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Kris Clarke from Watford Crowned Fitness4Less Member of The Year 2019

Kris Clarke from Watford Crowned Fitness4Less Member of The Year 2019

Earlier this year, we asked for applications from and nominations for members, who had achieved something special over the past year in terms of their fitness trials and triumphs. As always, we received a huge number of inspiring, moving and uplifting stories about people who had overcome adversity, illness and the many of the other problems that life throws at us, to become better, healthier and fitter versions of themselves.

As always, it was exceedingly difficult to choose the winners at each of our nine Fitness4Less gyms around the country. It was even more difficult to select, from those nine successful regional winners, one person who stood out as truly exceptional. Well, the decision has been made and we’re delighted to announce that the overall winner of the title of Fitness4Less Member of the Year 2019 is Kris Clarke from our Watford club. His story is sad and disturbing but his strength in overcoming the most horrifying event imaginable, which nearly ended his life, and his determination to use this experience to help others, is truly heroic, and we think you’ll agree that he’s a deserving winner.

Five years ago, Kris sustained an unprovoked and violent attack, which resulted in serious head injuries. He suffered a cardiac arrest in the ambulance as he was rushed to hospital, where he received a blood transfusion, as staff fought desperately to save his life. After this extremely traumatic incident, Kris’s mental health went into rapid decline and he was diagnosed with PDSD. Then began a long battle with depression, anxiety, hyper vigilance and panic disorder. He lost the ability to trust anyone and developed trauma-related body dysmophia. By the time of his attacker's trial and sentencing he had began to drink heavily and his weight had increased to over 19 stone. As he says, “That was the moment I realised that the doctors and nurses had spent hours trying to save me, that I had a very special second chance in life, and that I was not going to waste it.”

Sadly, a so-called “expert” exploited his fragile mental state and persuaded him to embark on a costly crash diet, which resulted in him losing half his body weight in six months but also resulted in a complete nervous breakdown and his admission to hospital. This was a crossroads in his life and he had to make a decision – “Lose my mind, my life, the will to live and drink myself to death? Or become a fighter?”

When Kris eventually returned to work as a barber, a customer recommended trying martial arts or other fitness training, to see if that would help. Unfortunately, when Kris disclosed his medical history, his local gym felt they had no one sufficiently experienced to work with him. However, in 2016 Kris walked through the doors of Fitness4Less Watford, where he received a friendly and sympathetic reception. After a long chat, Kris was assured that, with his doctor’s consent, personal trainer, Steve Barson, would be delighted to help him.

Three years on, Kris has come off medication and feels that by concentrating on his fitness and training, he has been given a second chance in life, and is now fitter, stronger and more resilient. He uses his career as a barber and the chance to chat to his clients to help other men open up about their problems, as well as promoting exercise as a potent aid to mental and physical wellbeing. He hopes to be “a beacon of hope to others suffering with mental illnesses” and “to help raise awareness of the Campaign Against Living Miserably”, a charity devoted to trying to prevent male suicide -

Kris wins a year’s free gym membership, plus £150 in Nike vouchers for some fantastic new fitness clothing, and £800 in vouchers to spend on a fabulous holiday of his own choosing – all very much deserved! Kris is evidently delighted to win and to get recognition for the way he has managed to turn adversity into something positive. He's currently planning where to go for his prize holiday and we hope he enjoys a lovely, relaxing break.

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