I have often heard, and sometimes used, the expression “a life changing” time or experience. I’m not sure I really understood what that meant, but with the help of 2019 I think I am far closer to knowing exactly what it can mean. As I sit here on the 31st December 2019 and reflect back over the last twelve months I can certainly say that my life has changed beyond all recognition.

2018 was a year of physical change. I had virtually completed my weight loss journey and was enjoying “looking” very different. I had started to become fitter for the first time really in my life. And of course as you will know if you are reading this blog, I discovered triathlon.

2019 has been less about weight loss (although I am very pleased to say that a year later I have not yo-yo back to obesity), and I certainly have not got faster (bugger!!), but it has be transformational.

2019 turned out to be the year I called time on my return to a Corporate Career (which was always the plan) but to my own amazement I find myself a fully qualified personal trainer and coach. With a fledgling business, a full diary of clients and some massive plans for what my new business could achieve going forward. But we will return to that later…

So what else has been happening this year? I continued to race and have thoroughly enjoyed myself. I failed to become good enough to qualify for a Team GB Age Group slot, but hey I had a lot of fun failing 🙂 Had a wonderful trip over to France to race at Chateaux Chantilly. Enjoyed some local races amongst friends. And started to get more involved in my local running community and running with new friends at Olney Runners. I didn’t get the privilege of qualifying to wear ‘the blue tri suit’ but in every other way I do feel very privilaedged! Having had the opportunity to make many new friends and compete in some great locations.

A particular highlight was a local cross country relay called the Squeaky Bone. In every sense, this should not tick any of my boxes. It is a muddy cross country. It is a running event not triathlon. It’s in a glamorous location! And yet I have the best time and this probably stands out for me as one of the real highlights of the year. Made some new friends in our last minute impromptu relay team, ‘enjoyed’ the race and then had a fab time in a village pub for the rest of the day making new friends and chatting about nothing in particular. Honestly, it doesn’t get much better – thank you to all involved. You know who you are 😉

My big ambition for 2019 was to take on the Triathlon Alpe D’Huez. In short didn’t happen. Ironically not because of fitness, although to be fair with the benefit of hindsight I think I might well not have made the cut off times. The actual reason for not going was a sudden realisation about the people that I was going with. Despite being in my 50’s, this turned out to be a very important life lesson for me. This whole saga is well documented in other posts so I shall not linger further on it now.

The year has seen some people float out of my life but some exciting new people float in. This I guess is the way of the world… And certainly for me reaffirms one of the very important reasons I enjoy participating in sport.

The real focus of the year though came in the Summer. Eventually arriving at the realisation that I was ‘done’ with being a Commercial Director. The negatives starting to hugely outweigh the only positive (which of course was money). People talk about the metaphor of the Golden Handcuffs and I have certainly been there and worn that tee-shirt several times in my career. But to stretch the metaphor to breaking point; if I needed to gnaw off my hands at the wrists in order to slip the handcuffs off then I was very prepared to do that. I think we are clear, I was properly done with Corporate Life. (Minor caveat: I still do have fond memories of a particular Mayfair office, but other than that; chapter closed and DONE).

Which then of course left me with the small question of what would I like to do. As much as I like a challenge becoming a professional Triathlete was just not going to happen. To old. Too little talent. No chance of making any money. But then a potentially even more worrying inner dialogue kicked off….:

“Why don’t you become a personal trainer?”. “Don’t be so f***ing stupid how could *I* ever become a PT” replies the voice of the obese me from age 5 through to 47! “Because you are not the old you. Because other people have followed your lead. Because you love the new you and if you could help someone else make that same change you might actually have done something a little more useful. Because it will be fun. Because you are the least likely person who ever walked the planet to become a PT”

I was sold. It would be an adventure like no other. Well apart from becoming a professional magician. Oh and apart from becoming a commercial pilot. Maybe, I find the thrill of leaping into the ‘darkness’ just too tempting.

So that was settled then. I would go about launching a fitness business! Quite what that meant I was not sure, but I thought a good place to start would be to get qualified to be able to do the work. Doing the work is the best place (in my opinion) to really learn about how an industry functions.

It was an unbelievable roller coaster. Learning ‘to do the work’, took me from playing Executive in aforementioned Mayfair offices to cleaning sweaty gym equipment on minimum wage (admittedly for only three shifts….) with a judgemental area manager pointing out I had missed some grime under a treadmill. I did so well to not engage him in a detailed conversation as to why he had failed so badly to achieve a meaningful management position and why he was happy to accept such a meaningless job as a ‘career’… Still he seemed happy in his cheap suit being a glorified supervisor 😉

What I did learn is how broken the “fitness industry” is in the UK. Broken at many levels and pretty much any horizon you look at there are obvious ways to do it better. It really is an industry that is ripe for transformation. But, more about that hopefully when I come to review 2020!

I gained the required certificates and as 2019 comes to an end feel as proud, delighted and enthusiastic as I did exactly a year ago – but this time with very different goals in mind for the year ahead.

So what is the plan for 2020? Well I still plan to race and I still aspire to qualify as an age group athlete for Team GB. Training has begun and I am loving it! Managing my diet is no longer an effort but just a way of life. I have accidentally had a “dry” year! Yes that red wine swigging, Gin lover has not had a drink (NOTHING) for a year now… And to be honest I don’t even think about it. Getting to the swimming pool at 6:30 am is no longer a chore and training twice a day feels quite normal. Looking forward to getting back into full on training in the next few weeks.

I think I might have gone a little OTT with training courses… But still it differentiates me!! Not so many Personal Trainers are also Swim Instructors, Running Coaches and Cycling Coaches… Probably the most useful aspect of this is that I have (a) learned what a shocking mess the world of “sport education” is (b) been able to make some proper improvements in my own swimming / cycling and running! 2020 – no more money to be wasted on worthless training courses…

But the absolute priority, and the thing that I am most energised about, is refining and executing my ideas for “Ed Stivala Limited”. I have been fortunate to be able to attract a wonderful and divers set of clients in short order. In fact my diary is now full and not needing or wanting any more!! Once again I feel privileged. So the new year will get off to a fantastic start. But January is nothing compared to where I plan to be later in the year 😉

More news, I have decided to collaborate with ProTrainingPT and base myself from their private studio gym. Will be surrounded by some very talented and experienced coaches and a great environment to work from. Very pleased about this agreement and think it will create some great opportunities.

I started off by saying that 2019 was a life changing year. Perhaps more accurately it is ANOTHER life changing year!! I seem to be a lucky person that has been fortunate to have various opportunities to explore new things during my life. I guess I am just lucky right? 😉

So that has been my year. Thank you for reading this and more importantly if you were part of my 2019 then THANK YOU, it would not have been the same without you. If you are just joining the adventure for 2020, then WOW you have picked a great time and WELCOME.

Time for me to sign off as the UK says good bye to 2019. For me, I think a final coffee and then looking forward to an early turbo session as the UK wakes up to 01/01/2020.

Cheerio 🙂

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