Paul Matthews

During my twenties and early thirties I was very fit, but as soon as a desk job and self-employment came my way, I found myself working crazy hours and never exercising, plus eating far too much bread and cheese and drinking a lot more alcohol than I should have. So, at the beginning of 2018, I announced to my wife that I wanted to be fit for my 50th birthday, which would be in the following January.

Fast forward to Summer 2018 and after spending the previous 6-7 months saying that I’m too busy to exercise, my wife booked me in for the NHS “MOT” which I failed spectacularly! I had a worryingly high Systolic blood pressure of 166Mg (120Mg being the ideal), high cholesterol and was borderline Type 2 Diabetes. My BMI was over 30 (obese!) and at 5ft 8 inches, I weighed in at 90.4Kg which is over 14 stone, had a heart age that was 10 years older than me and was at twice the national average risk of developing a Cardiovascular Disease.

Right there was the confirmation that I had really let myself down over the past 15-20 years, if ever I needed it. I was supplied with booklets from the British Heart Foundation offering advice, referred immediately to a doctor who prescribed tablets to lower my blood pressure and told that I must inform insurance companies of this.

I felt like I’d just been handed a death sentence and it hit me hard, visualising having to take pills for the rest of my life to prevent a heart attack or stroke.

I wasn’t happy with this at all, so I did some research and learned that it’s possible to reverse these effects by diet and exercise, so that was it, the gloves were off and I was determined to beat it!

After digging out the cross-trainer that had been used as a coat stand for so many years, I jumped on and managed just a few minutes before I felt exhausted, but persisted with it each day and introduced a “core trainer” machine to mix up the exercises and work more muscles. Within a few days I found that I could go a lot longer on the trainer and it wasn’t long before I was able to complete 10K on it! Blood pressure came down as a result and I found that going in to work after a session I was a lot more alert, less stressed and able to focus on things more clearly, as well as having much healthier skin.

My wife had been attending military bootcamp sessions for a couple of years and kept trying to get me to join her, but I was convinced that I was too unfit, so I carried on training at home, working with a personal trainer once a week and being very strict about what I was eating and drinking virtually no alcohol, checking the labels on any food items that I bought and rejecting the ones with red indicators or high levels of saturated fats, sugars or salt.

Within 3 months from receiving the bad news from the doctor, I had shed 3 stone and had control of my blood pressure which was in the “normal” range. I bought a fitness tracker to record my activity and to help monitor what I was eating to ensure that I was always in a “calorie deficit” i.e. burning more calories than I was consuming and so preventing weight gain.

This was the point that I felt ready to give the military bootcamps a go and as the trial session was free, I thought why not and attended my first session as a Blue bib (lower) and I absolutely loved it! I soon realised that I was a lot fitter than I had thought and within a couple of weeks I had progressed to a Red bib, which felt amazing. With the help, knowledge and support of the incredible instructors, by the beginning of April 2019 I reached the top Green bib level.

The support that I had received from the instructors together with my personal journey from fat to fit, inspired me to share this experience and try to help to motivate others who might be in a similar position, or feeling too busy / too unfit to exercise, so I set a target of becoming a bootcamp instructor myself, ideally within 1 year of joining as a member.

I enrolled on a Fitness Instructor course, passed that within 3 months, became an instructor at Droitwich Amateur Boxing Club and then after many weeks of learning from the other instructors by shadowing and taking supervised parts of the sessions, I finally passed my assessment and hit my target of becoming an instructor myself.

I’m really excited to share this with others and hopefully inspire them to become more active and healthy and to hopefully be an example of what you can achieve, even at 50 years old and after many years of neglect (I don’t recommend neglecting yourself of course!).

These days, I‘m able to enjoy alcohol and food, as long as it’s moderated and balanced with good quality fitness sessions. I still keep an eye on my weight and watch out for those “red” labels on food packaging and feel so much better for it as a result.

Military Fitness such a great way to get and keep fit and the instructors and other members all act as a support structure, pushing you along, which is something that you might not experience in a gym environment working out on your own.

I know some may think that the workouts are just for ex-military people, but it couldn’t be further from the truth and most members don’t have any military background at all. Put this together with training outdoors in all kinds of weather and you get such an amazing “buzz” that if you’re like me, you feel like you’re missing out if you can’t attend a session for some reason!

This is why I’m now keen to help others to become more active, fitter and healthier by offering my own bootcamp, box fit and soon, private gym sessions.

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