Behind the Glow with Taofique Folarin

London, UK

"As a trainer, when I see clients leave my class happier than when they walked into the class, giving them something to forget about their day, forget about their troubles, and just come in for an hour and focus on themselves, and then seeing that satisfaction is everything." Read our interview with Taofique for some more amazing, relatable, and inspiring words.

I'm actually originally from Hampton, which is a little city in the Midlands. I moved to London when I was 16. So now I'm living in London, and working in London. 

I started out as a performer actually, working on the West End as a dancer, actor, and singer. I would say my expertise is definitely strength and conditioning. I have worked and still work for a lot of boutique gyms, currently, my studio is Barry’s Bootcamp, but I've also worked at Block which is another big studio here

in London, I've worked at quite a few boutique studios. I started off a little studio called Movers and Shapers, working all around the clock, early mornings, late nights, back-to-back sessions, really putting in work. Now you'll find me at Barry's Bootcamp. 

In the fitness industry, it seems like everyone has a story of what’s led them to become trainers. What’s yours?

Do you remember the moment when you realized you want to be a trainer?

Yes, I do. So, working as an actor, I was in a production called The Lion King, and I played a character called Banzai, which was quite a physical role, very physical actually, and that's when I really found my love for strength training because I needed to have a certain level of strength in the back and shoulders in order to carry the puppet. 

That was like my first kind of - oh wow when I put my body through a certain amount of stress what I can also gain from it in order to perform my role correctly and proficiently. But then, also in the show itself, there were a lot of single ladies we call them, so the ensemble ladies, who they all really wanted to lose weight. 

At this point, I was actually doing Insanity and this is probably about nine years ago, I loved it every single day I was doing it. And then the ladies were like - what are you doing? Can you do it with us?

So I put a whole group together, and we went upstairs into the studio, I led the workouts, motivated them, pushed them through, helped them with their form,

and just seeing what it gave to them, that for me was like - oh wow, I really enjoy this. I enjoy seeing people achieve their goals and see people come together as a community. 

What are some of your favorite parts of the fitness industry?

I love it all, but if I had to break it down, I have like the three C's.

I would definitely say community. Just seeing people come together, that have shared common ground, whether it's to improve their mental health to improve

their physical health, I absolutely love that and seeing people from diverse communities come together, that to me is really special.

And also I love client satisfaction. So as a trainer, when I see clients leave

my class happier than when they walked into the class, giving them something to

forget about their day, forget about their troubles, and just come in for an hour and focus on themselves, and then seeing that satisfaction is everything.

And then finally I would say the fitness industry provides an element of care, and that self-care and seeing people taking care of themselves, that's so important. And I don't think we actually do it enough, I actually really love just seeing people take a minute out of their day, five minutes, ten minutes, an hour, to do something for themselves and look after themselves. 

What are some of the main struggles you think fitness trainers face? And how do you think they can be solved?

I think as a fitness trainer time management is definitely a barrier that we face. I think it's very easy as a trainer and as a coach to over saturate your timetable, and then what happens is you don't have time for yourself, for your family, for your friends, and all those things which fill your heart with joy. So I think it's really important as a trainer to make sure that your cup isn't half empty. You want to have enough in your cup to overstore so you can offer to others when our cup starts running low. 

We're just not as good as that at our job, so it's really important that we make sure that we're able to balance our schedule very well. 

And one thing that I’ve done for that, instead of always being a yes man, yes I can do that, yes I can teach this, yes I can do it at 6 am - I make sure that actually there's a lot of power in also saying no. And sometimes I think people can think

saying no is a bad thing, it's a negative, and it's not if it means that it's looking after yourself. 

Then you're able to provide a better service for the community in the end. 

That's one method which I use, and then second is that I think it's really important that you can become a little bit more direct in what it is that you want to achieve and what it is that you want to do, what studios that you want to work for, and if you believe in their ethos. 

I think it's very easy to just work for everybody and everyone but it's not necessary. I think when you know who you are and you can physically teach and authentically work for who you want to work for.  

How are you pivoting or dealing with everything as a trainer right now? And how do you think it has shaped you as a trainer?

I wouldn't say I pivoted, the main pivot obviously is that for the past few months I've been doing all of my classes from home, teaching all my clients from home, so that's definitely been a pivot.

And within that, obviously, you're now working within a certain boundary, within a limit, because my clients don't have a certain amount of equipment so you're really starting to have to think outside of the box in order to achieve the same goals.

So obviously a lot more bodyweight exercises have been really an eye-opener for me, and also just being able to transmute the motivation through a screen as well.

So that's been a major pivot. 

I just think one way of coping through this whole COVID situation for me personally is the support of my friends, the support of my family, and on a wider scale the support of the whole community. 

But for me, rather than pivoting, what I wanted to do on this lockdown was really trying to hone in on what it is that the community wanted.

So while taking the focus off myself and what I can offer, and on to the community what they actually need.

And I remember at the beginning, actually, it was just taking a little bit of relief from the situation. Basically, if I can provide time and get people moving I think that was really key, and then from there, it's progressing. 

I think what it’s definitely done, is not maybe shape me as a trainer but it's

definitely added another layer to my skill set for sure.

It's also taught me that I'm capable of doing things that I never thought I would be able to do. I never thought I'd be teaching a class of 50 people from my living room you know. 

It's reinforced the resilience that trainers really have and actually the power that trainers have to really change people's lives.

How do you think COVID will affect our industry in the years to come?  

Virtual classes, I think they're here to stay. I definitely think they need to stay. I think that's a great thing, it's made fitness a lot more accessible to people, it's open people's eyes, people that may have never done a Barry's class, before all of a sudden on Instagram they can see Barry's doing their live classes so they can jump on. 

Sometimes people have a little bit of fear about going into a class in the studio, they can try it out at home first.

Also, I live in London and people have really really busy lives, so now they fit fitness into their life and make it part of their lifestyle. I believe it's allowed people to try different things rather than some people that usually just do weight training, all of a sudden there's a yoga class at eight o'clock, they can jump online do the yoga class, whereas before maybe they wouldn't.

So I think it's definitely opened up the world of fitness to a wider community, which is great.

What are some of the fitness trends and mentalities in your country?

London is its own little bubble and I work a lot in the boutique fitness industry and I do believe it's now started to spread outside of London. 

See studios open up in Manchester, in Birmingham, and moving a little bit

further outside of London.

But for London alone, I was saying it's such a fast-paced city, and time is money, people don't have that much time, they've got to juggle family life alongside their work-life and alongside their own lives, so you know one of the big things in London is boutique concepts like Barry's. 

It's amazing because we have classes from early in the morning all the way into the evening, so it's accessible. There's not really an excuse. They can go in, get the workout done, and then get out. 

Also, fitness is such an individual thing. You have people that prefer to train in a gym, people train within a studio, but what I think is great is that people are realizing that having someone with a certain level of expertise to train them is going to help them, so we're seeing a lot more people reaching out to personal

trainers wanting to go to studios so they're not left to their own devices, on

their own, wasting time not knowing what they're doing. 

What is the greatest piece of advice you can give other trainers from your experience?

Keep learning, perfect your craft, perfect it again, and perfect it some more.

Stay open-minded, stay clued in with what's happening in the industry, and have perseverance. 

Just keep the joy. Often fitness is a passion, it's a hobby and then it also becomes

your job. And when something becomes your job it can be quite easy to lose the passion when you're working all around the clock. 

So take a moment to step back and keep that joy that you had when you first started. And then share that joy with everyone else.

Favorite workout song -  So it’s called buffalo, the drop is ridiculous if you want to do a sick finisher, that track it's like seven minutes long, beautiful.

Favorite cheat meal - My go-to naughty treat are these biscuits we have in the UK called Hobnob, and they're basically like an oat biscuit covered in chocolate. 

Fitness trainer that inspires you - Firstly I just like to say fitness trainers do inspire me but it's really the clients that inspire me the most. Seeing people taking their first step into fitness, into exercise, into getting moving,  that is so inspiring. 

If I had to choose a trainer at the moment, she's actually a really good friend of mine, her name is Sarah Adarkwa. She's the mother of one beautiful little girl, she's working fitness alongside and that's inspiring seeing how she manages her home life, her family life alongside her work life, and being a career-driven boss ass lady is inspiring. 

Your motto - Something that I say quite a lot, it's a bit cheesy,  but it's either you think you can or you think you can't, either way, you're right.  

Find Taofique on Instagram @taofiquefolarin

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