It’s that time of year again when people are busy making new year’s resolutions or possibly tossing them by the wayside already, but one Thomastown native is helping people to turn a healthy lifestyle into more than a January fad.
John Coleman, who played soccer with Thomastown United and Kilkenny City when they were first formed, is one of the featured fitness trainers on the UK-based series A Year To Save My Life, which began airing on Sky 1 HD on Monday. An episode detailing his work with a woman who was suffering from fitness problems is due to air on February 6 at 9pm.
John came into personal training after moving to London in 1985. Having been part of the Kilkenny youths to win the Inter League title in 1984 and playing for Ireland at under-17 level, he was soon signed up to play for a semi-professional team in the British capital.
Then, in his early 30s, he enrolled in a fitness instructor’s course as a way of learning how to train more effectively.
“However,” he says, “I thoroughly enjoyed the course and went on to complete a full personal trainers course as I intended to take this up as a full-time occupation at some point in the future.”
Still holding down a full-time office job, he set up a fitness studio at his home and started to train clients in the evening and weekends.
“My client numbers grew very quickly and it was soon obvious that I would need to leave the day job and concentrate fully on the personal training business,” he recalls. “It was a great move and I’ve never looked back.”
His clients are generally overweight and unfit, with health-related problems, rather than being top-performing sportspeople, and “most of them appreciate the fact they can work out in a private studio away from the glare of the public. Many have body image issues and feel uncomfortable working out in an open-plan gym or health centre,” John explains. “I also hold qualifications to work with cardiac rehab patients and individuals with mental health issues so I am more likely to work with people who require more specific guidance on fitness and training rather than basic gym programmes.” The idea behind A Year To Save My Life is to take nine severely obese people from around the UK and give them a year’s personal training – two hours per day, five days a week – in an attempt to achieve major weight loss and turn their lives around.
“These people were in great danger of developing more serious problems like diabetes, cardiovascular disease or hypertension if they continued to lead their life as they did,” John says of the candidates who were chosen from the initial list of 2,000 applicants.
They were also given nutritional support, psychological support and other support mechanisms, in addition to working under the guidance of Texas fitness model Jessie Pavelka – although, as John says, “he was more than happy to let us train our own client in our own particular way and only come to him if we needed support or advice.”
The “contributor” John trained for the show is 51-year-old A&E nurse Beverley Pegg, a 51-year-old A&E nurse of who he says “was great to work with and a star born to be on TV! A larger-than-life character that had me laughing every day for a year with her rants and stories.”
“It will be no surprise to learn she wasn’t a big fan of exercise but she gave her all for the year and I was proud of what she achieved,” the trainer says. “We have become good friends in the process and she still trains with me as I have given her a personal commitment that I will not let her slip back into her old ways again.”
Of the type of exercise involved, he says: “Beverley had a hip injury problem which prevented me from doing moderate or high-intensity work with her but it didn’t stop her doing the usual treadmill, bike, cross trainer and boxing routines. For people of that weight, just walking is an effort for them, so if you can push them beyond that you are doing well.”
They trained indoors and outside using a variety of equipment to break up the routines and make it more interesting, he says.
John also says he thoroughly enjoyed working with the show. “It was fantastic. Having three cameras following you around when you are doing your routines is a little strange at first but after five minutes you forget they are there and carry on as normal,” he says.
One of the highlights of the year, John says, “was when I persuaded the TV company to let me take Beverley to Ireland for a week of ‘boot camp’ type training. We booked into Faithlegg Hotel in Waterford and I scrutinised her food intake for a week. In the day we went power-walking around Woodstock in Inistioge, hiking around the woods at Faithlegg and jogging along the beach and climbing the sand dunes at Tramore beach.
“We took some footage on a video camera so hopefully they may use a small bit of that footage in the show. It was Beverley’s first time in Ireland and she was astounded by the kindness and hospitality shown by everyone we came into contact with.”
“Working with Jessie was also a pleasure as he is a nice guy and very down to earth. His looks alone will ensure the series is a hit!” John laughs.
Three steps to fitness
For those hoping to take similar steps to improve their physical health and activity level in 2012, John’s advice is “to approach weight loss and fitness from three angles.”
“Firstly, start on a fitness regime that is moderate in intensity but regular – one hour, three times per week. If you start training at a very high intensity your muscles will rebel and your recovery time will be affected,” he says.
“Secondly, you will need to look closely at your nutritional intake. Modern fast food is very calorific, as is alcohol. If these two factors are not addressed you will find weight loss very difficult to achieve.
“Thirdly, you need to look at your lifestyle and habits. We live in a very obesgenic society – temptation for intake of food and drink is all around us. Identify the situations in your lifestyle when you end up consuming extra calories and try to swap that habit for a more healthy active option. Over a course of a year that could amount to a huge reduction in calories, resulting in considerable weight loss.”
And, he said: “Throw away the magazines that promise a six pack in six weeks or a miracle celebrity diet!”