Buck has serious health message
It’s time for men to front up about their health.
Former All Black captain and rugby hero Buck Shelford has survived cancer and regained his health after a massive weight gain, both experiences that have prompted him to reach out to Kiwi men to take charge of their own health.
While his book Buck Up, The Real Guide to Getting Healthy and Living Longer documents Buck’s personal experiences, his big mission now is to guide New Zealand men to better quality lives.
The book is full of statistics that make sombre reading. And the main thing that stands out is that men are not stacking up compared to women in the mortality rates, especially Maori men who are dying 10 years earlier than their non-Maori mates.
The man-to-man advice manual is ‘‘men’s stuff’’. Show it to women, but only if they are temporarily sworn in as honorary men, he says, tongue in cheek.
It’s great reading, a combination of understandable scientific facts helped along by highly regarded sports scientist Dr Grant Schofield – interspersed with Buck’s personal experiences and tips for a healthier life – exercise, sports nutrition, losing weight, mental toughness, leadership, going to the doctor, growing old, stress, man flu, sex and women.
Buck played 48 games for the All Blacks, 31 as captain, including 14 tests – all of which were undefeated.
He has faced more than his fair share of battles on the field – he’s got an arthritic knee, his neck’s never been the same since a front-on hit in a game against Ireland and his right trapezius doesn’t work any more.
When he sought medical help for a constantly weepy eye, he was in for an ever bigger battle. By the time the mass behind his eye was diagnosed as non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the cancer had already spread throughout his body.
But in the same determined manner he had led his beloved rugby teams to victory, Buck faced his illness head-on.
It was ‘‘time to front’’, he says.
He remembers 2007 as the year he fought cancer and after six months of a combination of chemo- therapy, naturopathic treatment and good food, the tumours were shrinking. By Christmas he was feeling better and looking forward to ‘‘nailing it completely’’.
At the time of writing his book, released last month, the cancer has been gone for five years.
Lymphoma can be treated if caught early enough, but he says a lot of people don’t go to the doctor because they’re scared of finding out.
‘‘But at the end of the day you need to know what you’ve got and move on – rather than too late and not going to live.’’
He has the same philosophy about weight loss, deal with it and move on.
The former super-fit rugby hero piled on 25 kilos in the time he was a publican.
His wife Joanne recalls: ‘‘(He was) tired, grumpy, unmotivated and probably sick of hearing me say, ‘come for a run, let’s go to the gym, what about a bike ride’?’’
A life-changing phone call from a major weight loss company changed everything and since he accepted the challenge to lose weight, Buck has never looked back.
He’s passionate about fitness and getting the word out to men that they don’t have to die young and they can have a good quality of life if they eat well and exercise.
‘‘When we get into our 50s it becomes harder to shift weight and do exercise. I think we just have to be a little tougher on ourselves – once we’ve knocked the first brick wall and the soreness is gone from the gym, the weight starts to drop.’’
He says after competitive sport most people put on 1.5 to 2kg a year, which over their lifetime means they can become 20kg heavier than they were in their 20s.
‘‘People think it’s the norm but it’s not, we need to train ourselves to stay the same weight.’’
He says exercise is medicine.
‘‘Thirty to 40 minutes a day is good for the body, spirit and soul. It’s your investment in health and if we have got health then we can have a good life.’’
He urges men to go to the doctor on a regular basis – ‘‘once a year and do the tests’’.
‘‘And eat healthy wholesome food that your grandmother would recognise.’’
Top form: At the peak of his fitness, Buck leads the haka for the All Blacks against Argentina in Dunedin in 1989.
Man up: Buck Shelford wants men to man up about their health, get fit, eat well and go to the doctor once a year.