In December 2011, Luvuyo Bangazi weighed 117 kg’s (257 lbs). A partner in an advertising agency, he had to undergo mandatory medical exams to take life insurance to cover the business shareholding.

He was told his cover would cost more as he was heading for obesity.

“At nearly 120kg’s (264 lbs), I became a high risk with potential for diabetes, high blood pressure and the business was hammered with an additional levy because of this risk. It was funny but embarrassing at the same time,” Bangazi recalls.

The turning point

Summer holidays ensued and the South African’s vacation was interrupted by this revelation. He decided with New Years on the way, he would make a resolution and mean it.

When the new year came, he entered a triathlon team event where the daunting 18 kilometre cycling leg would be his responsibility. As if this wasn’t a mountain to climb for the man whose exercise until then consisted of the odd round of bad golf, the 4 kilometre run was placed on his shoulders when the runner dropped out.

It took Bangazi one and a half hours to complete both disciplines. The following year, he volunteered at an Ironman event and that’s when the exercise bug bit.

He decided to enter his local Ironman 70.3 event but there was only one problem, he couldn’t swim.

The 36-year-old began swimming lessons with less than 6 months to the event that consists of 1.9km (1.2-mile) swim, a 90km (56-mile) bike ride, and a 21.1 km (13.1-mile) run.

“My first sea swim was in December that year, just less than 2 months to race day.”

What happened next was an amazing transformation. He went from a fast paced agency life, made up of plenty working nights eating junk food, to completing 3 full Ironman events, 3 Ironman 70.3 events and 5 marathons in just over three years.

“Since 2013 I feel more confident in my own abilities and short comings, I believe anything is possible and the word ‘can’t’ is slowly disappearing from my vocabulary. I think all those hours alone on the bike, on the run and those mind numbing laps in the pool force you to connect with your inner-self and sort of see things a lot clearer, you become a lot more observant and alert. Life just looks different; you see opportunities where before you saw challenges. The best part though is meeting people from all walks of life, all with a unique and inspiring story to tell. That gets me going.”

Does he regret not discovering the fitness lifestyle earlier?

“I wish I had been exposed to this at a very young age. When you’re swimming at your max at 2min/100m and you see your mates who had been in it since primary school going at 1min20/100m, you easily get demoralised. But that is the challenge for me, to improve and get better even at 40 years old. Commitment and drive is not something I’m short of and in this game you need bucket loads of it.”

Where to from here?

Luvuyo turned 40 this year and birthday gifts have taken on a new form. His wife and two young daughters presented him with a trip to take part in his first international event. He’ll be competing in Ironman 70.3 Bahrain.

Ironman training is known for producing a selfish lifestyle with the amount of commitment needed for training. Bangazi has decided to give a little back to the family by making the trip a family holiday. It will be his daughters first international trip and he’s decided to use his participation to raise awareness for a campaign he cares about.

“We also decided I could use this opportunity to celebrate my birthday by creating a campaign to give back to those less fortunate. So I’ll be racing Bahrain under the Smile Foundation Ironman team banner. All funds raised go to fund surgical procedures on kids with facial conditions. I love kids man,” the inspiring guy says.

At 36 years of age, Luvuyo Bangazi said #ShutUpOcean” and learnt to swim, chasing his dreams.