Today we are going to give our coach Daniel Meek time under the spotlight and see what juicy details we can squeeze out of him. Dan has had a wide ranging career in the fitness industry from working with pro footballers, being a PT, coaching rugby players back from injury and prepping clients for photo shoots. Now a self confessed body builder it’s time to see what makes him tick as Chris interviews him for this week’s blog…
Q: Dan you have had a quite a few different roles and walked many paths which has lead you to where you are today as a TEAM BOX coach – what would you say you have learnt over the years pre TEAM BOX?
A: That hard work pays off. It’s as simple as that. I’ve been fortunate to have some pretty cool job roles, and they all came about because I worked hard to get there. At University when my mates were off to Ibiza or Magaluf for their holidays I was working voluntarily at sport science departments in professional football, often long hours, just to get some experience and exposure in that environment. One summer I lived with my nan for 10 weeks and worked nearly every day of the week basically being a ball boy and setting training equipment out, but it all helped me get my dream job by the age of 23.
Being a first team sport scientist in the Premier League was that dream job that I set out to get when I was 18 and went to university. Yet when I got there I realised it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be (but that’s for another time), so I moved to London to be a personal trainer. Some people would see it as a step down (my dad included!) but I knew it would enable me to further my career and be in control of my life going forward and lead to much more exciting things…. It was always just a stepping stone.
However, as I’ve got older (and balder) I’ve also realised that you must love what you do otherwise you won’t work hard. Once my passion for working in football went, I stopped working as hard and realised I needed a change. I think that’s where most people just follow the grain and grind it out because they want a normal job, with a regular, steady income. But I got a bit fed up of reporting in and trying to impress a boss who didn’t give a shit about me.
The same happened with personal training, I saw the gym charging all personal training clients the same price, yet I knew I was giving a better service to mine than other trainers, and not only was I getting a crappy percentage of that fee, but every other trainer was getting the same cut. So my hard work was never rewarded and I decided to leave to take charge of what I was doing.
I don’t have a problem with authority haha, I just like to be in control of my future and as I have progressed through my career I have slowly allowed that to happen, which is scary, really scary, yet exciting at the same time. It keeps you focused.
To sum up: work hard, love what you do, don’t settle for something because it’s the “normal” thing to do and then work even harder when you think you’re already working hard.
Q: You are now a dedicated competitive body builder and are now into your off season, but perhaps in years gone by you would maybe not have looked into competing long term. Last time you were, shall we say, not a great dieter. What’s changed this year?
A: Haha – yeah I remember that conversation we had in the days leading up to our first shoot, “Never again” wasn’t it that I said? Look at me now…
Yeah, I let it affect me and I used it as an excuse. Looking back I think I just wanted everyone else to know that I was suffering and that it was hard.
The reality is that I didn’t know what to expect, and as with most things, experience is vital and I knew what to expect the second time round. But I think the amount I have improved that aspect of prep has surprised everyone. Mr. Box especially. I think he was dreading prepping me again to be honest.
But yeah, I just realised that I am in total control and how much I let it affect me. I just didn’t let it get to me. It wasn’t as easy as just saying that, but it’s so true. You have to try your best to remember that you will have a shorter fuse, you will have shorter attention spans and you will get annoyed my things more easily. You just have to understand that and not let it affect you.
Little things like taking longer to reply to people, so I can make sure I engage my brain. Or just spending a bit more time alone to collect my thoughts and just let things go. Because deep down you know it’s just because you’re in prep. Your brain function does deteriorate and your ability to concentrate is drastically impeded so you just have to be aware of what times of the day you are more fun to be around and make sure you dedicate those times to being with those that matter most to you.
But more than all that, is that I now view myself as an athlete, this is my sport. That definitely helped change my mentality towards everything associated with prep.
Q: As an athlete what things have changed in your training this year? And what’s the focus looking like for the off season and 2017 with competing?
A: Well I have an awesome training partner (which makes a huge difference) who pushes me to my limit. I don’t think that can ever be overlooked. If you treat your training as an athlete would, and have a training partner who does the same, your training intensity reaches a whole new level.
We do a lot of different things, but ultimately we hit each muscle group at least twice a week, through varying rep ranges and now push the volume as high as we can, yet still recover from.
There is no secret training plan, we just work hard and get the volume in. Each session is a session closer to the next time we are on stage, so we can’t waste a single one.
That being said, we certainly don’t “go to the gym”.
Like an athlete would and give it our all, ensuring that we use the muscles we are supposed to be using and train through a full range. It’s structured, it’s planned and it’s progressive.
I can’t wait to see where my physique will be at in 52 weeks time as this is my first proper “off-season”. By that I mean I am now dedicating the same amount of effort and time to my training and diet as I would during a prep, but applying that to growing muscle tissue rather than losing body fat.
I’ve got to work on my chest, delts, arms & abs this off-season so they are getting a bit more attention and focus, as they are the weaker parts of my physique. I (probably) won’t be competing in 2017, and have my eyes firmly set on competing in Bodybuilding in 2018 rather than men’s physique as I think my legs are a strong part of my body and I need to show them off haha
Q: You are now a dad and have moved to Bath after living in central London, how has this affected you as an athlete and a coach? In addition to this how has life changed from being a PT working in a busy gym to now coaching purely online?
A: I’m a lot more structured. My diary is more organized and I have hour slots that get filled up fast! But because what I do is more structured, I’m more focused on what I’m doing during that time. If I’m spending time with my daughter, then nothing else matters, likewise when I’m working, I give that 100% of my attention.
I guess before as a PT I could get away with taking the odd 30-minute break, or put work off until a later time in the day/week. But now, I have to organise everything otherwise it just wouldn’t get done! So my day starts at 7am and finishes at 7pm with every hour accounted for, usually written out the night before, including things like training, client updates, blog writing & education. Even this interview was accounted for within my day!
It has without doubt helped every aspect of my life though. My training, my work and my relationships, as I don’t try and do everything all at once. The people that matter to me know where they stand and they know that I take my work very seriously, but also take my “play” very seriously too.
Online coaching is not a job that allows you to be free from everything and never do much work. It’s one of the things I see that winds me up more than anything. Online coaching is harder than any job I’ve ever had, it’s nothing like those stupid adverts you see on Facebook about “realising your dream, working from the beach, earning six figures”.
You must be able to motivate yourself and you have to be strict with yourself. It’s harder doing what I do now than when I was a PT or worked in football, without a doubt. But I love it and wouldn’t change a thing.
Q: If you have to list 3 things you love about your job and being an online coach what would they be and why ?
1) Helping people improve their knowledge – We love helping people get shredded, that’s a given, but for me that fact that we give them an education along the way and they are aware WHY they have improved and they use those skills for the rest of their lives is amazing.
2) Knowing that you guys push me every day – I love being part of such an amazing team of people. I sometimes can’t believe how lucky I am to have such well respected coaches in the industry surrounding me and pushing me to be a better athlete, coach and person. We all have such a strong bond and chemistry which I value more and more each day.
3) Team Box – Seeing what can be created when you bring together a bunch of cool people, coached by some other cool people, to help make everyone a lot cooler. It’s amazing and I honestly believe that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the group. We are creating an amazing, tight-knit community and that’s pretty epic.
Q: What’s the most valuable lesson you could give to someone who is starting out in the fitness industry and potentially wants to get into coaching or just wants to build a successful career in the world of fitness?
A: Think I’ve covered it haven’t I? Work hard.
But apart from that. Because let’s face it “work harder” is useless to say to someone if the work they are doing is wrong, as they’ll just waste time.
Always invest in yourself. You need to spend money on your own knowledge & skills, through seminars, qualifications and mentoring, to maintain progression. Yes, it can be tough when you fork out £400 for a weekend course instead of going on holiday, or over £1,600 on a year-long qualification instead of upgrading your car. But that is the difference between those who will go on to be successful long term and those that won’t, in my opinion.
This industry is moving so fast that if you don’t keep up, you will be left behind. I don’t just mean the obvious things like learning about physiology and anatomy, but also consider things like business skills, or the soft skills of coaching. None of your clients care if you can name every bone in the body or know every origin/insertion point of the muscles, they want to know you care about them and their results.
The first piece of advice I ever got when I started personal training was to remember that the first word is more important than the second. It’s something I still apply to this day with online coaching.
That doesn’t mean a bespoke training plan taking into account their injuries etc.. (that should be normal practice), it means being able to recognize when someone is struggling emotionally, or when someone is stressed with work, without them even saying anything.
It’s about identifying what their true goal is, not forcing your own idealistic one onto them.
It’s about making them happy, not showing the rest of the gym how much you can destroy someone in a single hour session and making them feel useless.
It’s about finding what motivates them to train, not shouting at them like a sergeant major.
That’s what I see most days in gyms. Just trainers beasting the crap out of someone and taking some money off them, mindlessly going from one week to the next making up their sessions on the spot.
How many of them have sat down and planned their training cycles with their client to coincide with their short & long term goals?
How many have asked them what their schedule is like and whether they want to structure their more intense training blocks around times when they are travelling less with work?
How many have asked what type of training they ACTUALLY prefer doing, or if they even like weight training?
I’d guess not many…
Q: We at TEAM BOX love flexible dieting and advocate it as a healthy and consistent way to progress with aesthetical goals. When you are dieting what are the three things you always make room for in your calories even if you know you should go for something potentially a bit less calorie dense?
A: Sweet foods are without doubt my weak point. So there will be a theme here:
Carb Killa Bars
Milk (in porridge, coffee etc…)