If you’re looking to alter your relationship with fitness for the better this year, allow us to share the story of Chris Futcher, a 44-year-old from the UK who used fitness as a force for good in his life.
Having served as a Royal Marines Commando for six years, Futcher had always been active and completed ultra-marathons alongside regular cycling sessions and rugby matches. However, following a series of snowboarding and motorcycling accidents – one of which resulted in a femur break and a bone graft – his regular routine of competitive fitness fell by the wayside, his weight crept up over the subsequent three years.
Below, Futcher explains how he went about fixing it and the obstacles he faced along the way.
I was a Royal Marines Commando for six years after leaving school. I’ve always been active, and have completed ultra-marathons alongside plenty of cycling and rugby. However, after several serious accidents, I sustained some bad injuries including a broken pelvis, broken left hip, broken right femur, broken right tibia and fibula, and some significant nerve damage in my lower-left leg which causes constant pain. I also broke my right wrist in three places and dislocated my left shoulder in a snowboarding accident. Still, after these, I recovered enough to run, cycle and remain fit, despite it being a challenge and often causing severe pain.
In 2017, I had another motocross accident and broke my right femur quite badly. I was airlifted to the hospital and required a bone graft to fix it. After this injury, I was unable to recover sufficiently to do any kind of cardio. At the time, work and family commitments just meant that I stopped doing any exercise. Over the next three years, I gained weight. Unfortunately, one of the screws that was holding the bone graft to the femur had moved and was actually now protruding from the bottom of my femur into my knee and scraping the top of my tibia which caused the lack of real recovery and constant pain.
The biggest contributor was my injuries, I live with chronic pain and, coupled with a busy work and family life, exercise and diet just took a back seat. This caused me to become quite depressed and I entered a self-destructive cycle of bad choices. I was eating too much, drinking too much and feeling awful about myself, only then to do it all over again.
I was also going through a divorce, then was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I’d reached about 110kg at 43-years-old. I felt quite helpless and had no real control over my health. I was drinking regularly and my diet was pretty much, ‘whatever I want, whenever I want’.
After my marriage ended, I woke up one morning and knew that I needed to get back to feeling like myself. I was sick of feeling unhappy and unhealthy and I had very little self-confidence. I guess it was hitting the lowest point in my life, which caused the light-bulb moment to happen.
I wasn’t new to training, so I got into a reasonable routine and made some changes to my lifestyle. I started eating more healthily, but not really on any plan. I managed to lose about 10kg over the next three months. But I knew that I needed some guidance.
I’ve always been someone who thrives on challenges and decided that I wanted to do a complete transformation and achieve something special that I could be proud of. I went to see the guys at Ultimate Performance, and after a consultation decided to sign up to a program that day, and had my first session two days later.
I was totally and utterly focused on achieving my goal. But, I also struggled with my mental health and had a lot of really tough times during the first few months. I wasn’t sleeping and I was struggling to eat much which contributed to a constant feeling of stress and anxiety.
Initially, I was doing fairly intense resistance training, three or four times a week at UP and doing cardio on all non-training days. My cardio was either heavy bag work or walking my dig up some big hills. My diet changed drastically, as I went to a very controlled 1450 calories a day: no refined carbs and low fats. I became very robotic about the food and I’d pretty much eat the same things every day. I found that taking the decision-making out of the process ensured that I wouldn’t make the wrong one.
When the second lockdown hit, we moved to home workouts. I felt the control coming back to my life which had been missing for a long time and that really kept me focussed and motivated. I bought some adjustable dumbbells and a weight bench to start with and then I got a cable cross-over machine. I managed five sessions a week and, no matter how hungry I was, I stuck to the diet.
I lose weight fairly quickly, losing around about 10kg in the first 12 weeks. Over the next six months, it continued to drop. I started at 100kg and reached 76kg in a total of nine months, losing 24kg in total. I went from 30 percent body fat down to eight-and-a-half per cent.
This transformation changed everything. It’s not even about looking good. Taking control of my health and lifestyle enabled me also to take control of every other aspect of my life and be the best version of myself that there has ever been, both at work and at home. Getting my mojo back, influenced every aspect of my life and it was about transforming the way I was feeling. Right now, I’m feeling better and happier than I’ve ever felt.
Ed Cooper is the Deputy Digital Editor at Men’s Health UK, writing and editing about anything you want to know about — from tech to fitness, mental health to style, food and so much more.
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