It is, of course, the New Year and all thoughts turn to self-improvement and outlining one’s goals for the next twelve months. Head on to social media and you’ll no doubt find a plethora of promises and packages to help transform your post-Christmas body into one you’ve only ever dreamt of. And look, we’re not bashing anyone, embarking on a new exercise routine of any sort can only be a good thing, but if it’s long-lasting results and a complete shift in your mindset and approach then congratulations you’re in the right place.
One man who genuinely knows more than most about physical training and the human body is one of Britain’s most sought-after personal trainers, Dan Roberts. We first spoke to him a couple of years back and despite his credentials, we were still taken aback by not only his commitment to helping others but his determination to ensure people are given the right kind of support and information.
No misleading fad diets and training regimes, Dan Roberts is the real deal. The go-to man for A-listers, Dan has helped transform and train some of Hollywood’s most famous names.
His latest project NUK SOO, however, is set to change our perspective on the very idea of a personal trainer. Incorporating not only tried and well tested physical training there’s also a strong focus on mental well being in an online self-development program that will see you achieve significant results long past the New Year winter months.
We caught up with Dan to get the lowdown on this exciting new venture and get some much-needed motivation from the man who’s transforming the wellness industry one small step at a time.
The MALESTROM: Hi Dan – so how are things? How is the fitness empire coming along? A lot’s happened since we last spoke…
Dan Roberts: Well, I wouldn’t say we have an empire just yet! But yes we are a bigger organisation than when I last spoke to you a couple of years ago. I’m constantly innovating, tweaking and improving what we do and how we do it because our clients and customers deserve the best… and my management team are all committed to growing the company’s impact in the global wellness industry.
We have two workout brands under our banner now, the first being the Methodology X which grew in 2018 when we launched our “Methodology X” Instructor course. This industry accredited qualification means that we now have a growing family of Coaches and classes around the world. In addition, NUK SOO™, which is a 90-day mind & body virtual coaching program, has just launched after 12 solid months of development – so it’s exciting to get it out there and I’m chuffed The MALESTROM got to try it out too!
We have other things happening, new partnerships and a bigger London coaching team so that’s cool. Just to put it out there though, you have to remember, building a business is just like life, there will be good weeks and bad weeks, every day something goes well and other things need fixing. Building a company is a bumpy road, so you have to stay focused but even more crucially, you also have to smile through it all and enjoy the ride!
TM: (Last Time) We did get a lot of comments from readers about how refreshing it was to have clear and simple advice – how important is that to you?
DR: Very! It’s an interesting time as every trainer, magazine, celebrity and anyone with a gym membership likes to share their opinions on what to eat, how to train etc. Thanks to social media, opinions don’t have to be informed to be heard. That, along with the nepotism found in the national media and the influence of PR’s, there is currently a [miss]information overload in the wellness industry. That’s why I think people welcome solid, unbiased, factual advice more than ever.
TM: One of your big mantras is ‘keep moving’, commit to getting out there and doing something. What advice do you have for people with limited mobility, joint issues or problems from past injuries?
DR: Same! Keep moving. When you have mobility issues the best way through them is to remind the body to move. The body is so clever and the more I study biomechanics and physiology (and even evolutionary biology and neuroscience) the more I see that movement is life, the body wants to move and the vast majority of movement issues we get in a lifetime are learned.
This doesn’t mean we push through pain, it means we are smart, and do what needs to be done to take away the barriers to optimal movement, be it tightness in nerves, muscular imbalances, poor muscle tone or neuro-physiological issues. I would always recommend hiring a good Personal Trainer, Osteopath or Exercise physiologist to save you time, but we can also learn by just moving more and exploring, studying and contemplating our body more, and seeing it for what it is, an instrument, rather than an ornament.
TM: So tell us about NUK SOO, how did this all come about?
DR: Well, there are 3 distinct but related inspirations behind this product. Firstly, my time in Thailand fighting and training as a Thai Boxer. Around 8 years ago I decided to take a break from coaching and move abroad and learn how to fight. After growing up in the 1980s the allure of personally recreating Kickboxer, a classic Jean Claude Van Damn film was too strong for me to resist! So off I went to find myself a master and kick trees all day.
I was a beginner when I arrived, but training 6 days a week 6-7 hours a day for a year turns you into a committed Thai Boxer. I remember being in the ring for one of my first pro fights, the crowd where noisy and the senses become overloaded – but then my training kicked in and a sense of calm came over me, my heart rate lowered and squaring up to a fighter I felt relaxed and just let myself do what I’d been taught to do.
It was a totally Zen moment. The training and fighting taught me both physical lessons and mental lessons. Since then I have become a student and teacher of other martial arts, my current favourite being Wing Chun Kung Fu. This inspiration is the backbone of the workout.
The second source is rooted in my job and career journey. I started off training athletes back in the ’90s, then in the 2000s, I found myself in Brazil training models. In recent years, my main focus has been actors, as Hollywood production companies hire me to train up the leads. It can be quite demanding on everyone’s time so I do about 2 or 3 a year.
My very first film was Snow White and the Huntsman where I had to physically prepare the lead actress. My job is to get the leads in shape quickly and safely – to get them moving like their character. I wanted to bring this kind of transformation into my new product as most of us do not get to work like this with a trainer to change our bodies. The support aspect of NUK SOO (like virtual coaching) during the client’s journey is therefore so important to the user journey and a unique feature.
The 3rd source of inspiration for NUK SOO is just my own hobbies and interests. I love exploring the bigger questions in life, (I was doing a masters degree in philosophy before going off to Thailand) and I also try and live via Zen principles. I like meditation, literature, samurai culture, psychology and general self-development.
So it ’s these 3 parts of my life, (my martial arts, job and interests) that have all married together to create something new, different and intelligent – a kind of antidote to the mindless 12-week bodybuilding/cutting pdf’s you see nowadays. NUK SOO is Thai slang for warrior. The whole concept is really an immersive coaching product that will help users look, feel, think and perform like an enlightened warrior!
We’ve implied a new style of coaching for NUK SOO too where there is daily support and accountability for every single customer. The feedback we’ve had from our loyal customers has been amazing, and I’m very thankful for journalists and my peers who have publically supported it! I’ve put my heart into this program – so am just so glad it’s finally out there for people to try!
TM: We’ve been using the programme and have to say, it’s incredible, both in terms of the challenge and the attention to detail, there’s nothing out there that compares.
DR: Well, as I said earlier the wellness industry is kind of over-saturated with miss-information. I also think all attention spans; focus and patience have suffered with the rise of technology. The reason I love 1-2-1 coaching, and why I’ve done 20,000 hours of it so far is that its real interaction with another human.
We always try to make our online products feel like just like this too. From curated playlists to daily support via WhatsApp groups, I’ve done my best to make NUK SOO feel like an experience, rather than a guide… so yeah. I will take your compliment. Thank you!
TM: A pleasure. It’s something for anyone though who wants to improve their fitness and get themselves in shape, men and women/young and older people…
DR: Yes, that’s my main goal. I wanted it to be inclusive and attainable.
TM: You’ve set different levels and belts and attached them to some rather illustrious folk, tell us about that? It creates a sense of achievement…
DR: Yes, we’ve split the 90-day plan into 9 belts. You start at white belt as a beginner and you progress. It makes it more manageable and fun and there is a martial arts theme running through the entire program. I’ve also created bonus videos, coaching all the various strikes and combinations so users can really learn the full encompassing move and learn a little about its history…and it can be a fun thing to do with a partner. These bonus videos help teach the skill behind the move and this in itself can be motivating.
It’s important when doing any training to enjoy the process. This is why I see martial arts, as is a great supplement to ‘normal’ weights and cardio training. Martial arts are great for the body for many reasons. But for me, the biggest benefit is that they are skill-based and you don’t any need any fancy gear or equipment.
Bruce Lee called training, the way of expressing the human body. I love that and would urge anyone reading to try a new martial art out this month. There are clubs everywhere and often you can try the first lesson for free. You never know what you like till you try it!
TM: And you can go from professional through to master, making this something you can come back to time and again? We’re nowhere near master standard yet I hasten to add…
DR: The master level was fun to write. It reminded me of my life in Thailand where my teacher would tell me to do 200 roundhouse kicks, and when I made one mistake on the 72nd kick I would have to start again from zero. Hard training teaches humility and patience! So yes, don’t worry, every day is just practice for another day. My advice is to just focus on the process!
TM: The broader message of NUK SOO is all to do with mental well being. How important is that, especially in the modern world?
DR: More important than ever actually. Mental health is something that affects all of us, it doesn’t make any difference how old you are, what you do, your sex, your religion, your wealth or fame – we all need to look after our mental wellbeing. Exercise is usually a great way of helping this process. However, obsessing over exercise and our looks is not good for mental health.
If you actually have a proper talk to devoted bodybuilding competitors or Instagram bikini models who weigh out their food every night and post 1000 workout selfies a day, it becomes quickly apparent that their behaviour really is detrimental and not inspirational and can often come from a place of insecurity. I believe this is not the path to happiness.
21st century living, particularly in big cities can feel so stressful at times, and we all need strategies to cope and strategies to build our resistance. A fad-free, healthy, nutrient-dense diet, a regular varied daily movement practice, patience, and humility is my mantra.
Gratitude, focus, healthy interpersonal relationships and exciting goals and a sense of purpose are also all important factors to help us navigate mental ill health and live our best lives.
TM: And how would you advise people to supplement this training?
DR: Well, I’m a fan of all kinds of training. But for the full 90-day cycle of NUK SOO, I would ideally like people just to do it and lose themselves in the movements and ideas. By all means, if you love running, tennis, weights, cross fit, ballet etc then do it, but you will get more out of the program, both physically an mentally if this is your main focus.
TM: What about diet and nutrition – what does a typical day of eating for Dan Roberts look like?
DR: Generally, I eat very well. I still have a thing for fizzy cola bottles though which I need to work on! My diet changes depending on what I‘m doing. I love food, I love carbs and I love tasting new things.
I travel quite bit with my work and I like to eat local, there are so many amazing new things to try and I think we can all can get a bit lazy with food, and caught up in just eating what we normally eat.
One of my resolutions in 2019 is to have much less meat. I was practicing in December and I’m trying to cut it down to 3 times per week. So many of my clients are vegan converts but I don’t think I can handle that just yet! We’ll see.
TM: Now obviously, the New Year is a time when lots of people throw themselves into new fitness regimes, what’s your advice for people to stay motivated, commit fully to a New Year resolution if you like?
DR: Before trying to stick to a resolution/goal, you need to first figure out if it’s the right goal. Make sure it’s your goal, not your boss’s, your wife’s, or societies. Drill down and mentally explore why it’s important. Imagine yourself in the future achieving it – how does this feel exactly? And then imagine 2020 comes around and you didn’t achieve it, now, how does that feel?
Be brutally honest with yourself when you do this exercise, if there is not a huge chasm between the two emotions then I guarantee you won’t stick to it and your better off thinking of something more personally compelling.
Assuming you have the right goal for you, then make it easy to succeed and hard to fail. Using willpower is a bad idea, as it will run out in a matter of weeks. If you’re an extrovert (like me) then tell everyone! Make it easy to be accountable. (For introverts, I wouldn’t recommend this approach).
And finally, break down your goal into little key stages and reward yourself after you get past each milestone. The trick is to make your journey to whatever you want to achieve an enjoyable one and then it becomes part of your lifestyle.
John Lennon famously said, “life is what happens when we’re busy making plans” – he’s so right! Goals are great. but, it’s the person they make you, while you’re striving towards them that’s the most interesting part.
TM: What’s next for Dan Roberts?
DR: I really want to help coaches in the fitness industry be better at their job and enjoy more ’success’. It’s great being a coach, but it can be a tough industry. So we will aim to have more nationally accredited qualifications and business mentoring services coming out soon for gyms and trainers. The industry has been very good to me and it’s important we give back and help raise standards, not just in the UK but around the world.
TM: Any last words of wisdom for our readers?
DR: Hmm, I think I’ve talked enough! Let me share a quote from the great Allan Watts,
“This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.”
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