By royal appointment: How Paul Parry’s showing The Way for physical fitness
“I went to Heswall Coffee House for lunch, and had avocado and poached egg on a piece of toast.”
Bugger. We had a Freddo, and can feel it rumbling around our paunch. It’s not our fault, we’re big boned and are still trying to lose our Christmas weight. From 2008.
Hopefully Paul Parry can help. We’re in Heswall Hills with the 32-year-old who has just recently moved back home from the south with wife Jess and newborn son, Leo, to open his new gym and first business, The Way.
Only, Paul has a unique selling point that makes him different from other personal trainers on the Wirral. For the last nine years Paul has been an RAF physical training instructor based at RAF Shawbury, and conducted fitness training for future king Prince William and brother Harry.
His father’s also Tranmere legend and ex-manager Les Parry, but more on that later. This is Paul’s story about his attention to detail, his commitment to fitness, his desire to build a strong base of local clients, and to provide for his young family through competitive fitness training.
The joy of six
Paul offers six different ‘ways’ from Lifestyle (eradicating bad habits), Viking (hurt-locker levels of pain), Performance (focusing on achievable goals), Obstacle (OCR training), Take-a-way (an outcall service), and Nutrition (eating plans).
The Viking Way scares us a bit (we’d give it a go but for this blasted trick knee, honest) but it’s something that’s proving popular amongst Paul’s clients.
“Some people are just into that, it’s all they want,” he laughs. “I had a guy in on Friday who just said “I want you to beast me” which is easy for me. He was smiling an hour later but he was really put through it. I have seen him since and he’s still all right!”
“The Way’s going very well, we’re getting it off the ground at the moment. All hands at the pump. So far everybody that’s been down seems to enjoy it and has been back.”
The Way isn’t about flogging you until you pass out. Rather, it’s about working with small groups so friends can encourage each other to push their limits. Sessions focus on free weights, bodyweight, and core exercises honed from Paul’s experiences in the RAF and putting his sports science degree to practical use.
“I feel you lose a lot of the camaraderie, compassion, and competition when you’re trained one-on-one.
“With smaller groups you still get the personal training feel and experience, but you experience it with friends and it puts you at ease. Everyone likes a bit of competition, I feel people can benefit from it; it makes them work harder and push further.
“The Way is for everyone, no matter what your fitness level. All that I need from you is 100% effort and together we can get you to where you want to go.”
Paul’s spent the last six months on maternity leave helping look after baby Leo, and is using his military discipline to balance parenthood with the demands of starting a brand new business.
“It’s been word of mouth so far, the website’s now live, and I’m pushing it socially. I’m focusing on short-term goals at the moment such as building up a client base and extending the gym a little bit.
“The end goal is probably franchises. That’s looking right down the road, but I wouldn’t be happy just franchising out to Joe Bloggs. I know a couple of people in the RAF who have a few years left and maybe they’d be ideal for it. It sounds military-focused but I’ve worked in it and they’re good operators; it’s about standards.”
There are a lot of personal trainers on the Wirral, though, and a quick search on Google swamps us with trainers demanding our attention. Paul feels The Way’s formula, though, will be a successful one and, along with his positive mindset, help differentiate him from the competition.
“I’m fairly well disciplined with my own fitness. It’s a challenge, but the little one has made me more disciplined because I think about what I’m feeding him, too. My mum and dad take the piss all the time; more my dad who pretends to give him sweets and chocolate all day long!
“Being disciplined with Leo rolls on to me and Jess. I do all the cooking in the house but we will relax and have a chocolate bar and some popcorn now and then. As soon as you say you’re not allowed something you want it more. Little changes matter, things like saying “I’m not allowed to eat chocolate after 10” instead of outright banning it. It’s an empowering decision.
“The hardest thing is getting started with exercise, but when you see a few results you start to push on. The same with starting a business; once a few clients come on you get motivated and get a lift.”
Just do it
It’s here that we’re reminded of a press release we got the other day alerting us to the supposed rise of ‘the gym geek’.
Over half of Brits now own a fitness gadget, it says, while 37 per cent have downloaded diet and nutrition apps. If you take it as read, too, the survey claims that one in three of us know what a macronutrient is. We’re slightly inclined to believe it because it sounds so bizarre; is micromanagement taking the fun out of getting fit?
“It’s always good to have an awareness I think, but the practical application of a lot of them is where maybe people go slightly wrong. I just go in the gym and know how I feel when I’m training. I can feel my heart pounding; I just go on personal feedback.
“People who aren’t used to training may need a heart-rate monitor, for example, and an app that lets them know what zones they’re in, which is good. It’s getting cultural now, there are gadgets across the board and they can make you lazy. It’s shortcut, shortcut, shortcut.
“Instead of reading a book and trying things out, some would prefer to be told what to eat. All my nutrition basis is around Baz Luhrman’s quote “my meandering self-experience”.
“I’ll read a recipe, try it out for month, and see if it does or doesn’t work. It’s the same with training, instead of seeing something that says it’ll make you fit, go out there and try something new and do it.”
Food for thought
We turn our attention to the media, and there’s at least one big health story a day that circulates around the big boys. In February children were urged to have annual BMI checks to help curb obesity. This week we were told BMI’s a load of old hat that should be ignored.
Drinking wine keeps heart attacks at bay too (according to Mum), and a glass before bed could help you lose weight. Eating bacon may increase the risk of breast cancer, though. Not eating it on the other hand could make your hair fall out. What are we to believe?
“You can literally live week-to-week and have to change your whole outlook on everything. Diet and nutrition can be a hard one because there isn’t one kind of food to fix all. You can get a foundation of food which is generally widely accepted as good for you. Different things work for different people.”
Paul has developed a nutritional programme to help clients get the most from his sessions, and compares it to filling a car with the right kind of petrol. As most will tell you, half the battle is fought in the kitchen.
“It can be trial and error. I have two main menus that I’ll try with my clients, and they’ll do both for two weeks. We’ll track it and see how it works for them – they might get good results from it but if they don’t enjoy it… Food is meant to make you happy, it’s an experience.
“If I say eat this and you don’t like it then there’ll be no longevity to it. Some people are happy to just eat spinach all day. It’s so personal and it can be initially hard trying to find that balance.”
Time to bring up the heir to the throne and his bonkers brother. Paul helped the duo learn to fly when they were trainee pilots in the RAF, giving them core exercises to help them on their way to becoming a Search and Rescue pilot and army helicopter pilot respectively.
“This was around their mid-20s. I can out-plank Prince Harry. He was very good actually, Harry’s funny. I didn’t have a plank-off with William, one of life’s regrets. He’s more of a normal guy, but you could tell there’s something about him. Harry loved playing football.”
Paul’s no stranger to being in and around the public eye thanks to his father’s time at Tranmere Rovers. Fitness runs in the family; Les Parry can now be found at Manchester United’s academy working as Lead Development Physiotherapist.
Before that, though, he spent over 20 years at Tranmere before taking the helm in the 2009/10 season, keeping them up on the last day of the season with a famous win over Stockport County. Jess also tells us that Les’s shorts can now be found in the Museum of Merseyside, so he knows where to go if he ever loses a pair.
“Growing up I was always at football clubs, training with the lads and getting fit. My work experience at school was a week as a professional footballer! Hopefully fitness gets passed down to Leo, he was swinging on the rings yesterday. He’s a bundle of energy like most kids.”
Like Leo, The Way has a bright future. For us, though, it’s off home for a goose fat and lard sandwich (on wholemeal) and a pint of gravy.