Life begins at 40, and for one Morley man, his big birthday saw the start of an incredible fitness regime which has resulted in recognition of the world stage.
Charles Townend this month clinched fifth place at an international fitness competition at the age of 42, going up against rivals from across the globe.
The Morley local, who works at Technoprint in the town, placed in the over 40s category of the Miami Pro World Championships in St Albans on Sunday, April 7. An incredible feat for any aspiring bodybuilder, but Charles’ journey is made even more astonishing by the fact that three years ago he suffered a stroke.
Charles was kept off work for three months as the stroke impaired his speech and brain. And just when he was recovering from that, doctors discovered Charles had a heart defect which required surgery.
The afflictions left him overweight and depressed, before Charles decided to get fit and started training at DW gym in Birstall.
He cut out junk food including his favourite meal, takeaway pizza, and even hired a personal trainer.
Charles said: “I’d been going to the gym for ages, but after the stroke I got podgy and when I saw a photo of myself I decided to get fit.
“I was challenged to get a six-pack, so I put my mind to it and did it.
“I had no intention to start competing after that but next thing I knew I was there.”
As they remain exclusive to amateur performers, they have few problems with competitors using performance enhancing drugs such as steroids to boost their chances of success, a problem which has blighted professional bodybuilding.
On his competition debut, Charles secured an impressive fifth place in a category won by a former Mr Austria, Helmut Strebl, netting himself a trophy in the process. And having tasted success for the first time, he plans to continue competing in Miami Pro events.
He said: “I’m looking at one in October and if that goes well then maybe one next year.
“This is all pretty hard to take in: three years ago I was confined to my sofa and now I’m here competing against my idols on Europe’s biggest stage, it doesn’t get much better than that!
“I have had amazing support from everyone and I just can’t thank people enough, it really is overwhelming.”
Charles has also been put forward for the Life After Stroke Awards 2013 by his sister, an event which will be held in June.