Meet the Coach: Simon Price
Simon Price, the latest coach in Joshua Paul Fitness’ formidable recruitment drive, is not one for the quiet life. From winning major sporting tournaments to helping American sportsmen urinate, and from getting his fitness qualifications while holding a full time job to making a fool out of himself in front of Paul Scholes and Gary Neville, it’s safe to say that Simon has packed a lot into his life so far.
Simon grew up in Burnage, South Manchester. Despite what you might expect, his passion for fitness only began at the end of his teenage years. At school, he wasn’t that sporty, aside from rugby – “I got tired pretty quickly playing – I was a bit of a pie!” – and his real passion lay in music production, which he studied at college. After college, his passion for music having waned, he worked full time for his dad’s window cleaning business, and decided to get fitter to help him abseil down the massive buildings he had to clean (you don’t think of window cleaners needing to learn abseiling, do you? But they do…) However, this wasn’t the only thing motivating him to go to the gym… “Whenever I was going out, my friends wanted to get attention, but I was always the fat friend! I’m not going to lie, I got into training for the wrong reasons, but it ended up completely changing my life.”
At this point, Simon started training in jiu jitsu – of which more later – and also decided to train as a fitness instructor, having been influenced by the effect his personal trainer had on him. “When I started I was really shy and out of shape. He got chatting to me, set a few simple goals, including giving up my junk food. After a month, I’d lost a stone!” The next year of Simon’s life was busy, to put it mildly – window cleaner in the day, gaining his fitness qualification in the evenings and somehow squeezing in martial arts training too.
After getting his qualification, he didn’t immediately do anything with it, choosing instead to start a degree in sports rehabilitation at Salford University. As part of the course, he went over to America and spent time at South Dakota State University, where amongst other things he helped American football players, um, relieve themselves during the match (it’s not just Gary Lineker that does that, apparently). South Dakota – wasn’t that a bit cold? “Put it this way. In the summer, even a t-shirt was too much. But in the winter, you could throw boiling water in the air and it would freeze before it hit the ground.” Right then…
As part of his degree, he also did a placement with Salford City FC, which (for those who haven’t seen the excellent BBC documentary) is the semi-professional football team taken over in 2014 by a group of Manchester United legends including Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville. “It was pretty amazing. I worked with them for the whole season, while the BBC were filming them, and at the end of the season they got promoted in a nail-biting finale.” If you read the introduction to this interview, you might guess what’s coming next. “One time I turned up in the evening in suit pants and shirt, only to find them in a training match with one player down. They asked me if I wanted to go in net. Paul Scholes was to my right, Gary Neville was refereeing… my first kick, the ball did a hard right and off the pitch. I thought “this isn’t going to be my night.” Next time the ball came to me, it span out of my hands and went straight through my legs into the goal. I got taken off soon after!”
Simon’s big break in personal training came in January of his final year, when he was offered a part time PT role in a city centre gym. It was a risky move, since he wouldn’t be paid straight away, and he thought about other full time options instead. But, like other Joshua Paul Fitness coaches, he had a moment of clarity and decided to take a leap. He put everything into it, and started establishing himself with a client base. He was doing so well, he started making himself ill, and that’s when he learned one of his first big lessons: “I realised I had to have some time to myself as well… calm down a bit” Lesson learned, he went from strength to strength, and moved from his commercial gym to a personal training studio, Hale Fitness, based in Altrincham, where he learned his second biggest lesson: “Before, I was following all the latest fitness trends with my clients. But learning from the senior trainer at Hale Fitness, I realised that it’s about doing what you feel is right. Doesn’t matter if it’s trendy – as long as your clients are making good progress.”
When Joshua Paul Fitness owner Josh eventually approached him, he was ready for the next challenge. “I’ve known Josh for about five years. Me and (fellow new coach) Ashley used to train together and compete in MMA (mixed martial arts) tournaments. When Josh made me the offer, I was nervous, but thought I had to take the leap. An opportunity like this doesn’t come round again. I was impressed by the team he’s put together – him, Jake, Mason, Ashley – and by the area.”
Simon’s looking forward to getting to know the Joshua Paul Fitness community. “I’ll be at some Evo Camps and small group sessions first, getting to know people. I want to get to know the community first, and then I’ll get stuck into personal training with them as well.” Simon, however, is also bringing something new to the community: Jiu Jitsu classes, including a beginners class set to start in January. To say that Simon is passionate about this martial art is like saying that Bill Gates has some spare cash lying around, and, as will soon become very clear, he has the credentials to back up his passion. But for the jiu jitsu novice, what exactly does it entail? “Well it was originally developed for smaller opponents to overcome bigger ones. There’s less striking, it’s more about leveraging your weight. It’s a mix of everything, from judo to freestyle wrestling to Greco-Roman wrestling – a love child of all the different grappling sports, with submissions. It’s great fun, like going back to when you were a kid and wrestling with your mates!” And for those who think it sounds too violent for them, Simon has an interesting theory: “It’s quite meditative. If you’ve had a stressful day, then as soon as you start sparring, you can’t afford to think about anything other than the present. It’s an hour of freedom – living in the moment.” Very Zen… “Plus, it’s the most humble sport. People compete in mixed martials art to get paid, but in jiu jitsu, people pay just to compete. It’s a playful sport.”
Playful the sport may be, but Simon’s accomplishments in it so far are very serious. He is almost too humble about them, too, so much so that I have to ask him twice when he tells me, almost as an afterthought, that he got gold at the British Open…. and gold at the British Nationals… oh, and the Scottish Open (“You got an axe for winning, so I thought that would be cool” he says, which to be fair does actually sound really cool). “I’ve been told that winning the British Open was a big achievement, but I’ve got a lot to do, there’s a lot of holes in my game,” he says, almost apologetically. My favourite anecdote though, which perhaps proves the honourable/playful nature of the sport, was when he was at the Manchester Open, and ended up in the final against his friend from the gym he trains at. “We were going to toss a coin, but he’s been at my gym for longer, so I said, “you take gold and I’ll take silver, then next time you’ll owe me.’” Wouldn’t happen in football, that…
As impressive as this may be, Simon’s keen to stress he’s not just about the jiu jitsu – he’s equally as keen a personal trainer, and first and foremost that’s what he’s here to do at Joshua Paul Fitness. Does he have a personal training philosophy? “I love seeing people realise they can do things they thought were impossible. Getting people stronger, as well as losing weight. Especially female clients – a lot of the time they think that getting strong means you bulk up and look like Arnie – but that’s not true. When I train them to get stronger, I can see their confidence shine through. I’ve got one client who only wanted to work towards eventually doing a single push up… now she’s doing seven at a time. I love seeing people realise how strong they can be.”
So there you go.. Simon Price, king of the martial arts, and the master of turning the impossible into the possible. Just don’t put him in goal…