Exclusive Interview with Gym Owner Monthly’s Paul Wood

Paul Wood is the owner of Gym Owner Monthly magazine and has just launched PT Monthly Magazine. Paul, who has a lifetime of experience in the fitness industry both in the UK and abroad, sat down with us to discuss his new venture, the state of the UK fitness industry, homelessness and more.

Paul’s story

I’ve been in the fitness industry to some degree since the age of 15. I’m ex-military, I’m a first dan and I’ve got a black belt in judo. For 20-odd years I was in publishing, and later on I got a Level 3 personal training qualification with Adam Kiani from PT Academy.

Seven years ago, I’d set up a business which I had to pull out of. This cost me a lot of money and meant I had to sell my house. With what was left, I went travelling for two and a half years. I didn’t know what else to do – I’d worked all my life and thought I just had to go.

At one point, I was on a cargo ship from Brisbane to Singapore for 12 days and got the idea for Gym Owner Monthly. I came back to the UK and used my last £1000 to set it up. That was three and a half years ago.

For two years of that, however, I was homeless. When I came home, I thought I’d have friends I could rely on but that wasn’t the case. I used to sleep in a park until I joined the Gym Group in Croydon and slept in their changing rooms.

The feeling is like being in quick sand or a sinking ship. You’re not sinking fast, you’re sinking slowly. It’s not something I would wish on anyone.

Thankfully, I got back on my feet. I’d leave Gym Group and go into Café Nero and start working on Gym Owner Monthly while training people on the side for income.

Establishing Gym Owner Monthly and PT Monthly

Gym Owner Monthly is my baby. I love the fitness industry, so I wanted to produce a magazine which fundamentally educates gym owners – which Gym Owner Monthly does. It’s rich in content, feature-led, and informs gym owners on what’s going on in the industry.

We feature industry leaders on our covers, not just athletes. For example, we’ve had Rich Baker from Wattbike, and Vern Neville from ESP Fitness. These are just awesome individuals – people that work within the industry and provide a unique service.

I created the magazine to give back to the industry. Now, with PT Monthly Magazine, I want to do the same. However, PT Monthly Magazine is different to Gym Owner Monthly in many ways.

With PT Monthly Magazine, we’re dedicating it purely to PTs that are either already working in the industry and want to develop their careers, or want to get into the industry. We’ll cover the pitfalls, downsides, upsides, golden rules, and what they need to kickstart their careers. We’ll get experts onboard, such as nutritionists, PT course trainers, instructors and insurance specialists. It’ll be an idiot’s guide on how to become a PT – as well as how not to become a PT!

PT Pitfalls

If you’re starting out as a PT, one piece of advice I have is – get a mentor and gym buddy. You’ll learn from each other. You’ll pick each other up. That’s the way it should be done.

I think some PTs come out of training thinking they know it all, but they’ll still make mistakes. A buddy and a mentor will keep you on form.

Keep investing in yourself as well. Keep training, become an expert in different areas, be a coach, just develop your career and stay sharp. Learn as much as you can. Be humble and able to take criticism and advice.

Another piece of advice for PTs is – if you think being a PT is all about money, you’re in the wrong game. The money will come later, but first and foremost you need to have a passion for personal training. You need to work your way up, get your foot in the door at gyms and do your bit for the company. Then, you can have your own clients and start to earn more money as a result.

Once you have clients, train with them. Rather than sitting there telling them what to do, get involved. Make it about working together. It gives them more of a drive, they love it. It’s crucial you understand your clients and the market demand too. Knowledge is everything. Don’t train them the way you train. You have to understand what your client’s needs are.

Regulating the industry

If I had the money and the resources, I’d regulate this industry immediately. As it stands, you don’t need a qualification to open up a gym. You need a qualification to drive a car. You need a qualification to fly a plane. But you don’t need any qualifications to open up a gym. No one has CRB checks.

There are a lot of PTs in the UK, and a large portion of those are self-employed and don’t have the correct insurance. If the industry were regulated, this would be a legal requirement, but it’s too relaxed. You’ve got to have insurance – I can’t stress that enough.

I’d want peace of mind knowing that, if I’m training with someone and they keel over, I’m not liable. Even if a gym owner says you’re covered by their insurance, I’d take out my own policy. You don’t want them pulling away as soon as somebody tries to sue you. Think of it like your car – you wouldn’t drive without insurance, so don’t put yourself at risk in your work either. You spent a lot of time and money to become a PT, so protect yourself and your clients.

The future of the fitness industry

I’d love to see the UK fitness industry be more tightly regulated, and I’d like to see more training providers bring back their ex-students to reassess them every 6 months. Just for two years or so, to make sure they’re doing things properly. This would involve– mentoring them, making sure they’re happy, making sure they’ve got it all right. Adam Kiani does that at PT Academy and it’s a great idea.

I’d love to see this industry evolve too, I want it to get bigger, and for more people to get healthy.

A lot of people are in poverty and can’t afford to join a gym, or don’t have access. We used to have community gyms, but they shut down. I’ve said this to gym owners – homeless people need a shower, and you’ve got facilities. They need a little work out, so give them some self-esteem, give them something back.

We ran a feature for Gym Owner Monthly on this subject. A guy called Terroll Lewis went to prison for 10 years and started a community gym in Brixton when he came out. He’s got people off the street, homeless people can come in for free, he’s giving back to the community. It’s pretty awesome to see someone giving back like that. Most of these people just want a job and that’s it. You can’t judge people. We could do a lot more.

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