The hardest fight I've faced

SHEDDING two stones is The Evening Star editor's new personal crusade - and he's decided to share the highs and lows publicly. Features editor TRACEY SPARLING reports on Nigel Pickover's challenge of a lifetime.

By Tracey Sparling

SHEDDING two stones is The Evening Star editor's new personal crusade - and he's decided to share the highs and lows publicly. Features editor TRACEY SPARLING reports on Nigel Pickover's challenge of a lifetime.

IN just a few months' time, a world karate champion will pick a fight against Evening Star editor Nigel Pickover in the boxing ring.

Former World under 21, double Commonwealth and European medallist Davin Pack will be pulling all the punches, when novice Nigel straps on his gloves and steps into the ring.

That sounds scary enough, but Nigel's quest reaches much further than dodging the blows and surviving that fateful first date this autumn.

At the age of 51, he wants to transform his body and lifestyle, for the second half of his life. So he has signed up with sports coach Nino Severino, and embarked on what they've dubbed 'Project N' to help him shape up.

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Nigel said he's reasonably fit with no health worries, but his weight crept on after he gave up smoking 12 years ago - about the time he started work at the Star.

He said: “A recent medical said I am basically okay, but suggested I could lose some weight, so I decided to enlist expert help. I want to get from 14st 10 to 13 stone, to change my lifestyle for the second half of my life, and if I can do it, anyone can!”

He's also decided to reveal his exploits in a regular report in the Star, which brings both pros and cons. He said: “I'm lucky in that making this adventure public, will motivate me not to let people down, but unlucky in that I've got some damned hard work ahead! Let's see where the journey goes - and failure is not an option!”

Enter sports guru Nino, head coach at AMS Consultants (Athlete Management System) who travels internationally working with talented young athletes and professional sports men and women.

He agreed to work with Nigel if he would join the AMS squad, take a squad number and be treated like any other athlete.

Nino said: “The first session went really well. In a few months' time he is going to go into the ring at the Millennium Boxing Club in Ipswich, so we have a few weeks to get him ready.

“I've never worked with the 'fatties to thinnies' market before, but I'm sure there are many people of that age group who are overweight and as long as they are prepared to put the work in and do everything athletes do, they will get results.”

Nino added: “Nigel is like so many men of his age who have for one reason or another lost their fitness and physical shape. It's a critical age as life becomes more inactive and the metabolism starts to slow down. The motivation to stay in shape seems to leave a lot of mature men.

“I like Nigel's attitude, he's got a lot of fighting talk and bundles of motivation, that's why I have decided to coach him as a fighter.”

Nino has worked with some of the best fighters in the world, and while working with the England boxing squad he once took a coaching session which included the world Class fighter Amir Khan.

He said: “I have set Nigel a massive goal, to train like an athlete and have a sparring session with Davin Pack who has a World title and a list of European, commonwealth, British and English medals to his name. This will be his focus and his motivation to stick to a long term programme.

“Motivation is the key word for me, all athletes I work with have a clear and defined reason for staying in shape and working hard on a long term basis, they want to be the best they can at sport and ultimately want to be winners.

Nino said: “We will create a programme that is right for Nigel, and his goals. I am hoping we are going to meet all the expectations Nigel has of himself.”


How long do you think Nigel will last 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 .

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 sponsor Nigel, please e-mail

Nigel will become a squad number at AMS to learn sports nutrition, sports psychology and conditioning programmes.

He will see the company's medical team for muscular skeletal screening, and medical testing.

The nutritional programme will be key for Nigel as it will address the quantity and types of food he should be eating. Nigel will start by filling in a weekly dairy and Nino will start to re-shape his intake by analysing the dairy and making changes on a weekly basis.

Nino said: “An athlete's nutritional intake is a great way to stay in shape but more importantly energised and healthy. So many weight loss programmes achieve weight loss but not necessarily in a very healthy way or with sustainability in mind. We will look at carbohydrates and make sure Nigel knows what type to eat at what time and for what reason.

“I don't just want to tell Nigel what to do I want to empower him with knowledge so he can carry on this lifestyle well after he leaves the squad. Just because you're a professional athlete does not mean you can not enjoy your food, and hopefully he will realise this.”

Nigel will also enter a mental skills programme - AMS has written its own programme called Mindsport with a sports psychologist to hone his mental toughness, and to move through the gears of his mind when the going gets tough.

Nino said: “The bottom line is there will be times when Nigel will struggle, as all athletes do through certain phases of their programme, hopefully Nigel will react how an athlete does and come out fighting.”

LIFE is a series of battles and scrapes - ups and downs - and challenges to test you through your time on Planet Earth.

Through both good and bad periods events emerge which test you to the limit - and the way people handle these marks out how much they will make a success out of their lives.

Challenges have been a hallmark of all aspects and most periods of my life - now a new one has just arrived. This one will test me to the limit - and as it has been “self-set” there is no one else to blame but … yours truly.

After five decades and one year - I have decided to get myself fit and in shape for the second part of my life. I aimed to embark on this crusade when I was 50 - it's taken me a little longer than I had planned - but at least I am now on the starting blocks.

So why now - and what is in store for me?

After years of putting on a pound or two here, and taking a little less exercise there (unfairly blaming the pressure of my job) I have become something of a pudding - and it's time to recognise the fact and do something about it!

I know, from my own research - and from the evidence of my own eyes as I walk around Ipswich and Felixstowe - that many people have the same problem. I guess that they, like me, will think about their portly frame, every day … and hope, one day, to do something about it.

Well, I've decided to “have a go” and fight for fitness and weight loss - and I have no illusions about a) how hard it will be to succeed and b) how hard it will be to keep fit and keep the weight off into the future.

To help (or hinder) my fight I'm going public to share my experiences in the hope that it will encourage others to get off their sofas and join me.

Over the next few weeks I'll be writing, in print and on The Evening Star's website about this ultra-personal campaign. I'm hoping you'll find it interesting and that some people will gain encouragement from the updates on my progress.

I'm hoping and praying it will be progress - but you'll have to keep tuned in to see how it goes!

So, what have I got going for me?

· A piercing comment from doctor friend Dave, who reminded me in March that “your heart only has so many beats and you'll have fewer than you should because of your weight.”

· A desire and passion to become a new me. - I have thought about getting my weight down for a decade and more - every single day!

· Decent health check - no smoking, no drinking and a good heart, so a recent medical stated.

· Family support, my wife and children are encouraging me all the way

· The ability to go public with what I am doing - I have a “public framework” to keep me in line.

· My sheepdog Sammy, who wants me to take him for lots more walks than usual.

· And a rather special sport and fitness guru called Nino to help me along. El Nino will become a familiar face as he inspires me to great things over the next few months.

· The support of my friends at Fitness First who are providing the training facilities.

And what have I got stacked against me?

· A love of food - from Chinese takeaways to the best Indian food (The Bombay Nite). Although a non-meat eater I can pack on the calories.

· Pressures of the job - long hours, night engagements, irregular meals.

· My own late-night food weaknesses.

What have I got to lose?

· My life if I don't sort it out

· A loss of credibility if I fail

My early thoughts.

· There's no lack of a desire to beat my bulge.

· It's in my own hands

· People are willing me to succeed

· I have to remember there's “pain before the gain.”

· I have to remember to thank all who are helping me

· There's no rush

· This is for life - it's not just a crash diet, literally a dietary pile up and than back to a big pile on the plate

What are my targets?

· Well, I won't be a sports star of any kind - but I might be a star in my own mind. I might even get into the suit I bought ten years ago but haven't worn yet!

· I'm currently 14st 12lbs in the old measure. My principal target is 13 stone, then may be 12 and a half stone later.

· To keep you informed about all the highs and lows - there will be regular updates on my blog at and in the Evening Star.

· To raise funds for Somebody's Daughter.

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