Business owner Paul was given an ultimatum by his neurosurgeon – lose weight or undergo major surgery.
Every single day he was suffering from back pain he described as "frightening" after MRI scans revealed two discs in his spine were 'obliterated.'
Following advice from his surgeon, 46-year-old Paul knew he faced an uphill battle to lose weight and ease his pain.
Paul didn't want to keep living a life of pain, so entrusted Ultimate Performance to help him make a change. That decision has completely revitalised his health.
He bought into his trainer Sally's expertise from day one and built a partnership of accountability to accomplish a result together.
Paul's bespoke plan has helped him lose 20kg in just 14 weeks. Now, his severe back problem, which brought him so much discomfort, is under complete control.
The cofounder and CEO of Elixir Software, a scientific software company in Alderley Edge, says: "When I looked at where I was, I saw a massive uphill challenge following the advice of my neurosurgeon.
"I'm shocked by my transformation; I just didn't expect it at all. I saw progress almost on a daily basis.
"I trained with U.P. for three hours a week, but it's the support outside that really made things work and tied everything together."
Here, Paul speaks about the 'U.P. recipe', the value of around-the-clock accountability and how the out-of-gym support was pivotal in his transformation.
What was the turning point that motivated you to make a change?
A lower back problem has brought me episodic severe pain and chronic discomfort for 30 years since I was 16 years old, which I have managed using a combination of pain killers and chiropractic treatment.
My lowest point was being given gas and air at 3 am in my bedroom by paramedics just to be able to get me out of bed.
After spending the following two weeks recovering, I managed to do it again so was out for the best part of a month.
I'd spend my days holding onto walls and furniture just to move around; I couldn't get dressed without holding onto a door and I'd panic when I showered in case I'd slip.
Daily life had become an anxiety-ridden obstacle course of how to avoid the most innocuous tasks that might trigger a spasm.
I decided enough was enough and spoke with my health care providers to find out more about the underlying condition with a view to treatment that might enable a more normal life.
After having an MRI back in October 2021, I was referred by my GP to a neurosurgeon who advised me to lose 2.5 stone to bring my BMI into a healthy range and take the physical pressure off my lumbar region.
However, this challenge came with the caveat that I needed to be "very careful, with no repetitive spinal compression" e.g., no running; and taking great care with any weightlifting.
How would you describe your health before you started training with U.P.?
Before I started training at UP, I had a BMI of 29.4 (overweight). I was fat, inflamed, and lethargic, and it was getting worse with every new back episode. I didn't feel confident wearing my clothes, and I'd even cancel social events using the excuse of work just because I didn't want to socialise. Having been someone that was previously in shape, it was embarrassing to me, and people began to comment that I was always making excuses. I was in pain daily, and this was severely affecting my mental health.
What changes did you make to your diet when you started?
The most significant change was to introduce a huge calorie deficit. This was over a 50% reduction in my starting weight maintenance calories and was comprised of a precise breakdown of macronutrients (Protein / Carbohydrates / Fat) that would serve to maintain my lean body mass whilst stripping fat as quickly as possible. Such a large reduction in calories may seem extreme, but I felt it was sustainable and stuck with it for the full 14 weeks.
What did your training program at U.P look like?
Initially, my trainer Sally and I worked out 3 hours a week made up of lower/upper, and full-body workouts whilst hitting a step count of 8,000 steps per day.
Those first two weeks resulted in a stone weight loss, and the exercise pairings were effective; twinning lower and upper body sets with little to no rest in between each pairing according to the German Body Composition Training (GBT) principle.
Over time, Sally gently introduced additional 'Target Area' workouts (bicep curls, lateral raises, floor presses, abdominal crunches etc.).
Sally's strategy was 'if you can see the muscle, train it' and mark my words when we saw those muscles, and she introduced it, I got maximum effect. As we got closer to the goal, we'd introduce Peloton spinning classes, and the steps would increase to 10,00 and beyond; it gets tougher the more weight you lose as your body wants to hold onto every reserve it can, so Sally constantly tweaked the strategy to continue to see results.
Tell us about your results, and how they've made you feel.
It's just surpassed my own expectations. I'm shocked by my transformation; I just didn't expect it at all. I saw progress almost on a daily basis, it's so motivating that you almost forget the initial reason that brought you here in the first place. You look around at the transformation pictures on the wall and think, 'that could actually be me!'
This experience has had knock-on results in other areas of my life way beyond physical results. I am more focused, calmer and have a much more positive outlook on life.
My back pain has also reduced by about 90%. I've also unexpectedly been approached by friends and family, and even other members of the gym who are just embarking on their journey, who have asked how I managed to make such drastic improvements.
It has taken me great pleasure to be able to give them the inspiration they need to make those changes for themselves and support those who are going through the process. So much so, that I feel I could have a career in this once I'm finished with my current business interests.
How would you compare yourself now from day one?
I was very determined on day one because I had no choice. I knew I had to make a change. I knew I would either have a life of pain or I could do something about it. My determination has increased over time, as you see the results come through it's just so rewarding, and you become so accountable to your trainer.
How useful has the U.P. Transform app been to your progress?
I can guarantee I've spent more time on the U.P. app than I have on anything else on my phone. The way I was able to track everything is excellent. My strength has shocked me, I assumed that given I was dropping my calories, my strength levels would decrease. But as we judged my progress and compared each of my previous sessions, my numbers went up. Last week, I managed to pull the entire stack on the lateral row. What more evidence do you need!
What's the magic ingredient to the success of U.P.?
It's not one single thing – it's holistic. There are multiple components to the 'U.P. recipe'. I must say the trainer, and client relationship is outstanding. Me and my trainer have grown to know each other over three months, and I look forward to coming to train. I know I'm going to be worked hard and it's not just me on this journey; it's my trainer. So, I realised that I need to stay accountable for both myself and my trainer. It almost feels like a team, I don't want to let anyone down.
This is not just a gym or a just place where personal trainers do their job. You come in through the door, and everyone makes you feel welcome, your results come first. I've trained in gyms since I was 12, but I've never seen an environment like U.P., there's nothing like this. I trained with U.P. for three hours a week, but it's the support outside that really made things work and tied everything together. Knowing what you've got to do and having the daily support of your trainer is incredibly helpful.
What impact has your transformation had on your life?
Honestly, it's life-changing. When I looked at where I was, I saw a massive uphill challenge following the advice of my neurosurgeon. When I talk about my pain, it was severe, frightening pain. I didn't think I would be where I am today. I almost felt like if I'm like this at 46 with this sort of pain and injury, what am I going to be like in five, 10 or 15 years. I needed to do something about it, but I really didn't know it was possible. U.P. gave me the confidence that it was. I trusted you. I played by your rules, and it has changed my life. What more can I say!