It is not and never has been my intention to lecture anyone on making changes in their lives, personal and physical changes are often an effort of immense self control and discipline, whilst spiritual or faith based changes are an effort of immense prayer and faith. Both are good and to be celebrated, especially the latter when we can give glory to God for new things and seasons.

Exactly a year ago I found myself in a position of having to make some serious physical changes based on my health, though the changes would also require a lot of faith and prayer.

I was out with my peeps for a meal and found myself in a position where I simply couldn't swallow any of my food and each time I tried to wash a mouthful down with a little water I would regurgitate it. I ended up leaving the restaurant and struggling back home on my own, and it took about 30 minutes for the bit of food that had lodged in my esophagus to finally clear. This was the climax of a problem that had started some 10+ years previously but which I had at best laughed off and at worst just ignored.

The problem was that with my first bite of carbohydrates (mainly white bread or chips), my esophagus would be blocked and I was unable to swallow (there was no significant impact on my breathing). Invariably a small sip of water would dislodge the blockage and I would be fine for the rest of the meal, and so I could afford to ignore it.

However, this issue was not on its own, my blood pressure had been creeping ever upwards over the last few years, each time I gave blood the nurses would comment. My cholesterol hit 6.3, my stress levels were off the scale and I had been living with acid reflux 24/7 for years which was extremely unpleasant.

All in all it was time for some significant changes, either that or do the easy thing and spend the rest of my life on medication which my GP was quite keen on.

After the above incident I gave some serious thought to what I needed to do to change my life and I knew it would be radical. Exercise had to be a big part of the change but I knew I wasn't going to go cycling again, it's too dangerous out here, but I also knew I wasn't going to go to a regular gym because I find it mind numbingly boring, so the day after the night before, I told Paula that I was going to give boxing a go (much to her and my boys' amusement). They're not laughing now and Joel regularly joins me at the boxing gym.

My diet also had to change radically... We were easily drinking 3/4 a bottle of wine each every night, plus a few beers with the football on Saturdays and a glass of whisky or two here and there. I was knocking back 6 or 7 Cokes a day and enjoying far too many chocolate bars, bags of crisps and all manner of junk. A medical friend told me she believed I was pre-diabetic (Type 2).

The changes were radical but do-able, especially as I refuse to live like a monk.

Firstly I went cold turkey on the Cokes, sugary snacks and crisps etc. Breakfast became a large (70+ grams) bowl of All Bran which I've grown to enjoy. I reduced my portion size at meal times and controlled my snacking between meals to fruit. I/we cut our alcohol consumption down to two glasses of wine twice a week. Beyond that I was either drinking my regular Rooibos tea or sparkling water with a splash of lime cordial.

Secondly, having built the courage to actually walk inside the boxing gym I began boxing twice a week and doing one Crossfit session, and early in the second week had to ask Paula to button my shirt for me because I was in so much pain. However I pushed on through and was soon boxing three times a week and then five times a week having ditched Crossfit for boxing.

All I can say about boxing, be it Boxercise or Boxfit or actually sparring with someone, is that it's a huge amount of fun and there really isn't anything that comes close in terms of building cardio fitness, losing weight and building muscle. I don't believe there's a better way to get fit.

So here I am a year on having lost 19kgs, smashed my cholesterol down to 3.1 with the blood pressure of a young man (according to the nurses when I give blood) and feeling on top of the world.

I can't remember the last time I had acid re-flux, my esophagus problem has disappeared and I can now run a 5km ParkRun in well under 30 minutes. My GP is blown away and has rarely seen anything quite like it. I love chatting to oversized guys who are struggling and try to be the encourager to any soul brave enough to walk through the door of the boxing gym.

I could easily have chosen the more common route of addressing my symptoms with medication, but I chose the harder path of addressing the causes, and I have to be honest it was a lot of hard work during which I would have happily given up on several occasions. Thankfully I had a ton of encouragement from Paula, from the gym guys (Abrie & Cris you are amazing!) and our Gathering family who have also been amazed at the transformation of their pastor.

So, if you've made it this far through my post, please be encouraged to step out and make the changes you need to for the sake of your health and family.

For me, I truly give thanks to God for giving me the strength to make the changes I needed to and for empowering me when I wanted to give up.

Below are some shots from my first (and quite possibly last) white collar boxing match with a great guy called Conrad.

























































Greatest Joy

I may have said this once or twice before, but my greatest joy in ministry is raising others up and releasing them to fly in their own gifting.

It was a joy yesterday to watch Precious open our worship and to hear Mongezi preach later in our Gathering.

But what I really loved was hearing another church member saying how they were blown away by the way Precious' opening tied in with the rest of our worship and Mongezi's word.

That's when you know the anointing is flowing.

Had circumstances been different and my brothers and I had been able to live with our dad I know he would have introduced us to boxing from a young age.

Dad came from a notable line of amateur boxers in his hometown of Hawick in Scotland and even through the dark days of his illness he was always passionate about the sport.

So I'm quite chuffed with myself for having finally gotten around to taking up boxing, but I'm supper chuffed that Joel has now joined me and is also boxing at the same gym. That is a proud dad moment!

These pics are of dad as RAF Biggin Hill's boxing champion in 1953 whilst doing his National Service there. 

My health and fitness journey continues and I'm feeling very pleased with myself having lost 15kgs, gone down a couple of waist sizes and smashed my cholesterol down to a healthy 3.1. My blood pressure is absolutely normal and I'm enjoying the little things like not getting out of breath walking up a hill and generally having a lot more energy than I have had for a long time.

It's taken a lot of hard work and dedication to not only keep going with the Boxing and Crossfit but to make the necessary lifestyle changes to back up the exercise.

I've always thought all diets are little more than fads and now I've demonstrated that by simply reducing portion size, reducing sugar and fat intake and balancing what I eat against my exercise plan anything is possible.

If this can inspire just one person to get up off the couch and get fit I'll be thrilled.

Go on, go for it!

Baptisms

At The Gathering we've been trying to have a Baptism Gathering for a while now but the prolonged drought and lack of a suitable venue were problems. However, we finally managed to baptise seven of our members last night at Waterworld in the Strand (thanks Carl & Claire!).

It was a great time of worship and celebration as each of those being baptised declared their faith in Jesus and the rest of the church rejoiced with them.
It was great to see The Gathering's Homework Club back up and running on Wednesday & Thursday this week, and it promises to be another great year.

The kids were really buzzing about the restart with many of them hanging around The Gathering for a day or two prior to the restart and it was great to welcome so many familiar faces back and to meet a whole load of new ones..

The late start was due to it taking a while to find the right person to be our Facilitator, but once Marie was appointed the final admin went in to full swing to get everything ready, and it was so good to be back doing what we love.

Boxing Clever

I'm rather pleased with my training schedule over the last two weeks and I'm certainly feeling very good for it, not to mention the amount of weight I've lost. Let's just say that I'm under 15 stone for the first time in many years!

I'm really enjoying my fitness journey and am having more fun than I could have hoped for and have a set of coaches who are so ready and willing to offer instruction, advice and help, they really do make my gym experience a class above any gym I've ever experienced before.

Engaged

Thirty years ago today this beauty said "Yes!" when I asked her to marry me in Greenwich Park.

It was to be another two and a half years before we got to tie the knot but it was worth every second of the wait! Not to mention how amazing life has been ever since.

I love you more than words could ever say!

I am the most blessed man on the planet.



Health Update

As I said in a previous blog post, I knew that after 8 years of inactivity it was time to get fit again (hitting almost 103 kgs was quite motivational) and so I took up boxing and haven't looked back.

So, for the first time ever I'm really enjoying the exercise. I used to like cycling but it was never this much fun and I never saw such dramatic changes in my body or general health.

However, exercise is only half the story.... at the point of deciding to make some positive changes the BBC News website published this article: The lifesaving food 90% aren’t eating enough of. So as well as exercising I made two big dietary changes, firstly I radically reduced my sugar intake (six Cokes a day isn't good!) and secondly, I began having a minimum of 60g of All Bran for breakfast, that's double the amount recommended by researchers at the University of Otago in New Zealand and the University of Dundee.

Whenever I hear of the latest dietary fad I'm always sceptical, but I'm convinced that the biggest reason for my cholesterol level being more than halved is my fibre intake. My body is obviously making the most of the health benefits of fibre and my desire for snacking has reduced massively, so it's win win, especially as my BP is back to normal as are my blood sugar levels. It really does keep getting better and better!



Three weeks ago I committed to getting fit again and decided to give Boxing and Crossfit a go. This was no new year resolution, I don't do them, rather it was something that has been a long time coming. I knew that having given up cycling (yes I was very very fit back then and you can read my story here) I had to do something but wasn't sure what. Anyway, long story short and I'm now boxing twice a week and doing Crossfit once, and when Paula returns home I plan to box three times a week.

So three weeks ago I weighed in at 102.7kg, my shirts were stretching over my gut and I was generally feeling pretty lousy. Just three weeks in and I've lost 4.6kgs and am feeling great. I've got more energy than before, I'm falling asleep on the couch a lot less and I'm finding I'm a little less forgetful, all of which is brilliant.