Former Rugby Player Andy Builds the Ultimate Body at 47
A former professional rugby player is back in the best shape of his life at the age of 47.
Andy, who played rugby for Harlequins, says he’s fitter, faster and stronger than he was in his twenties after an astonishing 33-week body transformation at Ultimate Performance.
Serious injury had halted his training, he piled on weight over a 15-year period, and he thought he was ‘past it’ as he approached his mid-40s.
But he was inspired to get back in shape by his wife Sue’s transformation at UP which helped her take up running and incredibly go on to become a European marathon-distance champion.
Now Andy is back in peak physical condition and back doing what he loves on the rugby field.
“I learnt that age is just a number and that with the right guidance, an injury can’t hold you back.
“Not only that, but I have lost over 27 kg and dropped from 30% body fat to 10% in just over six months, which I did not think at the beginning was possible, and to be honest even now it still amazes me and others.”
Finding the motivation to get fit again
Andy’s main motivation for starting was to take some time back to invest in himself, especially his health and fitness.
The middle-aged spread had set in, he was overweight and wanted to change things up.
“My motivation was a simple one - I’d been a professional sportsman, but life had changed. Teenage kids, they move on, life changed a little more.
“For me, it was just about getting back into fitness again, and getting myself back into being ‘me’ rather than having my life revolve around other people.”
Andy had always been fit and in great shape growing up. He played professional rugby and threw javelin and sprinted for Sussex.
I got to that age where I thought ‘well, my time has gone. It’s never going to come back’, so I stopped.
After his rugby career, he became a personal trainer, but a serious injury really set him back. That’s when everything stopped, and the weight started creeping up bit by bit.
“I played rugby for England at age group level, I played in France, and I enjoyed my sport.
“My health and fitness were part of it because it was part of the training; you get trained in the rugby, you get trained on the diet side of it and the weights side of it.
“I also gave something back - I taught in schools, then the natural progression for me was personal training.
“Then I got injured, fairly majorly, which knocked my confidence. Then everything went from there.
“I stopped doing it. I got to that age where I thought ‘well, my time has gone. It’s never going to come back’, so I stopped."
Thinking he was ‘too old’ to get in great shape
Andy was approaching 50, he was injured, and he thought he was too old to get in shape.
But the inspiration to start a body transformation came from his wife Sue who had made her own impressive transformation at UP.
Andy thought ‘it’s now or never’ to get his fitness back.
“Training is a young person’s thing, or so everyone thought.
“I’m getting closer to 50 now than I was; I’ve just turned 47. I thought ‘well that’s it. If I’m not going to do it now, I’m never going to do it.’
“My inspiration was my wife. She started this training programme before I did. It worked for her. I thought ‘well if it can work for her, it can work for me’.”
I’m now eating more than I’ve ever eaten before, which is weird - but the weight is coming off - it’s flying off.
When Andy first set foot in UP, he says he wasn’t in great shape. But it’s not where you start that matters, it’s where the journey can take you.
He was willing to trust the process, open his mind to new training protocols and follow the advice of his trainer Matt Parsons to achieve the best result possible.
“I just put myself in control of the guys. Let go of all the knowledge I knew and just said ‘my body is yours. Literally just work on it. Let’s see what we can achieve.’
“I had no real set goals. I knew I could change, and I knew I wanted to change.”
Discovering the body transformation formula
One of the key things that Andy had lost since his professional sports career was discipline. He’d let himself go. But his trainer soon gave him back the structure he needed to overhaul his health, fitness and physique.
“As much as you’re disciplined being a professional sportsman, you lose some of the discipline over the years.
“But the guys here basically gave me all the tools I needed, helping me to realise that the diet is half the battle, but you also have to focus on lifting weights and your cardiovascular fitness too. The key is getting them all to work together.’
“I cycled before I joined here. I’d do 25 miles a day on the bike, but it wasn’t really helping because I wasn’t doing the weights side of it and my diet was atrocious.
“I wouldn’t eat for days because I didn’t feel hungry. I’m now eating more than I’ve ever eaten before, which is weird - but the weight is coming off - it’s flying off.
“Because it’s now part of the whole circle - the weights, the cardio, the diet - and the diet is the biggest part - once I’ve got that nailed, it becomes a whole lot simpler because you can feel the effects and see the changes.”
“As long as you come in with the discipline, these guys will train you to within an inch of your life, and one bit further.
The results came thick and fast for Andy – the weight dropped off, his performance in the gym skyrocketed and his body transformed before his eyes.
“My weight started at 115kg, and I’m now 92kg. My body fat has dropped from 30% to 12-13%.
“I’ve gone from 40kg bench pressing to three plates either side (140kg).
“Leg extension - I’m doing the full weight stack; lat pulldowns – the full weight stack.
“I had the strength there, I had the muscle size there, but it just needed to be fired up again - and it is fired up.
“Now I’m looking at everything and thinking ‘what’s next!’ When I do beat one machine, we just go for the next one.”
Even Andy himself is astonished about what he has been able to achieve – and how quickly he has done it.
“As long as you come in with the discipline, these guys will train you to within an inch of your life, and one bit further.
“You achieve goals you never thought were achievable; you get to where you want to be faster than you thought possible.”
Getting fit for rugby again
This pace and scale of change in Andy’s strength, fitness and conditioning has actually opened up doors he thought had long since closed.
His wife Sue is back running at international level – and he is about to lace up his rugby boots again and get back to the sport he loves.
“I want to go back to playing rugby.
“I’m probably too old for the full contact side of it, but there’s still the age group rugby, and that’s what I want to get back into.
“I’m in a situation now that even though I know the professional sports side of it has now gone, I can go back and just focus on enjoying playing sport again.
“That’s the whole point of it. I’ve never been a real gym bunny; I’m not that kind of person. There has to be an end goal to it.
“But my goal was to get back on the pitch and start playing again.”
“I now know that I can go out onto the pitch with the 20-year-olds and still hold my own. I’m bigger, stronger and more powerful than I’ve ever been before.”
Andy is relishing the prospect of playing rugby again and now has the physical fitness to compete.
“I’m not carrying round another 25kg of excess weight that I used to carry around.
“I was in my early 20s when I played professional rugby, and I’m probably in better shape now than I was at 22.
“It feels great. It’s cost me a fortune in clothing because you go from a 3XL down to a medium.
There’s a lot of t-shirts in between that.
“I now know that I can go out onto the pitch with the 20-year-olds and still hold my own.
I’m bigger, stronger and more powerful than I’ve ever been before.”
It’s not just getting back into rugby – Andy has renewed motivation to take on all sorts of new and exciting challenges.
“I now find myself looking for bigger things to try because I know that anything is achievable when the goal is set.
“There are no limits to what you can and cannot do.
“It’s a case of saying ‘there are no limits.’ Open the mind and just go for it.”
Showing the children there are no limits in life
Andy and Sue’s transformations at UP have been life-changing. But Andy says it also serves as a wonderful example to their children of what is possible with a little determination.
“My wife started running. She’s now running for the country again, which she thought had well and truly gone.
“My sons have looked at us and thought ‘Wow! Mum’s gone from housewife or working mum and not being able to run, to being European champion over the marathon, which she had never done before.’
“‘Dad’s gone from being dad to being quite a fit dad. Now he’s starting to play rugby again. Where are the goals for us?’
“We’ve put it to them that anything is possible if you want to do it. The only person that’s ever going to stop you doing it is you. Your destiny is in your own hands.”
"It took me 15 years to put all that on, and I’ve lost it all in 33 weeks.”
Aesthetic changes weren’t on the top of Andy’s list of motivations when he signed up – he just wanted to get fit and healthy again.
But the changes to his physique in a few short months have been mind-blowing.
“I look in the mirror now and think the person looking back at me isn’t the same one that was looking back at me 33 weeks ago.
“33 weeks ago I had a full beard, I wasn’t happy with myself, and I would try and hide in extra clothing if we had a photo taken.
“Now, who cares! Bring it on!”
Seeing his body transform before his eyes
One of the most remarkable things for Andy is how different he feels now; 15 years of inactivity and bad eating wiped away in a matter of months.
Comparing himself now to the man he was on Day 1 is worlds apart.
“I haven’t seen pictures recently. But I’ve got the trousers I wore when I came up here for my first training session, and they’re a little on the large side.
“My stomach used to hang over the front of my trousers, and I remember thinking ‘I don’t actually look that bad.’ But yes I did. I did look that bad.
“Because your body composition changes slowly over a period of time, two or three years later you don’t realise that you’ve put on a kilo here or a kilo there.
“But then when you peel away 25kg in less than 20 weeks, you think ‘actually that’s a long way from where I was. It took me 15 years to put all that on, and I’ve lost it all in 33 weeks.”
Overcoming a shoulder injury and getting pain-free
The benefits extend far beyond the aesthetic though. Andy had been plagued with shoulder problems, and when he first came to UP, he had been nursing a badly dislocated shoulder for six months.
Doctors had been planning to operate, but the progress he was able to make building strength and stability in his injured shoulder was remarkable and meant he didn’t have to undergo surgery.
“When I first started here I’d had a dislocated shoulder for six months. I couldn’t raise my arm above shoulder height.
“It had locked to the degree where it had pulled the shoulder joint forward; my chest was working, but nothing across my back was working.
It was sitting on the edge of the cuff, and they were looking to go in and dig out the bone and clear it so that it could sit back in its natural position.
“They were looking to operate on my shoulder – but I went to the operating theatre and showed them the shoulder, and they said ‘why bother operating on it, if whatever you’re doing is working. Keep doing it.’”
Fixing his shoulder alone has been life-changing in that he is now able to put a jacket on and throw a ball again pain-free.
He’s even started coaching javelin in schools again because he has movement and stability back in his shoulder.
The world-class trainers make a world of difference
Andy has played sport at the highest level and worked in the personal training industry, but the calibre of personal trainers at UP during his transformation amazed him.
“The trainers here have the knowledge that far exceeds what most people are going to need. But they can tailor it to the person they’re dealing with at the time.
“You go to other clubs where they’ve got personal trainers, and they flood your mind with useless information which is completely separate from what you actually need.
“At UP, they give you the information you require, when you need it, as much as you need. Then if you need extra help, they’re an email away.”
What’s the difference between UP and every other personal gym in the world? Andy says it’s the personal approach and the fastidious attention to detail.
“At other clubs, you’re just a number; you’re just another person who pays monthly fees; you come in, you train, you leave, and nobody knows who you are, and nobody really cares.
“The difference is here - and I’ve been here for 20 weeks - but everyone knows who you are.
“They’re all encouraging you, even if it’s not your trainer. They are all there to give you that support. I’ve worked with different trainers here - they all want to help you.”
Getting back into training wasn’t easy for Andy at first – but now he is excelling again and reaping the benefits in all areas of his life.
“Training is a difficult one. It’s very easy to give up, and it can be difficult to get back into. But once you get back into it, you realise why you do it.
“I gave up due to injury. I had a fairly massive injury. That knocked my confidence. Because of that, I stopped. But I’m now getting back into it, and it feels massive. There’s a massive difference.
“It’s like a snowball effect; once you start getting into it and things start working out in your direction, you just think ‘where do I stop?’
“Well there isn’t a stop; it’s how far you want to go.”