Time Out Melbourne

Meet some of this city's superstar trainers, find out what drives them and decide whether you want to drop and give them 20

GO IF YOU’RE AFTER: A body like Lara Croft and a long-term plan to get it

When the word ‘Glamazon’ was dreamed up, former Chadwick’s model Wendy La Roche may have very well been the reference point. At 5’10 and without an inch of fat to spare, the immaculately presented mother of two is equal parts beauty queen and warrior athlete.

La Roche is an advocate of holistic training, nutrition and lifestyle reform, and credits her grandmother for introducing her to the importance of organically grown fruit and veggies as a child. A fan of combining resistance, weight and cardio training, La Roche is adamant that women should not be afraid of weight-based training. In combination with cardio, she enthuses that muscle development “will change your body shape and have you looking and feeling fitter, stronger and younger.”

Clients in the La Roche stable range from those who have never trained before to those seeking a body sculpting ‘stage-ready’ form. She prides herself on being able to tailor a programme to an individual’s needs and goals. The weak-of-will be warned however, that the dreaded squat thrust manoeuvre that trainers innocently call ‘burpees’ are a La Roche favourite and partly because they can be performed just about anywhere.

The reformed “skinny fashion model” lists placing first in the amateur fitness category at a New York-based international bodybuilding competition as one of the most exciting moments in her life. “I have seen and been able to achieve some incredible body transformations,” she says. “The first was my own.”

Chapel Fitness, 2 Chapel St, St Kilda. Personal training sessions $70-$110.

GO IF YOU’RE AFTER: An attitude and discipline realignment, served with a side of grunt

This tattooed-and-toned discipline enthusiast is a walking example of not doing things by halves – and yet it was an accident that propelled Nathan Schrag into the fi tness industry in the first place. Training to be a navy clearance diver in his early military days, his lung collapsed and he was told he would never dive again. Instead, he became a certifi ed physical training instructor through the Australian Defence Force Physical Training School. Now he’s chief bootcamp instructor and high performance coach at Absolute Bootcamp.

Having served for ten years in the military, Schrag says the influence it has had on his style is twofold. “On the one hand I was lucky enough to train with our military’s best – Special Forces – and learn what it takes to push body and mind to new limits. On the other hand I was tasked with moulding the newest recruits from civilian to military mindset.”

You might think that applying the skills and discipline intended for military personnel to the average weekend fitness warrior would be a challenge, but Schrag laughs that notion off. When people seek his help, he points out, they’re paying for the service and are not willing to waste their money. In fact, heaven help you if you waste this man’s time. There is a good reason why the award-winning trainer is known for complete transformations, both physically and emotionally. As he recalls: “I had a lady who was in her early forties come down and join us. Within five minutes she was crying and telling me quite forcefully, ‘I want my money back, I am not doing that anymore.’ I convinced her to stay. That was five years ago and she is still with us today, only now she’s leading the way at each session… especially boxing.”

Absolute Fitness, Around Frankston. 0407 167 800. First session free. Four-week SEAL Bootcamp (three sessions a week) $210. Four-week Mums & Bubs Bootcamp (three sessions a week) $210. There are also kids’ challenges, team sports, endurance challenges and adventure weekends.

GO IF YOU’RE AFTER: Thighs of steel and a formidable core

Pocket rocket Hollie Sheehan may not at first glance look like an imposing fitness force – until a change of clothes reveals a super hero-like transformation. Give her a pole and a pair of hot pants and she effortlessly demonstrates feats of strength and grace that to the casual observer seem scientifically impossible.

Starting dance at just six years old, Sheehan has always followed the philosophy of “healthy body, healthy mind”. Describing pole dancing as “a combination of the two things I love – strength and dance,” she goes on to explain: “in pole fitness there is a lot more strength, endurance and athleticism. It’s a lot less provocative than conventional pole dancing and appeals to a different audience.”

This is far from a hobby for Sheehan. A passionate enthusiast, she has competed at state level in the Miss Pole Victoria competition. Her favourite trick, the ‘Iron X’, sounds a little like a circus tutorial. “Coming from an inverted position using only your arms to hold on, you take your legs out away from the pole whilst holding your body parallel to the floor, extending arms and legs wide in an X shape.”

Classes are strength and flexibility based and suitable for any women over 18. They incorporate a warm up, strength session including training drills, cardio section and cool-down, and there won’t be a body part left unattended to.

Not content with a simple pole? Perhaps consider attending one of Sheehan’s aerial hoop classes or advanced conditioning sessions. As the woman herself says: “It has proven to be the most effective form of exercise I’ve ever done in terms of my fitness level and how my body has changed.”

Pole Fitness, Studio 3/22 Cecil Place, Prahran. Also studios in Richmond, Mornington and Moonee Ponds. 03 9529 3399. Classes range from beginners to advanced. Casual ($30) and eight-week term spots ($230) available.

GO IF YOU’RE AFTER: A strong, bendy body and a clear mind

Husband-and-wife team Michael and Susan Houghton might not look like the intimidating, muscle-bound trainers you’re used to, but don’t be fooled. As anyone who has attempted a class at their Fitzroy based studios will tell you, Bikram Yoga is the stealth assassin of the fitness world.

Held in a climate-controlled room (40 degrees and over 40 per cent humidity), a Houghton-led Bikram class will guide you through a sequence of precise postures combined with controlled breath. As Michael states, “The element of heat helps facilitate deeper, more rapid change in a person’s physical and emotional state.”

The Houghtons’ interest in alternative practices has been long-ranging. At 21 the young Americans joined the Peace Corps. They later volunteered in the Philippines for three years and later pursued their newfound love of travel to Japan and other Asian countries, always experimenting with different types of diet and exercise. They observed that “there were many ways to eat, many ways to observe time and pace of life, many ways to respond to similar aspects of life.” When Michael decided to retrain as a chiropractor it led to further exploration of the body’s natural healing ability, which in turn inspired the couple, over many years, to study various types of physical exercise.

Introduced to the practice of Bikram by a book and cassette tape given to Susan by her sister, the Houghtons began at home, doing what they could with a heater and mirror in their walk-in wardrobe. Ten years later, the pair own a studio and host 40 classes a week that are heavily sought after by students of diverse abilities and ages ranging from ten up to 80.

Bikram Yoga Fitzroy, 24-26 Johnston St, Fitzroy. 03 9416 4422. New students can purchase a $19 ten-consecutive-day unlimited intro pass.

GO IF YOU’RE AFTER: Fitness with scenic views and camaraderie

Adventure trekker, trainer and endurance runner Sam Rowse credits his athletic ability to his mum’s desperation for a bit of peace and quiet. “I had four brothers,” he says, “and we are all very energetic and competitive. In order to run down our batteries Mum encouraged exercise, specifically running and swimming.”

The former travel agent and competitive runner was inspired to combine his love of trekking and travel after first completing the Kokoda trail in 2007. “I returned feeling overwhelmed and wanting to share the experience with everyone,” he recalls.

Since cofounding Stafford & Rowse Train and Trek, he’s led many local and overseas treks, listing Mount Rinjani on the island of Lombok in Indonesia as his favourite destination, with its 4,000m active volcano. “Three times I have trekked to the summit while it’s been erupting and while it sounds dangerous it’s truly magnificent at the same time.”

Taking clients on guided overseas treks or preparing them to tackle something solo, the Stafford and Rowse crew have helped clients achieve goals as simple as walking to the top of their street right through to tackling the Everest base camp. Rowse and his team offer resistance and strength training in their Sandringham studio to work on the legs, back and core muscles. They also lead two walks a month around Victoria, within easy reach of the city.

Faced with a distinct lack of team trekking options close to home, Stafford and Rowse created the local 30/50 challenge (the figures refer to kilometres) as an option for those who want an accessible team challenge without having to travel overseas. Now in its third year, the scenic and challenging event leads self-selected teams through some of the most picturesque areas of the Mornington Peninsula. And picturesque views mean the toughest terrain.

Stafford & Rowse Train and Trek, 1/81 Beach Rd, Sandringham. 03 9598 4250. Three sessions $225; five for $375; seven for $525; unlimited $750. Free, no-obligation fitness assessment available. The 30/50 challenge is held on November 24. Registration fees start at $135 per person.

First published on . Updated on .

By Sheridan Wright   |   Photos by Graham Denholm
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