A GYM boss is preparing to push his body to the limits by cycling the first stage of the 2018 Tour de France in a gruelling 195km charity expedition to raise vital funds for research into one of the biggest killers of men in the UK.
Personal trainer James Brereton is assistant manager at Pure Gym at Stretford Mall.
He will tackle the 195km Tour de France route in the Vendée region of western France just two weeks before the pros, which is likely to include reigning champion and British cyclist Chris Froome.
The 29-year-old from Atherton has rubbed shoulders with the likes of Jose Mourinho and Phil Neville during his time as a trainer at Manchester’s Hilton Hotel in Deasngate where he started as an apprentice in 2009.
He now faces a demanding fitness regime in the lead up to the challenge, which will include bike rides of up to seven hours long, and having to fuel his body with double the number of calories than the average man.
This is the second time James will have tackled the Grand Depart Classic in aid of Prostate Cancer UK and this year he is aiming for a top 20 finish and to hit a £1,000 fundraising target.
Prostate cancer is the third biggest killer of men in the UK and the most common cancer in males. The disease claims more than 11,000 lives every year.
James, who used to be a personal trainer on cruise ships and worked with entertainers including comedian Bobby Davro and actress Linda Lusardi, has just started training for the ride on June 23.
As part of his fitness training the former student of Wellacre High School in Urmston has also signed up to run the Manchester Marathon on April 8 to raise money for charity Cash for Kids.
He said: said: “I like to do things that people wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to do.
“I also like to help people who are less fortunate so this is a good way of raising money and challenging myself at the same time.
“To say I’ve been able to do a stage of the Tour de France is mega. When this challenge started there was 50-60 people taking part.
“When I did it last year there was 80 riders and this year there are 200 signed up. My aim this time is to finish in the top 20.
“Last year I was 40th or 50th. I was just cruising and wouldn’t say I went all out. This time I want to really push myself and to do that it will be all about the training.
“I’ll need to do a lot of endurance training as well as strength and conditioning. But what will be key this time is lots of hours on the bike.”
He added: “I need to put in more seat time. That was what I struggled with last year. It was about seven hours on the seat in total and I wasn’t fully prepared for that.
“There was no time beforehand where I sat and rode for seven hours straight. On my days off I will need to put in the volume.
“Initially I start with 50-mile bike rides and then by the end of June I’ll have built it up so I’m doing 122 miles.
“I know I could get on the bike and I’m fit enough to do the distance but if I want top 20 I need to put the work in.
“I’ll also need to fuel my body. On training days I’ll need to eat up to 5,000 calories, depending on the time of the sessions, as I will also be teaching my classes at Pure Gym.
“You could say last year was about the experience and fun whereas it’s more serious for me this time.”
James says completing last year’s ride with one of his friends Chris Haslam and other cyclists, some of which had end stage prostate cancer, was an emotional moment.
He said: “I was buzzing when I completed it and it’s amazing to be with other people who have to. I was even more proud of Chris- as he didn’t do much cycling training before hand and just made it to the last check point.
“Some had been through hell and back so it was an emotional experience.
“A lot of people do it for family members they’ve lost while some were also survivors.
“There were riders who had survived stage 4 prostate cancer and some aged up to 65. As a personal trainer I always say to people age is just a number – if there is something you want to do, you can push yourself to do it.”
James added: “The scenery was amazing and you could literally be cycling for two hours on your own. There was literally nothing around.
“I just wish our roads were like that – I’d be cycling all the time! Gareth Wilkins, centre manager at Stretford Mall, said staff at the shopping centre are backing James’ efforts.
He said: “Prostate cancer is a huge and growing problem and James is doing something fantastic to try and help – we’ll be following his progress every stage of the journey.”
With 129 men diagnosed with prostate cancer every day in the UK, James hopes his charity challenge will raise awareness among the older male members at Pure Gym.
He said: “It’s all about getting the message out there. Making people aware of the symptoms.
“The gym can obviously be quite a macho environment but it’s important that men talk about this.
“We have a really good age range at the gym and there are lots of people in their 50s and upwards using it.
“It’s a popular age group and if me doing this raises awareness and can help someone then that is vital.”
Manchester United fan James decided to become a personal trainer at the age of 18 and took an apprenticeship on at the Hilton Manchester Deansgate hotel gym where he recalls meeting the now Red Devils boss Jose Mourinho.
He said: “I spent three years at the Hilton and we had a lot of famous football teams staying and using the gym.
“Everton and Liverpool used it for Premier League games in Manchester during that time and Inter Milan were one of the European teams that stayed.
“I remember saying to Jose Mourinho who was their manager at the time that he needed to come to United – he obviously listened to me!
“Phil Neville and his wife were also members at the gym. They were both so nice. Phil used the bike a lot but always had time for a chat.”
James left the Hilton to take on a life-changing role working on cruise ships, including a 5,000 passenger Royal Caribbean International vessel, which travelled across the globe.
He said: “I got to see some amazing places and have pretty much travelled the world. It was a hard life!
“I’ve been to the likes of the South America, Antarctica, Falklands, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Alaska, the Panama Canal, Iceland and Norway, Caribbean, South Asia, Mediterranean. It was an unbelievable experience and lifestyle.
“I remember taking personal classes for Bobby Davro, Sam Kane & his wife Linda Lusardi who were performing on the cruises at the time. I taught them spin.
“It was a fantastic time and is something I could maybe one day go back to if I wanted, but after six years I wanted a bit of land life again, to get a flat and be settled in one place.
“I’m so happy in my role at Pure Gym and working with everyone there. I love helping our members.”
To make a donation to James’ charity challenge visit his fundraising page at justgiving.com/TheGymDoctorUK
For more information about prostate cancer and this year’s Grand Depart Classic visit prostatecanceruk.org
For more information about Stretford Mall visit stretfordmall.co.uk or find the centre on Facebook or Twitter: @stretfordmall
For information and updates on PureGym Stretford please find them on Twitter @Puregym_Stret