Firas, how did you get into fitness?
I’ve always been into fitness in some form or another. I played football at county level for Middlesex as a kid. I watched American Football on TV for a while and found out there was a local team, so I ended up playing for them. I graduated their senior programme and played semi-professionally, and ended up playing in the States. From there, I went on to coach.
I’m not someone who moved into a fitness career traditionally - I’ve got a Masters degree in mechanical engineering! When I finished that I worked for Shell doing oil and gas research. I liked it but it wasn’t what I wanted to do, so I went back to university to do a PhD and started doing some teaching there.
A friend of mine was a PT at Gymbox. She told me I should teach some classes there because I coach and teach, and it would be a natural thing to do. So I went in, taught some classes, and it snowballed!
How did you end up becoming a Gymbox Master Trainer?
About a year and a half after I started teaching at Gymbox, they started talking about Master Trainers. I put my name forward and had multiple meetings, and from there my role grew and developed. I now head up the Functional Training category and train up instructors in all our new concepts.
I think we’re onto something pretty special in the way that we develop our instructors. I genuinely think we have the best instructors in any gym!
What do you think is one of the hardest things you’ve had to master?
Being concise! There’s a dozen bits of information you can give members right away, but you’ve got to keep it bite-sized. The good thing with that is you’ll get people coming back to classes and saying they’ve learnt something new every time. It’s like reading a book for the second time - you always learn something new.
You recently designed the Gymbox Turf Games arena. What was your focus when doing that?
We wanted to make something that was challenging, but the goal wasn’t to mess people up. I’m not a big fan of that. People do get messed up in class, but that’s not the goal!
The goal was to create something that was challenging, and to have workouts that were complimentary within themselves and to each other. We had events that were almost pure cardio based, events that were strength based, and one which was a combination of the two. If you won at our arena, you were generally the fittest on the day!
What was your favourite part of the arena?
One event we ran was rowing and stepping over a box. It involved working in relay with a partner: you’d step over a box loaded with some weight, and once you’d completed a certain numbers of reps you’d run to the rowing machine and do a short sprint. Once you’d finished, the next person could start on the box.
On the face of it, it looked like the easiest event we had. But the movements complimented each other enough that your legs got fatigued from the step-overs, and when you got to the rower you didn’t realise how tired you were until you started to pull. Because it was only a short distance on the rower, people would go really fast, like a 100m sprint, and the time it would take to recover from that sprint was really long. People didn’t have time to recover by the time their partner finished.
I like events like that because you’ve got to be smart about it, so I think that was one of my favourite ones. It was very simple, but it was challenging because you didn’t realise how tough it was until you’d done a round or so. Then you realised “oh my God, I’ve got to do 4 minutes of this!”
Looking to the future, what are your personal fitness goals?
I have a lot of injuries that I’ve not attended to over time which have caught up with me. I’ve just started getting back into the gym properly since November - I’m 36, not 19, so it takes a little longer for things to get better!
My goals are to get back to a level where I can train every day, because I enjoy doing that, and to get back to a level of fitness where I can do everything I’d like to do. I’m not back where I want to be, but it’s more just a case of being patient, which is hard. As soon as you feel a little bit better you’re like “oh, I’m ready to do this now” but then you have to tell yourself “no, slow down”.
What’s your favourite thing about Gymbox?
I like the fact that right now, it’s 3pm, the gyms quite quiet and I can train with some of the best equipment in London. We’re London’s best equipped gym, and I’d say the UK’s best equipped gym. There’s no other gym where you can get all the stuff you can get here, and that’s very cool.
On a broader scale, the fact you can come into Gymbox and be here for two hours on a Tuesday night and do a weight-lifting class, a yoga class and then a dance fitness class in the space of two hours - that’s crazy! That’s my favourite thing about Gymbox; you can do all this stuff in the same place.
You can follow Firas on Instagram @coachfufu