Ken Heathcote, a coal miner’s son from a Northern council estate, became one of the most influential men in the fitness industry – a pioneering visionary who transformed Britain’s health culture and helped a Premier League soccer team overcome its players’ psychological problems.
The former paratrooper launched the country’s first multi-facility fitness club in his home town of Bolton, and for 30 years was involved with more than 100,000 people – local folk who simply wanted to get fit, but also dozens of sporting household names.
At one point, Ken was training more than thirty people, aged over 40, who were running marathons in under three hours. He coached a cerebal palsy victim, who won six Gold Medals at the Paralympic Games in New York.
And, as a Mister Universe judge, he met Arnold Schwarzanegger, who told him he would one day be a Governor of California!
For his 40th birthday, Ken raised money for a leukaemia charity by: Running 40 miles before breakfast…Lifting 40,000 lbs, in a series of exercises, in 40 minutes…Playing four, best of five, squash matches against the world squash champion, two England footballers, and a disc jockey… Performing 400 sit-ups.
Six years later, Ken achieved national acclaim when BBC TV filmed him trying to break the Land’s End to John o’ Groats record by running the 841 miles in under 11 days. He managed 559 miles in nine days before a damaged Achilles tendon forced him to quit.
For his 50th birthday, Ken raised money to help a local school by: Running 50 miles…Lifting 50,000lbs in 50 minutes…Playing five squash matches against an England footballer, Britain’s tennis No. 2, British badminton champion, a Rugby League international…. Performing 500 sit-ups.
By Robin McGibbon – Best selling author
1950 – Started apprenticeship as a Bricklayer
1954/56 – Called up for National Service – Joined 1st Parachute Regiment – active service in Cyprus.
After finishing National Service he went back into the Building trade and in his spare time set up a Gym wherever he could find space (be it a school hall or a cellar.) All the gyms in those days were classed as back street black iron.
1968 – Set up Bolton Health Studio with his building trade partner Bill Stevenson. This was located in a disused clothing factory.
1971 – They moved into Bolton Town centre and this proved to be the turning point of a 35 year career. Bolton Health Studio grew from a £2.000 per year turnover to £120.000 turnover and by 1973 had eventually grown to over £600.000.
Ken was a Mr Britain and Mr Universe Judge for over 20 years.
He was also a Co-founder of the Fitness Industry Association (FIA) – Board member and twice elected Chairman. The FIA would grow to be the second largest organisation of its kind in the world.
He founded the National Amateur Bodybuilding Association (NABBA) Training Course – This was re-branded to Focus Training and Assessment and qualified over 30,000 students to national levels.
Worked on the Industry Lead Body for Sport and Recreation and also on the working group committee in forming the NVQ.
Their company Focus Training were winners of the Government National Training Award with its courses.
He has competed as a Swimmer, Weightlifter and Bodybuilder. At the age of 40 he took up running and competed in 5 World Championships (3 Marathons and 2 – 25k runs) Marathon Personal Best 2.31 at the age of 45.
Filmed by BBC TV attempting to run from John o’ Groats to Lands End for the programme 40 minutes – recorded as running over 70 miles per day – had to withdraw at the Iron Bridge in Worcester due to an Achilles injury.
On 40th birthday for charity he ran 40 miles – lifted 40,000 lbs in weights in a series of exercises in 40 minutes – played 4 people consecutive games of squash and finished the day with 400 sit ups.
On his 50th birthday and again for charity he repeated the above but in a series of 50.
At the age of 74 he took up mountaineering – climbing in the Lake District, in the The Peak District and in Switzerland. The highest climbs being the Riffelhorn 10,000 ft and the Mammutt via ferrata at 13,000 ft.
He is the Author of the book “The Gym Business” and have been presented with two lifetime achievement awards from two separate industries.