INTERVIEW - PAUL SWAINSON
Paul has been involved in the fitness industry since 2002, Paul has run successful Personal Training businesses in various health clubs in West Yorkshire, including two national gym chains. Now in developed even further, Paul has made the improved programme accessible to more people across Leeds and the surrounding area with the launch of his private Fitness Training Consultancy.
1. What made you decide to become a Personal Training Tutor?
Having worked as a Personal Trainer for a while I wanted that next step in my career and ‘training the trainers’ seemed the logical progression. I came into the fitness industry wanting to educate others about health and exercise and found I got the most satisfaction from working with clients that were really motivated and wanted to learn. So working with groups of fitness professionals that were equally passionate about the industry was very appealing.
2. What is your favourite aspect of your work as a Tutor?
Seeing the many ‘penny drop’ moments over the course of the 5-day Personal Training module, as students gain a deeper understanding of the human body and how it functions. When they realise why certain exercises work, or how and why free weights challenge the body differently to resistance machines for example, I get a buzz from that sense of “ahh, I see now!” that the students are getting.
Also, when the students see how much opportunity there is for development and variation moving from Gym Instruction to Personal Training, many gain new inspiration, and it is very satisfying to know I have provided that for them. The positive feedback I receive from students is highly rewarding – I have to try hard not to let it go to my head!
3. If you work part time, what other fitness related work do you get involved in?
My Monday to Friday job, as it were, is Personal Training. I have an established client base across Leeds ranging from ages 22-62. I am a ‘functional’ trainer which, as my clients will tell you, means I use weird and wonderful exercises in my programmes! I recently completed a high level qualification which is giving me some very advanced skills I can use to get people’s bodies working properly, whilst helping them to improve fitness. Any kind of ache or niggle - back, knee or shoulder pain for example, can limit exercise performance so if we can sort that out first, it means better, pain-free results!
I also run 2 weekly exercise classes at local residential care homes. We do chair-based exercise which is a world away from my PT work, but it’s great fun and very entertaining – for both the residents and me!
A third string to my bow is a Business Mentoring and Consultancy service which I provide to new and existing fitness professionals who are looking for ways to improve the sales and marketing side of their career. With a passion for all things physical, it is sometimes the area that self-employed PT’s struggle with and so as with the teaching, it is very rewarding to help someone get established or develop their business to where they want it to be.
4. What is your favourite exercise / type of exercise?
For clients, you can’t beat circuits for enjoyment and effectiveness. Mixed in with a little kick-boxing with pads and mitts it’s a great way of getting involved with the session (as a Personal Trainer I couldn’t just stand and watch my client exercising). It means you can incorporate all the exercises your client needs for improved function, fitness and goal attainment, but without the boredom of spending ages on one thing. Motivation is a huge part of Personal Training. I have often said that PT’s who can motivate their clients to go from no activity to walking for thirty minutes a day will get better results than those who prescribe a fantastic, cutting-edge programme but can’t get their client’s to stick to it.
Personally, I’ve recently been taking a dose of my own medicine and enjoying putting what I’ve learned from my course into action. That means I’ve been doing exercises which tie you up in knots but leave you feeling strong, free and flexible afterwards. A favourite is multi-plane press ups; changing the position of your hands with every rep – rotated in/out, staggered, narrow, wide, wide and staggered, etc. It really gets the chest and shoulders working!
5. What is your favourite thing to do on your day off / or when you have spare time?
What’s spare time?!? Being self-employed/freelance, it’s very difficult to switch off from work as you are constantly thinking about how to develop your business. But equally, you need downtime to mentally recharge the batteries and stay motivated. Of course I get to the gym myself when I’m not working, or go to Thai Boxing training, but I enjoy sitting down to a good DVD with my girlfriend and we try our hand at the local pub quiz very week (with an orange juice of course!).
On the odd occasion when I do get a weekend free, I give my car a good wash and polish (sad I know but I like my cars!) or spend time with my family who are dotted around the country which means regular visits to catch up with them all.
6. What's your biggest/best achievement to date?
I would split that into professional and personal achievements. From a career point of view I am particularly proud of the fact I have established a successful fitness training business from scratch. Devising my own branding, commissioning and designing a website and marketing material, liaising with advertisers and promoting the business is hard work, not to mention actually training clients!
In terms of achievements with clients, I worked with a professional Thai boxer for a year, helping him to prepare for fights. He became a World Champion whilst I was training him and you can’t get much better than that!
Personally, my biggest achievement to date is probably competing at the British Indoor Rowing Championships in 2005. I didn’t break any records or win any medals, but I had set myself a target time to beat six months earlier, followed a structured training programme designed to hit that target and became very self-disciplined in terms of nutrition and diet – all the things I teach my clients to do. To achieve my goal was tremendously satisfying.
7. What advice would you give to someone who would like to work in the fitness industry?
Be fully aware of the hard work you need to put in, especially as a self-employed professional. When I first qualified I thought it would be easy to walk straight into a PT position – how wrong I was! Looking back I’m glad I gained some experience in a paid Gym Instructor position before moving onto PT – that taught me how to train and motivate people but it didn’t have financial consequences if I didn’t get it right every time.
I’d also recommend getting some business advice. It’s no good having great training programmes if you’ve got no clients to follow them! Knowing how to promote and market yourself and sell your services is as important as the fitness skills and knowledge, if not more so in the early stages of your career. Going back to the hard work point, people are very passive when it comes to fitness training – you won’t get endless phone calls and emails asking for your help so you need to put in the effort to find your clients.
8. What do you believe is the key to being a successful health and fitness professional?
Although there are certain common elements to all fitness professionals, I can only really speak for Personal Trainers here. I believe you need knowledge and desire to learn in three key areas: fitness, which includes anatomy, physiology and exercise, behavioural psychology, and business management. These three elements cover how you physically train a client to achieve their goals, how to motivate them to continue with their training, and how you go about finding those clients in the first place, and then retain them.
Without any one of the three you are going to limit your success as a trainer. I also believe that, with the expansion of the industry and the corresponding rise in the number of Personal Trainers that people have to choose from, it is increasingly important for trainers to develop a unique selling point. This is why ‘specialists’ and ‘experts’ have become more common, such as ante/post natal trainers, ‘boot camp’ leaders, kettle bell coaches, etc. This is a sound business strategy and a good example of how the three elements above combine to make a successful health and fitness professional.
9. What keeps you motivated?
I enjoy seeing people get the benefit of my skills and knowledge, whether that’s improvements to physical fitness or learning how to be a Personal Trainer. Knowing that you have helped to improve someone’s quality of life is very rewarding. As the educational aspect of my career is very important to me, I am keen to deliver more and more training workshops to other fitness professionals and this is something I am working towards. I have always looked up to the top educators in fitness around the world and the thought of contributing to the development of the fitness industry is highly motivating for me.
I also tell myself that one day I will own a luxury car. Perhaps a Ferrari… I haven’t decided yet!
10. If you weren't working in the fitness industry what would you be doing instead and why?
I would probably be a car mechanic specialising in expensive cars (making things work better, whether it’s cars or bodies, is obviously in my genes!). When I was younger, I wanted to be a journalist, which is interesting as I now do a fair bit of writing for various websites, ezines, magazines and newsletters.
Give Paul a visit at: http://www.peakphysiqueleeds.co.uk/?home
Hungry4Fitness.com would like to thank Paul Swainson for doing this interview