A portly businessman who drank a litre of brandy every week and couldn’t wear his wedding ring for six years because of his “fat” fingers says he now has “the body of a 25-year-old” after a heart attack pushed him to get a personal trainer.
When dad-of-five Richard Gouldon, 54, fell out of a tree in 2018 he damaged all the muscles and nerves in the left side of his body – leaving him with constant pain and struggling to walk.
With his family’s fitted furniture business to run, Richard ploughed on working 12-hour days, on just three hours of sleep a night, while enjoying steak dinners with friends and takeaways at weekends to let off steam.
Weighing 15st at his heaviest, Richard suffered a heart attack in June 2021 and realised he needed to make a change.
Cutting out the alcohol and overhauling his diet, Richard embarked on a 12-week programme with personal training business Ultimate Performance with “life-changing results”.
Richard, who lives with his wife, Claire Gouldon, 48, and two of his five children, Phoebe, 13, Grace, eight, said: “I looked like an old man and now I look like a 25-year-old.
“All I wanted was to be healthy and to not die, but what they’ve given me is this amazing new body that has transformed my entire life.”
While Richard was never super-fit, he was always moving around until an accident at home in 2018.
“I was cutting a tree in the back garden and I fell 30 feet,” he said.
“I was rushed to hospital and everyone kept saying I should have been dead or paralysed.
“Unbelievably, I didn’t break a single bone in my body but it absolutely trashed all my muscles and nerves in the left-hand side of my body.
“I could barely walk, but I was just glad to be alive. But my body went to bits and my level of fitness went out the window.”
While Richard struggled to get around, his diet also suffered.
“I would drink every other day, at least three double brandy’s a night – probably a litre of brandy a week,” he said.
“I was very much in the mid-life lifestyle, having meals out three times a week because all anybody says is ‘let’s go have a steak’, and you just pile it on.
“I would work six days a week, ten to twelve hours a day, get home, have a curry, a couple of brandy’s and that was how I released stress.”
He said: “I looked swollen all over, including my fingers, so I couldn’t even put my wedding ring on.”
But everything came to a head when Richard had a heart attack in June 2021.
“I was sat at home drinking some orange juice and I just got this massive pain,” he said.
“My wife said she thought I might be having a heart attack but I said, no, it can’t be.”
He said: “But then the pain was out of control, we had to go to hospital.”
After being fitted with two stents – tiny tubes that are inserted into blocked passageways in the heart to keep it open – Richard was told he would need to rest for the next six months and advised to ensure he got fit afterwards.
“After the six months, my body felt like a train wreck,” he said.
“My body was trashed and I had lost all my confidence.”
Offered a healthy eating brochure and a personal trainer at his local gym on the NHS, Richard found himself back on track.
Researching more ways to stay fit, Richard found Ultimate Performance Leeds – the personal training business.
Starting in January, he kept his expectations low.
“I said to them my knees are a bit wonky, I have a slipped disc, no muscles in the left side of my back, I’m 15 stone and want to be 13 and I have just had a heart attack,” he said.
“I thought they might throw me out – but they said they would fix it.”
For one hour, three times a week, Richard began his Ultimate Performance weight-based workouts as well as adopting a no-carb protein and vegetable diet.
“When I first started, they asked me what I wanted to look like, and I said Mark Wahlberg, because he is ripped but can still look normal with a shirt,” he said.
“I never actually imagined I might end up like it – I just didn’t want to die.”
By the end of 12 weeks, Richard had hit his goal of 13 stone – but couldn’t believe the results.
“It was like they had swapped my body for someone in their 20s,” he said.
“Even after ten weeks, in the pictures, my skin looked healthier and I had lost all the visceral fat and the ‘swelling’ – and I could put my wedding ring back on!”
By the end of 16 weeks, Richard had dropped to 12 stone, after completely changing his diet.
“I don’t drink anymore – now, I think brandy actually tastes like poison!” he said.
“The other day I was invited to the pub with my mates and I got a coffee and no one chastised me, they all really support me.
“But I also have a better work-life balance. I start work at 6.30am or 7am but I finish by 3pm and go straight to the gym.
“Or, on a Friday afternoon, I’ll finish work, go get our two grandkids and go straight to the caravan in Bridlington.”
So amazed by the results, Richard has even convinced his wife to join Ultimate Fitness – as well as encourage his five children to get fit.
“Claire never thought she would like it but she’s been there three months and she loves it and sees it as a safe space,” he said.
“I’m getting my younger wife back! She’s got more life.
“Since I started doing what I’m doing, every single person in my family has a gym membership now.”
Richard is keen to encourage others too to get fit too and try Ultimate Fitness.
“If I hadn’t had a heart attack, I would have just rolled into grandad life and probably gone up to about 16 stone,” he said.
“But this has given me another body and another life.”
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