I was born in London 1968. My family and I moved to Australia in 1979, because like me, my dad loved the sun. Before we moved here my dad had two job offers; one in Townsville and one in Hong Kong. He decided to pick the one with the least rainfall and the hottest temperature so we moved to Townsville, Queensland.
I’m blessed to have two amazing women in my life. I’ve been together with my wife who is also my best friend of 14years and we have a beautiful seven year old daughter Bianca.
When you were growing up were you always into fitness?
Not really. I played soccer as a kid but that was about it for fitness until I was 21 and I started wanting to look better for when I was on stage so I could take my shirt off.
I studied performing arts at University, always acting and singing. All I wanted to be in life was famous – be a rock star like Michael Hutchence; so I played and sang in bands until I was 27 years old.
When I left Townsville and moved to Sydney in 1989 the first gym I joined in Sydney was Hiscoes gym on Crown St, purely to get leaner and get a six pack. It then just clicked with me right away what I wanted to do.
Why does it appeal to you to train so hard?
When my dad was diagnosed with colon cancer, he was given six months to live but he survived two years; he was about 40kgs when he died. The only thing that got me through that period of my life was going to the gym. It was the only place and it still is where I could just be in the moment and not think about anything else; it’s like my therapy. I’ve been doing it for 24 years – it’s still my safe place.
Plus I love the challenge of training hard with such intensity; the fact you have the ability to change your body for the better has stuck with me. I find it cathartic.
What do you find most rewarding about being a personal trainer?
That it doesn’t feel like work – it just feels like I’m helping friends achieve their goals.
What’s most rewarding is working with a client who has been able to shed 50kilos of body fat and change their life, or those who have had low self-esteem where they cannot physically look at themselves in the mirror and then a year later, walk into the gym and just kill it.
Have you had any clients who have been hard to train?
Yes I have. They are usually the ones that are purely superficially driven but refuse to put the work in at the gym or into their nutrition. It’s almost like they think they’ll get a great body purely by spending time with you – via osmosis or something… When they have expectations of an improved physique but don’t want to invest in the process at all the relationship is destined to failure.
I usually sack these clients. I don’t keep clients who don’t want to work at it. I am honest with people. If they hate coming to the gym and they are constantly battling with me, and they are not eating what they should be eating, but are still expecting change it’s like pushing shit up a hill. I just have an honest conversation with them and tell them if they don’t want to be here then don’t be here.
Are there specific clientele who you would prefer to work with?
The ultimate job satisfaction is working with someone who has never trained before or had the confidence to step into a gym. So I aim to manifest positive change, not only in their physique, but also in their lives.
Overall, I’m happy to work with anyone who wants to embrace change and work to achieve it.
Is there a specific client who has made you love your job; someone who stands out for you?
Yes there have been heaps but one in particular comes to mind.
I have a client who I trained when she was 19 years old. She was in a bad relationship, overwhelmed with living in Sydney, had just lost her mother and was partying a lot. She was skinny and at the time thought this was a good thing. She hated training and every time we did train it was a battle. She was in a bad place at that time of her life and eventually stopped training.
After five years of not seeing her, she got back in touch with me; at this point she had quit smoking and partying and had also weighed approximately 100kgs. She was as nervous as hell on her first day back in the gym – didn’t want to look at herself in the mirror, even though she’s a very pretty girl. During her first workout she fell over and nearly broke down – that was about a year ago.
Since coming back, she has completely changed her life. She has lost around 30kgs, gained a heap of muscle and trains like a machine. She is now a confident beautiful woman. I’d like to think that I had a part in helping her change her life. When things like that happen, it’s great. It’s been such an awesome journey with her.
How do you motivate clients?
I tailor my motivational approach and dialogue to match the client’s personality, sensibilities and character. I push all my clients to train harder than they’ve ever trained before – taking sets beyond failure; however there is no one “cookie-cutter” approach as far as motivation goes.
Many of my clients do the same exercises – they all squat and deadlift for example, but how I “sell it” to them will vary immensely. The biggest part of my job is not just to motivate you to lift heavier weights but to help initiate a healthier lifestyle.
What do you look forward to most when going to work?
Scheduling time for myself and giving myself time to train and do my own workouts between 8am-10am; it’s the only time I don’t train anyone.
I have a training partner who is 24 years old and he is just a machine. Nearly half my age and he is kicking my arse – he challenges me, it’s good.
Are there any myths about personal training?
There are a few; one being that if the PT is in slightly better shape than the average person they automatically know what they are doing. Another is that the job is an easy one.
There’s some great perks to being a PT but the hours are long and the work is physically, mentally and can be emotionally draining.
What came first – Personal Training or Body building?
Definitely bodybuilding. It appealed to me immensely because I always wanted to be noticed by people. Plus it is the quickest and most efficient way to effect great change in a person’s physique. That’s why I was first attracted to it and why all my clients train like body builders.
Tell me about your first body building competition / show
My first show was IFBB Mr NSW which I won. Being on stage was fantastic; it was like the attention thing that I used to get from acting/singing. I loved being on stage and still do, so that part of body building really appeals to me – I love that aspect of it.
Preparing for my first show, I had a training partner but I created my own diet.
During the diet I felt very sorry for myself. When you get really low body fat under 5% your brain stops working properly. You go a bit loopy. I was working at Telstra at the time.
Your coping mechanisms decrease because you are running on empty. It’s the only sport where your nutrition doesn’t support you. In body building you remove it all yet at the same time you are performing at your hardest level of training.
That’s why when you see body builders a couple of weeks before a show, they don’t want to talk to anyone and they may be a little grumpy. I wasn’t aware of it the first time I competed but now when I prepare for a show, especially now that I’m older, I am a lot more chilled. Although some people would tell you otherwise. It’s still hard. If you feel like shit, you are probably doing it right. I hasten to add though this is purely the competitive side of the sport and only in the final countdown to a show.
How often would you compete?
It would take me about two years to forget how bad it was, so up to 2004 I competed every two years. Since then I haven’t competed for 10 years until 2014.
Why compete again after 10 years?
In 2010 I nearly lost my leg due to medical negligence. After losing my Dad in 2002 I’d become quite the hypochondriac. I’d been experiencing panic attacks which I’d convinced myself were actually heart related. All tests and procedures came back negative but the doctor still suggested I undergo an angiogram – the results of which were also negative.
Two days after the procedure I was back in hospital as my leg had completely gone numb. It turned out the doctor who had performed the angiogram had punctured both sides of the femoral artery when performing the angiogram. This caused a massive clot to form, cutting blood flow to the entire right leg.
After the surgery I met with the vascular surgeon who operated on my leg Dr Raymond Varcoe; I had asked him if I was going to have a bad scar. Being a vain bodybuilder I was worried about aesthetics. Varcoe’s response was ‘don’t worry about the scar – I just saved your leg!’
I was in a pretty bad place emotionally then thinking I wouldn’t be able to train again. But I was fortunate enough to have my wife’s support. One of the other personal trainers Andrei who trains at the same gym was also supportive and very positive. He reminded me that my body has an amazing ability to heal but I just needed to be patient. I did get better and squat heavy again.
Mainly my motivation for doing the NABBA Sydney Classic competition was also to gain my confidence back and more so have my daughter see me on stage. She sees me at the gym all the time and all my friends are body builders.
So I wanted to do another show for my daughter and I wanted to tie it in with what happened to me in 2010. For the posing routine, Teddy Tahu Rhodes an opera singer that I train, and Lisa McCune the actor, put together a fantastic vocal satire of the 6 million dollar man as an introduction as I walked on stage. It was great.
The best part when I was on stage was hearing my daughter saying ‘go daddy, go daddy’.
What goes on behind the scenes before a competition/show?
It really depends on the experience and age of the competitor. Newer competitors tend to be anxious, over do their pump up and generally freak out. They tend to eat inordinate amounts of sugar in the hope that they’ll get their muscles fuller and appear more vascular. The veterans will more likely be relaxed, calm and be helping others. There’s a lot of fake tan, a lot of oil and a lot of fake boobs. It’s a bit of a circus.
What tips would you give someone who is training for a body building competition?
First and foremost get one coach and only listen to that person. As soon as someone finds out you are going to do a show, everyone becomes an expert and wants to give you advice. Pick one person and do what you are told no matter how long you have been training for. The last few weeks before a show, if left to your own devices, you can really make stupid decisions. You need that coach as your second pair of eyes to give you advice and keep you on point.
Don’t worry about any other competitors and be the best you can be. This sounds like a cliché but it’s all you have control over. You can’t control anybody else who comes up on stage. The only thing you have control over is the package you bring to the stage and how you perform. As it’s a subjective sport, the best man doesn’t always win, but you can’t let that dictate how you feel about yourself.
Steve Curran outside of training
I’m a man of simple things; eating lots of ice-cream and being at the beach. I grew up in Townsville near the beach so winter kills me. I still love going to the theatre, to plays, seeing movies and reading a lot when I get a chance.
I love the sun, I love spending time at the beach and time with my wife and daughter; that’s what makes me happy. Especially my daughter; children are wholly in the moment – it’s so cool to have it brought back to me by my six year old daughter.
My dad was a very positive person. At Dad’s funeral my brother highlighted this saying “When we were at Heathrow Airport moving to Australia, we still had these huge anorak jackets on. My dad said ‘come on boys, we need to go to the bathroom”. When we went into the bathroom he said ‘ok, see those hooks, just hang your jackets there because you won’t be needing them anymore’. That was dad’s lesson, dramatic change in life can be as simple as hanging your coat up on a hook.