In this post, Nas shares his views on personal responsibility in fitness, and how having a great team can help you make improvements.

Clients know you for your genuine friendliness and ability to make anyone feel at home at Ritual North Canal Road. Tell us a bit about where this comes from, seeing that you’ve been here since the gym opened.

Yeah, I’ve been here since the start! I was a freelance personal trainer for about 6 years, then I worked at a regular globo gym for a couple of years, which is where I met Shrek and Mubin. One day, Shrek told me about Ritual and the team he was trying to put together, and the opportunity was very interesting to me. I was a bit tired of the globo gym type environment, and when I met the Ritual people I felt like this was the environment I needed to expand my knowledge and challenge myself. The focus here is on the impact I can make with our clients, not my sales numbers.

I saw a lot of potential because we all took (and still take) a lot of pride in what we do. For the first time, I felt that I was part of a team that really wanted to make a difference, and it continues to push me to do better for our clients. The supportive environment makes me want to do more.

What keeps you excited about your role?

I believe in the message. It’s simply “No bullsh*t”. No gimmicks. No hard selling. No sales quotas. The work environment is supportive and open. We help clients get results in such an efficient way. Everything is done different. When I was working in globo gyms I noticed trainers generally only approached people they knew or people they thought could be potential PT clients. Over here, I get to be friendly with everyone. I literally talk to every single client! My job is to be the best coach I can be, and I think we’re changing the way things are done in the industry.

In your opinion, what is it about the training that we do that makes us different?

We train for improvement, not fatigue. This is the biggest one for me. Always pay attention to technique, always focus on avoiding and minimising injury risk. Once people appreciate how good their bodies feel after a few months here, people realise it’s about so much more than the mirror and scales.

In my time in this line of work, I’ve met so many people who have great physiques but who are in pain all the time and always unhappy. Training should help you feel better and better with consistency, not the opposite.

I’ve been with Ritual for a while so I’ve witnessed quite a few transformations of people who’ve had tremendous improvements in their overall health – it’s really life changing stuff. Also, people here tend to leave their egos at the door, which keeps the environment fun and open.

Do you find that it’s difficult to get people to focus on health over aesthetics?

It is difficult sometimes, but I understand why. Even for me – I’m significantly smaller than I used to be when i lifted hard and heavy all the time, but I realised that I am happier and more appreciative of my health and real world strength now. I’m more efficient, and I feel better educated, which helps me live a more balanced life. All that being said, it’s not like this stuff won’t get you looking good! With the right doses of effort, the fat loss will come, and you can definitely achieve good amounts of lean muscle mass, too.

You know, I feel that these days people have a skewed idea of what they should look like – of what ‘health’ looks like. What gets put out in the media and by this industry is quite misleading. Generally, they aren’t promoting health, they are promoting confusion and making people feel lousy about themselves. It’s another reason why I like being a coach here – we understand that as coaches, it’s part of our role to try to help re-educate. It’s hard to do, and it takes time, but it’s very rewarding for everyone.

Great insights, thanks for that. Let’s switch gears for a bit. What’s your training like these days?

Well, I just had a kid – a beautiful baby boy – so my family is my biggest priority right now. As any new parent would understand, it’s hard to balance family, work and training, but I still manage to get some form of exercise most days of the week.

Twice a week, I get some form of Ritual-type training, sometimes I even do it outdoors in the park nearby, or at home. I’ve even got a training room at home with kettlebells and stuff, but it’s slowly becoming the kids room!

On days I want to do something less strenuous, I go hiking. Labrador Park is great for this.

Other days of the week, I play football, I go skateboarding, and I’ve also been quite into my handstand training lately.  In the future, when time permits, I’m going to get back into tennis – I miss playing!

What are your rest days like?

On the weekends, I chill. The weekends are family days. That being said, kids and cats keep me pretty active! Since the boy was born, the cats haven’t been getting enough attention. I’m such an animal lover so I usually end up dedicating a significant portion of my rest days to them, too.

I also tend to do a lot of mobility drills throughout the week. I find that fluidity in movement is important and stiffness builds if you don’t address it. I think it’s not that big of a deal if you lose a bit of strength or if you put on a few extra pounds sometimes. If you work at it, you can get back in shape pretty quickly. But it’s different for the joints – you want to keep the joints healthy all the time because balance is so important for pain-free movement.

What’s one thing you’ve struggled with and overcame in the past in fitness or training that you think our readers can learn from?

One of my biggest struggles was coming back from injuries. In the past, I didn’t have enough knowledge and support, and I never really did anything about it. Since being with Ritual, I have a much more a supportive community, and we value building awareness. In the past, I’d just rest a bit or get a massage and then just keep pushing through, without getting to the root of the injury. A few years ago, I had an elbow injury from heavy bench pressing which took me 6 – 7 months to recover from. I now know I was trying to lift more than I should have been and I didn’t really have good control in the movement, but back then I didn’t really know what had caused it and what to do about it. These days, I talk to my peers and we learn together.

What I struggled to learn, that I understand now, is that at the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide why you’re doing what you’re doing, and how to fix it if it’s going wrong. Is there a purpose? Do you want change? If there is, and you do, it’s on you to move in the right direction. What you learn at Ritual is just the gateway. It’s us helping you build the awareness. We can help you understand what you need to do to improve, but we can’t walk the path for you. More than anything, it’s about taking personal responsibility.

If you could give all our new members one piece of advice, what would it be?

I’d encourage everyone to ask themselves what your deeper goal is. Think beyond smashing yourself at the gym to lose weight. What other bigger reasons might there be?

Ask yourself what you’re looking for in the long term – don’t just jump into it with no real idea of what you’re looking for.

If you want to explore these ideas, ask us, this is the kind of stuff we love to talk about. I get that it might be intimidating to approach us, but maybe start with me. I’m the nice guy, you’ll see that I smile a lot!

Really, having this deeper appreciation for why you’re exercising is going to help you develop patience and a realistic view of fitness. For example, oftentimes, being at your absolute leanest where your abs are really visible is not your healthiest state. But the media will trick you and make you feel insecure, so it’s helpful to always remember why you’re committed to consistent training.

What are some questions or topics that you wish you could discuss with clients more often?

Taking personal responsibility for your goals. What are you doing in the other 23.5 hours everyday when you’re not at the gym? Have you been eating well? Have you been sitting on your couch munching on snacks out of boredom even though you’re not hungry? Have you been trying to get better quality sleep? Have you been doing those drills that a coach showed you to help address your stiff upper back? Ask yourself questions like “why am I tired?” and “why am I bloated today?”. I know it might sound funny, but it’s building awareness. With questions like these, you’re going to slowly start to understand how everything affects you. That’s why people say it’s a lifestyle – you have to decide to make better choices all the time.

Also, another big one for me is being focused during training. Honestly, sometimes I see clients just going through the motions, not really trying to do it well. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of these clients have already gotten good results, it’s just that I know with a little bit more focus and effort they could come closer to realising their full potential. Instead of just doing it to lose weight, try doing it to the best of your abilities, because the benefits will multiply.

Alright, now for some rapid-fire questions!

How many amazeballs do you think you can eat in 5 minutes?

I’ll admit it, I’m the slowest eater of all the coaches! It’s not about quantity for me, it’s about savouring the food. I’d rather eat 1 or 2 and appreciate it!

What was your favorite junk food when you were growing up?

I was a sucker for ice cream and potato chips. Back when I was a kid, my favorite was the rainbow Paddle Pop by Wall’s, especially after football, and with a root beer!

What’s your favorite cheat food these days?

Still ice cream, but a bit ‘classier’ these days! Dryer’s – the one with the chocolate fudge and nuts, or something from Ben and Jerry’s.

Who’s your favorite superhero or cartoon character?

Green lantern! I was a big DC fan – I grew up on comics. It all started when my uncle gave me a batman comic when I was a kid. I still have my collection at home, and every now and then I still drop by the comic store to browse, but when I go I make sure to leave my credit card at home!

What’s your spirit animal?

I’m a Meerkat!! They are alert and quick, but tend to fall asleep pretty often. They seem fluffy and soft, but don’t be fooled – they’re survivors and eat scorpions for lunch!

Coach Nas has been a Ritual Coach for about 3 years, and hopes you’ll approach the team to chat about healthy lifestyle habits because the 23.5 hours you’re not at the gym matter, too!