Gary French – Transformation Camp Winner

Transformation from truck stop diner to Porsche owner as HGV driver from County Durham wins a brand-new sports car

Fitness challenge at his local Xercise4Less gym wins Gary French a Porsche – and a five stone weight loss.

When Gary French, a 50-year old HGV driver from Hartburn, nervously walked into a gym for the first time in January 2018, little did he know it was the start of a journey which would lead him to a complete body transformation – and behind the wheel of a brand new Porsche.

Above: Gary French, Marketing, Fitness and CEO.

National gym chain Xercise4Less launched a competition at the start of 2018 to provide additional motivation to people undertaking one of its 4FiiT eight-week Body Transformation Camps. Over 14,000 people took part in the Transformation Camps in 2018, and 14 of those with the most praiseworthy physical transformations were selected by the Health & Fitness team and invited to tell their story, after which a public vote was held on Facebook to choose the winner.

Gary was chosen as the winner after revealing his commendable two stone weight loss, achieved during his first Body Transformation Camp, before enrolling in many further camps – he’s currently starting his eighth!

Above: Gary French.


After years of no exercise, truck stop treats and full English breakfasts, at the start of 2018 Gary realised his body was suffering the consequences of his unhealthy lifestyle, finding himself out of breath climbing the stairs and unable to touch his own toes. Motivated by a fear of missing his children’s big milestones, Gary overcame his nerves and joined Xercise4Less Stockton-on-Tees, booking in a personal training session with Natasha Livingstone. Several weeks later he joined his first Body Transformation Camp.

Gary said: “I’m so excited to have won this car. As the competition was coming to an end, there were two Porsche Boxters parked outside the Porsche garage nearby, and I said to my wife: “this car has my name on it”. Little did I know, it actually did! It’s an amazing added bonus to my transformation and the perfect way to celebrate how far I’ve come.

“I wanted to lose five stone so I could still be around in 20 years to see my little girl walk down the aisle and to watch my son walk out for Middlesbrough as their first team goalkeeper! It was nerve-racking walking into the gym that first day, but I was quickly put at ease. The camp was fantastic – I formed great relationships with everyone, and we all shared information and support. Our camp came to an end, but I was totally hooked and so were the rest of the camp. I had lost two stone in eight weeks and I was over the moon.

“As well as the personal training sessions with a phenomenal and extremely helpful personal trainer who was on hand to answer any of our questions, the camp also helped me get to grips with my diet and improved my mental health. It lifted my spirits, confidence and wellbeing and helped me deal with the daily grind of life. I can safely say if I hadn’t walked into the gym that day, I think I could have been looking at heart failure, a stroke or worse in the future.”

Above: Gary French.

Gary’s next challenge will be to take on the annual coast to coast cycle ride in August. He hopes to complete it in 24 hours, raising funds for the Children’s Heart Foundation at Freeman’s Hospital in Newcastle.

Peter Wright, Xercise4Less CEO, said: “We’re delighted for Gary, he’s a very well deserving winner of this amazing Porsche prize. He has worked so hard, never losing sight of his goals, but I think surprising himself by how much he enjoyed it along the way. If you’d have told him he would be signing up for eight of our Body Transformation Camps and taking on a Coast to Coast cycle ride 18-months ago, I don’t think he would have believed you, but there’s no stopping him now.”

Above: Fitness Manager, CEO and Gary French. 

The Xercise4Less Body Transformation Camps include three personal trainer led sessions every week, access to the personal trainer and other camp members for support and advice via an online community hub, plus complimentary access to the Xercise4Less mobile app. Click here for more information.

Above: Fitness Manager, CEO and Gary French. 

Mike Ryan #ComeAsYouAre

Mike Ryan, who is 37 and from Manchester, felt like he had hit rock-bottom when he struggled to strap himself into an aeroplane seat, despite doing an hour of weight training every day.

Mike’s weight gain had not been caused by a lack of activity but rather an unhealthy eating habit which had led to him piling on the pounds and losing motivation and confidence in himself.

At what point did you feel like you had hit rock bottom?

I had problems sleeping, not being able to get comfy, waking the family with my breathing at night.

Can you describe what your relationship with food and exercise was like during this time?

I was weight training 1 hour a day, but never really pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I would browse social media between sets and then go home and order a take away thinking i’d earned it.

I would eat takeaways nearly 4-5 times a week and sometimes twice a day. 

Can you describe how this made you feel mentally?

My self esteem was low, I’d avoid mirrors and duck out of photos. I’d also avoid seeing people.

Please explain your key motivation(s) to change your eating and exercise habits?

My kids. I wanted to be able to play football with them and more importantly, be around long enough to see them grow up.

Once you’d highlighted the concerns you had with your eating and exercise, what was your first step to recovery?

I decided to try and stop the takeaways and snacking. I would of course carry on training as I was because it had worked in the past.

What was your first training program once you’d decided to make a change to your exercise regime and how did Xercise4Less facilitate this?

I decided to try a transformation camp because I was bored of training on my own and not seeing the changes I was hoping for. The camps looked fun. I gave those 8 weeks not only hard work in the gym, but really watched what I was eating. When I started to see changes, feel better, and sleep better, I was able to push myself harder in the camp sessions, and then I started to see the numbers on the tape measure come down.  

What advice would you give to anybody currently suffering with body image / self-esteem issues?

Gyms can be intimidating places! Remember, nobody is watching at you. We are all there for the same reason, same goal.. “to be better than we were yesterday”.

Regular users… if you see someone new and unsure of what to do; be nice, help them, even just a smile or a nod of approval goes a long way, we were all newbies once. 

Terri Hill – Transformation Story

 Woman who drank three cans of coke a day achieves life changing transformation by dropping an unbelievable three dress sizes in the space of just three months.

Terri Hill joined an Xercise4Less weight loss transformation camp to help her lose three dress sizes in just three months, enabling her to address her unhealthy lifestyle and totally regain her confidence. Terri Hill, 29, from Darlington, had always eaten whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted, without having to worry about her weight.

“I never really realised the consequences physically as I skated regularly. It was about a year after I stopped skating that I noticed myself feeling sluggish and not as confident in myself.”

Terri’s diet was a huge contribution to her weight gain. She would often eat two breakfasts, fast food – such as KFC or McDonald’s – for lunch, two or three bars of chocolate and three cans of coke a day. Terri felt her weight gain was holding her back. She didn’t feel as confident in herself as she used to be and she felt embarrassed. Her friends and family also began to make comments, which made her determined to lose weight.

“They would say things like, ‘Do you want a biscuit? Of course you do!’. A friend of mine once said they couldn’t make me look slim in my friend’s wedding pictures because, although they were good at photoshop, they weren’t a magician.”

In January 2018, Terri organised a weight loss competition at work to encourage both herself and her colleagues who wanted to lose weight to get fit in the New Year. She then joined Xercise4Less in Darlington in February 2018 when she felt she was beginning to hit a wall with her training goals. It was there that she signed up to a life changing Xercise4Less transformation camp, which ran for eight weeks between March and May 2018.

“The Xercise4Less transformation camp was a great kick start and helped me get to know the gym, the staff and make some friends too.

“I also met a personal trainer there who I worked with for a few months afterwards to keep me on track!”

Since starting her weight loss journey, Terri has changed her mindset from wanting to be skinny, to wanting to lead a healthy, balanced lifestyle. She has ditched the KFC lunches and Coca-Cola multipacks in favour of lighter lunches, fruit and protein bars.

“I am motivated to find balance in my life between my health, being stronger and also eating the occasional pizza!

“I spent a lot of time on Instagram looking at other people’s transformations and loved reading about the difference people could feel in their mental state.”

The results of her change in lifestyle have been incredible. Since joining Xercise4Less Terri has dropped an amazing three dress sizes in the space of just three months, going from a size 14 dress size to a size 8. Working out up to five times a week at Xercise4Less, she has shed the pounds in that time, dropping from more than 12 stone to just 10 stone. It has been an incredible weight loss journey for Terri over such a short space of time, highlighting the life changing impact of an Xercise4Less transformation camp which everyday people can enjoy.

“I train between three and five times a week, depending on the week! I usually do spinning once or twice and weight train two or three times.

“I was able to look forward to enjoying Christmas this year without feeling guilty. It’s about balance for me, I want to train on days I can and eat Christmas pudding on other days!”

Craig O’Brien – Transformation Story

Personal Trainer with hopes of competing in body building competition recalls his journey: Cutting body fat by 30% and restructuring his diet to shed five stone

Craig O’Brien is a 23-year-old personal trainer who works at Xercise4Less Glasgow. However, his life has not always been surrounded by fitness.

“On my lunch break at school, I would buy chippies, sausage rolls, and bags of sweets. You name it, I ate it. Every single day, Monday to Friday.”

(November 2012 to November 2013)

Weighing in at 16st and with a body fat percentage of 42%, Craig realised he wanted to do something about his appearance and finally took a step into the gym. However, after some time at the gym Craig was not making the progress he wanted.

“I had no idea what I was doing and thought all I had to do to lose weight was to do a bit of cardio. I didn’t realise how important diet was, so I would still eat allot of sweets, pizza and other kinds of junk food.

I lost a little bit of weight, but I still didn’t like the way I felt or looked, despite going to the gym for one hour of cardio every day.”

Craig felt like something had to change and it was at this point he discovered a passion for weights and started to enjoy the gym. Just a year after starting weight training as a complete novice, and learning more about training and nutrition, Craig had managed to lose three quarters of his total body fat, dropping from 42% to just 12% and trimmed down to a lean 11st.

“I still believe that first-hand experience is the best way of learning. Throughout doing the weights and going to the gym all these years, I have figured what works best for my body through experience and know what works for me and what doesn’t.”

(November 2012 to November 2016)

Having become a fitness fanatic, Craig decided to channel his weight training into bodybuilding, with the aim of competing in his first bodybuilding competition. To do so, he joined Xercise4Less, which offered more facilities and a greater variety of weights than the local club he was using.

“I joined Xercise4Less and it is when I joined this gym, I started noticing more improvements and better training.

“It has a lot more equipment and allows you to have more choice from machines and free weights.”

It is not only his body which Craig is happier with since becoming a gym junkie, it has helped him mentally and socially as well.

“I go the gym more or less every day. I see the gym as a place I can zone out from everything happening around me. Working out keeps me mentally focused and I just feel great from it.”

“I have gained so much confidence and self-esteem through my training and going to the gym is almost like a type of therapy for me.”

Craig is also hoping to motivate and inspire people through his personal training and Instagram account. 

“I want people to realise that yes, it is totally achievable to do, just believe in yourself first. Yes, it’s going to be a long journey, yes it will be hard work, but yes it will be worth it and yes it will be fun.”

Ultimately, Craig says people must enjoy and love the exercise they do and be proud of the improvements they make.

(July 2018 to March 2019)

“The way I see it is to have fun with your journey, enjoy seeing yourself progressing and be proud of yourself.

“As long as you are improving and becoming a stronger, more confident person in yourself each day then you are on the right path!”

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Q & A with Craig O’Brien

Name: Craig O’Brien

Branch: Glasgow Cambridge Street

Job Title: Personal Trainer

Goals: My own goals are to start competing next year in bodybuilding shows, so I will still be trying gain weight for the next year. My other goal is to inspire and motivate, and to show people that maybe feel less confident in themselves that as long as you believe in yourself and stay consistent with something, you can totally transform your body both mentally and physically for the better.

Before weight: 240 pounds, around 40%+ bodyfat

After weight: 215 pounds, around 12-15% bodyfat

Height: 5ft 10 inches

What motivated you to start your journey?

I was tired of not feeling happy about myself and having zero self confidence due to my weight issues. I remember watching a motivational video on YouTube and saying to myself “I wish I looked like this guy”. I decided to join a gym but was only using cardio equipment, not knowing what I was doing, but then I decided one day I was going to start doing weight lifting, and from there onward that’s when I found my passion and hobby in life.

How did exercising impact on your self-esteem?

I honestly can’t even put into words what exercise, or this whole journey with the gym has done to my self esteem. It has totally transformed me as a person, even my old friends from school didn’t recognise me when they’ve seen me recently. I just have a more positive outlook in life, and the whole bodybuilding and gym journey makes me feel that I have an actual purpose and goal in life, and it’s something I wake up to every day and pursue with a passion. 

How have your eating habits changed? What exactly changed?

Growing up the only thing I ever really ate was junk food, going out for lunch at school everyday and buying chippies and sweets, and even at home I was a really fussy eater. Years of that with zero exercise really did take its toll on my body both physically and mentally. At first when I started my fitness journey to lose weight I was a bit too strict on my eating, but now I’m a lot more laid back with it. Calories in vs calories out at the end of the day, if I want a pizza, then I’ll be eating that pizza with zero regret 🙂

What is your nutrition like now?

My nutrition is good, not great, but good. One thing I have found is finding an eating plan that you’re going to stick to long term and be consistent with. As long as I hit my protein intake for the day and feel good then that’s important for me. I mainly just count calories, I don’t count macros now, as I used to log everything I ate but that got boring very quickly. However because I’ve been doing this for so long I don’t need to log things now, but I do think that when first starting out logging food is very beneficial, just don’t get to the point where you sicken yourself with it and then get stuck in a never ending loop of binge eating due to this.

Would you recommend our gym and why?

I’ve been training at xercise4less Cambridge Street since 2016, it’s a great gym with a great atmosphere and environment, and for the price you can’t really fault it at all! It has all the machines and equipment you need.