Paul Babai, 35, was left with nowhere to turn after a severe slipped disc left him unable to sit at the dinner table or put on his shoes, despite emergency surgery and weeks of intensive physiotherapy. The entrepreneur from Camden, north London, was almost out of options until a mobile personal training service, PGPT, came to his aid.
“I had a slipped disc in my lower back and had to go for emergency surgery because of the extent to which the disc was trapping my nerve. Whenever you hear the phrase ‘back surgery’ you panic, thinking that you’ll never do sport again. Mentally that was a huge blow.”
While the surgery was initially successful, Babai began suffering from chronic back pain, despite weeks of intensive physiotherapy. His injury soon became debilitating, affecting his everyday life.
“There were times I’d want to play with my niece, hug her, pick her up, but I couldn’t. Thinking about having my own family one day and not being able to do those things felt like a tragedy.”
Babai remembers well the moment he realised he had to try one more way, aside from physiotherapy, to fix his back pain. “The final straw was a big family dinner, and I just couldn’t sit at the table any longer. I had to go into the living room while everyone was still eating and lie down on a hard floor, thinking, I can’t live like this.”
Babai’s osteopath recommended a personal training service that offered tailor-made programmes designed to achieve specific goals. “My aim was simple: to live my life pain-free,” says Babai, who chose PGPT because they had five expert trainers, each specialising in different areas, who formed part of his rehabilitation team.
“Paul was a broken man when I met him, but he had the work rate and willingness of someone that sits in the top one per cent,” explains the service’s founder Peter Gaffney. “There was no question he would get results, as he was hungry from the first day.”
Gaffney provided Babai with a detailed personal training programme and a bespoke nutritional plan. It included workouts from home, before and after work.
“The exercises were very subtle in the beginning, working on my core stability, posture and most importantly my legs and glutes to support to my back,” explains Babai.
“As I made progress the training got harder, incorporating more HIIT cardio sessions such as ‘Death by Burpees’, which begins with a single burpee in a minute and then adds one burpee on the minute every minute. By the end I was up to 16 burpees during the minute, which took around 50 seconds, leaving 10 seconds to rest before the next minute kicked in and I had to do 17.
There were also endless lunges, squats and posterior chain movements. There were setbacks along the way, as there always are, but if you have the right advice and team around you, as well as sheer determination, you can and will achieve your goals.”
Working out three or four times a week, and building bigger portions of protein into his daily meals, Babai began to make crucial, incremental gains which have left him with less than ten per cent body fat, more muscle mass and, most importantly, completely pain-free.
“Gone are the days of feeling hopeless and sorry for myself, and using negative language that only served to bring me further down,” he says. “Instead I feel I can overcome any challenge I’m faced with, no matter how hard or impossible it seems. I have more energy and continue to set myself new goals, such as charity events and, most recently, boxing.
“I now want others to know there is hope, and that with the right training, focus and dedication you can get back on your feet.”
On the Scales
73.9kg body weight
12.4% body fat
74.2kg body weight
7.8% body fat
Words: Rob Kemp