I left home at 16 and joined the British Army at 17. My home life wasn’t great to be honest, and in many ways the Army was the making of me. It gave me my sense of purpose, my drive and taught me so many good habits. It gave me self-respect, discipline, cleanliness, tidiness and an understanding that if you want to get on in life nothing comes easily.
That’s very much the case with personal fitness. Army fitness is extreme. Try running across the Brecon Beacons with a 100kg pack on your back and you soon learn what it is to push yourself to the limit! But then again, in the Army it could be a matter of life or death, so it’s a vital part of the training.
But the Army wasn’t just about the physical exercise. Indeed much of our approach to fitness is in the mind. That’s why in the Army you are pulled out of your bed at 3am and sent on a 10 mile run through a freezing bog. Why, when practising capture and evasion, you are put through the mill if captured – stripped naked, tied up, kept in the dark and shouted at. You’re being tested to see what your breaking point is.
Don’t worry. I don’t put my clients through these extremes! But the Army has taught me how to work with my clients to get the best out of them. People often give up way before they should – I try to show my clients what they are truly capable of. Call it ‘tough love’. I encourage and empower – but also will give you a bit of a hard time if I think you’re slacking!
The 1st Gulf War taught me that we should value every day – life is not a dress rehearsal. Which is why I give each day my full attention and why I love my job. Meeting new people, seeing them progress and get fitter gives me a real sense of achievement. I firmly believe that to get the most out of life you have to be fit. To be able to walk, climb hills, cycle, run. To keep your body supple and flexible.
Fitness helps you enjoy your old age and your retirement. Some of my clients are amazing – they are in their 70s – and to be honest, fitter than many people half their age. Scotland, the UK, and indeed most of the Western world, is going through an obesity crisis. It should perhaps be called a ‘fitness crisis’. Human beings evolved and developed by walking, hunting and climbing. That’s how we survived. And right through history we have been mobile and used to extreme physical activity. Even during the Industrial Revolution. But in today’s technological age we have mostly become couch potatoes, or ‘shiny bums’ as desk workers are known in the Army. This is having a devastating impact on our health, mental wellbeing and longevity.
My work-outs help my clients to rediscover their bodies. What all their muscles are for. From simply lifting weights above your head (essential to lift a suitcase upon onto a rack), to burpees (good for your core and stomach), to standing and squatting (leg power for climbing), I will show you how to use all the muscles that God gave you.
However, fitness is not just about muscle mass and strength. Cardio-vascular exercise is vital for your heart and stamina. I can put you through your paces even in a small living room. You’d be surprised how quickly you’ll be puffing. You don’t need a fancy and expensive gym membership to keep fit! (I’ll also show you how to breathe, to get oxygen into your lungs faster.)
After the Army I joined the Police in Edinburgh for a short while, but that wasn’t for me. So I re-trained, using my Army PT experience, and became a personal fitness trainer. It’s what I’ve been doing now for over 20 years, and it’s what I enjoy doing, all around Edinburgh and the Lothians.
I loved the Army, but there are things I don’t miss about it – the runs across the Brecon Beacons for one!