Fat boy slimmer: How one club, helped one man, lose eight stone

When 23 stone Ben Fairburn first approached a local athletics club, he was hoping for some extra motivation. Four years on and eight stone lighter, he tells us how volunteers at the club helped him turn his life around.

In 2011, BT employee Ben Fairburn saw a family portrait that shocked him into transforming his life. After years of yo-yo dieting and trying to give up smoking, a single photograph made Ben realise how overweight he had become and how bad his health must be as a result. He stopped smoking that day and started eating more healthily, but the biggest difference came from exercising.

Ben saw a charity appeal on TV and signed up for a 10k run to support the cause. Soon he had bought a pair of trainers and started running. He trained alone at first but soon realised he needed a burst of motivation.

“I was finding it difficult, it’s a lonely existence pounding the pavement on your own and I just wanted to get that motivation and sense of community you get with a sports club.”

Seeking support

Looking for a running club, Ben approached Beverley Athletics Club. He hoped at the very least for some advice and a few structured training sessions but what he found was a running community and whole network of volunteers that could help him on his fitness journey.

“When I first started running, I thought that athletics clubs were just for athletes but the volunteers at the club were really supportive and helped me in a big way.”

Now over 8 stone lighter, Ben continues to run and has added boot camp and cycling to his list of sporting accolades – but he continues to admire the time and effort that the volunteers consistently contribute to his first club. “The guys that volunteer at the club run with everybody and run at a certain pace.”

The transformation of Ben Fairburn

Sharing the load

As Ben became more involved with Beverley Athletics Club he started to give time back to the club as a volunteer, “I wanted to share my experience and my passion for health and get other people on that same journey, because it’s not easy going.”

Join In’s research shows that people who volunteer in local sport feel closer and more positive toward their communities and Ben agrees, “It’s that sense of community that I now thrive off and really helps me stay on the course.”

Ben has now become more involved in volunteering and helps out at his local parkrun event with his family. Through his employer, BT, he has also become a Join In Local Leader,  a network of super volunteers that connect local sports clubs with people looking to lend a hand.

“I think BT’s commitment to volunteering and mentoring is second to none. I think that they are very admirable as an organisation. The fact that we’re supporting local schools, physical activity groups and local clubs is very motivational and I’m very proud to be involved.”

Ben hopes that his personal journey in fitness can inspire others of get involved in physical activity.

Ben hopes that his personal journey in fitness can inspire others of get involved in physical activity, “Join In is about getting people motivated and moving around, whether it’s people who are already fit or people who aren’t. I think it’s great and that’s why I wanted to volunteer.”

“Getting fit and active is an uphill struggle and unless you have people helping you up there, it’s a very difficult climb.”

Looking for a new challenge in 2015? Find volunteer opportunities near you.

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