James Thompson Personal Trainer

James discovered a passion for adventure after climbing Mount Snowdon and is now embarking on a trip to Mt Fuji. He talks to Sundried about life in the fitness industry.

Please tell us about sporting events you have taken part in or have coming up.

My first sporting event I ever took part in was a 10k. As soon as I saw my completion time, I instantly felt the urge to train myself to do better for the next time and to seek out a more challenging event. From there I then started to look into tougher fun runs and charitable events, such as Rough Runner 10k, the London Mayors Fund 10k Boot Camp with the Midnight Runners and the Thames Meander Half Marathon. I am also always travelling around London on my bike, it is by far the easiest and fastest way, so I put my cycling endurance to the test and completed the Evans Ride It King of the Downs, a 60-mile sportive south of London with a gruelling 4000ft total elevation climb.

Recently, I have been going through a different type of endurance: hiking, particularly mountaineering. That all started when my partner and I climbed Mount Snowdon in Wales a couple of years ago; the terrain was difficult and the weather was torrential rain with added high winds. The exhilaration we had from completing a climb, which at the best of times is still relatively difficult, had sparked a passion for adventurous trips and this type of endurance.

So, last summer my partner and I decided that we wanted to climb Mount Adams in the USA. At 3,743m, it stands as the second tallest mountain in Washington State. The most challenging climb that’s possible without a guide or specific technical training. Training for this type of endurance was hard, especially being based in London where our largest hills nearby are tiny in comparison. One of the hardest aspects of the climb, apart from a 59 lb backpack, had been dealing with the altitude; at that elevation the air was so thin that we had to stop every couple of steps just to get our breath back. Needless to say, when we reached the summit, the whole endurance journey was well worth the effort!

In continuing with the active lifestyle and endurance holiday destinations, I am taking a trip this summer to Japan to climb the summit of Mt Fuji, at 3,776m. This time not having to carry as much weight and with more experience in dealing with altitude than on previous climbs. 

Tell us about your journey to fitness? Where did it all start?

I have always had sport in my life, and subsequently a relatively competitive drive. I always wanted to become faster when on bike rides with my dad and older brother, who were always faster than me. I competed in swimming galas, specialising in backstroke, and loved the autumn and winter sports of rugby, skiing and cross-country.

Although many of my childhood passions had to become more like hobbies as I grew up, the need to stay active and healthy was still a big part of my life. When I left university with my degree in conservation, I was already established working for relatively high profile families as a nanny and tutor. The roles were so varied that it was hard at times to describe exactly what I did when it came to meeting new people. One thing for certain I knew, however, was that I had to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle, if not to keep up with the demand in taking part in so many different activities, but with also being a role model to the children I was looking after.

As the children grew into young adults, their interests changed and I would have to accommodate for a change in physical abilities. I therefore almost fell into my fitness journey. At first it was not quantifiable with the type of training I needed to do, all I knew was that it had to cater for change. One summer, while working abroad, I decided that I was going to need to invest in myself, so I was able to offer more to individuals when it came to their lifestyle, health and management. So I decided that in order to combine my skills, knowledge, and physical abilities I already had, I should enrol in becoming a personal trainer. As I am getting older, I felt that I should combine what I have learnt over the last 8 years working with families, and what I have learnt in my fitness training that works, to then use that knowledge and expertise to share with my clients to help deliver results that are realistic, tried and tested, and benefit the individual with everyday life.

What are your training goals now?

My training goals now are similar to that of many individuals around this time of year, shaking off the winter bulk and getting back into a more aesthetic physique. I am currently pursuing an interest in calisthenics, flexibility and some new yoga power moves while working on my endurance for the Mount Fuji climb this summer.

Tell us one unusual fact we wouldn’t know about you:

I recently discovered that I have a new fear of heights, probably brought on by my first, and last, bungee jump.

What advice do you wish you'd been given when you first started out?

The personal training industry is a hybrid of all skill sets taken from other career paths. Although it is a personal, developmental journey, it is almost impossible to achieve success without having to reach out and engage with others in the field, and take criticism to become a better trainer. Although the role requires you to be personable and social, it also requires a lot of self-motivation, discipline and organisation to make yourself successful. 

Do you follow a specific nutrition plan? If so, what/when do you eat?

I don’t currently follow a specific nutrition plan. I believe that maintaining a varied and healthy diet, combined with an active lifestyle, is all I need to maintain a healthy body. Spending longer in the kitchen and planning my meals has benefited me much more than set nutritional plans. I have found that as soon as a food/drink restriction is put in place, the temptation and mental battle to stay true to the diet is more detrimental than beneficial. I have also found that even if you are true to a diet/restriction for an allotted time period, we quickly go back to eating how we used to, and in some cases, worse than before we took on a diet. Everything in moderation is key.

What do you do to keep your clients motivated? Do you have any top tips to keep motivated?

I generally have a positive attitude and enthusiasm that I find works well when getting to know new clients. Enthusiasm is contagious, so maintaining that throughout is key. All clients are different, so it is important to gauge what training styles work best for them. There’s a fine line between being too distant and too intense when it comes to motivating clients, you want to find that sweet spot between the two, enough to keep them on the path, but not too much that they start to get complacent.

Talk us through your training regime.

4 days a week of training, with 2 days of active recovery while I also ride my bike daily to clients around London. Days spent training are either in the gym or outdoors on my local common. Sessions vary in style, from HIIT to straightforward reps and sets. I incorporate functional movements into my training and try to book into 3 yoga classes a week, something I started going to a year ago and have found to help greatly with my flexibility, functional movements and its also great when you progress in the power poses!

How do you keep your fitness knowledge up to date?

I regularly read up on new fitness trends, I try to learn about what it takes to train for certain sports and also enrol on CPD courses throughout the year. I am currently studying for my Exercise referral and Level 4 Lower back pain qualifications. 

What are your top 3 trainer tips?

  1. Be open with other individuals in the industry, you never know where a simple conversation may take your career.
  2. There are always ups and downs, stay focused on the ups.
  3. Planning and preparation is key to any successful business.

If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Pizza.

Why work with Sundried?

I feel that we are privileged to be part of such a rapidly growing industry. With growing trends in fashion and social media, I think it’s really important that we don’t lose touch with what the fitness industry represents. A healthier lifestyle shouldn’t have a negative impact on the health of the planet. We are fortunate enough to have the technology to create without the need to destroy more of our natural resources. The fact that Sundried uses waste products from the coffee industry to develop its high quality activewear leads the way in which the industry should be moving. Staying active, living life, motivating others, and doing our part to help reduce the amount of waste we are dumping on our planet is something that I want to be part of.

Favourite fitness quote:

“Fitness is not about being better than someone else, it’s about being better than you used to be.”

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