Profile Series: Phil Wilson - The Important Things In Life
You may have seen Phil, or as we call him - Smiley Phil, on our promotional imagery. He’s one of our Flambassadors and he has a lovely story that shows the power of making healthier choices for you!
In his youth Phil was very active, playing football for Doncaster Boys Club and the East Riding youth team, as well as being the British Amateur Boxing champion in his early teens. Sport was a huge part of his life and he was used to being fit and active. However, like many of us, the responsibilities of adulthood came knocking. And with that the child in us that longs to be running around and doing cartwheels dissipates and commitments take over. Work commitments got in the way of Phil’s sports, particularly when he opened his plumbing business. He was working 13-14 hours a day 7 days a week trying to provide for his family and he began struggling with his knees which isn’t ideal for a plumber. “My diet was atrocious and I did hardly any exercise. Eating late on an evening and café stops during the day really affected my weight. When I weighed myself and I was over 22 stone, I knew then something would have to give before it was too late.”
After long discussions with his wife, Phil realised that providing for his family wasn’t just about money. It’s also about being part of his children’s lives while they still needed him so he made the difficult decision to close his plumbing business. Finding more time to be with his family and looking after his health was his main priority. Initially Phil wanted to teach plumbing at college but he’d made this decision in an unfortunate time where the recession had hit us hard and no one was taking on apprentices, so he volunteered at his local primary school to see if the school environment was right for him. “I instantly knew this was the place for me. I loved it. I was lucky enough to get a full-time contract as a Teaching Assistant at the local Secondary school and that was it. I love my job, I am at home for tea time, I have weekends and holidays at home. Everything just fell into place and I’ve now worked my way up to Head of Year.”
He started slimming world and bought his first ever hybrid bike and never went back. As with anyone, the cycling was a real struggle at first but as he started to lose weight it became much easier. The only issue was trying to find clothing that fitted him and so as he was scouring the internet he came across us! “I didn’t look like a shrink wrapped turkey anymore. Clothes that fit make a massive difference not only to the way you look but to the way you feel wearing it. Fat Lad at the Back on the jersey made me smile all the time when cycling. I just got it, the message is subtle but so true. Cycling is for everyone regardless of size or ability.”
With his new found freedom and the support and encouragement from his family, he started riding his bike for an hour most evenings. 10 miles was hard, sweat running into his eyes, out of breath, saddle sores but he loved every minute of it. The weight started to come down and he felt like a new man. “I have been very lucky in my life to have found my wife and soul mate very early. We were both in our late teens when we were married and we are best mates. My wife fully supports my cycling and even helps with my faffing in a morning to get ready for a ride! I could feel a real difference in my mental health after I began cycling. I seemed to be in a better place and this also had a positive impact on life at home. Becoming fitter and healthier both in body and mind has made spending time with my wife and kids more energetic and has showed the kids that a healthy lifestyle is great.”
The more Phil looked after himself, the more positive things came to him. “Cycling became my Karma”. He was meeting great people with similar stories and soon this became a local cycling club. When his son started cycling with him, he couldn’t have been prouder. “He often has to slow down for me but he loves it and to have a common interest is great, as I can blame him for wanting to go riding!”
How did you become a Flambassador?
There was a competition by FLAB to design a cycling jersey, I gave it a go and designed the jersey that won the competition. I was invited to Ilkley to present my winning jersey and have a photo taken. Richard and Lynn made me feel extremely welcome and the photographer liked the photo that much that he asked if I would join in with the photo shoot that was happening at the same time. Since then I’ve had the pleasure of participating in the photo. I was then asked if I would to be a Flampion for the FLAB sportive and jumped at the chance. I live on the East Coast which is very flat so to ride around Ilkley with the hills is not only exhilarating but terrifying! I’ve done the FLAB sportive for the last 5 years and love the community spirit of the whole event. Leading riders around is great but I still worry that due to being useless on hills they probably think why he is leading (silly Phil!). I was lucky enough to get a place on the first Tour De France sportive in Britain heading out from Leeds and 126 miles later back to Leeds. I loved every single painful peddle and again was so proud to wear the winning jersey I had designed for FLAB which received lots of positive comments from other cyclists and spectators alike.
I now run the FLAB social rides East Yorkshire Hornsea and its great to have riders of all different levels riding with me just for the fun of it. We have been hit be COVID-19 which has restricted the numbers and stopped us from going riding a few times but we will be back as soon as we can. I am not the best cyclist out there and would not want to be. I cycle because I love the feeling it gives me. It’s changed my life completely. I am still a large cyclist but I am far fitter and healthier than I have been for many years. This has a very positive impact and both my body and mind and I would recommend cycling to everyone. All you need to do is ‘just keep peddling’. It doesn’t matter whether that is fast or slow, on an expensive road bike or a 10-year-old mountain bike, just keep peddling and the smiling will follow. Especially if you end your ride in a café with great coffee and cake.
Many thanks to our wonderful Flambassador Phil for sharing your story with us. It’s nice to be reminded how life can really fall in to place for the better when you make the decision to do what’s best for yourself! We’re so glad we could be a part in making this happen for you.