Philip Henry, 31, is an IT project manager and member of Gymbox Westfield. His energy for life is infectious - from being in the British army for 6.5 years to umpiring at Wimbledon... We meet him.
You’re originally from Jamaica, when did you move here?
Moved here in 2000 after high school and started my A-levels. I go back quite often (parents and siblings still reside there), the most I've been in a calendar year is three times. Plan is to now spend all my Christmases in Jamaica - there is nothing like a warm Christmas and Boxing Day on the beach!!
You served in the British army for several years, how has the experience impacted on you, emotionally and physically?
Serving in the military is an experience like no other. The camaraderie is unparalleled because you have shared experiences that only a fellow soldier would understand - like serving in Iraq. Most or my closest friends are the ones I went through military training with. Some of the best and worst memories are from my time serving - the worst being losing a friend in Iraq. You see and hear of people dying everyday in the military, but until it's someone you know personally, that's when it really hits home.
On a physical level, the military taught me to push my body to the limit - Even when you feel like you're about to die, still push on!! (and boy did I feel like I was going to die - my Thalasseamia hadn't been diagnosed at the time).
Can you tell us what Beta Thalassaemia Minor is?
Beta Thalassaemia is one of the three haemoglobinopathies, the other two being Sickle Cell and Alpa Thalassaemia. They're genetic defects affecting one of the three cells found in the blood (the white cells, the platelets and the red cells). Beta Thalassaemia is an abnormality of the red blood cells which are responsible for the provision of oxygen to tissues and vital organs - it takes much longer for oxygen to circulate around our body which means we become fatigued twice as fast and take twice as long to recover. It's the equivalent of a normal person training at high altitude for the first time and feeling starved of oxygen - this is exactly how I feel when exercising!
You are now working in IT as a project manager, quite a change - are there any transferable skills?
Not a massive change, I was serving in the Military in HR and finance. However, I have a BSc in Psychology and actually left the military to pursue a career in that field which saw me volunteering as an assistant clinical psychologist with a Neuro Rehab. But then I stumbled across project management and landed a role in central London and have been doing that since. That said, I do intend on returning to psychology at some point.
Exercise - love or hate it?
Let's just say we have a love hate relationship
How have you changed since joining Gymbox, and have we helped you?
I joined Gymbox on my 30th birthday because my fitness had deteriorated badly since leaving the army four years prior - I had not done any exercise in that period and could not run 100m without falling to the floor gasping for air. On my first day I only decided to do Psycho Circuits and left after the warm-up to get some water and never went back! This is coming from someone who used to be able to knock an eight mile run out of the park - such is the effect of Thalassaemia when you stop exercising. I do a military fitness test every now and then on the treadmill to see where I am in terms of fitness and I'm slowly getting back to being able to do a 1.5 mile run in eight mins. To get back to fitness at my pace I enlisted the service of a VPT (highly recommended) mainly because I wasn't in a fit state to participate in group classes. Now I do a mixture of classes along with my tailored training programme from the VPT.
What does Gymbox mean to you, in three words?
Blood, sweat and tears.
You've umpired at Wimbledon and Stockholm Opens, but never played tennis - tell us about that?
I always watched Wimbledon as a child in Jamaica and was quite taken by the name Goran Ivanisovic, and always said I'd love to be sat in the chair on centre court and say "Ivanisovic leads...". I've always called the lines when watching and thought to myself I could do that! Over a decade later the opportunity presented itself when a friend suggested I write to the LTA and see if they'd accept me. I knew before hand that they normally take ex players who won't make it as professionals and converted them to umpires, but I applied nonetheless. I was invited to their assessment weekend and got told I was good enough but they needed to send me to some pro tournaments to see how I get on. First pro tournament I got hit in the eye by a ball travelling over 100 mph!
What are your aspirations for 2015?
Hmm I have several: Learn French; learn to play the cello; learn to swim and then join my local rowing club and make it to the finish line of my Cycle challenge in June 2015 (Boston to New York in 24 hours).