"Sometimes when the gym is really busy, I look around and see lots of people laughing and enjoying health and fitness and I just think 'this is something I've helped create'," says Daniel Tancock, owner of Florida Beach Fitness in Mandurah.
Daniel started his personal training career working at a commercial gym which was part of a large franchise, but in 2020 he made the decision to branch out beyond what he thought was possible and open his own gym.
"I was never into fitness as a kid - it wasn't until I was a teenager that I got into it, then I was obsessed with it all throughout my 20s," Daniel said.
"After school I worked in construction and had never considered a career in fitness - I was working FIFO making a lot of money, but I was miserable.
"When I turned 30 I had this epiphany that I wanted to do something I loved and be able to help people at the same time - so I saved up money, quit my job, got my bachelor degree in sport and exercise science and the rest is history."
While Daniel was studying at university, he did prac hours at a commercial gym where he would eventually get a training job.
Changing career paths
"It was the perfect time to get into it I think, it's important to have some life experience.
"I was training at a gym while I was doing my personal training course and mentioned to them what I was doing and they had a position available - once my prac hours were done I got a job there."
Daniel trained at the gym for four years, and said the beginning of his career taught him that personal training wasn't just about fitness - it was about connecting with people.
"I thought I knew everything because I trained myself and was very into it - but I knew how to train a man in his 30s... which was me. I had to have a whole range of training abilities from teenagers to senior citizens with different goals and personality types.
"It isn't a one size fits all approach. Lots of people are intimidated in a gym which is why I think some people don't last and stop coming in.
Daniel said that "learning on the floor" was some of the best experience he had as a trainer.
"On the job training is the best thing - there are things the certificate four doesn't prepare you for. It's about being empathetic with people.
"At the start you think you have to smash everybody and make them as sweaty as you can and that's what is indicative of a good session, but it's better for everyone to ease people into it - it's about more than making them tired."
Daniel said he prioritised doing extra courses and training on how to train juniors, seniors, pregnant women and post-partum women.
"I did extra seminars and there was a lot of external training involved to make sure I knew how to train people with all different backgrounds and abilities."
One day, when Daniel was training a client, he was given a push to pursue something he'd only dreamt of.
"My client said to me in a session 'why not make your own place?' - I went inside that night after I finished training at my house, and went onto the internet and found a commercial property.
"I called them up the next day and viewed it and that was it - it literally happened overnight."
After securing the property and going through formalities such as council approval, Daniel opened his gym Florida Beach Fitness, just a few months after the chat with his client in October of 2020.
"It was stressful making the jump - while I consider myself to be good at training people... business is a whole other ball game," he laughed.
"I had to do a lot of courses to learn the business side of things which was tough but extremely rewarding."
Once the gym started operating, Daniel, his wife and the rest of his trainers decided they wanted to prioritise "putting the personal back into personal training".
"At some gyms you feel like just a number - we were able to create a really good community feeling, and people get better results out of that. If they enjoy coming they're more likely to continue."
The hiring process, according to Daniel, was "daunting" at first - but he soon realised that the ethos of the gym made it easy to figure out who he wanted to work there.
"The process of hiring was daunting in the sense of 'how am I going to tell someone what to do?' but the trainers I got on board - I realised within the first four or five minutes that they would be perfect.
"It was about their demeanour and their passion for helping people as well as training.
"You can teach a person technique and teach them how to do particular things, but you can't really teach being a good person like they were."
Some of the best messages are from people saying they had never been comfortable in a gym before but now they love coming in for training.
One of Daniel's most recent hires was someone he started his fitness journey with while at university.
"A guy I went to uni with who had gone on to complete his masters degree messaged me saying he had moved to Mandurah and wanted to work with me.
"We were really great friends at uni but I told him 'you're too qualified to work here but I'll meet up with you anyway'," he laughed.
When Daniel met up with his old friend, he knew immediately that he'd be another great fit for the gym.
"He told me 'I don't want to work with elite teams, I want to work with the general population and juniors' - he's a top bloke and a great person.
"My trainers are five people that I love being friends with even outside of the gym which I think is really important - they truly care about helping people."
Daniel said that there had been a number of life-changing moments while running his own gym.
"There are some people who have really changed their lives - lots of people have had large weight losses where they have really improved their quality of life.
"People send messages saying 'you've literally changed my life' and that's something that never would've happened in my previous role.
"Some of the best messages are from people saying they had never been comfortable in a gym before but now they loved coming in for training."
Daniel added he saw a huge positive impact on the mental health of his clients.
"From the feedback I get from clients and obviously from the research I did at university I know there is a distinct correlation between improving your physical health and your mental health.
"It never ceases to amaze me how many people are going through things, especially in today's climate with lots of uncertainty. It's great to see how much better people feel after training."
In his spare time, Daniel said he loved spending time with his wife and three children - and getting in some training.
"I love having family time. I love playing with the kids and going to the beach.
"I'm pretty boring because my hobby is also exercising," he laughed.
"Even if I've got the busiest day I will spend my lunch break training, it's my relaxation - it's lucky I enjoy it."
To follow along with Daniel's journey and Florida Beach Fitness, follow the Florida Beach Fitness Facebook page.
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