introduce myself to a new pastime! I hadn’t owned a bike since I was 16 (40 years ago) and my only other experience on a bike (now this is jumping in at the deep end) was a works’ corporate day at Newport indoor velodrome. I was making up the numbers but I really enjoyed the experience. This turned out to be the seed that was planted in me to give it a go and get on a bike!

It doesn't matter where and with what you start it is how you end up!

Towards the end of June 2019 I went for my first ride. After only 8 miles, I was knackered! My lungs, legs and breathing were all over the place but when I got back home I had a smile on my face and thought to myself “that was alright! I’ll give it another go tomorrow”. Tomorrow came and despite my legs being sore and worse, my nether regions had experienced sitting on a saddle! For the next 12 weeks I kept up my new hobby to the extent that after a month I was recording 80 miles in a week over 4 rides. More importantly in these 12 weeks I had lost 12 kg! It had taken me over 18 months to lose just 5kg. My new-found hobby was having massive effects on my health as the scales and my positive diabetic reviews were showing.

The bump in the road (quite literally)…

Where there is an up, there is invariably a down, such is the way of life. Having hit the heady heights of regular 100-mile weeks I was involved in an accident where I was hit from behind and left on the road at a roundabout in my home town. Even worse the driver left the scene without helping me or even seeing if I was ok. A night in hospital, three weeks off work due to damage to my knees and hand saw me take a forced rest from the bike. I honestly felt that maybe it was time to pack it in as being hit by a car really hurts!

Resilience and determination…

The following three months saw me take a forced break from riding largely due to giving my injuries time to heal and the worsening weather was a worry for a novice rider lacking in confidence after an accident. I had an exercise bike and home gym in my garage which I used to at maintain my fitness levels when the weather was too bad to venture out. The New Year (2020) saw my enthusiasm for cycling remain and the turning point for me came when I saw an offer for a rather nice Fuji road bike with a generous discount which was too good to miss! From February onwards, I was now “clipped in” and racking up the miles, mainly on weekends, and the enthusiasm and enjoyment was back. I might add that my injuries sustained in the accident are a long way off from healing. I am still receiving treatment, nearly a year after the accident, for the impact injuries to my knees and some fingers on my right hand will probably never be the same in terms of strength and dexterity.

The cycling helps with leg strength and as being largely non-weight bearing (except on the massive hills of Le North Somerset!) I find that the movement helps my knees. Cycling is not all about building power in the legs alone. The strength in my core, upper arms and chest have also increased dramatically. I feel better both physically and mentally and my diabetes is well on the way to being reversed.

The figures of success…

I am clocking up between 120-150 miles per week minimum, increased my fitness and I have also maintained my weight loss meaning my total weight loss since starting cycling in late June 2019 is 26kg (57lbs – 4 stone 1 lb). One of the key indicators in combating diabetes is waistline measurement (as a direct result of weight loss) and mine has reduced from 38” to 32” plus my sizing for tops has reduced from XXL to Medium.

It’s never too late to…

Taking exercise more seriously has allowed me to continue my personal battle of overcoming a life-threatening condition that can be defeated even if it has taken a hold. For that I am very proud and grateful for the support of my family in helping me succeed. However, and very importantly, jumping on a bike and getting lost in your own thoughts for a couple of hours is something that I encourage people to do especially during these current tough times. So, after reading this, I hope you can have the confidence to take action and help yourself in whatever way you feel will allow you to achieve your goals. For me it is cycling. For you it could be some other activity, but please give whatever it is a go, stick at it, give yourself goals and enjoy it as it’s never too late to do something about it.

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