Whether it be fitness, weight loss or purely an outlet for frustration, thousands of Australians turn to personal trainers to get moving. Here's an interview I did with Rebecca De Unamuno & Claire Tompsett on ABC Sydney Radio about all things personal training, the fitness industry and how to lose weight. You'll have a 'behind the scenes' look at what it's really like being a personal trainer.
Simply listen to the interview in the player below or have a read of the transcript underneath.
Rebecca: 00:00 This week on The Industry, they're the people who motivate and encourage us, who push us beyond what we thought possible. They are personal trainers. Whether it be fitness, weight loss or purely an outlet for frustration, thousands of Australians turn to personal trainers to get us moving. Joining me today are trainers Claire Tompsett from North Shore Running Fitness and Aidan D'Arcy from The Body Transformation Academy. Welcome to you both.
Claire: 00:26 Thank you.
Aidan: 00:27 Cheers. Thank you.
Rebecca: 00:28 I want to start with you, Claire. What led you to become a personal trainer?
Claire: 00:32 I kind of fell into it a little bit. I finished my exercise science degree and was just looking for some work on the side while I finished that off, and I started working for another company. Then I realized I was getting a little bit ripped off by them, if I'm brutally honest, and so, I just went out on my own and started taking my own clients.
Rebecca: 00:52 Fantastic. And, Aidan, what about yourself?
Aidan: 00:54 Mine's a bit of a long story, but, long story short, I was playing professional soccer over in the UK. Then, once that all fell through I needed to ... I actually just needed something to do. So, I know a lot of PTs would say I got into it for I wanted to change lives. Mine was about going through needing something to do. But then, you know, once you start getting those clients results and you start realizing how much of an awesome impact you have on that person's life. I just fell in love with it.
Rebecca: 01:20 Yeah. And it must be amazing, Claire, when somebody comes to you unsure of what they're doing and unsure of whether they can do it, and seeing them reach their first goal. That must be a real sense of achievement for you.
Claire: 01:31 Yeah. Yeah. That's it. And especially, I'm helping people achieve a running goal, usually. So, if that's 5K or their first marathon, and seeing them finish that, get over that finish line healthy and fit and really happy with themselves is very rewarding.
Rebecca: 01:45 That's brilliant. And what skills, Aidan, do you think it is that you need to be an effective personal trainer?
Aidan: 01:51 Do you know, I think more so than ever these days, it's listening skills. You need to be able to take on board what your client is telling you, and you need to be able to understand psychology, especially, and understand how you can motivate that client when they're not motivated, and how you can help them overcome their own barriers.
Rebecca: 02:07 Yeah. Absolutely. It must be really important. And, Claire, you focus on running and outdoor fitness.
Claire: 02:12 Yep.
Rebecca: 02:13 What sort of people come to you for training? Is it people that want to train for an event specifically?
Claire: 02:19 Yeah. Generally, they're coming in on a program. So, they're either coming in on the City2Surf 10-week running program, or a marathon program, or they might be coming in on a beginners' only program. But usually they're people who are already running and just don't know how to train for a particular event, or, have never been coached to run in their life. And so, they're looking to understand how to enjoy running.
Rebecca: 02:42 And if somebody does want to take up running, particularly long-distance, and they've never done it before, what are your top tips for somebody who wants to do that? I mean, they should really take it easy to start with?
Claire: 02:51 Yeah. Take it slow. I think getting a coach is really important, because if you think back, people just assume we know how to run, and it's actually quite technical. If you're going to take on distance running then you really need to know the right technique, the right way to train, because a lot of people who go it alone or follow an online program blow up in the first few weeks with injuries. And so, understanding how to train, take it easy, find a good program or a good trainer is really important.
Rebecca: 03:17 Is really important. And, Aidan, you work in the area of body transformation. Describe what that is.
Aidan: 03:24 So, body transformation for us isn't necessarily just helping somebody look better. You know? We all want to make sure that not only they fit in their favorite clothes, but they're also feeling better as well. So, it's not just about fitting those clothes, but also making sure the energy levels are higher, your stress levels come down, but also making sure that you're moving better, as well. So, just Claire with running, you want to make sure that you're not actually damaging your body through weight training, and if you're sitting down at a desk all day, we're not necessarily making you tighter through your shoulders, you know? So, it's a whole holistic approach of helping people not just look better, but feel better and move without pain.
Rebecca: 04:01 Absolutely. You're listening to Sunday Mornings on ABC Radio Sydney and New South Wales. I'm chatting with Claire Tompsett and Aidan D'Arcy who are personal trainers. And, what are the main reasons people come to you for help, Aidan?
Aidan: 04:15 I think people get to a stage where they feel uncomfortable. Whether it's in their own clothes, or they're lacking confidence. I think they've tried and failed diets time and time again. I always say to my clients, "We help people lose weight for the last time." You know? It's not a diet where you jump on it and then you fail and you yo-yo back up to where you were. Once you've ... We help people build the habits and routines required to keep the weight off.
Rebecca: 04:41 Now, I've been with my personal trainer now for eight years. How important is it, Claire, for you to have a good working relationship with your client, and for your client to trust you?
Claire: 04:52 Yeah. It's really important. Like Aidan was saying, it's the people skills that are really important for personal training. It's certainly in my business, actually, building community. So, with the running groups, I've been really lucky that they've kind of built their own community. Not only are they hanging out at training, but this is their social life as well. So, they hang out outside, and they keep each other accountable. Accountability is something that's really important to find your results, to get your results, and so, taking myself out of it and not having me be the nag all the time, saying, "You need to turn up to the strength training and the mobility," having each other become accountable to each other is really important. Yeah.
Rebecca: 05:30 Very much so. Do you end up, Aidan, sometimes becoming a counselor for some of your clients? I mean, I know, my poor trainer, sometimes he just nods and smiles by the end of the hour. Is it like that for you as well?
Aidan: 05:40 Yeah. Absolutely. And, you know, it's a very personal industry. You know? So, you've got to be able to, as a personal trainer, understand where that client is coming from. So, yeah, it is very personal, you do hear a lot of things, and you are a bit like a sponge, you absorb a lot of things. But, I guess, that's where it comes down to having those listening skills where you need to be able to take that on board and then know what to recommend to that client moving forward.
Rebecca: 06:03 Yeah. Absolutely. And, I mean, everyone goes, "Oh, personal trainer, they just must be ... It's the most glamorous job, and they're just rolling in the cash. It's just extraordinary because you can charge these ridiculous fees." It is hard work. I mean, you must get up at the crack of dawn and work until the sun goes down and beyond.
Claire: 06:20 Yeah. I mean, you're working when everyone else isn't, because they're booking in to you outside their work hours. So, we've got trainers starting at 5:00 in the morning, and finishing at 8:00, 8: 30, 9:00 at night, having to back up the next day. And then outside of that you're doing your admin.
Rebecca: 06:36 Yeah, of course.
Claire: 06:36 So, never a dull moment.
Rebecca: 06:36 That's right. Doing it all yourself. Exactly. And Aidan, it must be like ... Describe a normal start for you, what time you'd get up, what time does the alarm go off?
Aidan: 06:45 Yeah, so, most mornings my alarm will go off at 3:50 a.m.
Rebecca: 06:49 There we go.
Aidan: 06:51 I get into the studio by 5 a.m., first client at 5:30. So, it is massive, massive days. You've got to have thick skin. You've got to be really passionate and really want to succeed in this industry, you know? Just to keep yourself motivated.
Rebecca: 07:04 You're listening to Sunday Mornings on ABC Radio Sydney and New South Wales. I'm chatting with Claire Tompsett and Aidan D'Arcy who are personal trainers, and Claire, what should a client, then, expect out of their trainer?
Claire: 07:17 So, I think it's very, as we were saying, because it's so personal, I think it can take a client a little while to find a trainer that they mesh with, and that's okay. I always say to them, "If you're not meshing in the first few weeks, then we can move you onto a different trainer." And I think they should expect us to guide them, but they should also expect that we're going to expect a lot from them. So it's not just ticking a box by having a trainer. It is really buying into what your trainer is asking you to do and doing your homework, and giving back as much as they give to you.
Rebecca: 07:48 Absolutely. When do you find the time to train yourselves? I mean, obviously, you want to keep fit and active yourselves. When do you do it, Aidan? In those hours, where do you train?
Aidan: 07:55 Yes. It's tough. I mean, generally speaking, it's the middle of the day. So, you're really busy from either pre-work and then you get your mums 9:00 'til 11 a.m., and then you have that little break in the day where you might train yourself, which can be quite tough, at times, when you're not really feeling that motivated, but you've got to keep fit and you've got to be a role model, essentially.
Rebecca: 08:17 Well, exactly. I mean, I guess you're providing the example for those who are doing it, aren't you? That's absolutely right. And, I mean, a lot of people would look at me and go, "Oh, you're not fit. You're not fit." You know? But in fact, as my trainer says — I love him — he says, " You're one of the fittest and strongest clients that I have." How important is it for people to lose that perception of fitness equals skinniness or looking a certain way?
Aidan: 08:41 Yeah. Absolutely agree. That's what we explain to our clients, as well. It's not just about getting you looking better, it's that whole, holistic approach of you've got to make sure that if you've got a recurring shoulder injury, we need to, I guess, rehab that and make sure that that improves. So, when you are wearing that red dress and you're feeling confident in that, you're standing tall, your posture's better, your core's stronger, there's a whole ... It's not just about, you know, fitting your clothes, it's a whole different ball game.
Rebecca: 09:10 That's right. And also, how important is nutrition when training, Claire? Because if you are going to be running long distances, it's really important how you fuel your body, isn't it?
Claire: 09:19 Yeah. That's right. Nutrition is, you know, 80% of the game, and I think that's something that people underestimate. And in distance running, you've got pre, during and post nutrition that is super important, and so, that's definitely something that we try and educate our runners on.
Rebecca: 09:35 So, what should somebody, before they train, what do you recommend that they have before they get into the gym or outside with you?
Claire: 09:41 It's quite individual, especially for running in particular. We're running quite early in the morning, so, some of my runners will get up an hour, two hours before, have something to eat and go back to bed. Personally, I run on an empty stomach, but it's very individual. Definitely some carbs before. You don't want anything that's going to take too long to digest. And also, lots of water.
Rebecca: 10:04 Plenty of water. Keep hydrated. That's absolutely right. Anything to add to that, Aidan?
Aidan: 10:08 Yeah. I think Claire's spot on, it's completely individualized. You know, what works for one person never works for the other. We're all about weight training, but, you know, for my 5:30 a.m. clients, they don't feel like eating before a session. So, you're not going to force someone to do something they don't feel like having or eat something they don't feel like having. So, I think, yeah, it just comes down to what suits your body, and what gives you the most energy before training.
Rebecca: 10:35 Yeah, exactly. Well, we have a text from Justin from Petersham who wants to know, "Why isn't there a weight gain industry for all the skinny people trying to put weight on?" Is that part of your job as well, Aidan, to sometimes transform a body in the opposite direction to what we assume?
Aidan: 10:49 Definitely. Definitely. I think, I guess, majority of it is more weight loss. I do get the odd muscle gain client. Few and far between. But yeah, there is a ... I guess it's not as common. More so in guys, obviously, than females. But, yeah, in terms of getting somebody to ... It's almost conflicting, though. We spend a lot of our time telling people to consume fewer calories, whereas, you get a muscle gain client, all of a sudden it's the opposite. It's like, "We actually need you eating more."
Rebecca: 11:19 Yeah, right.
Aidan: 11:20 "And, training a lot more as well." It's more of a long game, muscle gain. It's more of a marathon than a sprint.
Rebecca: 11:26 Absolutely. And as far as wanting ... I said about nutrition and all that kind of stuff. How important is sleep in sustaining fitness?
Aidan: 11:35 It's so underrated. And I guess more so these days. We've seen over ... So, I've been a PT for multiple years now, but the stress of work and everything is constantly climbing. Life's becoming more and more a faster pace. So, sleep is getting more and more sacrificed, whereas sleep is so important, not just for running, but also for weight loss as well.
Rebecca: 11:57 Yeah. Great. You're listening to Sunday Mornings on ABC Radio Sydney and New South Wales. I'm chatting with personal trainers Claire Tompsett and Aidan D'Arcy. Claire, it's the City2Surf next weekend.
Claire: 12:07 It is.
Rebecca: 12:07 Do you have several clients going to ... Oh, it looks so grueling. Do you have plenty of clients there that are going to give it a go?
Claire: 12:14 We do. So, we have clients who are going to be going for PBs, and then we have clients who are just doing it for their first time, and they just want to make it to the finish line, and up Heartbreak Hill.
Rebecca: 12:22 Oh, yes. I've looked at it. I've looked. That's as far as I've got. I've looked at Heartbreak Hill. I'm definitely not a long-distance runner. Do you train specifically for certain events like the City2Surf?
Claire: 12:33 Yeah, we do. So, for example, for the City2Surf, we had a 10-week program, and then we've got longer programs for the half-marathon and marathon at the Sydney Running Festival which is coming up in September as well. So, people will get on board for that, and we provide all the strength training and running and nutrition advice and race tips as well. Yeah.
Rebecca: 12:52 Fantastic. And Aidan, of course, I'm sure you have stories that have stuck with you, like of clients who've achieved something amazing. Can you recall one time where you knew you'd done your job really well?
Aidan: 13:03 Yeah, very recently, actually. I mean, as you know, we're all about body transformation. So, a lot of thing is about transforming somebody's life and body. We've had clients lose 30+ kilos, and to go from not being able to walk up stairs to being able to run up hills. And it's absolutely awesome. You know? Those same people have been on high blood pressure and high cholesterol medication, and are now half if not completely come off their medication, which is fantastic. So, just being able to witness people achieve things they never thought possible is just awesome. You see them when they come in that first session, they're shy and quiet, and then all of a sudden they open up and they become more confident. It's awesome. It's very rewarding.
Rebecca: 13:43 I remember, for me, it was a big change for me to go from very little ... I was very active as a child, you know, very fit as a child and then, of course, my 20s turned up and that went away. But I very much was terrified of running. It was always my thing. I didn't want to run on the treadmill. I remember the very first time I got on the treadmill of my own accord, without my trainer there, and ran, and it was such an amazing sense of achievement. But I don't think I could have got there without that help. That was what got me over the line. And then, when I did go overseas, I found myself running outside for the first time, which is very, very exciting. What about you, Claire? What's a story that you recall, or maybe several, where you went, "This is fantastic."?
Claire: 14:20 Yeah. I guess my most rewarding clients are the ones who have come from no running background, they're joining our beginners' programs, and the thought of running makes them feel sick. They contact me saying, "I hate running, it makes me feel sick, I don't want to do it. Do you have a program for me?" And so we put them into the beginners' program and it's kind of similar. They all hang back. They don't want to be ... They tell me, "I'm not a runner." But now, we've got those clients, now, on a Saturday, in with all our other runners, running 10 Ks and just loving the feeling they get after a run. They often will send me ... Similar to you, they go overseas and they send me their map of where they ran overseas, and I love that. I love that they're running outside of our training as well.
Rebecca: 15:01 Yeah. And you offer free running groups, as well.
Claire: 15:05 Yeah, yeah.
Rebecca: 15:05 Which is so great for people that maybe aren't sure if they want to do it.
Claire: 15:07 Yeah, that's it.
Rebecca: 15:08 So, is that a good way for people to test the water?
Claire: 15:10 Exactly. When I have inquiries, I always say, "Start on a Saturday. It's our social run." We call ourselves a café club that go for a run, so, we find a different café to run from, and that's a good way for them to also talk to other clients, because it's fine to talk to me on the phone, and ... I hate sales, personally, and I just feel like they probably think I'm just trying to do a hard sell. So, I say, " Come down to the free running club. Talk to everyone. Find out what groups they're going to, what they get out of it." So, yeah, it's a really good way to show them the community.
Rebecca: 15:38 Fantastic. Well, you both do an excellent job. Thank you for doing what you do. Claire Tompsett from North Shore Running Fitness and Aidan D'Arcy from the Body Transformation Academy, thanks so much for joining me on Sunday Mornings.
Claire: 15:49 Thank you.
Aidan: 15:49 Thanks for having us.
Rebecca: 15:50 Thank you.