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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

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Making a living out of making lives healthier

Sam Ayers: ‘You don’t have to be a slave to exercise, just get moving’

HEALTH and fitness was once just a personal interest for Sam Ayers – but as her enthusiasm for sports and activities grew, she made the decision to carve a career out of her passion.

She now maintains the health and fitness of people in the area and owns the only personal training business in West Cumbria.

Sam’s love of sport began at a young age when she captained the netball team at junior school and developed her range of hobbies to include climbing and canoeing in her early teens.

Her skills developed along with her interests and playing netball at county level was one achievement in a long list. Even her holidays were activity- based.

So when the time came to begin her career there was only one choice for Sam – health and fitness. She enrolled at Charlotte Mason College and began training as an outdoor education teacher. After qualifying she spent the next seven years as a primary school PE teacher.

“I felt like I had come to a point where I needed a change from teaching; a fresh direction in my career,” Sam explained. “I wanted to be my own boss but still use the skills and experience I had gained in sport and activities over the years. So I decided to set up my own business and become a personal trainer.

“To work as a personal trainer you must be qualified to a certain standard if you’re going to be advising people on their health and wellbeing. So I went ahead and began studying the YMCA Fitness Industry Training in London for the next 12 months.

“I found the course really useful; it was a combination of theory and practice but my previous experience and knowledge made learning much easier.”

As a qualified fitness instructor, Sam went to the West Cumbria Development Agency for help. She was given a grant to get her business up and running and was advised on the necessary plans.

Her first 12 months in business proved hard work; she was relying on trade through word-of-mouth. But now, in her fourth year, Sam has full classes and a lengthy waiting list.

She provides a range of activities in both classes and one-to-one tuition but feels her ability to be flexible with her health and fitness packages has kept her business sustainable.

“In an area as rural as this you need to cater for a lot of people and be as diverse as possible; you have to offer a range of options to stay ahead in the game. You don’t have the option to specialise as you would if you were based in a city. But it’s been a huge advantage to me to have an all-round business.

“My clients are from all walks of life, age ranges and abilities and they all have their own individual purpose for seeking my services. Our way of life now is so sedentary and things have made so much easier for us. Take our every day chores around the house, for example: they have gone from the physically demanding job of hand washing to putting our laundry in the washing machine and pressing a button.

“If you had to take a look back at the 1950s, the average woman needed 2,700 calories just to get through the day but to compensate for that they exercised more. Now, issues with health and fitness go across the board for the entire Western world. But it’s all about re-educating people to incorporate more active aspects to their everyday lives, not necessarily undertaking specific exercise classes to keep fit. For example a walk into town for the shopping once a week can make all the difference.”

Sam’s one-to-one clients, in particular, vary in age considerably with the youngest aged 19 and the oldest aged 81. Their abilities are as varied as their ages and all have individual reasons for using Sam’s expertise; some have injuries or long- term health issues and can see her from one to two or even three times a week depending on their case.

For each individual client Sam will undertake an appraisal, spending an hour or two setting out goals and ambitions as targets which will eventually be reached through the course of their development.

She also undertakes fitness assessments, risk factors and looks at nutritional content in their diets.

“After I have gone through everything with a client I can then begin formulating personal training sessions devised to address their requirements,” Sam, 37, added.

“We could cover cardiovascular work with outside sessions on bikes and running or muscular work focussing on strength and endurance which is very important for older people, in particular.

“I also sit down with my clients and discuss their food diary, looking at how we can improve their nutritional intake. It’s interesting to see actually what people deem a diet, though – many people think a diet is a structured programme of food to help them lose weight when, really, a diet is what an individual eats on a daily basis. So I help them to work out easy ways to incorporate healthy eating into their diet.

“I never give diet plans, I just offer pointers. But it’s very much a gradual progression with one or two changes introduced each week – this helps it become routine in an individual’s diet.

“However, when I’m working with older adults aged 70 plus, I obviously have to adapt my advice and be very considerate to their situations. I am forever pushing the importance of exercise. To maintain their independence it’s very important that older adults must keep active. That could include anything from doing their own shopping on a weekly basis to moving their groceries to a higher cupboard in their kitchen so they are reaching and stretching upwards regularly.

“It all helps towards sustaining a healthy, happy lifestyle.

“The message is a pretty simple one when it comes to health and fitness; you don’t have to be a slave to exercise, just get moving. You’ll feel better with much more energy if you just incorporate a little walking into your lifestyle. It’s all about small achievable changes which everyone can make.”

For more information visit www. bodyfitpersonaltraining.co.uk or call 01900 825974.


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