Many piled on the weight during coronavirus lockdowns, but for the VP of a Saudi Arabian company the pandemic presented the opportunity for him to shed 25kg of his body weight.
Julian Panter has now competed in a charity triathlon to raise $20,000 for organ transplant charities in memory of his late brother-in-law.
Heading business development at International Maritime Industries, Panter told Al Arabiya English that as the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, on his 40th birthday he tipped the scales at 123kg.
The British expatriate said he decided to use the lockdowns as a bid to transform his health.
“I normally live in Dubai, however work in Saudi during the week,” he said. “After flying into Saudi as per normal on a Sunday morning early in March 2020, I found out that there would be travel restrictions imposed from the Monday that week and I was therefore going to have to spend more time in Saudi then I normally would.”
“I felt that in order to make the most of the situation I had to focus on something within my control. I thought I would turn my life around get betting fit and exercising every day, whether that be a run, a walk or a swim – anything. And so the journey began.”
Panter began by promising himself he would run for at least 30 minutes every morning and walk for one hour every evening.
He also decided to overhaul his diet.
“On top of the exercise, I cut out chocolate and fizzy drinks and tried not to eat a heavy meal in the evening. I started running five kilometers in the morning and probably walked the same distance in the evening.”
“I bought a set of scales from the chemists and made a log of my weight. I was clinically obese, although I carried the weight well as I am 6ft 5inches tall.”
Panter said the weight began to drop off quickly with 7kg lost within two months.
“As the year went and my time in Saudi got extended, I got more hooked on the exercise – it helped me to pass the time whilst I couldn’t get back to the UAE, along with keeping my mind fresh and staying positive.”
“I noticed that my fitness levels were improving dramatically after about four months and I started to buy better running shoes, clothing and downloaded a running application for my phone, so I became more aware of my distances and times.
“This coincided with my weight dropping to below 105kg - the lightest I had been since I was 30-years-old.”
It was in November that Panter got a phone call which told his brother-in-law Tim Jenkins has been taken to hospital with severe stomach pains. Five weeks later he died of an aggressive form of stomach cancer.
“Tim’s passing was absolutely devastating for my sister and our family, he left behind his wife (my sister) and two children, Zoe, aged four, and William, aged seven,” he said.
“Tim at the time was a very good athlete, he was a top-level cyclist and competed in various events, including triathlons. Ten years previous to his passing, he had a kidney transplant and was therefore eligible to compete for Great Britain in the Transplant Games. He was very successful and won silver medals and the World Championships.”
Panter then decided to turn his personal fitness challenge into a mission to raise money for others waiting for life-saving transplants.
“Following his passing my sister decided to set up a charity called “Tri4Tim” which would essentially raise money that would be donated to Transplant Sport, a charity that aids anyone who has had a transplant to compete in sporting events.”
“It is an organization that Tim was so passionate about. The organization operates purely because of funding from charities and because people volunteer their time. The “Tri4Tim” charity (of which I am a patron of) enables us to raise money in Tim’s memory for this amazing organization.”
A year after his fitness challenge began, Panter has completed his first Olympic triathlon in memory of his brother-in-law, after reaching 25kg weight loss.
“I just completed my first triathlon in England just over a year after deciding to get fit. My sister, niece and nephew were there to cheer me on which was extremely emotional.”
“I finished 48th out of nearly 140 competitors - most of which were seasoned triathletes - and 15th in my over-40s age group. Not bad for someone who couldn’t even run 10 kilometers a year previously.”
Tri4Tim has now raised more than $20,000, and Panter is now stepping up his fitness challenge and fundraising efforts.
“The next Olympic distance triathlon is in London in July and the hardest event I have entered will be in October in Malta which is the Xterra Off-Road Triathlon - a brutal off-road event which involves a two kilometer sea swim, 30 kilometer mountain bike ride and a ten kilometer off-road run.”
“The ultimate goal to race in a triathlon called the Norseman in Norway, which is nearly a four kilometer swim in an icy cold Fjord, a 180 kilometer mountainous bike ride and a 42 kilometer run up into the mountains in Norway.”