VPT spotlight – meet Ryan Lea

VPT spotlight – meet Ryan Lea

In last week's blog we met Katy Frost, who lost all her toes when she was just 10-years-old due to a rare illness. Now at 21, Katy is training with Gymbox VPT Ryan Lea, who has helped her to get stronger and more confident. We meet Ryan to find out what it's like training this inspirational young woman.

Hi Ryan, we shared Katy’s story in last week’s blog. What is it like working with her?

Working with Katy is really rewarding. Seeing her progress both physically and mentally is why I do this job in the first place. In each session she puts in the work, but we also have a lot of fun.

Katy had to overcome losing all her toes due to a rare genetic condition called MCADD. Where do you start with working out a training plan and learning about her disease?

I researched everything I could about MCADD so I really understood what she was dealing with. Then I sat down with Katy and her mum. I think it’s important to get family involved so that we can all work together, and she has the support she needs, not just in the gym, but at home too.

What did you start off doing in the earlier days of training, and what are you doing now?

We’ve been training together for six months. In the beginning she explained she was a big fan of compound movements; squats, deadlifts, shoulder press, bench press etc., so we’ve kept these as a focus, gradually progressing the weight on the bar. We also incorporate very structured HIIT workouts with the sled, which allows us to increase her fitness, but keeps her workouts safe.

Excellent. Outline to us some of the key milestones you have both achieved together

The first targets we set out were to hit a 60kg back squat, 70kg deadlift, 45kg bench press and 30kg shoulder press which she’s already smashed! She also hit a 150kg sled push/pull last month.

Do you often get unusual cases such as Katy’s?

Only 1 in 8,000 people are affected by MCADD, so a case like Katy’s is very rare. However, I think every client I take on pushes me in some way. I’m not a ‘blanket programme’ kind of coach. Not one person is the same, and everyone presents their own challenges.

What has Katy taught you the most from working with her?

If there’s one thing she’s taught me, is that giving up shouldn’t be an option. What she’s already dealt with at such a young age, and seeing her continue to try and better herself, should be an inspiration to all of us.

How does it make you feel when you see a client progressing so well?

This is more than just personal training, it’s essentially changing someone's life for the better. From coaching kids football when I was 18 and being a mental health support worker, to being a VPT at Gymbox, I love helping people and I put 110% into all of my clients. When they put in the effort and start reaping the rewards, I’m always very proud to be their coach. I have a close relationship with all of my clients. If I don’t understand them, then how can I even start to help them.

Is emotional investment as a VPT an important part of making progress/helping the client?

I think it’s important to have a good bond with your clients. Listening to and understanding them is a very important part of making progress because you’ll know how and when to push them or to scale things back when needed.

How do you approach the difficult days with clients when they have hit a wall, or are having a confidence crisis?

I always try to mentally prepare a client for when they have a bad day, which will happen. Progression isn’t always linear, and we all hit a bump in the road sometimes. I think it’s important for them to understand how to overcome it, so when it does happen, they come back even more motivated and don’t undo all of their hard work.

Has the fact you have a qualification in mental health support helped you as a VPT?

Definitely. Working as a mental health support worker helped me see things through a different perspective. I learnt to listen, and it taught me how to adapt to each and every person on an individual level.

What do you hope to see Katy achieving in the future? And what can we learn from Katy’s story?

Essentially, I just want to see her happy in life, confident in her own skin and enjoying herself. If there’s one thing we should all take away from her story is that life can be hard, but we have to embrace it, keep fighting and never give up.

Follow Ryan on Instagram @squad.s.c or get in touch via email.