Yet another first this week on Office Worker Health, it’s my first ever interview! Owen Percy is the resident personal trainer at my local gym in Ashtown, Dublin 15. I’ve never taken a class or had a training session with Owen however I have been seeing and hearing lots of positive feedback from his clients for quite a while now so who better to chat to about all things health and fitness (with a focus on office workers of course).
Owen is a NCEF qualified level 5 personal trainer with over 20 years’ experience. He has further qualifications as a physical therapist, triathlon, kettlebell and strength and conditioning coach to name but a few and has represented Ireland at the European Championships in the Triathlon.
I caught up with Owen last week to ask him a few questions.
Question: I see you in the gym any morning that I’m here at 7am and also in the evening so what does a typical day look like for you?
Owen: “I’m up at 5.20 every weekday as I have classes or personal training (PT) sessions starting at 6am most days. I’m finished that at 12 so I’ll try and do my own exercise then before having lunch and a nap. Around 4 or 5pm is kick off time for me again with classes and PT sessions for the evening so I work a split shift pretty much every day”.
Question: What kind of background and goals do your clients have?
Owen: “The majority of my clients are aged in their thirties or forties and 95% of them are office workers. I would say that weight loss is the main concern for most of my clients”.
Question: What are some of the issues that your office working clients have and what course of action do you recommend for them?
Owen: “It’s very common to see clients with poor posture and rounded shoulders from sitting over a computer screen all day. I’ve also observed a lot of neck and lower back pain which the vast majority of people aren’t fully aware of until I point it out. I always advise desk workers to sit with shoulders back, chest out and to stop slouching – and to keep reminding themselves of this throughout the day. I’ll observe a client’s posture and technique when they come to me and can recommend specific exercises based on that. Standing desks are a relatively new phenomenon in Ireland and could help alleviate many of the issues I’ve mentioned”.
Question: Any other issues that office working clients present themselves with that you have to handle?
Owen: “Stress is huge unfortunately. I always have a one to one discussion with clients to set their objectives at the beginning and during a programme and I often find that these conversations, setting clear goals and reviewing them, can sometimes be more beneficial than the workouts themselves. Being able to discuss weight, nutrition and exercise plans freely with someone is a great stress reliever for a lot of people and then the workout itself adds to that. There’s a lot to be said about the feel good factor of exercise”.
Question: Have you seen many feel good benefits of exercise first hand?
Owen: “Plenty. I always say there are two benefits to training, physical and mental. I’ve had clients that were so nervous and self-conscious in the beginning that they wouldn’t work out unless the gym was empty. Over time they’ve built up their confidence and mental strength and now hardly notice who else is working out around them. I’ve coached absolute running beginners from the couch to complete a 5 kilometre race and seen them crying with joy at the finish line. Helping clients gain this incredible sense of achievement is one of the best parts of my job”.
Question: What breakdown between cardio and resistance training do you recommend?
Owen: “That really depends on the client. If you’re training for a race, then I’d recommend 60/70% cardiovascular exercise. For weight loss I recommend 85/90% resistance training which surprises a lot of people. Your body is still burning calories for 24-48 hours after a resistance training workout whereas with a cardio workout, you stop burning calories as soon as you step off the treadmill. Plus cardio exercise generally is not full body, it’s only really from the waist down but resistance training can isolate specific muscles anywhere in your body and you can train with a lot more than just your bodyweight”.
Question: How much exercise should a healthy adult be getting per week?
Owen: “I would say 5 or 6 hours per week and that should include a mix of cardiovascular and resistance training. That might consist of some moderately paced walking or jogging depending on your level of fitness. You must take at least one day off”.
Question: Are you a fan of supplements?
Owen: “Not really, I’d always recommend natural foods rather than supplements. Good quality nutritious food costs more than unhealthy food but it’s really worth it. Having said that if you have a busy job and you’re really stuck for time, then a protein shake is fine, especially if you’re working out late at night or very early in the morning”.
Question: Do you have any nutrition tips for office workers?
Owen: “This is easier said than done with a busy office job but aim to eat smaller portion meals, something like 6 to 8 small portion meals per day. Needless to say make sure you choose healthy options and cut back on potatoes, pasta, rice and cereals. A big mistake I see with my clients is when they eat huge 2500 calorie dinners at 8 or 9pm so that’s what you want to avoid”.
Question: Any general tips for office workers that are struggling for time to stay healthy?
Owen: “If you don't have the time then keep things simple and use your surroundings, it’s the best gym of them all. Take the stairs in work and at home as often as you can, exercise on your commute or on your lunch break where possible and get up and walk around the office regularly. Drink plenty of water as it’ll help get rid of the toxins in your body and whatever you do stop drinking calories – fizzy drinks are full of sugar so cut them out”.
Question: Finally, do you have any tips for me having read my comfort zone blog???
Owen: “I sign up to different gyms on short term contracts regularly and don’t tell them I'm a trainer. Firstly because I want to see how somebody else teaches and pick up some tips that way and secondly as you said, it’s quite difficult to get out of your comfort zone when you’re training on your own. I’d say I push myself to about 75% capacity on a solo workout whereas when someone else is pushing me I can get to 100% which is what I'm looking for. So yea, get yourself a personal trainer!”
Thanks Owen for the really great interview, I really enjoyed it and I'm sure anyone that reads it will too. If you’d like to contact Owen you can reach him through his website or on his Facebook page. He has both running and bootcamp classes starting in September and is available for personal training sessions all year round.
N.B Owen is just back from a 3 week pasta, pizza and wine influenced honeymoon in Italy however he has assured me that plenty of exercise was included in the trip and he is fighting fit for the new classes in September!