Gymbox regular Andrew Marv has many credits to his name. Actor. Stunt man. Model. Now, we’re adding King of No Excuses to that list – after hearing how he got himself back into training just a month after open heart surgery. Speaking to resident blogger Kat Barnett, he shares how fitness has guided him through his recovery – even inspiring him to run a marathon for the first time. It’s inspiring stuff. And after reading his story, you’ll feel like you can’t skip your workout just because of a hangover ever again.
Your open heart surgery was in September. Why did you need to go under the knife?
My aortic valve was malformed. The heart itself was growing, which had to be stopped, and that’s why I had to go into emergency. It’s called aortic stenosis. I was born with it so I knew from a young age that I would have to have an operation. Initially they told me it would be before I was 15, then 18, then 25…But everything was good, and it didn’t happen. Being a football referee and doing sport meant I had quite a healthy lifestyle.
I wasn’t really feeling the symptoms which was good because it meant my heart was healthy…But it was also bad because it meant that I didn’t take the actions necessary. During the hot weather last year, I was so sleepy, and that’s a big symptom - when the main valve is narrow, there’s no blood going to your body and to your brain, which makes you fall asleep.
I had known since the previous summer that it was time to operate because doctors in Romania had told me. But being in England, it took me 7 months to be seen. When they finally saw me they told me I needed to go straight into emergency. By August, they were like “we aren’t waiting anymore. Every day is borrowed time.”
There was a hole forming in my heart and the muscle had to be replaced because of inflammation. During the surgery (just to make it fun for everyone) my main artery exploded. After my artery exploded it took another 4 hours to fix it. They had to cut open my leg and take a big artery from there to rebuild it. I didn’t actually know about it until I left the hospital and I was looking at my leg thinking “what is this from?!” I called the hospital and they told me I had been very close to dying.
How was your recovery?
My recovery was amazing! By the second day I was on my feet and on the fourth I was walking. But my body wasn’t eliminating fluids; there was 750ml of extra fluids around my heart, crushing it. After two weeks I had to go back into surgery to have the fluids extracted.
They kept me for four weeks in hospital. I watched the Connor McGregor fight with the nurses; they woke me up at 5am and we watched it with the whole night shift, assistants and three doctors!
The only time I felt down was when I knew I had to go back into surgery. I was like “why does everything go so well, then this?” But at the same time I had so much love from everyone and so many people came to visit. It made me understand how important it is to have someone telling you once a day that you’re amazing.
I was 98kg when I went into hospital and that was because my metabolism had slowed down (because of my heart). I was eating once a day but I was getting fat. I went down to 79kg after leaving the hospital.
So you were back in the gym relatively soon after surgery?
Yes, about a month after…but I wasn’t taking the piss! I wasn’t doing chest or anything like that. I was going on the bike and doing a lot of legs.
I didn’t have a heart attack so I just need to focus on being healthy and working my ass off. I’m definitely not lifting hundreds of weights, but I’m already on 60kg for chest, and 80kg for squats. I don’t force it too much, there’s no point. I don’t want to train like that anymore, I just want to have fun! And I want to still lose a bit of fat. I want to re-start my modelling and get back into stunts.
Tell me what shows/films you’ve worked on?
I’ve done stunts for Fury - I was there all the time! There was a 2 month intensive where you basically went through the army. I was in Macbeth with Michael Fassbender, and that’s where I did stage combat. Which is interesting because you think you look cool punching someone, but you actually look like an idiot, or you get punched and you don’t know how to take a fall. Falling in a believable way hurts!
I also do my own stuff - mostly comedy - but I also play villains. I love playing gruesome characters!
What are you currently working on?
I’m doing a shoot with a company I’ve worked with before just to get some new shots done. I need to ring my agencies and say “hey I’m back…and now I have this big scar!” We can use it because there’s so many adverts we can do for hospitals. I just need to be proud of it.
As humans, we’re very self-conscious. It’s weird how we think - if one hundred people tell you you’re beautiful but one person tells you you’re ugly you won’t feel beautiful, you’ll feel ugly. You need to be a level above that mentality where you learn to get only the good vibrations out.
I just need to ring those agencies and tell them how I am because I’m sure everything’s going to be okay. I’m my own enemy in many ways - I was supposed to call some agencies in December and I still haven’t! It’s taking that first step.
What about the stunts?
I’ll do them once I’ve finished university. I’m currently at UK CBC doing a business and management course. I’m finishing this then applying for the residency, then the citizenship. I want to use my extra free time to do all sorts of stunts: trampolining, acrobatics etc.
The valve that I’ve chosen (the biological one) will eventually wear off. I’m just hoping it’ll take 15 years as I want there to be something better on the market when I have to go back into surgery!
How long have you been a member of Gymbox, and what are your main fitness goals?
I joined about 4 years ago. I live really close to the Gymbox Stratford so I go there and the Olympic park.
The hospital wants me to do stuff for them, such as running a marathon for the British Heart Foundation. I really want to do that; I’ve never done a marathon, and I’m allowed to do it.
I’m just recovering at the moment, but I do want to run the marathon this summer.
How is training for that coming along?
I’m doing a lot of cycling and I’m doing boxing too. It’s too cold to actually run outside right now! But I’m sure I’ll be ready come the summer, I don’t think there’ll be any problem.
Does your heart play up at all or affect your fitness in any other way?
I have shortness of breath, and I can’t really yawn either. That has to do with lung expansion which can take a while to recover.
Because the heart has been moved and open for 9 hours, I also have irregular heartbeats. It doesn’t hurt, but I just want it to go back to normal.
In one word, what is your favourite thing about Gymbox?