Robert Webling with his wife and sons. From being obese and a smoker, Webling is today a Spartan racer. He smoked his last cigarette on New Year’s Eve 2010. Image Credit: Supplied

This South African dad-of-two shed 30 kilos and gave up smoking for his wife and children.

Now, how sweet is that?

Twelve years ago, Robert Webling, 44, transformed his life – from being overweight - to turning ultra-fit just so he could inspire his family into leading a healthy life-style.

Today, Webling is a Spartan racer, a challenge not everyone can take up.

This year he has already travelled to four countries for the races.

When you join a gym you get two free sessions with a personal trainer. I was so embarrassed after my first one I could not do even basic exercises. That day when I went home, I decided I was going to change my life for good and for the better.

- Robert Webling, 44-year-old Spartan racer

For the uninitiated, the Spartan race is a series of obstacle races of varying distance and difficulty ranging from three miles to marathon distances. They are held in the US and have been franchised to 30 countries, including Canada, South Korea, Australia and several European countries. “One has to be in the best of health and fitness levels to be able to tackle the obstacles in the race. This year, I went to Bahrain, Philippines (twice), Malaysia and Slovakia for this. I got lucky in Malaysia and I came third in the super race (13 plus kilometers), a feat not easy to accomplish.”

But Webling, who works as a business development manager at a private firm in Dubai, is honest to admit that 12 years ago he would not dare venture into this as he was far from being fit and healthy.

Rob Webling tackling one of his hurdles Image Credit: Supplied

Turning point

“Back in 2006 I weighed 120 kilos. My body had 34 per cent fat and my diet was very poor. Around this time my wife was switching jobs in Dubai. Back in the days, when a person changed jobs in the UAE, they had to leave the country for six months. So my wife went home and I was all alone at home with little to do. I decided to join the gym to try and lose some weight. This was a turning point in my life.”

Lost 30 kilos in three months

“When you join a gym you get two free sessions with a personal trainer. I was so embarrassed after my first one I could not do even basic exercises. That day when I went home, I decided I was going to change my life for good and for the better. I worked hard doing cardio and weights, I kept a watch on my diet and managed to lose 30 kilos in three months. At the end of it, I learnt about food, nutrition and serving sizes. I was healthier, but not necessarily fitter.”

A before and after picture of Rob Webling. Image Credit: Supplied

So what prompted him to push his fitness levels?

“My family has always been a priority for me and I did it all for them. People are always full of advice. They tell you a number of things like get fit, go for exercise, eat healthy… All this works if you set an example of what they preach. And so when my wife became pregnant with our first child, I took some hard decisions,” said Webling.

Quit smoking

Webling was a regular smoker and decided to give it up when his wife became pregnant with their first child.

“It is not easy for a regular smoker to give up his cigarettes. But I believe that with support from family, friends and co-workers it is possible,” he said.

Rob Webling with his race medals Image Credit: Supplied

Webling smoked his last cigarette on New Year’s Eve 2010. “When my wife became pregnant and I could not smoke anywhere near her. This meant I had to step out of the house every time to take a drag. And when I would get home, I would be reeking of smoke. So on New Year’s Eve I decided to quit for good. My boys who are now 7 and 4 years of age have never seen me hold a cigarette in my hand.”

He said: “When children are young they should be exposed to as many sports activities as possible so they grow up doing the same. Every weekend I run with my boys. While I cover 15 kilometres, my boys do three. My elder son is getting a black belt in Taekwondo. He does cross country in school.”