How Alex And Matt Found Each Other Through Fitness
Matt and Alex, thank you so much for chatting with me today. Welcome to the bodies built better podcast.
Thanks for having me.
Thank you. Good to see your face.
Ah, it’s so good to talk to you guys. Because I’m not sure if I mentioned this last year. But before joining UN1T, I was coming from an injury, felt miserable because training is a massive part of, you know, life and my life. And you know, when you can’t train, your stuff emotionally, mentally, physically kind of all goes down hill a little. And I didn’t want to go back to the place where I got injured. And so when I finally found you guys, it was like, thank goodness. And I’ll always remember this. So Matt, we’d never spoken and we’d never met each other. Alex, we had a few exchanges via email. But the very first time I walked into your studio, Matt–cracks me up every time I think about this–Jackie Tann, the myth, the legend! It was so fantastic. And I look at Alex, you’ve got this big smile on your face. And you’re you know, you welcomed me and I just thought, yeah, this is my place. This is why people are so fantastic. Obviously the programmes are so awesome. And yeah, I loved being there and I miss being there. So I thought to get us started. I really would love to know your journeys into fitness and then into UN1T because you’re so brilliant at it.
Oh, that’s very kind of–I’m blushing. It’s a very long winded story, but I’ll try and condense my–
How did you start fitness?
I got into fitness because my brother was essentially doing it in Orange. And my mum, long story, got really sick. And he was living at home at that stage. And present time together, we bought a power tower, which is like a chin up bar dips and some push ups and some leg raises, stuff. Bought some dumbbells and barbells. And that’s kind of how my journey started because I was a pretty overweigh, teenager and kid. And I wanted to live with Tim as a bit of a bro thing to do. And my journey for this was pretty quickly, quickly done because I was doing Amateur Theory at the time. And I wanted to look a certain way for this part that I was playing. And it wasn’t a chubby teenager, he was a masculine kind of man. So I did it from Robert. I just enjoyed the benefits and the social aspect with Tim, my brother. And yeah, it kind of started from I was 19. Which my team?
Yeah, I mean, I grew up, I grew up as a dancer. So I had danced from a very young age, you know, the age of five, right through my teenage years. I hadn’t really, I guess I didn’t need any other sort of fitness, dance was my life. I danced for five, six days a week. So I really didn’t start the gym until I met this guy. And I was probably about nineteem. And you know, you finish school, you finish your sort of after school dancing, and then you are at a point in your life where you need to either make dance your career or you need to find another form of fitness. So I guess–-Yeah, it was probably mostly Matt that convinced me that I needed a gym membership.
I didn’t say it like that. “Come with me.”
That’s where I started sort of, I guess group fitness, actually going to a gym to work out as opposed to in a studio.
Time together, similar.
That’s pretty similar to my story, Alex, as in yeah, the whole dance thing and certainly wasn’t going to be a career for me. I mean, I would have liked it to but Dad was like, you find a real career. But it was massage for me.
Question. Yeah. What’s that? It’s a real career.
Yeah, well, that’s exactly these days anyway. Yeah. 2022. Yeah.
From Gym To Gym: How Matt And Alex Found UN1T
Well, tell us because I know you both lived in–was that London? Yes. So tell us about that and how that happened. And then moving back here.
So we essentially moved over for my role on the west end. And the gig started. Pretty soon after the one finished in Australia. And I moved over in February and over in April.
Yeah, yeah. So we moved to London, because Matt got a job there. Yeah. Um, so what that was the initial move to and we had both previously done like gap years in London separately before we had met each other when we were 18. And then we had met when I was about 19, spent some time in Sydney together, then move back to London. And so yeah, Matt was full time, acting for a long time. And sort of although–
My days were, my days were quite free. And I was always doing PT fitness, because I thought I was when I was 18, 19. I thought, what can I do with my time because I really, I really did enjoy doing it. And it was pretty much to go to London was to do the juice. It was a show I was doing and that kind of fell into doing fitness full time. So it kind of switched from that that movement to that movement.
It was a way to stay healthy. I guess while you were in the show. We were lucky a lot of people in the cast liked fitness as well. So there’s a lot of bonding with other cast members. Yeah. So yeah, it’s just all tied in together really just–we didn’t set out to Yeah, to join the gym there.
And was it UN1T?
No, at the time, it was F45. So there was a, we were looking to franchise, our own establishment, whether it be F45 or another thing. And then we found that the one that was closest to us, was the London Bridge. And that was literally a stone’s throw from where we lived. And I was still doing the show. And Alex and I had contacted the CEO of the GM of them of the current studio, and when saw the space and he was still painting and he was putting in kit and knocking on the walls and stuff. And I know what happened when we clicked to straightaway was this instant bromance just kicked out between myself?
Well, you just know when you meet good people. And so he Yeah, so Rob was Rob Smith, the guy who is the CEO of unit he was actually in the process of setting up F45. It was the first F45 in Europe. So he had the master franchise. And so this was like at the very beginning of, sort of F45’s journey. And so Rob had discovered it in Australia, moved, but he’s actually Irish. had moved back to the UK, and was going to start this string of F45s in London. So we were inquiring about opening up our own F45. From F45 Head Office, got put in touch with Rob. And they were like he’s got the master franchise to go and like, have a conversation with him. And we just send it out. We met Rob and his wife, Danielle in London, and we just ended up becoming friends, I guess. And it was
It was a throwaway comment for me. So if you need a cat or a coach, I’ll happy to teach a few classes as well. Probably like a week later, Rob set up. I haven’t found anybody that I like. Can you come and get your class? Yeah, sure. And that’s how it kind of started.
That’s how it all started. So Matt would coach there during the days, go and do the shows at night. I would just train there. And we sort of just watched what sort of rehab Rob create this F45 in London, this community grew and grew really quick, obviously, as F45 does. And then yeah, a number of years later, Rob was ready to open up a new space and had decided he wasn’t going to stick with F45. And honestly, UN1T was created almost overnight.
Yeah, it was.
Rob was like had this idea had made the decision, he had a space and it had intended to initially be an F45. And then just a split decision was like, I’m not going to run with F 35 anymore, I’m going to do my own thing. And so Rob, flipped it and was like, This is how UN1T was created.
So there’s a lot of conversation with Rob and I had about, obviously Rob is the CEO and is the founder. But it was a bit of a collaboration between people who were working there at the time, like how can we make better, what’s missing, group training? And what can we add to this and as soon as accumulation of everything Rob’s done the past 12 years with fitness in a team sports environment, how can bring that into a group setting? So my contract ended, let’s say on a Friday on the west end on a Friday, and I started work on the Tuesday at UN1T full time.
Oh, wow. I mean, UN1T, though, is so different to an F 45.
What Makes UN1T Different From Other Programmes
So tell us, so I mean, the philosophy, the programming?
Yeah, I think that was it. Rob comes from, like, a rugby background. Right. So sports, sort of training. He, his career was sort of ended there with an injury, as is very, you know, very common case with a lot of athletes. So he, after doing it F45 for a number of years, he was like how can I make it more aligned with the background he had with training? And yes, group training exists, but how can you make it even more team-based and even more connecting to the people that you’re training with, and even more kind of pushing each other?
It’s competitive cardio.
Yeah. So there’s like, there’s a huge competitive element. I think. I think, you know, UN1T has all these, has lots of different things that make it unique. And that’s why it’s like this sort of like, whole mind blown of, like differences and stuff like that. So yeah, you’ve got your competitive carriers. So working in teams working in partners, trios groups, to really push in max points, max reps.
Who work a bit harder, and relying on someone and they’re relying on you.
Yeah. And then you’ve got even within the strength sessions, like you’re usually partnered up, so you’re helping each other, what weight do you want to lift? Do you need a hand, spotting each other, it’s very much into–integrated in every single class? How there’s ways to chat to people.
Train as one, right? Yeah.
That’s the motto. Well, I really loved it, like I–yeah, it was, I noticed straight away that the difference in terms of the training programmes, because I got really strong really quickly, and obviously, you know, consistency, and hopefully, that helps. But it, for me, it was in a really safe way. And I know that’s kind of crazy to say, I mean, you of course you want to do it in a safe way, but not all gyms are created equal.
We found that obviously, Sydney, as you know, and even Adelaide where you are that it’s still quite competitive. There’s a lot of group classes around your training facilities, what makes it, what makes you different and yeah, the space can look cool and really slick, right is cute. But if the programme is not great, then nothing’s gonna happen. And people want to see results at the end of the day. That’s basically how it is.
Yeah, like, I mean, there’s a lot of great programmes around, I think that ultimately comes down to the trainers and I think that’s, Rob always had this really initially like the very core people that were around when unit started. Rob has a really good way of picking good eggs. I don’t know how he does it. But I know–Yeah, he can pull it from a mile away. So the team that initially started UN1T was such great people and great coaches and all good from their respective fields. And I think that really helped. When it came to designing UN1T and designing the classes, that everyone–there was like different backgrounds, different, different disciplines. But it really just it shows in the programming of just from the very beginning, it’s not like, it’s like it started and had to develop this way. It was literally from day one, these really great elements together.
It was the purpose of doing strength for strength training, and not just doing random dumbbells, like there’s a process, there’s progressive overload, and there’s not just cardio for the sake of doing cardio, why are you doing this?
How can it help my strength training? How can I improve my overall fitness?
It offsets everything else. And I think from, from me, you know, it was in my grand performance background. So I’m sure you’ve done my classes. Jackie, you’ve seen the performance element–
It is the best part of the training to be on.
You may not have seen that movie. So yeah, I brought that. And then Gary, as well, had a teaching background. So he’s come on and educating Yeah, commanding your room is, you have to be engaging and have to educate, motivate and inspire people.
Learning How To Train From The Very Best
Absolutely. So would you say that Rob really influenced the way that you train and teach and educate and even communicate with your clients? Like, who influenced you through, through the years of until now?
Yeah, definitely. I mean, Rob is, as always, I mean, in my mind, the best trainer that you have, but no, I always I think, like I say, every coach was good at something different. Yeah. And that’s why Gary was the educator. He was always very educational. I always found Rob’s classes, he was very inspiring, was able to throw out the correct words at the right time. You’ve got Matt who’s like this big personality. So he gives the, the sort of the performance of the room. So I think yeah, everyone, everyone from the sort of the beginning of–
They call it something different. And then I think as it’s gone on, you take elements from someone else, like a guy that really works really well and you kind of accumulate a mechanism and bowl and it turns out to be like that. So I was, I was very different coach to UN1T and F45. I found myself wanting to push people more, wanting to educate more because we had more time to do it. There was those processes and systems to make members athletes and make them better. Yeah.
How To Help People Get Started With Fitness
Yes. Well, speaking of members, let’s, let’s get into helping people. So for those starting out, or getting back into fitness, how do you recommend they get started? Because number one, it can be really intimidating, especially nowadays, where everyone seems to be a fitness influencer. Or they’re coming back from injury like what would you recommend for them to start in their fitness journey?
Firstly, you’ve got to reach out, like, I’m always really happy with these people who are either have been off training for a number of years or who are brand new to training. It’s always so I like I get really happy when they actually first make that contact or first book in for that class. And you really appreciate like you can, you can usually tell the people who are, who an environment like a gym can be a little bit overwhelming for people and it’s pretty obvious. And I think recognising it is the first kind of, but for people they just need to they need to reach out first if they’re uncomfortable. Like it’s so easy, Instagram, send a quick DM, I want to try it but I’m not really sure how to start. Yeah, and that’s such a low barrier way to get in touch. Especially, you know, we’re all on our phones 24/7 nowadays, and as a business Instagram is huge for us in terms of communicating so we’re quite happy to get those Instagram and messenger sort of like little reaches out or even, I mean, a phone call. But some people are a little bit intimidated by a phone call.
So text does that these days, surely.
More, you will watch your phone ring. Yeah, and then.
Exactly. Screen, then text just then.
I mean, you’re always gonna get a response from either one of us. And were the ones that are here in class. So it is it’s that first contact and if you’re intimidated about coming in, and I would suggest honestly just send that send a text send the quick Instagram DM.
The hardest part for most people is starting the conversation. I think if you’re brand new that the hardest part is I don’t know where to start. Yeah, where does it end? Some gyms are very intimidating. But Alex and I are very chill, very relaxed and casual, come in without the class of being on and have a conversation. Like, yeah, if you, if you meet the person who’s running, running the place or meeting the coaches before the class even started, you’re not going in blind you don’t feel as intimidated because Oh, good day Jenny, we saw you yesterday.
That’s great. Yeah, we’ve had that phone call, we’ve had that. And then it kind of, it comes back on us then as gym owners or coaches, it’s up to us to make them feel comfortable. So, you know, that’s where we have to be sure that we’ve explained the class and that we’ve made, make sure they know where everything is. And, you know, those little emails before they even get to class. Like, this is what the gym looks like, this is what you purchase look like or, and so all that member journey is was really important for those new people.
Not even that if you’re coming in blind, it’s you have to follow a programme, you can’t just go in willy nilly and go be, “Ah, it has to be done this second.” Done, but there has to be a reason why you’re doing it. So any, any person studying the strength programme, I recommend following up, following a programme.
Absolutely. And you guys do so well. And, you know, in terms of that, that breaking that barrier, Alex, like you said, Get just get in touch. I remember getting in touch with you, again via email. And even though it’s email, you can still tell so much about a person, the way they communicate, whether it’s–
I guess that’s why we’re so excited when you first came in, because they’d been multiple back and forth. And you know that it’s gonna be a good person when she gets, yeah.
The Mistakes People Make On Their Fitness Journey
Well, what are the biggest mistakes that people make when starting their journey?
Oh, gosh, too hard too fast.
Jackie 21: 47
Yeah, you know that, you really, you’ve got to start with the lighter weights, even if it feels lighter, and it feels like you’re not doing anything. Your muscles are learning and adapting and not probably not programming in or not giving yourself recovery, not, not actually like recognising that recovery is part of your fitness journey. Are you sleeping? Are you having rest days? Are you going to the walks, you know, like, people, I think they think if I go five days a week, but then for two days a week, I’m just gonna sit at home and do nothing and eat what I want. You know, it doesn’t work like that. You can’t go 100% for five days, and then do nothing else, not factoring–
Think about all the hours of the day, what you spend time in the gym is a miniscule amount of time of your week. So what you’re doing in the gym is probably more important than what you’re doing.
Sorry, in and out of the gym. Yes, it’s a process. I mean, yeah, for me, it’s, it’s too hard too fast. You’ve got to start small and stay patient. It’s, it’s literally a marathon. It’s not a sprint. There’s no, there’s no exist. There’s no fads. I mean, you know, as long as you want all these diet trends and fads and stuff, and yeah, it works, but it’s temporary. Are you gonna do that forever? It’s just a lifelong thing. And then it goes back to the reasons why you’re doing this. Why? Why are you here? What do you want to do? What do you want to be?
That’s it, it’s a lifestyle. And if you can’t make that transition from that quick fix to, you know, doing the things that are right for your body, mentally, physically, emotionally, long term, then it’s,
We found that no other group class and I say, these challenges where they drop the calories in a huge calorie deficit for, you know, six 8, 10 weeks, and then you look great, after eight weeks over this, but straightaway be pushed back on because it’s not sustainable. You can’t manage it. And you’re not lifting heavy. Yeah, you lose, you lose, you’ve lost body fat, of course, you’ve also lost muscle, you’ve lost muscle mass as well. So for us, we’d never say, You got to eat this, like that’s work for you. What do you want to do in general, do you want to lift more? Then you’ve gotta eat more.
Exactly. And I think that’s so important to, to point out is that you might lose the weight. But yes, it is both. Yeah, fat but also muscle as well. And so just because the scales say you’ve lost this amount of weight, doesn’t actually mean that it couldn’t be the healthiest thing for you.
Why The Scales Don’t Tell The Whole Fitness Story
It’s 2022. And the scale is I always say the scale’s damage is sexy. So you can’t be looking at the numbers and go, “Wow, I haven’t lost any weight.” But yeah, but you’re doing seven foot push ups on your toes and you weren’t doing that six weeks. Incredible. That’s amazing. So for us, it’s performance first and aesthetics second.
Absolutely. It’s, change that mindset and focus on to. you know, what are the things that actually matter? The fact that you can do now push ups onto your toes–
I have a conversation every week with a member about scales and losing weight.
by weight. Yeah, I wish people would –
I wish you couldn’t buy scales for your home. I don’t know why people have scales in their hands.
You know what, we have scales, but the only time we ever use them is when we’re travelling and we have to measure baggage.
What you should have is the kitchen ones. Making sure you know what you’re eating. Yeah. It’s always so disheartening. When people come in and they say, Oh, they weigh themselves in every day, or they weigh themselves even every week. Sometimes I just think, no, no.
Yeah, it’s that mindset has been years and years and years, you have to wait to have that amount. But you see a photo a woman who weighs 55 kilos, stick thin and has no muscle mass, and the same photo of the popular woman who looks incredibly muscular, and toned and healthy. And this thing–
Exactly, that’s right. Oh, they come in, and then that they’re like, I’ve put on weight on the scales. I’m heavier now. And it’s like, you’ve, you’re stronger now. That’s why you can do a pull up and you can bench-press you know, whatever it is. So yeah, it’s–
Kind of like drinking a litre of water as well before.
Oh, that’s right. Yeah, fluids, right?
Giving Clients The Motivation For Exercise And Fitness
Let’s talk about mindset a little bit more. How do you help clients get through those blocks and negative thinking around health, around fitness, around–unfortunately, still talking about body image?
Yeah, it’s, um, look–
Yeah, every case is a little bit different. What’s really great is to, is, so obviously when members hit goals or hit little milestones, that’s when they start to feel better. So you need to give people achievable targets small increments at a time so they can feel they can feel progress and see progress. Because that’s, that’s what gives them the motivation to keep, to keep going. And that’s obviously a lot easier said than done. You really have to, as coaches and gym owners, like it’s up to us to celebrate these wins that people have as well. Like they don’t go to work and have their co workers celebrate that they got five push ups on their toes, like no one celebrates that. So that’s up to the you know, your coaches to sort of make a deal of things that might seem small, but no one else is going to celebrate for them. So it’s where we–
Whisper in their ear and say, “Remember last week? You couldn’t do that.” Yeah. But it’s pulling someone to the side and having a one on one conversation not in front of a class or six other people.
It’s that individual, like–
Remember when you started and you couldn’t do a deadlift or you know, yeah, it’s really important that coaches like recognise even stuff that’s silly, or stuff that seems insignificant, and it’s easy as a coach to kind of, for it to pass you over, to skip over it. But yeah, like no one else is celebrating that for them. So they need to be reminded, I guess, of their own journey.
Finding Your “Why” For Motivation
I think it’s also–I’ll say it again, it’s the why. There’s a reason why you’re doing this as a reason why you got a 5am in the morning. I mean, a lot of it is aesthetics. But for a lot of people, especially nowadays, it’s, it’s a lot of mental health. It’s a lot of these anxieties, and these issues that have at home or at work or in society that I feel better after I go to the gym. That’s your why, you want to feel better in yourself. And I know for myself that I if I don’t, if I don’t eat I get really angry. But I train, I feel real anxious. And I always feel, I know, once I finish the session, I’m going to feel amazing. Yeah.
Where To Find UN1T
Instagram: @un1t_sydney @matt_un1t
YouTube: UN1T Sydney
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