Stuart Phipps was clammy when he woke at 2am.
His jaw was sore, too.
He did not know it then, when he took two painkillers with a cup of coffee, but he had had a heart attack.
Mr Phipps, 57, a farm manager, tells the story between leg curls, an air-bike cardio workout, raising a weight bar and dumbbells over his head and doing squats, and stepping on to a platform with a 15kg weight in each hand.
Mr Phipps was 53 when he had his heart attack – overweight, hopelessly unfit, and eating all the wrong foods.
That was then.
The day after he awoke clammy and in pain, he went to work.
He lasted just 15 minutes before the chest pain became too much and he went home, then to the doctor.
“The doctor said ‘don’t move, you’ve had a heart attack”.”
He did not expect to have a heart attack.
He did not expect to be in hospital “facing my own mortality”.
“I lived the high life. I ate all the wrong food. I was out all the time.”
Then his heart crashed.
After three stents and several months of recovery, and when some might want to take it easy to forestall another attack, Mr Phipps went looking for gyms and personal trainers.
He found Monique Rouxel, of Figure Fitness.
She coaxed his reluctant frame into life.
“I remember the first fitness session. I only lasted 45 minutes.”
That was two and a half years ago.
Now Mr Phipps trains five times a week in one-hour sessions.
One day it’s legs, then upper body, then cardio, or a mixture.
Before the attack, Mr Phipps was well over 90kg, now he is 79kg and muscular.
“I was reluctant. I said I was only here because I had to be.
“I decided to do something about it. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how unfit you are, you can make a clean start. I train five days a week.
“There is no comparison now. I’m so much fitter, so much more nimble.
“I’m a lot more positive. My mental attitude had flipped. We eat a lot healthier now, with few takeaways.”
Mr Phipps said no-one was too unfit to change their lives, and his cardiologist was rapt with his progress.
“In 2015 I did a half marathon in Queenstown. My time was shocking but my cardiologist was all for it – as long as I trained properly.”
Monique keeps him going.
She said there were some times when Stuart needed a push – and Stuart said he did not want to be on the end of one of her motivational texts.
His new goal is to do 100 press-ups on the trot, and can now manage 36.
“Two and a half years ago I would have struggled to do one.”
Monique said Stuart used to be the kind of guy to drive past runners, sneering.
Not now. Stuart’s next goal is to be the fittest 60 year-old around.
And he admits he would not have lasted were it not for his personal trainer.
“My doctor’s happy with me and my cardiologist doesn’t want to see me for two years, he’s that happy.”
Stuart said his unhealthy ways crept up on him, and he did not think he would have a heart attack at 53.
“I decided I was far too young to put up with poor health.”
Now he sees a bright future – right into old age.
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