Dairy of a Personal Trainer: Goodbye Retail

Since the age of sixteen I’d been working in a large retail company. That’s eleven years. As soon as I left school I began the job hunt, within two months I’d landed a job at the company I’d be with for eleven years. By 2018 I was embarrassed, I hated my job and saw no way out. Something had to change.

By time 2017 had wrapped up I was a depressive wreck. My band was breaking up, my family had moved away, I’d ended a train wreck of a relationship, a friend had passed away, I was broke all whilst spending thirty nine hours a week in a job that did literally nothing to fulfill me mentally or even financially. It fucking sucked! It was at this time that I began training again, I don’t remember consciously make the decision to begin exercising but something drew back into the gym. Thank God it did though. By January 2018 I had already dropped some weight and begun the application process to start my personal training diploma. It was from there working in retail really started to become hard work.

As soon as I began working on something that would take me out of the retail game my focus on the job really began to suffer. I mean the job was already mind numbing as it was, but knowing there was light at the end of the tunnel… Damn, that became frustrating. I wanted to leave in an instant! I’d also come to a point where I was thoroughly embarrassed by the job. Well maybe that’s unfair, I was embarrassed with myself. Here I was at twenty seven years old, working on the counters with a silly white mesh hat, taking orders and woefully clock watching all day. I didn’t want to tell people what I did for a living. There’s nothing wrong with that job at all, but god damn I felt like I’d truly let a large chunk of my life slip by. Man, did that fire me up!

It wasn’t until mid July 2018 that I was able to hand in my resignation. I remember the day clearly. I awoke early on a Monday morning, my day off, to find waiting on my email account a job offer to join a large gym as a Personal trainer. Boom! I’d done it! One big massive wave of relief hit me, a sensation that had never been experienced before. Now I could finally move forward with, for the first time in my life, my career! Giving my notice into the supermarket was such a joy, I practically skipped into the store. Although I was sad to be leaving some great people behind I knew this would be the right move to make.

Unfortunately I had four more weeks of retail to endure…

I’ll save that story for the next installment.

Daniel Hipkiss

Dairy of a Personal Trainer: Looking the Part

Presentation is really important to me. They say you should never judge a book by its cover, now while that might be true in some isolated cases, by and large I think you have every right to judge a book by it’s cover. 

If I go to a restaurant and my food shows up looking like a steaming pile of faeces, I’m not going to be particularly interested in eating it. I feel the same way with trainers. It comes down to the age old adage of practice what you preach. That’s not to say you have to achieve a physique like eight time Mr Olympia Ronnie Coleman or fitness phenom Dana Linn Bailey, but presenting yourself as a fit and healthy individual might help. Plus ask yourself, if I was thirty stone with doughnut sugar permanently coating my lips would you take advice from me about fitness and nutrition? I would hope not. 

My problem coming into 2018 was that whilst I was far from being labeled obese or overweight I wouldn’t say I was the picture of health and vigor either. During 2017 I’d become what was affectionately known as “skinny fat”. I had no muscle tone, drank way too much alcohol, frequented McDonald’s too often, poor endurance and a body fat percentage closer to thirty than twenty. Now by the time I’d decided that I wanted to pursue a career in the fitness industry I’d already lost a significant amount of weight, which was a fantastic starting point but I thought to myself the moment those textbooks arrived at my door… It’s time to step it up a gear. Which way did I want to go though? 

I have zero interest in training bodybuilders so looking like one would be pointless, same goes for long distance runners etc. I wanted what probably most people want, a leaner more athletic body. The kind of frame that looks great in a slim fit t-shirt and nice jeans.I wasn’t interested in “gains” or twenty inch biceps at all, I’d left all that behind in my early twenties, because I like most people want two things. To look good and feel better. So I ditched the bodybuilding routine from years gone by and focused my attention towards increasing my energy and overall fitness.

It wasn’t easy and why would it be? Everyone would be looking great and the fitness industry would be completely dead if it was easy. Cardio, weights, circuits, long walks, logging my food, late night sessions, early mornings, hill sprints and plenty of abdominal training (guys, please learn to control your stomachs) led me to be in the best shape of my life. With that I felt confident I could lead people to a better and healthier lifestyle. 

I was very aware starting my course that I would become my own billboard, so my physical presentation was of critically importance. You wouldn’t buy a tailored suit from somebody wearing poorly fitted oversized outfit, I know I wouldn’t. I don’t trust bald barbers for the same reason!

Daniel Hipkiss 

Dairy of a Personal Trainer: Assessment Time

I don’t get nervous over much. Driving test? No sweat. Exams at school? Piss. Playing guitar in front of an audience? Easy. Funny thing is I only prepared for two of those examples. Getting nervous about events, challenges and occasions is a very rare occurrence for myself. Which is precisely why being of a nervous disposition before taking my practical assessments and was such a…. Mind fuck. 

I’ve played in bands since I was in my early teens, at first it was quite intense but after a few shows… Nothing but eagerness to get onstage. Looking back I even remember the exact moment that my gig anxiety ended. I believe I was fifteen years old when it happened, the band I played in were playing a small local venue to a small handful of people. We’d come onstage and boom! We’d all hit our instruments in unison making for a massive noise of cymbals, amplification feetback, rumbling bass and high pitch squeals. Prior to this I was so nervous, so many scenarios ran through my mind of how badly the gig could go. However in that moment of sheer noise as we began our set letting that open chord rip I took a great inward breath, the next second I just let myself scream all that anxiety out of my system. Ever since then, bar one show eleven years later, I’ve never been nervous getting on a stage. 

In the lead up to my practical assessments I was as cool as a cucumber, not in the slightest bit worried about the upcoming examination. I guess looking back I was playing it too cool because the morning of my tests… I had nervous gas like you wouldn’t believe. Literally overnight I’d turned into a human wind farm! Still trying to play it cool though I’d be doing my absolute best to remain my normal jovial self, inside I was panicking big time. The realisation that passing actually meant I could escape my retail working nightmare had resulted in a pressure I had never experienced before. This meant a lot to me and I now finally grasped how much it really mattered. 

Sat in the foyer area of the gym where the examination would take place my palms began sweat, in strolled my examiner with a cool relaxed demeanor instantly my anxiety levels went down a notch. At that point my only concern was making sure I didn’t greet him with a sweaty handshake! Fortunately my friend acted as my client for the examination, once again this offset the pressure I’d mounted on myself. Soon after introducing myself to the examiner I was called to start the assessment, taking a deep breath I rose from my seat and approached the door. 

Honest to God I barely remember the examination, it’s just a blur of noise and images after the first couple of minutes. What I do remember is starting off. As I came into the room with my client the examiner took a seat in a corner behind us, like a hawk he watched every move I made along with listening intently to each word I spoke. His eyes like daggers in my back. Only once satisfied he’d seen enough of that particular section would be pipe up in a monotonous voice “move on”. This would be either a very good sign or a particularly bad one. From there on in the assessment flew by, seemingly on it’s own momentum and soon enough it was over. I was led back into the foyer to sit down and await the outcome. 

After what seemed like an eternity I was eventually called to take a seat with my examiner. Inside I was playing emotional tennis with myself, debating what went well along with what didn’t, finally he acknowledged me and went to give his verdict.

In a long drawn out way, like you would see on a reality tv show my fate was revealed to me… I’d passed! Waves of relief instantly hit me, he carried on speaking but after hearing my desired result I was mentally gone. On the sly I turned to my friend to give him an enthusiastic thumbs up, hopefully my examiner didn’t notice. 

A celebratory pint was in order! 

Daniel Hipkiss

Diary of a Personal Trainer: Education

I never went to university. After finishing college the thought of doing three more years in education made my stomach turn, going to prison seemed more appealing than sitting in another classroom. 

I’ve always had a problem with classrooms though, my energy can be through the roof but as soon as you sit me down behind a desk with a teacher… All that energy seemingly disappears and the wheels begin to fall off. One time my previous employer sent me on a course and holy hell! Genuinely, I thought I was going to die of boredom. Do not ever put me in a room with somebody passionate about filleting salmon ever again! If I remember rightly I had to stab myself in the leg with a pen just to stay awake. It barely worked. 

So me and the standard form of education don’t quite get along. I’m bit of an arse like that though, you want me to learn something? Not going to happen. I want to learn something? I’ll read every single piece of information available, watch all the documentaries I can and practice said information as much as possible. Fitness was something I wanted to learn about. My only fear was that as soon my passion became something I undertook as a course the energy and excitement would wither away. Thankfully that didn’t come to pass. 

I’ll be straight with you, completing the workbooks for the course was not hard, The questions were really there just to make sure I  actually read the original content as well as understood it. The only real struggle came internally. You see when you’ve got a teacher or tutor breathing down your neck you’re going to, or should, get the work done in a certain amount of time. With a course being entirely non classroom based, apart from ten days, this meant I had to really motivate myself to get the work done. Doing the work was easy, getting myself to do it… Not so much. For years I’d been half arsing pretty much everything that didn’t involve a guitar, bad habits were ingrained with my attention span shorter than Danny Devito. Actually getting off my arse and removing these traits were the real test. 

The deadlines were vague and a little bit too far into the future for me to feel any sense of urgency, I was literally given a year to do something that upon reflection could’ve been done in three months. I feel like I thrive on urgency, you’ll see what I mean as this series goes on, urgency means having no time for complacency, self doubt and procrastination. Having no time for those three things is good. 

However I did have time, sometimes that’s not a good thing. Fortunately some motivation was at hand, my retail job had become unbearable and I needed out as soon as possible. So on my days off work I would spend time at the local library cramming in as much work as possible, I thought I’d hate it but actually it was quite the opposite. Rarely did I actually want to sit down reading textbooks on energy sources and filling in workbooks, who really does? However, much like exercise, once I’d gotten into it I became enthralled even to the point of forcing myself to stop. 

There was this feeling that I’d overcome a personal barrier, being productive gave me a mental boost. Sticking to my plan and getting the work done felt damn good. 

Though one thing remained… The practical assessments. 

Daniel Hipkiss 

P.s. Hi mom!

Diary of a Personal Trainer: Part One

Hello guys, welcome to my blog page! My name is Daniel Hipkiss I am a Personal trainer, fitness instructor as well a nutritional advisor. Currently based in a large gym in the Midlands UK. This is the first part of a series entitled…. You guessed it! “Dairy of a Personal Trainer” 

In this series I will chronicle my journey into the fitness industry, from the very beginning of enrolling on courses, to employment and other adventures along the way. Looking at my struggles, successes, complete and utter failures, joy, frustrations and every other emotion you can imagine. 

Having been a fitness professional for a relatively short time, being hired in August of 2018, I felt it would be interesting to start at the very beginning offering a vastly different approach to others in the business. The first two things I can offer to you being a lack of experience along with complete candor. Leading off, I guess I should let you know a bit more about myself and why I chose to become a fitness professional. 

When I first decided I wanted to pursue a career in fitness I was at a very low point in my life, I’ll delve a little deeper into that with subsequent chapters, lacking any real direction. At that time working a retail job that seemed to be slowly chipping away at me mentally, a retail job that seemed to have dwindling future opportunities and challenges. Daily I would show up completing the bare minimum of my duties and not giving a damn whatsoever, with my nights spent aimlessly in a beer garden. Personally I was fried, a string of bad choices along with circumstance had left me deeply depressed and lost. 

During this low period I found myself getting back in the gym, more as a way of releasing some of my pent up stress and because quite frankly I physically felt like dirt. Whatever energy I had at this time was poured into training and learning about nutrition, not for any other reason than wanting to feel better. Along the way I curbed my drinking, stopped eating so much junk food and discovered the wonders of black coffee! Soon enough my weight began to drop off, together with an increase in lean muscle mass, lo and behold people around me began to notice. So this is where the seed was planted, those people around me began to ask how I was achieving this goal. I took great joy in explaining how I was doing what I was doing, seeing the confusion wash away from their faces with fascination taking place. It quickly hit me that the majority of the general public were completely lost when It came to the subject of living a healthy lifestyle. I knew I could help.

One night whilst aimlessly searching the internet for dead end jobs, in industries I didn’t care about, I randomly thought I’d have a look at what qualifications were necessary to become a personal trainer. Two days later I got in touch with a training company inquiring as to how someone as broke as myself could enroll, or even if it was possible. Thankfully I was granted an adult education loan, I was twenty seven years old at the time, and the wheels were set in motion.

Honestly, I cried when receiving email confirmation of my enrollment. Here was a task I could get my teeth into, a task I became excited about taking on and a task that would lead me to brighter future than the doldrums of retail. My mother said she was proud of me and wow… Did that mean the world to me. Not too long after I acquired all the relevant workbooks, the journey had officially begun. To say I was excited would an understatement. 

Daniel Hipkiss