“I was born & bred in Plymouth, Devon & applied to join the Royal Marines when I was 16 years old straight after leaving school. I was fortunate enough to be accepted & start training at 17 and by the time I had turned 18 I had passed my training & earned the right to wear the coveted Green Beret.” says Mark.
“The troop I started training with (804 troop in Feb 2001) was 62 men strong initially & 30+ weeks later when training was over only a small handful of the original members made it through to the end (Oct 2001) in one shot (I think there were 16 of us).”
“After finishing training I spent a small amount of time working security on various Royal Marines camps and eventually got drafted back to Plymouth to Royal Marines HQ in 2002.”
“I was trained to deploy to Afghanistan (Operation Jacana) in 2002 but never deployed and then a year later in early 2003 I was deployed to Iraq on Operation Telic 1.”
©mre-photography 2015 Matt Elliott.
“On my return I spent a little bit of time on the Royal Marines boxing squad & took part in various exercises around the world including America & 2 deployments to Norway.” says Mark.
“I left the military in early 2006 after the birth of my first daughter and went to South Africa to re-train as a bodyguard. Things didn’t work out for me so I rejoined the Marines in 2007 & was almost immediately deployed to Afghanistan on Operation Herrick 7 which is where I was injured by an Improvised Explosive Device on Christmas Eve 2007.”
“Initially following my injuries I kept to the same mindset of lifting as heavy as I could and eating as much as I could but that didn’t work out firstly because I was in a wheelchair and not moving as much as I should have so put on too much weight & secondly because when I started using my prosthetic legs I was too top heavy & it made everything more difficult.”
“For anyone missing both legs above the knee it takes somewhere between 300%-500% more energy to do anything than it does for an able bodied person & so I had completely re-think my lifestyle & diet. At first I went way too far the wrong way and started juicing lots of fruit and veg, went cold turkey on anything that was processed or too carb heavy & ended up drastically loosing weight which was ok initially as it was less to carry around & I felt fitter and healthier but pretty soon I had gone too far & it was unhealthy.”
“It took my quite some time to figure out a good balance between being clean, healthy & having enough energy to get through a day.” says Mark.
“Because of the huge energy requirements on my body it’s been a real journey trying to balance the right foods and supplements to have me at my optimum and thats just for getting around on prosthetics when you throw a training regime into the mix it gets a bit more complicated but you figure it out into end.”
Overcoming Physical Differences
“One of the biggest problems I had in the beginning was trying to figure everything out using prosthetics, it wasn’t so bad with my legs as 90% of the machines in a gym I can still use but with the prosthetic arm it makes everything that much more difficult. I would have go into the gym during quiet periods and spend a little bit of time working things out. I went in when it was quiet because I didn’t want to spend a long time on the equipment in a packed gym and screw up anybody else’s workout.”
“Eventually as the days passed I figured out more and more of the things that I could do even if I had to slightly adapt exercises and machines to hit the muscles that I wanted to work.” says Mark.
“I found it awkward in the beginning because people would stare at me which I didn’t mind if they were just checking out the limbs but what bothered me was if they looked at the ways in which I was using the machines & thought I was one of those guys from the ‘gym fails’ videos because they didn’t understand the mechanics of my prosthetics & that I had to do things slightly different.”
“When I work my chest on the cable crossovers my prosthetic arm literally bends the completely wrong way so if I have a hoody on it looks like I’ve broken my arm but now I find all that stuff amusing.”
“I don’t have a specific training program, a lot of the time I like to just go in and train what I feel like. I spend a lot of the time on the road working as a motivational speaker travelling all over the world so its hard sometimes to stick to a program.”
“I have recently started including cardio in the early mornings using either the hand-bike I have at home or walking on the treadmill (remember it takes me 300%-500% more energy to move) so a good 35-40 minutes at an incline seems to the trick.”
“My motivation comes from many sources. One is my pride in being a Royal Marine and my desire to show people that the high standards we’re trained to don’t cease just because of a change in circumstances, my children motivate me as I’m dedicated to setting an example for them & teaching them that life is what you make of it & I’m extremely motivated by trying to show the rest of the world that with the right mindset, tools & attitude you really can do anything and create the kind of life you want to live.”
“Being physical has always been a huge part of my life even from a young age because of the quality that it adds to my life, I’d love to motivate other people whether they are disabled or able bodied to go out and make more positive choices in their lives by training & becoming more active, it has both physical & mental benefits and has certainly been a huge part of my initial recovery and is now once again a huge part of my over all life.”
A Few of My Achievements
1. The Gumpathon
2. Tour De Forces
3. Ben Nevis
“On June 9th it will also be 6yrs since the last time I used a wheelchair which is extremely rare for someone with my injuries because of the energy expenditure I talked about, I use prosthetics full time and as a consequence have to live a semi-athlete lifestyle.”
“There are a few there media bits like skydiving, wing talking, bungee jumping, carrying the olympic torch etc… but I am assuming you wanted the more physically demanding stuff.”