Ewan Birnie is FIAFitnation’s National Academic Manager and who calls the Sydney campus home.
At just sixteen, Ewan first discovered his passion for fitness education through his first coaching gig where he witnessed the positive influence that fitness professionals have on sports performance. This inspired and led Ewan to his studies, which only cemented his love for the industry. Sixteen years on, here he is today, doing what he loves by sharing his wealth of knowledge to inspire and mould the next generation of industry experts.
Ewan answered our burning questions along with sharing his top tips for those looking to get started in fitness.
What made you decide to pursue a career in fitness?
I played heaps of sport growing up and actually started my career at 16 as a tennis coach. As my coaching career progressed, I was lucky enough to get to work with some good junior players who had access to exercise physiologists, strength and conditioning coaches and physios. Seeing the impact that these professionals could have on sporting performance really sparked my interest in fitness and led to me studying a degree in Sport and Exercise Science when I left school. I’ve worked in sport and fitness ever since.
What is the most rewarding thing about your job?
The opportunity to work with like-minded people. Every member of the training team is incredibly passionate firstly about fitness, but also creating the best possible trainers we can. Whilst the team have a wide variety of backgrounds and fitness interests, I feel that generally we are on the same page when it comes to most things’ health and fitness. This allows us to create a clear training philosophy throughout all of our courses.
Being in the classroom is also really rewarding. Much like being a PT, each time a new cohort starts we have a group of students with different backgrounds, interests and needs. No two cohorts are the same, giving heaps of variety and keeping things fresh.
What motivates you?
Having fun. Whilst there are tough or unenjoyable parts to most things worth doing, I’ve found that focussing on the fun parts of the process or outcome will keep me going.
Is there a piece of advice you can share with people interested in pursuing a career in fitness?
Get a mentor. The more the better.
Of course, you will learn a lot when studying your certificates, but getting out on the gym floor or being in amongst a real life bootcamp session being led by a great trainer is where the real learning starts. Pick the bits that you like about their delivery and ditch the bits you don’t to form your own training approach. Pick their brain constantly – learn from their mistakes, not just your own.
At FIAFitnation, we really value these experiences and therefore integrate on campus practical sessions in real life gyms and workplace internships into our courses.
What’s one piece of wisdom that you apply to your career?
Keep things simple.
There is often a tendency in the industry for things to be over complicated, whether that be programming, exercise technique or diet. As fancy as some of the latest trends or fads may seem, generally when you drill down into it, they will be sharing basic underlying principles that have been around for years.
The vast majority of general population clients I have had over the years have benefitted from the simple advice of ‘move more and eat your veggies’.
I try to take a simple approach with most things I do within my career.
Which FIAFitnation course would you recommend to people interested in pursuing a career in fitness?
I think maximising your opportunities in a competitive industry is the key to being successful in the early days. I’d recommend the Master Coach program as it provides a diverse set of outcomes that will open up most doors for those starting out.
But do your research. If you’re absolutely clear on what you do and don’t want to do in the industry, FIAFitnation will be able to match you up with the course that best suits your goals.
Do you have any advice for those looking to stand out from other personal trainers?
Keep educating yourself. Whilst the basic principles of fitness remain constant, the industry is always evolving. You need to keep learning to stay current, relevant and offer a point of difference.
Get as much practical experience as you can. Of course, being book smart is important, but if you can’t apply it in a practical setting, it won’t help you be a better trainer. Look for opportunities to learn practical, hands on skills that can have a meaningful impact on the quality of the sessions you deliver or programs you write.
What’s the most memorable experience or moment you have had at FIAFitnation?
I’ve been at FIAFitnation for eight years now, so I have plenty of highlights to choose from! I think I’d have to say the fitness expos each year. This is the main opportunity that we have to bring the national team together in one place.
Do you have a go-to workout? If so, what is it?
I try to vary workouts as much as I can to keep me interested and motivated. Also, they’ve got to be short and sharp. Anything more than 30 minutes and I’ll start to get bored.
Like everyone else, the current COVID-19 situation has meant I’ve had to mix my workouts up a little in the last few months. At the moment I’m enjoying simple leg, push, pull triplet workouts for time. I’ll generally do five circuit repeats of 15-20 reps of each exercise.
I’ve been trying to run a bit more as well, but I’m not a huge fan – mainly because I’m not very good at it!