The #BiogenJourney of James ‘Hobbo’ Hobson – an unbelievable transformation from being 130kg to completing a triathlon, in just 9 months!

He was 32 years old, constantly out of breath, which was an indication that he had hit rock bottom. Hobbo knew he needed to do something about his lifestyle to shift his health and his life onto a better trajectory. 

Goal –  from the couch to the Ironman 70.3 finish line

After discussing his situation with his best friend, who happens to be a marketing genius, they came up with an idea – a blow by blow account of Hobbo’s transformation as he tackles the Ironman 70.3 (1.9km swim, 90km bike ride and a 21.1km half marathon to finish, in a single day)

Teaming up with Biogen, a leading local health and wellness brand that prides itself on getting involved in a wide array of sporting events and lifestyle initiatives.

Focused on being the most authentic health and wellness company in South Africa, Hobbo’s journey offered Biogen a unique opportunity to share an important message about the need for healthy eating and regular exercise, and prove the brand’s values in a relatable way. That’s when Hobbo’s #BiogenJourney was born.  

The team 

Hobbo assembled a team of professionals to help him work towards and achieve his audacious goal. They included one of South Africa’s best endurance coaches, Lindsey Parry, biokineticist Cayla Urdang, and nutritionist Ruth Marcus

To physically be in a position to complete a half Ironman, Hobbo needed to lose a fair amount of weight first before training accordingly for it. “He was effectively half muscle, half fat. The bottom line was, he was obese,” explains Ruth.

The diet overhaul

“Changing my diet was the hardest part of the transformation,” admits Hobbo. “I love my food, so I need to be very conscious of what and how much I eat. That was much harder than banging out a 5km training run.”

Ruth’s initial plan was a lower-carb, intermittent fasting dietary approach to restore Hobbo’s insulin sensitivity and promote weight loss. 

“It was a numbers game at the outset. We needed to create a calorie deficit at first without causing any adverse health effects, but we needed to do this with delicious and nutritious meals to keep Hobbo interested. Then, once his training volume increased, we’d manipulate macros to keep losing body fat while retaining muscle mass.” 

Hobbo’s training approach

Coach Parry devised a periodised training program that included exercise six days a week. Hobbo kept Saturday’s free to keep his regular golf game with his mates. 

Hobbo’s daily support supplement stack:
  • Biogen Omega 3 Iso 1000mg
  • Biogen Milk Thistle – an antioxidant to aid cleansing and detox. 
  • Biogen Multi Vitamin Plus
  • Biogen Ferrous Plus – Iron to boost his low levels
  • Biogen Vitamin C Ester Plus – additional antioxidant and immune support 
  • Biogen Glucosamine Chondroitin – joint support 
  • Biogen Liquid L-Carnitine – assists with fat loss
Hobbo’s recovery supplement:
  • Biogen L-Glutamine Amino Acid

A good start

Thanks to this expert guidance, Hobbo made good progress. After six weeks he had already lost 10kg. He was also fit enough to attempt his first physical challenge – the 65km Amashova Durban Classic, which he completed. 

By the end of November, Hobbo had lost 17kg, dropped 4.8% in body fat and 3.3 points in his Body Mass Index (BMI). He was also ready for his first triathlon.

The benefits showed as he performed well at Cradle Moon in the west of Johannesburg, where Hobbo completed his first sprint triathlon – a 600m swim, 20km cycle and a 5km run.

Fine-tuning the approach

However, it hadn’t all been smooth sailing. Hobbo’s weight loss had plateaued five weeks into the program. Ruth suggested a food diary, which uncovered some poor eating habits. It also revealed that Hobbo had fallen off the diet bandwagon over the weekend, and just a few days of poor food and drink choices had set him back. 

“At that stage I felt like I had earned it. It was tough not going out or eating the things I enjoyed. There’s only so much creamed spinach and butternut a man can eat,” he jokes.

After a few diet tweaks and having restored his commitment to the plan, Hobbo was soon back on track. 

Hitting the milestones

By the new year, Hobbo had reached the 20kg milestone on his #BiogenJourney, and with that upped the ante in his training with a different kind of session with Wayne ‘Tails’ Taylor, who worked on his posture and mobility.

Hobbo also headed back to Cradle Moon in 2019 for a 5150 triathlon –1500m swim, 40km cycle and 10km run.

“Being lighter made it easier to cover the longer distances and gave me more confidence. My better eating habits also meant I had more energy during and after the race. Overall, I was feeling a lot stronger and better for it.”

With just six weeks to go, Hobbo tackled another 5150 triathlon in Germiston. Where Cradle Moon was predominantly off-road, Germiston offered a full road triathlon experience, which was similar to what he could expect in Durban in June. It was an important test.   

The injury scare

Despite a strong swim and stellar bike leg, Hobbo dropped out of the race 3.5km into the run due to pain in his feet. 

It was a nervous time for the team as the possibility that he might not achieve his goal due to injury crossed everyone’s mind. The injury also brought into question the issue of balance in Hobbo’s training. 

“I had a scan, which identified an overuse injury to my peroneal tendon that was causing the foot pain.” With guidance from Cayla, Hobbo realised that his injury setback could have been avoided with smarter training as he ramped up his running mileage. 

However, with the injury identified and the root cause addressed, Hobbo was able to continue with preparations in the lead up to Durban. His performance at the 90km Tour of Durban instilled a great deal of confidence in Hobbo as he beat his Amashova time, which was achieved on a shorter, predominantly downhill course. 

His final fitness test came at the Sun City Ultra Triathlon race. “ I completed the full swim and bike leg, but dropped out 10km into the run as per Coach Parry’s instructions. We just wanted to test the injury and everything went well.” It was all systems go for the big day on 2 June in Durban. 

The red carpet beckons 

After nine months of hard training and sacrifice, race day dawned. Hobbo lined up feeling confident alongside 3,000 other participants in ideal conditions. 

Hobbo’s goal was to exit the water in 40 minutes. He was, however, a bit off the mark, which put pressure on him to make the cut-offs on the ride to ensure he completed the race. Thankfully, Hobbo’s training and his Biogen-fuelled race-day nutrition plan ensured he had a strong bike leg, with enough left in the legs to finish the run. 

Hobbo’s race nutrition plan: 
  • Biogen Real Fruit Energy Gels
  • Biogen Electrolyte Ready To Drink and tabs
  • Biogen Cytogen Race Mix
  • Biogen Gozo Sports Gel

He left T2 to head off on the run with ample time to complete the race. Executing his run-walk race strategy, Hobbo was able to complete his #BiogenJourney, finishing the 2019 Standard Bank Ironman 70.3 Durban in a time of 8h15. 

“That was the hardest thing I have ever done. To do that run after the swim and bike was really tough, but it was also very rewarding,” says Hobbo. 

More importantly, his achievement has inspired others to make a change in their lives. To date, Biogen – the brand that powered Hobbo over the finish line – has received over 300 #BiogenJourney submissions. 

And Hobbo’s new-found fitness has also opened up new opportunities for adventure. He is planning to enter a number of mountain bike stage races later in the year as he has found a form of exercise that he can do for the enjoyment, which is so vital to ensure he sustains his new lifestyle. Watch this space for updates on the next phase of Hobbo’s #BiogenJourney.