His coffee order? A long black or a cappuccino, always with friends.
Adrian Allen is a fitness coach based in Perth, Australia- with a passion for pushing himself to his physical and mental limits. After 5 years in the industry, he says he is still coaching, still training, still learning, and still with a Kerry accent.
We chatted to Adrian Allen about living a life of challenges, how fitness connects you to people all over the world, and staying connected to Irish roots. Oh, and the small matter that he’s running an endurance race with a 40km ‘warm up’ in a few weeks...
From tips on running, time spent fitness coaching, swimming at sunrise and just walking and having a craic. This guy has great stories to tell, and advice to offer, about how to Make Life Richer.
Adrian, how did you go from a football- and hurling-playing electrician from Kerry, to a world travelling fitness coach?
I never truly found what I was passionate about until I went on a fitness holiday to Phuket, Thailand in 2013. I trained in Muay Thai for 4 weeks (many hours a day, to say I was sore is an understatement!) before stumbling into a group fitness class that looked way more fun… that was the beginning of my love for fitness. I ended up being asked by one of the coaches to stay and become a coach myself. It took me completely by surprise- I never thought or believed for one second that I could be a trainer of any kind!
Unfortunately I couldn’t go for it at the time- I had a great job and life in Australia. But the seed was well and truly planted. I signed up to an online PT course, hoping there would be another opportunity in the future for me to use it. Then in May 2016, when I was closing in on my 30th birthday, I left Australia and returned to Ireland to try something new. Within a week I got a chance call from a gym owner in Thailand to see if I would come to Mallorca, Spain to help run a gym! I jumped at it.
I spent 3 months in Spain, before returning to Thailand to try and get that job I’d refused 3 years earlier… Fortunately an opportunity was there- at unit27 Thailand on a street called ‘Soi Ta Led’. Anyone who’s been to Phuket to train knows this place, it’s fitness heaven.
Unit 27 runs the most incredible group fitness sessions and has an amazing CrossFit box too. It’s a gym open to the elements- with no air conditioning, and a lot of time is spent outside of the gym floor, carrying tyres, kettlebells, doing burpees... It builds serious mental and physical toughness. There was no hand holding or babysitting! They really live up to their motto of ‘go hard or go home’. The sessions, clients and trainers here were so good- and I spent an awesome 3 years here with the final as Head Coach.
After that, I spent 6 months coaching in Canggu, Bali before covid hit prompting me to move back to Perth, Australia. I’m lucky to have been able to continue coaching here. My passion for fitness has certainly got me places- I’ve met so many amazing people from all over the world and made friends for life. That’s something I never expected when becoming a coach.
Go hard or go home sounds incredible, but intense! What approach do you take to your own training now- for both physical health and mindset?
For a few years that was a great approach and I wouldn’t change it for a second. It taught me so much about mental resilience and mindset. But these days, I’m much more ‘train smarter not harder’.
Training now is based around my life, it’s not my whole life like it used to be. I believe if you put 5 hours a week into training, then 5 hours should be invested in other areas too, whether that’s family, friends, your business etc. All my eggs were in 1 basket so to speak.
I’m very lucky to have found many social groups that include different forms of fitness here in Perth. There’s a movement and gymnastics gym around the corner that has taught me so much, and I’ve found myself part of the running community too.
Walking has also improved my life massively, it’s so underestimated! Get out, call a friend, listen to a podcast or just be alone with your thoughts. It’s a powerful tool to implement in your everyday life.
Are you part of the Human Excellence Project in Perth too?
Yes! I stumbled across this out walking one morning and the feeling I got when I was invited to join in was something I’ll never forget. There was energy, excitement and people who were genuinely happy at 6am!
Human Excellence Project is a not for profit group that brings people together every morning, 365 days of the year, to dip in the sea, have coffee, and have deep and meaningful conversations. There’s also breath work, meditation, and hugs on arrival! Human interaction and connection is something that people have missed so much this last year, and when things get better, embracing the power of a community like this is a must.
You’re always putting yourself through tough mental and physical challenges- next on your list is the ‘Last Man Standing’ challenge. Are you feeling ready?
This is an endurance event designed for you to fail. 150 runners start at 4pm on 26th March, with 1 hour to run a loop of Herdsman Lake here in Perth - 4 miles (6.71km). You complete this every hour, on the hour, until you fail to complete it in the time or give up. I thought I was down right mad signing up, but in the last year alone I’ve walked 100km in 24 hours and run a 50km ultra - I think I can give it a good go!
They say the first 6 hours are a warm up (a 40km warm up!) but then as we go through the night, people will become fatigued, sleep deprived, dehydrated - it will be a mental struggle to keep going. You get to decide whether or not to continue, so it all comes down to mental strength. What separates people is mindset. Do you have the willingness to suffer or will you fold as soon as it gets tough?
You seem to include running in your challenges a lot, what is it about running that makes it so important to you?
Running is free, allows you to discover new areas, get out in nature and push your own limits. And it’s very measurable. You can run fast or slow, long or short- it doesn't matter. We can all be runners, it’s something that unites us.
I think when you push the time spent on your feet, you almost go into a meditative state. For that reason I love to run without music. Being alone with your thoughts can be scary for people though- it definitely takes practice!
I love the saying ‘slow is smooth, smooth is fast’ so many people go out running too hard and end up disliking the sport. But slow it down, run at a pace you feel like you can have a conversation. I like to ask myself regularly, ‘are you in control?’ If the answer is yes, keep going, if not then it’s time to slow it down or stop. This will make you enjoy running a whole lot more.
Will you be running the ‘100k in May’ Facebook challenge group again this year?
Yes! My good friend Eric and I started this group in 2017 and it has grown to almost 500 people- many across Ireland, Thailand and Australia. The challenge is to run or walk 100km over the month of May.
People who are new are encouraged to take it easy, start small and create consistency. I personally love to see people doing 3.33km every day- I think it says a lot about people who show up every day. That’s real strength.
There are some phenomenal people in the group that are always offering advice and support to each other. If you are interested you can absolutely join us here!
During lockdown you supported people around the world, and many back in Ireland, with a ‘Life of Challenges’ Facebook group. Where did the idea for this come from?
People needed support and I guess a distraction during COVID - we were all in the unknown. The challenges were designed to keep people consistent, I wanted to incorporate all areas of life and make people step outside of their comfort zones.
I included fitness, personal development and relationships challenges to give people some structure to their days and build good habits. I think we all need during lockdowns, especially back home in Ireland. If I could recommend one book please make it Atomic Habits by James Clear- I feel it helped me so much the last year in finding structure and consistency in everything I do.
How do you stay connected to your Irish roots while living in Australia?
Staying connected to Ireland is Number 1, this Kerry accent is going nowhere! It’s about keeping the Irish spirit wherever you are - have the craic, show people you genuinely care and be open and honest in everything you do. These are traits a lot of us are brought up with, and it’s always great to go somewhere and see Irish people staying true to how they were raised and spreading that message all over the world.
What does ‘Make Life Richer’ mean to you?
Above all else, this means getting home to see my parents and friends in Ireland as soon as I can!
But in the broader sense- it’s about adventures, challenging events, being willing to learn and grow, always trying to better myself. I want to live to my full potential and have a positive impact on the people around me.
There is no failing in anything you do once you try and you learn. And on a final note just do what makes you happy ..........it’s your life. ENJOY IT.