How this Preston man who was dangerously overweight used exercise to drop three stone and save his marriage

John and Suzanne McNamara say that exercise and healthy habits have saved their 19-year marriage.
John and Suzanne McNamara say that exercise and healthy habits have saved their 19-year marriage.

Working like a dog had left him dangerously overweight, with an 18-year marriage in tatters.

John McNamara, formerly of Bamber Bridge, was working so hard in his job as a sales manager that he'd ballooned to 20 stone and had become more like a sibling to his wife Suzanne.

In order to save his marriage, the 50-year-old knew he had to change his hectic life for good. But it wasn't until he joined a men's gym at Transform Hub in Preston Technology Centre that he regained control over his life.

John said: "It's transformed our family. We now do loads of stuff together. It's been a life-changing thing."

Before this transformation, balancing family life with busy jobs made it difficult for the couple to find time for each other.

"I'd work from home in the evenings and the only thing we'd really do is have tea as a family. We were together but not really together," he said.

John and Suzanne with their son Tom and daughter Niamh.

John and Suzanne with their son Tom and daughter Niamh.

His spouse, a 43-year-old customer service manager, struggled to make some positive changes while low self-esteem was keeping John caged in his unhealthy habits.

"Suzanne was always trying a different diet and I wasn't very supportive of that. We were set in our ways. There was a bit of resentment both ways and we'd become more like brother and sister," he added.

By November 2018, he had reached 20 stone.

"I'd diet and start running for a couple of weeks but then everything would go back to normal. So I thought, 'I need to do something,' he said.

John has lost three stone since joining the men's gym.

John has lost three stone since joining the men's gym.

"I saw an advert for Transform Hub on Facebook and took on a four-week challenge. It was amazing. Everyone was supportive and I lost half a stone in four weeks.

"I thought, 'I need to carry on. I can't go back now.' So I joined as a member and that was the start of things for me. I wanted to show Suzanne I could make a change once and for all and I've stuck to it."

And indeed John has dug deep to keep the weight off, having lost 3.5 stone so far and completed 10,000 steps per day for 144 consecutive days, even inspiring Suzanne to join Transform Hub and sign up for the Manchester 10K with him.

Suzanne said the sessions have boosted her confidence, which took a major hit when she had a skin cancer scare four and a half years ago, followed by a serious operation.

She added: "I had melanoma skin cancer on the top layer of my skin. After the operation, I had a scar on my leg and I was scared to show it."

But she's since found her inner strength and now believes she can do things she couldn't before, according to her spouse.

"I've learnt you're in a battle with yourself, not anyone else," she said.

"You can always better yourself, if you're determined to do it."

The couple's dedication has proved infectious, with their 14-year-old daughter also discovering exactly what she's capable of at Transform Hub's family wellness sessions. Niamh, who has severe learning difficulties and mobility issues affecting her balance, now refuses to let her impairments keep her down, according to John.

"She's now more confident," he added.

"She said she couldn't do things like going for walks before but she loves the Saturday class. She's like a mother hen helping the younger ones and she wants to join her school gym."

"It's also helping her mobility. We went on holiday for a week and she did a total of 95,000 steps. She would never have pushed herself to do that before."

Before attending the sessions, the Sir Tom Finney Community High School pupil struggled with every day mobility tasks.

"She can't bend over like most people can so picking something up off the floor during a workout is a big thing to her," Suzanne said.

"She also feels like she like part of a family there as no-one questions her."

The classes have brought the family closer together, and the boost to the couple's motivation and confidence levels has not only saved their marriage but made it stronger than ever, according to John.

He added: "It's been a huge positive. I now avoid working in the evenings if I don't need to, and Suzanne and I have regular date nights and go shopping together. We've really made an effort, have the same interests and enjoy spending time together. We'd drifted apart but now we're closer than we've ever been."

The couple, whose next wedding anniversary marks 20 years, plan to make it extra special by renewing their wedding vows, with John adding: "We've gone from talking about splitting up to today when we couldn't be happier."

Family wellness sessions

Transform Hub holds family workout classes that help parents understand the importance of fitness and nutrition on Saturdays at its studio in Broughton Business Park, Caxton Road, Fulwood.

The gym has also delivered family health talks and workout classes at Ashton Community Science College, St Teresa's Catholic Primary School in Penwortham and Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School in Preston.

James Calderbank, who owns the gym, said: "Many people haven't grown up around sport and I think if I'd had something like this when I was younger, I might not have been as insecure."

Pupils and their parents can join the gym's Saturday workout sessions for free. Any donations will help fund school gyms.

James added: "We want to inspire future generations, be school ambassadors for healthy living and be the pinnacle of wellness in community life."

Schools can sign up for the seminars by contacting Info@jamescalderbank.co.uk