The Brownlee Brothers on site at the new Brownlee Centre
Ryan and Matt


It began as a mistake…

My heart is keeping a hummingbird’s wing tempo, lungs twist like wrung out sponges, sweat streams in Amazonian proportions and I have skin you could fry an early morning breakfast on. I look at the clock: 12 minutes? Only 12 minutes gone? That leaves – my endorphin riddled brain attempts calculation – 48 minutes still to go!

Make an excuse and leave. You have a meeting. A family emergency. Fake a faint. From the glance you caught in the wall mirror a horizontal embrace with the floor is in the post anyway. Anything to stop hopping backwards and forwards. In fact what you are really doing is using your bodyweight to scuff your feet the short distance over the line and back again line, to call it a hop insults the locomotive feats of the kangaroo…

Wait, this seems confusing, let’s rewind to a few weeks earlier for context:

During a social outing between team MEETinLEEDS and our fellow employees at The Edge, our Health & Fitness Centre (the largest fitness suite of any UK University), I blurt out that a good idea for a blog would be for me to have a Personal Training session and document the experience for your reading pleasure. Cue laughter from The Edge team, accompanied by glances at – what can loosely be described as – my unremarkable physique: rounded shoulders socketing two arm-like branches to a midriff that has been said to resemble a snake that has swallowed an egg. This is balanced on the scaffolding of two flamingo legs and stabilised by feet so flat they resemble gammon steaks. In fact, the only thing remarkable is that propulsion is possible from the ensemble.

I let the laughter die down. I had been thinking of a way to make an entertaining piece about the excellent facilities on offer at The Edge (which are free to use for every MEETinLEEDS delegate!) even though I am one of the last people you would see on the rowing machine grunting “99…100”. I have yet to decline a recline. I am not completely lazy, I have been known to snowboard, swim and even wave a badminton racket in anger, but a regular exercise regime has never appealed to my relaxed disposition.

Another reason for the laughter is that the previous foray into Personal Training from a member of MEETinLEEDS was successful if a little fraught, for reasons best left to the imagination: we may be experts in the realm of conferences and events, but we still have a thing or two to learn when it comes to physical fitness.

I get the feeling my verbal flatulence has been written off as a joke until Matt Fairhurst, Senior Fitness Instructor at The Edge Fitness Centre and fellow South Yorkshireman, stops laughing long enough to take me up on my offer.

Some of you will recognise Matt from Channel 4’s Jockey School, which focused on Northern Racing College, where he is a Jockey Fitness Instructor under the guise of ‘Rudy’. I know I did. And I remember Stacey from the show whimpering “He’s evil!” after being made to run around the horse paddock. ‘Rudy’ was less than impressed. “The racing trade’s exhausting… They want to grow up and toughen up.” This is what Matt says to teenage kids, not 30-year-olds who should know better.

Matt-and-BecksMatt began his career in the Armed Forces as a Rifleman, touring in Afghanistan. Upon his return he became a Physical Training Instructor in his native Doncaster, training new recruits operational fitness skills to hone their core strength and aerobic endurance.

His current role at The Edge involves a mixture of Personal Training sessions, Group Classes (such as Boxercise, Circuits and NTC) and assisting regular users on the gym floor, along with the administrative duties that come with a senior position.

He says that the experience of working in a variety of environments, including actual sports training, has informed both his training methods and his interpersonal skills, which are essential for Personal Training:

We aim to deliver a personal service with a tailored programme, adapted to your personal needs and circumstances. For example, if you want to build your core strength, we will create a programme focussing on weight training rather than aerobic to accomplish that. If you have an injury, we will tailor your regimen around that to aid recovery while still keeping you in shape and on target for your goals.

We also respond to your personality: I will have a 30-minute interview before we decide a programme to find out your needs and expectations from the sessions. From this, I will determine what kind of motivational techniques you need to achieve your goals.

For example, I have one client that I encourage in a fun, pleasant, yet still strict manner to gain a beneficial reaction. This is a tact I often take at the Racing College. Then I have another client straight after that responds positively from a more aggressive and robust approach, which is more or less the method I used when training soldiers in the Army.

I cannot overstate the fact that Matt’s comments come from experience and knowledge of the racing trade. He is not Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket, he knows the hard work that is needed to reach the top of the trade. This is also true for Personal Training, as people of different levels will have different requirements from the service; from professionals looking to perfect their technique to beginners considering their first training steps. The Trainers know how to pace and structure a program to make it demanding yet fun and always beneficial to your physical wellbeing.

Open Road


MEETinLEEDS are showing their support for Le Tour Yorkshire by cycling the entire Leeds to Harrogate stage of the Tour de France 2014, using spinning bicycles at the Edge Sports Facility, less than a mile from the start line of the Grand Depart!

Tour-De-France-2014-InfographicAlong with our colleagues at the Edge, (all conference delegates and MEETinLEEDS residents at Storm Jameson Court get free access to the facilities at the Edge, remember!) and Great Food at Leeds, who provide catering for our conferences and events, the 20 riders will each complete 9.5km to take us the 190km distance to the finish line. We will calculate the total time it takes us and then compare with how the professionals fare on the 5th July!

Our “Team Leeds”, ranging from novices to spin class teachers, will be travelling in pairs to instigate a bit of healthy competition. Hopefully, the event will give even more people the cycling bug and add to the ever growing cycling community at the University of Leeds.

Do you think we have what it takes to beat Froome, Wiggins, Boardman and co over the finish line? Subscribe to our blog now and receive the results next week!


For more information about the Tour de France you can visit our dedicated webpage here.