Lawyer turned triathlete & personal trainer
Interviewed by Jo Reynolds
How long have you lived in the area?
Since 2002. I moved up from Fulham and quickly fell in love with the area.
I can often be found running or cycling along the Thames towpath. Ravenscourt Park is a gem of a city park, and Hartswood is a great local tennis club. The Anglesea Arms is my pub of choice for catching up with friends.
Where did you grow up?
Swansea. I came to London to study law at university and stayed.
My competitive streak only comes out in a sporting context
Are you from a sporty family?
Not particularly. My family think I’m rather eccentric for my triathlon and cycling exploits.
What does a triathlon involve and how long does it take?
There are various distances from super sprint to Ironman but I focus on the standard distance, 1500m swim, 40k bike and 10k run. Every race is different but I'm delighted if I can get round in under 2 and a half hours.
Were you sporty at school?
I was school games' captain and had a go at every sport going but especially lacrosse and tennis.
Are you competitive?
Perhaps strangely, my competitive streak only seems to come out in a sporting context. I love the anticipation and adrenaline rush before a match or race and the sense of satisfaction at the end. I continued to train and compete in a number of sports throughout my legal career, including playing rugby for Wales in the 90s.
You sound proud of being Welsh.
I am. There's a thriving London Welsh community and I enjoyed many years singing in the London Welsh Chorale as well as playing rugby at London Welsh.
What's your greatest sporting achievement?
I think it must be competing for GB in the age group triathlon world championships in Chicago in 2015.
Why the change from lawyer to personal trainer?
I really enjoyed my time as a corporate lawyer and had a successful career in private practice and then as in-house general counsel, but after 25 years of long office hours I felt it was time to leave corporate life and try something completely different.
Why personal training?
I'd worked with some amazing trainers and seen how they'd helped me get stronger, fitter and less prone to injury. And they inspired me to take up triathlon. When you’re working long hours at the desk, having a regular PT session in the diary can be the only sure way of getting some exercise. I also knew that all the strength and conditioning work I’d done over the years had given me huge experience to complement the PT qualification I got in 2015.
Do you specialise?
Not deliberately. My clients range from 18 to 81. Some just want to keep fit and strong. Some are training for marathons and triathlons. Others are recovering from injury or illness. However, perhaps because of my age, I seem to be working more and more with clients in their 40s, 50s and 60s, who see the value of personal training in keeping them strong and mobile. And I'm currently training a couple of older clients who've been referred to me by physiotherapists for rehabilitation after illness and injury. It’s incredibly satisfying to see how just gentle exercise can help them regain muscle mass and the confidence to get back on their feet.
What's the best exercise regime for the elderly?
I never prescribe one regime for all clients. Body age is a relative thing. I had a 70-year-old client who could do more press-ups than many 20-year-olds. It's all about taking the time to find the right starting point for each client and progressing from there. Having said that, one of the biggest risks to a healthy and active old age is tripping or falling so working on strong leg muscles and balance is critical. One of my favourite exercises is the “no arms” get up from a chair or bench, using both legs and progressing to single leg. One client tells me it's helped her alight elegantly from taxis.
What's the best part of the job?
Seeing the difference you can make to people’s lives, whether it’s simply that they leave a session feeling uplifted and energised or, over the longer term, when they achieve their goals – whether climbing a mountain or walking unaided down the street. One woman trained with me for six months before her wedding day and, as well as looking amazing, her increased self-confidence made me so happy.
Are you under pressure to look good all the time?
I've not really thought about it but I'd say no. But I need to practice what I preach and, if I can, I want to inspire my clients by remaining fit and strong.
For people who hate exercise, what's the least they should do?
Don’t set unrealistic goals. Do something sociable like walking and chatting along the Thames path with a friend so it doesn’t feel like exercise – even if you’re finishing off at the pub. Or engage a personal trainer and be inspired to love exercise!
These days, exercise seems to be all about intensity.
HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is a great way of improving your CV (cardiovascular) fitness, especially for those short of time. And it can help with weight loss but it’s not for everyone and there are plenty of other forms of exercise.
What's your style? Are you a drill sergeant?
No. The skill of a good trainer is to adapt his or her style to whatever best motivates the individual client but, generally, I prefer to achieve results by nudging rather than shouting.
Do you exercise with your clients?
I will run with some clients if they want that – and as long as they aren’t too fast for me – but generally it’s more important that I demonstrate and then watch that they are performing exercises correctly.
Where do you train clients?
By the river, in the park, at clients’ houses, whatever works best. For those who prefer a gym environment, I use a local PT studio. I work mostly one-to-one and in small group classes.
Do you actually like exercise?
Definitely. Of course, there are times when I have to force myself out for a run but I always feel better for it afterwards.
What are your indulgences?
Steak and chips and a glass of red wine at the pub.
What's your perfect day in London?
Being out and about. In summer, swimming at Shepperton Lake, a bike ride with friends or a game of tennis. In winter, making the most of London’s arts and culture. We have so much on our doorstep in West London.
Thank you, Mary. It's been a real pleasure to meet you.
Interviewed August 2018