Nigel hits a landmark in weight battle

A MONTH has passed since we revealed The Evening Star editor's personal crusade - to lose two stones before entering the boxing ring to test his fitness.

By Tracey Sparling

A MONTH has passed since we revealed The Evening Star editor's personal crusade - to lose two stones before entering the boxing ring to test his fitness.

Features editor TRACEY SPARLING catches up with Nigel Pickover's challenge of a lifetime.

STEPPING on to the scales can be a daunting moment.

You take a deep breath, breathe in, step forward and hope that the result be an encouragement rather than a huge disappointment.

For Evening Star editor Nigel Pickover, this week has brought a pleasant surprise. After just a month under the wing of sports coach Nino Severino, Nigel went for a weigh-in at Fitness First to find his weight had dropped from 14st 12lbs, to 13st 11 (and a half) lbs.

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A delighted Nigel said: “It shows I was carrying round quite a lot of extra weight. My body fat index has also reduced, from 33 to 29 which shows we're making significant progress.”

At the age of 51, he has pledged to transform his body and lifestyle, for the second half of his life.

For the past month he has been going to the gym at 6.45am three times a week, and changing his diet.

He said: “It's been hard work, having to watch what I eat and get to the gym in the early mornings.

“The health benefits are showing too. In the evenings I used to eat things like biscuits, chocolate and cereal and I used to find I would wake up regularly, wanting a glass of water. Now I sleep right through, and I think it's due to my diet rather than being exhausted from the exercise.”

With his sights set on 13 stone, the fitness bid continues.

The ultimate test will come in a couple of months' time, when Nigel embarks on a boxing match against former world karate champion Davin Pack.

Nino, head coach at AMS Consultants (Athlete Management System) usually trains young athletes and professional sports men and women but agreed to take Nigel on, on the basis that he joined the squad of athletes.

Nino said: “Nigel has done really well. Up to this point in terms of weight loss he has hit every objective and kept to the plan 100 per cent, and because of this he has earned his rewards.

“He has taken on board the discipline an athlete needs to apply with regards to nutrition and the reasons why this is so important. He understands that the nutrition is linked in very heavily with physical performance which has motivated him to keep to the amounts and quality of food he needs, the weight loss has naturally followed.”

Nigel's exercise started with a phase of 'base work', similar to what a football player would do coming into pre-season training. As he had not been involved in physical activity for a while, the timing of the increased intensity is critical.

Aerobic type work, is creating a base for Nigel, as well as reducing his fat percentage. He is also involved in a resistance training programme which is based on strength. Flexibility and core stability also plays a large part of the programme, which is designed to get Nigel fit enough to enter a boxing ring and ultimately compete against a world class fighter.

Nino said: “I need to be gradually conditioning Nigel as well as keeping him away from injuries. I am encouraging Nigel to exercise on his own too, as he has really thrown himself into, using swimming as a vehicle.”

Will there come a time when Nigel's motivation is likely to flag?

Nino said: “We are always talking and chatting about motivation, desire and passion for the task in hand. It's not so much a lack of motivation at this point it is the lack of focus and feelings of achievement and job done. You have seen it so many times in sport, a club or team have great success with a certain mind set and approach. For what ever reason they change the approach physically normally mentally and failure quickly follows. Nigel is now in this zone, he feels he has achieved.

“My job is to make sure he becomes a Steven Redgrave, a person who understands his achievements are magnified by sustaining them. There are many millions of individuals who lose three or four stones and unfortunately fall back because the achievement is based on physical activity and not mental skills and strength.

“Luckily for me Nigel is very, very driven, it is not difficult for me to make him understand that for nearly every plus there is a minus, you have to pay the price at some point and normally this is not pleasant. If you understand the deal of achievement which always involves sacrifice, you can then prepare yourself for the difficult phases you are surely going to encounter.

“Nigel understands at some point I will not be there, if we do not give him the mental skills to deal with these drops in motivation and focus I will not be doing my job, he is taking ownership of this mission in his life, he is the director of his performance, gains or losses.”

Meanwhile Nino has joined Nigel in the gym mornings and said: “Nigel is very driven, he wants to train hard and seriously, this in turn has motivated me to turn up at 6.30am wanting to train and not watch and coach only. When I agreed to train Nigel I was not really sure what I was dealing with, now I am. He is a man who puts a 100pc into everything, including the sparring.

“He has proved he has the stomach and bravery to take the hard choice which is continually reaching for the next level, I like the fight in him. So he is now stuck with a training partner!”

If Nigel loses seven or eight pounds in the coming month, he will be on target and will be fit for the boxing match in October.


How do you think Nigel will fare in the boxing ring? Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail


For more exercise ideas, see reports and video of the Star's recent fun fitness programme Spring Into Summer, at .

Nino found Nigel's diet 'trilogy' of quality, volume and timing were all out of balance.

He said: “The first subject that had to be addressed were the sweets, cakes and extras that were finding their way into his diet. I said if he changed nothing else and followed this rule alone he would lose weight.

“These had to be replaced with high quality treats, fruit, nuts and items such as dried papaya, dates and apricots, as these items dull the cravings for sugar and fats.

“The volume is driven by an understanding of how your body reacts to the extra calories, it's not rocket science, the more you exercise, the higher your metabolism and energy requirements the more you can eat. Stay within the quality guidelines and as any athlete will tell you, you can then eat like a horse and stay lean.

“The timing is important as well, especially when it comes to carbohydrates. Nigel will learn when to eat high glycemic carbohydrates and when to eat low glycemic carbohydrates. The body reacts differently to certain carbohydrates depending when you eat them, if you eat foods which produce high levels of blood sugar straight after physical activity called the glycemic window, it will enhance your energy stores and decrease the level of fat storage that may have occurred if eaten at the wrong time. “Obviously this does not mean you can turn to chocolate for every meal, for instance white rice or white pasta instead of Basmati or durum wheat pasta.

“Calorie counting is not the way, it's about understanding you have to pay the price, understand your body and having a base knowledge of food and applying it with discipline. Always build in treats but try and time them appropriately.”

WHEN I embarked upon my health and fitness campaign a little over a month ago, I knew it was going to be hard work.

I wrote at the time that it was the toughest fight of my life - and I wasn't far wrong. It's been a hard slog but I have been surprised how enjoyable it's been in the midst of the toughness.

First to the tougher side of things - between the careful diet and the increased exercise there has been pain in equal measure.

On the food front I have been a (relatively) good boy. There's been no chocolate or late-night snacking and lots of bananas - thank goodness for my favourite fruit! I've had some good meals, not cutting out too many items, but I have kept portions down. I feel guilty about the four sugared almonds I enjoyed a couple of weeks ago, but no Mars bars or Crunchies have been devoured.

Early on, fitness guru Nino Severino gave me a lesson in “treats” … hence my mixed fruit and nut bowl has been invaluable as I have battled to stave off hunger pangs.

On the exercise and fitness front, I have found getting to the gym at 6.45am (with a journey from Felixstowe to Ipswich to make first) a real task -- although I have enjoyed it on arrival. I've been switching between sessions at Fitness First a participating partner in my campaign, and the swimming pool and gym complex at Swallow Belstead Brook Hotel.

Swimming 30 short lengths at Belstead has been a welcome diversion from the gym. I enjoy my time in the pool although I could do with a waterproof personal sound system to keep me amused, if such a device exists.

Local legend Nino has been my partner in the fitness battle - and has weighed me every week with brutal dedication. I've passed the tests so far but dread to think of the week that I fail in the objectives set.

Nino has joined me at every morning session which is a fantastic motivation to be there and succeed. After the various sessions a text message arrives - exhorting me to reach out for the further challenges … a superb piece of encouragement and how he manages to do this in a busy life is beyond me.

Working with Nino - we share the same wicked sense of humour - has been fun. And it's been good to see him join in the exercise programme too. I might even send him a text message of his own soon!

Sort of - Well done Nino, keep it up Champ!

And so to the results so far.

I do feel a heck of a lot better in my general fitness. I am quite proud of the one stone weight loss, and there has been one more “instant” big win. No more anti-acid tablets and my sleeping is so much better! Perhaps it's because I'm so tired.

My next steps are these:

· Not to get possessed by the campaign - I have to enjoy my life!

· To consult a dietician - I want to balance exercise with the right carbohydrate consumption.

· I need a sports massage to relax and tone up the body I haven't seen for a few years.

· I want to do lot more walking to capitalise on all that has been achieved so far.

I'll keep you up-to-date with monthly reports, and my online diary at

If every reader gives £1, or sponsors a pound for every pound Nigel loses, he could raise lots of money for Somebody's Daughter - the Evening Star's campaign to create a drop-in centre to help drug people away from a life of crime, in the wake of five prostitutes being killed in Ipswich last year.

Nigel said: “From a pound to a fiver for achievement of that magic 13 stone I'd be grateful for any support you can give.”

If you would like to be a sponsor, e-mail

If you weigh 13 stones like Star editor Nigel is striving to, swimming and running burn the most calories at 690 per hour. Skiing, tennis and football are also effective ways to shed the pounds at 604 calories per hour. Walking at a moderate pace burns 302 per hour, while golf drops 345 calories.

Cricket burns 431 calories an hour.

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