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Fitness down to a T

FITNESS FANATIC: Shaun T

EVERY NOW and then, an interview brings a journalist personal joy. For me, this was one of those occasions.

The story in brief: After giving birth to my daughter in 2012, I was left with those inevitable pregnancy pounds (an excess 22lbs to be precise). Determined to shift my baby weight, I decided to follow the example of my husband, who had recently embarked on a new workout programme called Insanity.

If you’ve seen the commercials for the 60-day DVD workout, you’ll be forgiven for thinking – like I did – that it’s an impossible challenge. The intensity of each video, comprised of sprinting, power jumps and butt kicks (and that’s just the warm-up), could easily lead those toying with the idea of exercise to quite literally give up at the first hurdle.

But, determined to fight the flab, I began the programme and so, was introduced to the trainer that is Shaun T.

Armed with good looks, bulging biceps and the motivational catchphrase “dig deeper,” the famed US fitness instructor born Shaun Thompson looks like a nice guy – but he’s a ruthless taskmaster when it comes to fitness. And upon landing the opportunity to speak to my fitness hero (after months of pursuing an interview with the ever-busy instructor), it turns out even he finds himself to be a tough trainer.

“I have a love-hate relationship with Max Interval Plyo,” the 35-year-old says of one of the Insanity workouts. “Some days I love the challenge of all the power jumps, but other days, I wanna jump through the TV and strangle Shaun T!”

You read it here Insanity graduates: even Shaun T gets infuriated with Shaun T at times.

“Absolutely,” he confirms with a chuckle. “Sometimes I’m like, ‘Shaun, I’m not dealing with you today!’ When I used to do my DVDs a long time ago, I used to see myself. But believe it or not, I don’t see myself anymore. Now, I’m like, ‘Alright, this is my trainer for the day.’ You’d think that was weird but it’s really not. I’m able to step outside of my own body and see Shaun T as my trainer.”

For the millions who have also enlisted Shaun T as their trainer through his numerous workout DVDs, it’s easy to see why he’s so popular. Fitness drill sergeant and happy-go-lucky guy in equal measure, he drives fitness seekers to want to work out each day.

Thanks to his DVDs Insanity, Hip-Hop Abs, Rockin’ Body, The Asylum, and most recently T-25, the New Jersey native has garnered a legion of fans worldwide. Considering the secret to his success, he says:

“The success comes from knowing what it is that motivates you to wake up every day. I know that I wanna motivate and inspire people and I know that I wanna connect with the fans. So when my alarm goes off, I don’t hit the snooze button because I know there are so many amazing things I wanna achieve each day.”

But despite being renowned for his fusion of fitness, dance and inspirational advice – dubbed ‘motivaSHAUN’ – Shaun T admits that he doesn’t always feel like exercising. And he believes it’s important for fitness instructors to “keep it real” with their advice.

“There are times, for example, when I’ve been so busy at the weekend, maybe doing a lot of travelling. So come Monday when I’m totally exhausted, I don’t put pressure on myself to workout. I just have to tell myself, ‘You know you’re not gonna workout today, so just accept it’.

“We all have those days when we literally don’t feel like doing anything. That’s human nature and I believe in keeping it real. As a trainer, I think people understand you better when you’re real, rather than trying to pretend that you’re super human and all you do is eat lettuce all day.”

Looking at his physique today, it’s hard to believe that Shaun T’s lifestyle was once far from healthy.

“I was always health conscious, but I think my biggest period of unhealthy living was when I was at college,” recalls the trainer, who earned a BS in health and exercise science with a minor in theatre and dance at university.

“I was so focused on academics that being health conscious kinda drifted to the background. It was a new life with a new freedom and independence; the parties, the drinking, the pizza late at night – it took its toll and I gained a few pounds.

“But it spurred me on to make a change and get back to my old healthy lifestyle. It was definitely a turning point for me and it was the point when I fell in love with motivating people.”

So began his journey to becoming one of America’s best-loved trainers. And with a successful career as a dancer also under his belt – he’s performed in theatre and TV and danced for artists ranging from Mariah Carey to Elephant Man – Shaun T is well-known in both the entertainment and fitness worlds.

But with success often comes intrigue about a celebrity’s personal life. In Shaun T’s case, such interest was sparked in 2012, when news ‘broke’ that he had wed his long-term boyfriend Scott Blokker, and so, many people discovered for the first time that the famed instructor was gay.

“That was funny to me because I’ve been out since I was 21,” he laughs. “The news had been out for years, so it was quite funny that when the story ‘broke’ after my wedding, it came as such a shock to some people.”

Revealing that some people have since made unpleasant remarks about his sexuality, Shaun T says he doesn’t pay the haters any attention.

“To be honest with you, I couldn’t care less what people think about that and I try not to pay attention to it. I’ve read a couple of things where people were quite rude, but my service isn’t about my relationship, my service is about trying to provide a healthier and happier lifestyle for people. So if you only focus on the fact that I’m gay and you think that’s a bad thing, then maybe you’re not the type of person I need to be associated with.”

With almost two decades in the business of health and fitness, he says his proudest achievement is hearing stories from folks (like me) who can testify that their lives were changed through his workouts. (In case you were interested, I did complete Insanity, I lost my baby weight and felt immensely proud of myself as a result.)

“When I started this journey, I thought: ‘If I can change one person’s life that would be incredible’, he says. “So to have been able to help transform so many people’s lives, that’s a real high for me. I’ve been teaching exercise for like 17 years and there are many other people out there who do the same. So to have resonated with so many people is a wonderful thing.”

And enquiring minds on this side of the Atlantic want to know: will he be bringing his brand of motivaSHAUN to the UK any time soon?

“We’re really trying hard to work on doing something over there, because we know we’ve got a lot of Insaniacs in the UK,” he laughs. “So we definitely want to come over there at some point.”

It was later announced that Shaun T will indeed be heading to the UK - Manchester to be precise - in May! Check out his website for more details.

* Shaun T is heading to Manchester on May 10. For more information, subscribe to www.shauntervention.com. For more information on Shaun T, visit www.shauntfitness.com

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SHAUN T’S FITNESS TIPS

“When it comes to fitness and health, they key things are:

1) Find an activity you really enjoy.

2) If you’re training with a trainer or a TV trainer, make sure you like the person!

3) Make sure your workout is challenging enough. It doesn’t have to be overly challenging like Insanity, but make sure it’s something that will challenge you.

If you do those things, you will succeed.”

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