If they were to make a movie about the life and times of Edward Diget - a Fitness First Clubs personal trainer - there’s no doubt it would be a blockbuster. There’s also a fair chance that he’d perform all his own stunts.
The 71-year-old has an incredible backstory. A former Royal Navy man who was selected to represent his country at the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia, Eddy has many strings to his bow. He has spent 35 years doing weight training and has an impressive 55 years of Chinese Martial Arts experience under his belt.
In May 2010, he was awarded the prestigious ranking of ‘Master’ by the Shaolin Warrior Monks of Mainland China and two years later he was officially recognised as a ‘Kung Fu Master’ by the World Martial Arts Organisation in the USA and Japan. He also does a bit of fencing, choreography, scuba diving, and is a champion cyclist and a two-time British natural body building champion.
As we've already alluded to, he spent some time working as a stuntman, too - a role that he literally fell into accidentally. While shooting an advert for Levi’s, the horse that Eddy was riding stumbled, causing him to dismount rather unceremoniously. Despite being sent careering into the air, Eddy somehow managed to land on his feet and jump back into the saddle in one swift movement - a manoeuvre that not only prompted the director to keep the unplanned motion in the film, but also paved the way for Eddy to land future stuntman gigs.
Eddy’s impeccable balance shouldn’t come as any surprise given his varied sporting background, and this diversity has certainly given him a strong footing as a master trainer. His clients include a British heavyweight cage fighter, a South African rugby player, British gymnasts, professional dancers, golfers, tennis players, marathon runners, competitive body builders, martial artists and TV personalities.
Because he also has a strong background in rehab, Eddy counts a number of doctors and medics among the people he trains, too. Reading through some of his testimonials from satisfied customers it seems that Eddy has almost mystical healing powers, with one of his clients, Gary Morley, simply referring to him as “The Magic Man”.
So how does he do it? We interviewed Eddy to find out what makes him tick. We also wanted to gauge his thoughts on how health and fitness has evolved during his illustrious career to date, what advice he’d give to more mature people who are looking to get fit, and what he feels about modern diet and exercise trends.
“I get up at around 5.30am, and leave the house for 6.45am. I usually see my first client at 8am and then I tend to schedule them in back-to-back until 4pm - I have something to eat at 2pm. I generally work with seven clients a day, so I’ve got a really busy schedule. I used to do 11 in a day, but I’ve cut it down!” Eddy told us.
The exercise doesn’t stop once Eddy gets home of an evening. He goes straight out into the garden to spend half an hour unleashing any pent up frustrations on his Muk-Chong - a wooden Chinese Martial Arts dummy man. He’s also a passionate fisherman, and he sees this as a great way to relax, particularly at weekends.
“I’ve always had three disciplines,” Eddy continued.
“Number one is fishing, which gives me the solitude that I need. Number two is weight training to get rid of my aggression. And number three is martial arts, which gives me the focus.”
Diet - there’s no need to get technical!
We recently discussed on the DW Blog how so-called “superfoods” aren’t all they are cracked up to be. When you’re attempting to add some balance to your diet, it’s easy to overthink things.
“This might sound strange, but there’s no need to get technical with food,” Eddy added.
“I hear a lot of sport scientists telling people to eat so many milligrams of this and so many milligrams of that. I say, unless you’re going to compete, keep it simple.
“My rule of thumb is the days you train, eat approximately 70% protein and 30% carbohydrates. You need the building blocks to repair the work you’ve done [through protein]. The day prior to your workout, you reverse it (70% carbs/30% protein), as you need the fuel to get you through your training. It’s fine to get more sport-specific as you prepare to compete.
“Also, remember that people like [former middle-distance runner] Roger Bannister never had fad, high-protein foods, and they were world champions.”
How has the fitness industry changed over the years?
Eddy’s seen a lot of health and fitness trends come and go, and in his opinion the industry has experienced a significant boom in the past 12 years.
“Because of this boom, there are now so many different products and supplements on the market, but you can get all of the same nutrients from ‘normal foods’,” Eddy commented.
“People have become more aware of how important it is to train, but to me the exercises that we do now are exactly the same as those we were doing in the 1960s - they’re just packaged differently and given fancy names.
“I’ve also noticed that we’re becoming isolationists, which is a worrying trend. Many workout programmes are designed to concentrate on certain muscle groups. We’re focusing too heavily on very specific parts of our bodies, and it’s too restrictive. Because some workouts are so prohibiting, people run the risk of injury.
“Free weights, however, allow for a full range of movement, which means you’re working various muscles at the same time.”
Are our jobs making us weak?
As the number of people doing office-based jobs continues to grow, it stands to reason that our workout habits will change too. Because so many people have desk-bound jobs, there’s a danger that more of us are leading sedentary lifestyles - a topic that we’ve touched on before.
Eddy commented: “People who sit in front of a computer all day have extremely weak lower back muscles in comparison to their upper body. They can also suffer from tightness in the shoulders and neck problems. As we’re so used to moving forward and stretching for things, we have limitation of movement because the lower back isn’t being worked enough.
“You’re only as strong as the job you do. This is why I get my clients to do exercises that elongate these under-used muscles. I use free weights to assess them, ensuring that they don’t overstretch themselves and risk injury.”
The truth about weight training
Any personal trainer will tell you that in order to lose weight, you need to be lifting weights and eating healthily. Far too many gym-goers are obsessed by how much they can lift, but Eddy insists that good form is by far and away the most important consideration.
“I get some clients say to me; ‘How have you made me work so hard with just one or two kilos?’” Eddy remarked.
“I don’t want to see how much weight you can lift, I want to see how strictly you can do it. It’s the exercise that’s important. The key is to make people think about their training - there’s no point in simply adding more weights to your workout if your form and technique aren’t right.
“My motto is; ‘Look forward to coming, hate doing it, and feel like you’ve achieved something when you walk out’.”
What makes Eddy such a successful trainer?
Your average personal trainer is in their 20s, so what is it about 71-year-old Eddy that ensures his appointment book is constantly full? In 2001, Eddy sold his company and retired. Since then, he has gone on to become a highly successful PT, and there are numerous reasons for this.
“I found a niche at 59/60 and, to be honest, I would do this job for free. I’ve found a job that encompasses everything that I love about people. I like to build up trust with my clients and I’m at home doing this. I enjoy helping people, and my sporting and commercial backgrounds have really benefited me,” Eddy commented.
While interviewing Eddy, it became clear that his fantastic communication skills and attention to detail certainly set him apart from other trainers. He doesn’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach. He gets to know his clients, figuring out their strengths, weaknesses and more importantly, their capabilities. Eddy is an instinctive trainer who creates bespoke plans that are tailored for the individual in question.
“I always say that you have to educate the muscle before you train it. Some people do need a ‘beasting’. For others, they need to build up confidence before they feel comfortable in the gym, so you need to take a different approach,” he concluded.
Any tips for older people who want to workout?
Eddy’s aforementioned approach suits people of all ages - his clients are aged between 13 and 80. Most importantly, he has urged gym-goers to communicate with their personal trainers, after all, you’re there for your benefit, not theirs.
“If something hurts when you do it, you have to tell your personal trainer. Unfortunately, people stay silent and it puts them off coming back,” he added.
“Question things. If you’re struggling to do something, tell them. The best personal trainers will find something else that you can do. If you enjoy what you do, you’ll do it well; if you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it.”
What next for Eddy?
Eddy has no plans to retire just yet. In fact, he doesn’t intend to retire ever! He lives for this and his passion for health and fitness is infectious.
As he so rightly says, it’s important that you find a form of exercise that you enjoy. Why not have a look at some of our classes? Never be afraid to try something new; you never know, you might find something that you love!