Well, here we go, a story about me, my previous experiences, and how I got to where I am now,a certified personal trainer, nutrition coach, and half decent person to boot, at least I try 🙂

I wrote a different About me a while back, one that covered all the educational and vocational attainments I had reached to date, but really failed to give much of an insight into me. This revised version is a lot more frank, I won’t be giving you a year by year run through of my life, it might bore the crap out of you, but I sincerely hope it gives you an insight into how I reached where I am, the obstacles I may or may not have faced along the way, and also, most importantly, where I am now and intend to be as the future fast approaches.

My heartfelt hope is that my story (don’t panic, it’s not even bad at all compared to what others face) will give you a jolt, perhaps inspire you a little, maybe make you say to yourself, “Hell yeah, I’ve got my baggage, I don’t have much time, I procrastinate, but I CAN make the changes I want too!”.

SO here goes, most of my life condensed into a page.

Born in 1968, this makes me 45 years old at the moment (update, I made it to 48!! Woohoo), married with two lovely children aged 17 and 15. I’m a lucky guy, but I often don’t realise it. You might be the same?

Parents split when I was 7 years old, my Dad was always great at coming over, taking us out, spending time with us, not sure what effect, if any that had on my life, but I feel pretty comfortable with the whole thing. Dad is 71 now and my Mum just turned 68.

I was pretty bright at school in an academic sense, although buggering about during my high school days prevented me from getting anything much in the way of qualifications, a few ‘O’ levels (heard of them?), and that was about it. On the sporting front, I’m not going to lie to you and say I loved sport or was even any good at it. In fact I played for my junior school football team ONCE, tried to head a ball, fell over backwards, was laughed at, and feigned injury to get taken off, not great for the self esteem I’m sure. The only thing I ever really excelled at, and this took me and my sports teacher by surprise, was the triple jump, I did very well on a single school sports day at the age of 13, and never jumped again!!!

I spent a couple of years mucking around at college, building friendships and having a good time more than working hard to get a trade or a qualification. In fact, you might be seeing a pattern emerging here, even though I’m only 17 years old at this point in the story.

However, despite my lack of athletic ability in the ‘real’ sports of football, rugby etc, I started training in Chinese martial arts when I was 18 years old, and almost simultaneously, became a retained (on-call) fire-fighter in West Sussex Fire Brigade, stationed at Chichester. These two things gave me a lot of pleasure, and it so happened that my training in Wing Chun, then became some pretty serious training in Pak Mei (White Eyebrow) Kung Fu, a particularly aggressive and attacking style from the Hakka people of South-East China. The training was slow, I spent almost a whole year learning the first form (kata), before my Sifu, Master Tang, allowed me to progress. This foundational training managed to get rid of most of the new participants after a couple of months, all those who wanted to get good super quick or just look good. Looking good, to us, was to be resilient, tough minded, physically aggressive, but very controlled and actually calm whilst moving forward continuously.

I trained hard almost every day for 7 years, and became quite a good practitioner, and that fundamental strength and determination still shows itself in my life, not all the time, but certainly on occasions. Oh, to harness that! In fact, you will surely have had some times in your life that you can recall, where you were determined, and persisted beyond what you thought you could achieve. ALMOST (if not) everyone has those experiences, but we let them drift into our memory, rarely to be recalled or utilised as ammunition for a more current problem.

We’re More Alike Than We Are Different

I had quite a tossup for my future career when I was in my mid twenties, either go full time in the fire service as a career fire-fighter, or become an acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine practitioner, a tricky choice, but the fire service won out, but not until after I discovered that my eyesight was a bit below par to pass the medical. BTW, things have changed now, you can join with glasses, but that only happened a few years back. Anyway, not to be beaten, I eventually managed to get laser corrective eye surgery on both my eyes, joined the fire brigade full time in 1997, and enjoyed it, working at a variety of fire stations around the county. During that time, I did a lot of health and safety training, became a union ‘fairness at work’ rep, and also gained promotion to the rank of Leading Firefighter. I never actually planned that, I spent most of the early part of my fire service career swearing blind that I only wanted to be a fireman, sitting in the back of the truck, going into the fires, not sitting in the front making the decisions.

What was odd, and I kind of needed to take a look at myself almost as a 3rd party, was that I was developing a desire to take charge, to lead, to push myself forward in exercises and drills, to come up with practical, no BS suggestions to get things done. My peers, both within my team and at higher ranks, were telling me I really should go for promotion. I started to listen. Unfortunately, although I was not backward in coming forward to lead teams in training and at incidents, the thought of standing up in front of people and detail drills and exercises as part of the examination process, scared the living sh*t out of me. In fact, I bottled it the first time round and pulled out of the exam, making some excuse or another.

Am I Going To Pass Out With Fear?

The day I stood at Horley fire station on my own at the front of a line of 6 firefighters (who were all close colleagues who I loved and who I shared great times with), about to holler ‘Squad, Attention!!! My name is Firefighter Reed, and I am here today as part of the practical section of my leading firefighter’s examination…….” I could have passed out. I was shaking, terrified, almost unable to speak. Why?? I was with people I knew so well, some old hands, some new probationers, none of them were going to make it hard for me.

I was just making it hard for myself, doubting my ability to do the things that everyone else had been telling me I could (and should) do for ages.

Well, I didn’t faint on the spot, and after I had done it, numbered the squad off, formed them into a crew, detailed every aspect of the drill, what each person had to do in detail when they got to work, and when they packed up, shouted at them throughout the exercise, corrected faults, encouraged and cajoled, debriefed etc, I was a wreck……….inside. BUT A JUBILANT WRECK!!!

I always thought I was not up to it, whatever IT was. But I now know different, you should too!

BUT, and this important. I had succeeded!!! It went well, I didn’t feel as bad as I thought I would, my Sub-Officer complimented my performance, the crew were supportive. I thought to myself, “Hell, why was I so worried about this?” And funnily enough, after that, it got a whole lot simpler. I wasn’t scared anymore (well, not until exam day, which can be excused I think). BTW, exam day was in 3 parts, inside lecture on an item of equipment to examining officers, a drill (as mentioned above. There were 6 or so you had to learn and they chose which one you did on the day), and a realistic exercise where you had to take charge of a crew arriving at a serious incident.

Well, I passed, became a leading hand, and then left the fire service in 2005 to move to Australia. And I still miss the job, more the laughs, the friendship, the sometimes gut wrenching fear, the exhilaration, the ‘never knowing what you might be doing 5 minutes into the future’ But one has to move on in life, and that part of my life taught me a lot of lessons about myself, some which I have kept at the forefront of my memory, some which have slipped away.

Quickly on that note, I sat with my wife the other day feeling like a bit of a failure in life, not because of any reason, but just a feeling, and we talked through a fair bit of my life, since we met back in 1995. And the interesting thing was, when I looked at my jobs, my practicality, my results in various academic endeavours, my ability to make things happen, to motivate, to inspire, to show empathy, to be supportive etc, I realised that I was actually a success, even when I didn’t feel like one. It’s a bit bloody irritating how your mind often lets all the accomplishments (however apparently small or large) slip to a place in your mind where you don’t regularly remember them. It’s a cunning blighter. You actually need to sit and think, but then the successes come flooding back. In fact, it’s really a case of reprogramming some neural pathways I think. The more you think about your successes, the positives in your life, all the things you have to be grateful for, the more positive you become. SO bloody obvious, but how many of us fall into the trap our devious mind sets for us? We’ll be talking about this sort of stuff a fair bit if you decide to join one of the programs.

Ok, so moving on, and in fact, another oft forgotten by me, event that happened, when there was little obvious chance of it happening.

We moved to Australia in January of 2005, leaving the UK ,and some family behind to head out for a new adventure in life. I had spent almost a year researching and researching on how we could get there, how we could STAY there, the odds of a permanent residency visa were pretty bad, but we put in an application anyway, using my wife’s dental nursing certificate as proof of educational level, and her home based job as a dental staffing agency as an occupation, would you believe it, of a ‘personnel consultant’. We worked with a great migration agent, but I did so much work on that.

I actually went over on a student visa to start with, and decided to study accounting as a route to residency, and no, I’m not an accountant, nor do I wear an anorak and a sleeveless cardigan (sorry accountants out there). Anyway, I started university many tears after my academic life ended, and I decided to make it my job, 35 hours per week at uni, work there, come home, live my life (and study a bit extra too). Statistics scared the crap out of me, I had NO IDEA. But……..as I followed the correct protocols, learned how the system worked, got my head down and practised, I became a star student.

Anyway, the long and the short of it was that I did just over half a degree (yep, gave up there), but had an amazing run of ‘high distinction’ grades, to the extent that I was invited, and accepted, the offer to become a member of  “The Golden Key Honour Society’, no not some funny handshake club with one trouser leg turned up and a carrot stuck in one ear, but an organisation that was open worldwide to teh top 15% of undergraduates at universities around the world. Lifelong membership, I’m still a member, but don’t really SHOUT ABOUT IT!!!

So, living in Australia was good in many ways, although missing home started to become an issue. I got more and more interested in health, fitness, and lifestyle design, wondering how to be the best version of me I could be. We all want that, or we should, the goal is ultimately unattainable (death gets in the way), but I certainly spent much time pondering on it, and still do. Whilst in Oz, I ran a lot, some amazing National Parks with incredible trails beside gorges and waterfalls. Awesome. I’d head out on my own in shoes and shorts, a hydration backpack on, and run a trail for an hour or so, jump in the car and head home.

Growing my own food became important to me, and I took a Permaculture Design Certificate course with a wonderful woman called Rosemary Morrow. I met some great people, who became close friends. In fact, one of them is living in Totnes, Devon at the moment, and I met her a couple of weeks back for a chinwag.

I decided to study fitness with the Australian Fitness Network, at the same time, becoming an emergency radio dispatcher with the NSW Police. The training was hard, 10 weeks living in Sydney, my typing was borderline, but after failing a couple of assessments, I passed the course and went to work at a busy control centre. Emergency phone calls, pursuit management, assisting police with serious incidents and providing all the safety information they needed, it’s a full on job, rewarding, but hard to get good at in a short time.

But, even with a tough start, I became a good dispatcher, at least that’s what they told me when I left in October 2010 to move back to the UK, with fitness certificates in hand and some clients and friends fitness programs under my belt. We moved to West Dorset, which is where I am typing this page from.

So I decided to continue with my personal training and fitness here, but guess what, getting recognition of prior learning was a bastard of a chore, so I signed up to do a complete fresh Diploma in Personal Training in the UK. It was great, met some cool guys (I was the oldest at 43, the next oldest was under 30, but we hit it off, had a great intensive 6 week course and that was that.

Perhaps I’m Not Such A Failure After All

I’ve been training clients since around 2009, both in fitness, but also with a real interest and slant towards using nutrition to meet body goals as the central pillar for good health and leanness. NOt everyone wants to look like a Hollywood actor or actress, or flaunt themselves in a bikini (or mankini!), but with a good knowledge of nutrition, and some exercise, you can get most, if not all the way to your goals with relative ease, it’s just about believing in yourself and getting stuck in. My past experiences, and probably yours too, show that with knowledge, a little tenacity, taking things in small bites and not overwhelming yourself with the long term task, is the road to success. Combine that with friends, family, and a group of other participants who are having the same fears an anxieties you are, you are on the road to success. On the families and friends not, they are not always as supportive as you hope, your drive to improve yourself can put others  on the back foot, they’ll often mock you, but who cares. Never try to be ordinary, you’re just too important for that.

So, as the last paragraph in this rambling tale, here’s where I, Steve Reed, am now. Happy, successful, around 12% body fat, down 45 pounds from when I moved back to the UK (it was a stressful time, on top of working horrifying shift work for the previous 4 years). I’m helping people my way, not trying to be the same as all the other health and fitness businesses out there. I don’t pretend to be infallible, I don’t pretend to be the fittest guy in the park, but at 45 years old, I’m lean, healthy, excited about life, can knock out 20 hanging chin-ups, and sprint a bit too. I train 3 times a week, eat a diet that consists almost entirely of whole, unprocessed food, and enjoy beyond everything else, helping other people get happy, healthy and fit enough to look forward to the rest of their lives with excitement.

If you want to join the journey, drop me an email, I’d love to chat with you (but be careful what you wish for), I can REALLY talk!!!!

Let’s Have A Chat

You can email me at [email protected] or message me on Twitter @TheStephenReed

If you drop me an email or a tweet, I’ll keep you informed of all the cool things we have going on. Online courses, which you can do from anywhere in the world, group meetings online to brainstorm and get/give support to others in the same boat as you. IT’s a fun and rewarding, not to forget, very effective way to move towards your goals.

Best Wishes

Steve Reed

Leaner By Design