Who is Coach Ken?

Quite simply… Coach Ken, aka Chief Officer Ken, is the person that made me believe, in terms of fitness, that I can achieve what I want to achieve. The caveat being: As long as I am prepared to put in the hard work and commitment. HWPO – Hard Work Pays Off!

Is he a personal trainer? No.
Is he a qualified nutritionalist? No.
Does he know what he’s talking about? Absolutely!

Does he want me to write this post? Probably not, but he is such a massive part of this story it just wouldn’t be complete without explaining his role and showing him the credit and respect that he deserves.

I’m lucky to have two highly motivated guys helping me transform into the best version of myself. TeamMKM? Mark Ken Matty? Does that work?

It all started back in March 2023

Friday 3rd March, to be precise – in Leicester.

I organise Jaguar Car Events – days/weekends out for members of JaguarForum.com – and this particular weekend I had a group visiting the National Space Centre at Leicester. On the Friday evening I was staying over at the Premier Inn and having dinner with a lovely couple, Mark and Carol.

Now, Mark (the other one, not me) is a Captain serving onboard the large container ships that traverse our oceans to feed our global demands for consumer goods, amongst other things. He had invited a friend to join us for dinner, someone who had served with him previously and is Chief Officer. His name is Ken.

During dinner there was plenty of chat about life on board the ships. Stories exchanged. Much of which undoubtedly went over my head. One thing I did notice was Ken’s accent. A very definite accent – from Suffolk.

Now, I work on the technical side of a website called TWTD. It’s the largest independent forum for Ipswich Town supporters. “Do you support Ipswich?” I asked Ken. He did. “Do you use a forum called TWTD?” He did. “I am MarkTWTD” I declared. That’s my username on the TWTD forum, part of the admin team. Almost mythological in that I appear online, do whatever needs doing and disappear again, almost mind boggling for Ken that MarkTWTD should be sitting before him 🙂

A random chance meeting had brought two people together from opposite sides of the country (me on the north west coast of England and Ken on the north east coast) with something in common. Well a couple of things – we both have and love Jaguar cars, and the Ipswich Town TWTD forum.

That was the start of our friendship.

Working on the container ships is a tough life. Three to four months at sea pretty much anywhere in the world, and then a few months back home before heading off to sea again. We managed to meet up a couple of times after Leicester before he was due to fly out to Singapore for another 12 week assignment at the end of April.

Two months of WhatsApp’ing and a strong friendship formed. Fast forward to 20th July when Ken had been back home but was now at Long Beach, California, preparing to board his next ship.

Thursday 20th July 2023

I woke up that day feeling different. I knew I needed to lose some weight, it was like someone had flicked a switch in my brain. I knew the basics of dieting. Over the years I had successfully lost weight, and then put it back on again. And repeated the cycle. I knew I needed to do something different, but exactly what?

One of the things I knew about Ken is that he is into fitness and healthy eating, getting his daily fix in the ship’s gym. So I just asked him if he would “help keep track of my progress and offer encouragement?” and the rest is history.

Ken guided me from the basics of calorie counting/deficit, through the benefits of meal replacement protein shakes (and protein brownies), amazing high protein recipes from Scott Baptie (Mr Food for Fitness) and macros.

Source: The World’s Fittest Book, by Ross Edgley

The next thing he wanted me to do was sleep. Sounds easy, but he knew this would be harder for me. Due to different time zones early late nights were often times when it was easier to catchup with Ken, but the importance of a regular bed time and a minimum of 8 hours sleep per night was drummed into me. Even “The World’s Fittest Book” had 3½ pages about sleep, strategic sleep and the hormonal “tug of war” that goes on when we sleep (or don’t).

Get Over It

He encouraged me to think beyond just diet and suggested I should consider joining a gym. Now that was not something I was really that keen to do. I resisted originally having never stepped inside a gym before. He didn’t make it a big deal, didn’t twist my arm just simply said “Get over it!” and by the following morning I had done just that and started planning which gym to go to. It was just like the 20th July – I knew things needed to change, I needed to do things differently if this was going to work in the long term.

Over the next few weeks, whilst sailing in the South Pacific, Ken sent over exercise plans, high protein recipes, macro calculators and tracking spreadsheets. I even received an Amazon delivery – “The World’s Fittest Book” – with the clear instruction to “read it from cover to cover, and then read it again”. Later on a second book would also be delivered “The Art of Resilience”, both by fitness guru Ross Edgley. Ken also told me to watch Episode Two of “Limitless” on Disney+… a documentary where Chris Hemsworth takes on challenges alongside Ross Edgley. Episode Two was all about cold water therapy. I watched it with a mix of intrigue and terror, before sending a message to Ken saying “I’m not doing that!” 🙂

I wanted to lose more weight before joining the Gym and had the first week of September pencilled in, by which point Ken was extremely eager for me to start.

My biggest challenge?

In August I suggested that maybe the Great North Run could be a challenge to aim for. Not entirely serious and not entirely sure of what I’d be getting myself into. But it was over 12 months away. Achievable? Ken certainly thought so and was originally planning to run alongside me. Some of the best made plans change and just before I signed up it became clear that Ken probably wouldn’t be able to be with me on 8th September 2024. Disappointed at losing my running partner, my “safety net”, I had to reset, refocus and with more wise words from Ken I was able to register with Bowel Cancer UK on 8th September 2023 – exactly 12 months until GNR2024.

Ken has run the Great North Run previously back in 2018 which he followed one week later taking part in the Great East Run, and smashing his GNR time! Experience that will prove very useful as the months pass by and specific training increases.

On the PPL workout plan that Ken had put together for me, for Saturday it simply said…

Saturday AM - Do the 5KM Walk/Run at ParkRun (There are hundreds of walkers and runners. Get over it)

And so on Saturday 14th October I joined my first ParkRun at Stanley Park in Blackpool. True to form, by lunchtime I received a message from Ken that simply read “Proud of you mate”. Another gentle nudge from Ken and another ‘fear’ conquered.

“Always do what you’re afraid to do” – Chalk artwork at ParkRun Blackpool

Finally, 3rd November with Ken back home again we had a chance to meet up. This would be the first time we’d seen each other since beginning of July, since before I started this journey.

Life Changing

His support and friendship is integral to my success and this has earned him the title of Coach Ken. It is a constant topic of debate. “This is entirely you” he will say, and yes I am doing the work, I am putting in the effort, but without that chance meeting in March 2023 I would not be doing what I am doing right now. I might have lost some weight, but my lifestyle would not have changed as dramatically and I would probably be destined just to pile the pounds back on again. I also wouldn’t have met up with Matty Schmid, my Personal Trainer at JD Gyms Thornton-Cleveleys and Ribby Hall Health Club, who is coaching me on the ground, putting me through my paces, teaching me the form for key exercises and building my confidence in the gym.

The changes Ken has help to instil in me are life changing – Eating habits. Exercise habits. Sleep habits. Even reading! They are now routine. Good habits have been formed. Good lifestyle choices have been made.

As we moved into 2024 and my progress continued Ken offered more words of wisdom.

After reaching my weight target, at the end of March 2024, I met up with Ken:

A while back, Ken said “You’ve got this. Thanks for taking me on this journey with you.”

Thank you Ken.

I‘ve got this!

Read more of Coach Ken’s motivational posts

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Please support Bowel Cancer UK via my JustGiving page, as I prepare and train for the Great North Run 2024