‘Work Smarter, Not Harder’ – I’ve heard this said a lot but Simon has played a huge roll in drilling this in to the minds of the athlete’s who’ve been lucky enough to work with him since his move to SBG. His focus on mobility, muscular balance, pre and rehabilitation and correct technique is what we are about. Fixing the physical foundation of what makes a great athlete instead of just jumping into weight lifting has been exactly what the likes of Conor McGregor has been emphasizing from day 1 and I’m very happy to have found someone with Simon’s vast experience and knowledge implement that ethos here at SBG.’
John Kavanagh – Head Coach of SBG Dublin
“You’re a beast; that looked like some training session you did there”
Conor McGregor – UFC Interim Featherweight Champion to Simon McEvoy after witnessing him delivering a PT session
Nothing you read in this article is going to be a stronger endorsement of the talents of Simon McEvoy than what you just read. However, after reading this article, you will understand why he received such high praise from two of the most accomplished people in mixed martial arts and you how he came to receive such praise.
Simon McEvoy is the owner and head coach of King of Kings Personal Training – He is also the head of Strength & Conditioning at the world famous Straight Blast Gym Ireland. Simon recently did a seminar at Granite City Grappling in Aberdeen (a much smaller club than he is used to!) on mobility for BJJ with a goal of both improving the athletic performance of those who attended and ensuring that they can train as long, as safely and as effectively as possible.
The results of the seminar were mindblowing. Before the seminar, the club’s attitude to strength, conditioning, correct warm ups and maintaining the body was nonchalant, and that’s being kind. The change in the club and the attitude of the members has been incredible.
Club member Niall Pirrie summed up the change well;
“I’ve noticed a change in mentality and everyone is happier to stretch and move.”
Club member and aspiring Personal Trainer himself Connor Imison was a bit more blunt
“Thanks for changing the attitude in the club towards looking after the body”
I personally was just so impressed with Simon. Not just with what he achieved in a tiny space of time but even more with his attitude as a person and as a coach. This is why I wanted to get his story out there. Simon gave the club our start in our journey on S & C, and it is fascinating to see how much it mirrors his own story.
I would sum up my experience with Simon in 5 headings;
Never Giving Up
It’s For Everyone
“Many harp on about how they love their job and how great it is, they don’t have a plan for moving up the ladder or progressing their career. They coast through workouts/classes etc week after week not realising that they are still at the same standard they were 5 years ago or worse they’ve regressed! I constantly learn and improve so I can be in that bracket. I do it for myself, as what I do is my passion, I’m in an ever-changing and improving industry, so I can either get better or be left behind”
Simon speaking to me in 2015 – ten years after starting his career.
The thing you sense immediately from speaking with Simon is his passion for his business, and his clients. Client almost seems the wrong word, the relationship he has with his students is much more personal than that. You just have to read some of the reviews on his FB page to see that. Words like “gentleman”, “personal touch” are seen throughout. Jeff Byrne went so far as to call Simon a “special person”. A lot of people say that their work is their passion. Simon is telling the truth.
It is all well and good me sharing reviews with you. Those are just words at the end of the day. Well Simon’s actions more than live up to it. Simon was scheduled to speak for just 15 minutes at the annual SBG European Summer Camp. A “brief” introduction to his work. Simon could not help but answer every question thrown at him. The talk went on for two hours and you could tell Simon would have kept going. He wasn’t paid for this by the way – how many Personal Trainers do you know that will go even a minute over the allotted time?
The passion and knowledge he was able to convey in such a short period of time was what led GCG Head Coach Ross McTavish to arrange the seminar.
“As soon as I met Simon in Dublin, I knew he was the man to take the club where it needed to go”.
As even more apt a demonstration of Simon’s passion, and care for his students; Simon was absolutely bombarded with questions after that talk by some GCG team members. Constantly messaged on Facebook with another question that had popped into the heads of those who were so affected by his talk on improving mobility, flexibility and all round health. Simon answered every message. Every one. If he treats those who he doesn’t even work with that well, you can picture how well he treats his clients.
It would be easy to look at Simon and just assume it’s been an easy road for him to the top. He is built like Roman Reigns, and is an absolute encyclopaedia of knowledge on the body, more so than anyone I have ever met. His results are proven and his resume stellar. Everything you could hope for in a PT.
But make no mistake, to get where he has Simon has needed Passion – it hasn’t always been so easy for him, and he worked bloody hard to get to the heady heights he has reached.
Simon started in 2005, by enrolling in a 6 month course to learn his craft. He described this decision to me as “life changing”. After completing the course Simon felt he was ready to be a PT and he admits that there were big shocks coming! However, and we’ll see more of this later, unlike most PTs who get the certificate and that’s it, Simon was constantly trying to improve. He still is!
When Simon got a job, he soon saw some cold hard truths. The wages were poor. The hours were hard. He lacked the social skills he felt he needed.
“I saw the negatives, work cliques, laziness, pts who I craved advice from ignoring me & judging my lack of knowledge. Nobody was willing to share anything that would help me get better, early starts & late finishes, unhappy members screaming abuse at staff”
Before we continue the story; what a testament to Simon that he can never be helpful enough and is always desperate to share information and help others. The shoddy approach of other PTs did not deter him. The 18 month struggle when he started did not deter him. To keep working through it, even though it clearly wasn’t all what he had expected yet again demonstrates a recurring theme for Simon – passion.
Simon also gave me a glimpse of his humility by conceding – “I was nowhere near ready”. Humility is not often something you associate with PTs, and you certainly don’t associate it with people who look like Simon does!
For those who attend a seminar with Simon it can seem daunting. I know a few who attended his seminar with us went in with an attitude of “Oh I could never do that” – whether it was touching their toes, squatting properly, cleaning their diet up etc. Simon has already got the “starting at the very beginning and struggling” T-shirt. He understands and empathizes with those taking their very first steps, and it shows in his coaching.
Everyone at GCG will be learning from Simon for the foreseeable future. All his clients are constantly learning from him. So it was refreshing, yet quite surprising to hear from Simon that he himself still considers himself to be learning. When describing what he learnt in his first two years of PT he summed it up nicely.
“Nutrition information (still learning)
How to use equipment properly(still learning)
How the business ran(still learning)
How to sit & talk with people of all ages, shapes, sizes, professions, health issues etc (still learning)”
Everyone at GCG has noticed an improvement. It’s about little steps. It was the same for Simon. His confidence started to grow as more and more people were specifically requesting PTs from him and he was really starting to get used to the job. No different to the first time a new BJJ student hit’s an armbar or noticing even a tiny improvement in flexibility, as everyone at GCG already has done.
“I feel more flexible already” – Stewart Morrison, one day after the seminar.
Simon knows the road to physical excellence is a hard one and it mirrors his own struggles to set up his own business.
When Simon decided to launch his own person he went in with an attitude of “It’s all easy from here isn’t it”. Not unlike the first time a BJJ player lands a sweep or a submission and thinks they’ve mastered it – we’ve all been there. Just like the BJJ player who gets that first sweep, it wasn’t easy for Simon. At all.
“This wasn’t the dream it was supposed to be; phone ringing off the hook, people waving money at me, earn big wages & work when you want was the slogans on the websites! Those members who had booked all my slots, well that was fine when they got the info for free(or part of membership) they weren’t overly impressed now I wanted money for this! So for the first few months I got hardly any clients! The only thing I did right was that I kept part time paid hours working in the gym otherwise I was sunk!”
Two things resonated with me hearing this from Simon. One, after hearing this horror story of how people were happy to milk him for info for free, but never to pay him when it mattered, it genuinely baffles me that he is still willing to help anyone who asks him a question “off the books” – he is the head of Strength and Conditioning at Europe’s biggest MMA gym and he STILL will help any old schmuck who fires him a FB message – crazy. And despite the job being nothing he imagined he kept going. You guessed what I was going to say next – passion.
In a nutshell, nobody had told Simon how hard it would be and what it entailed. This is something he obviously learned from as he was very open with all at GCG – this is a long term game. He gave us everything we needed to win that game. Nobody ever gave it to him.
“But did I give up/quit feel sorry for myself? No chance, I knew if I worked and worked and worked things would change! I was right…… They did. It was called A RECESSION!!!”
The recession almost finished Simon off. He was literally struggling to keep a roof over his head. I would have packed it in and got something more steady. I’m sure you reading this would have done the same. Simon?
“I had left a highly paid career which I could have progressed with. I missed many family occasions due to work commitments & lack of finances since starting in fitness industry. I lost childhood friendships as I no longer was going down home regularly due to the same reasons. I had left behind people who were leading me down a lifestyle I didn’t want! I wanted this to work so much but it seemed that every way I was turning things were not happening or I wasn’t getting the breaks, I was starting to think that maybe, just maybe I would have to look at other options, other types of work!”
You know what’s coming! He quit drinking to save money. And his priority, even more so than a roof over his head was STILL to improve his knowledge.
“It meant a lot of time at home reading articles, books etc that didn’t cost money & training as much as I could”
A recession and my business going to pot would probably have turned me to drink. Simon spent the time still improving knowledge. Never deterred from his end goal.
This struggle and sacrifice greatly enhances Simon’s coaching. When he advises someone to ditch the junk food or work harder in the gym – he has the credibility. He has sacrificed things to get where he is, and that means when he tells students to make changes, he comes from a position of having actually practiced what he preaches. The struggle he endured also helps him deal with negativity and pessimism.
When I told Simon I was a “lost cause” when it came to flexibility, he just laughed and dismissed it, assuring me nothing is a lost cause if you work hard enough. At the time, I thought “easy for you to say”. After speaking with Simon, I realise it is only easy for him to say as he went through the same thoughts during his career and worked hard enough to conquer them.
In 2008 Simon got settled in a job. Would have been pretty easy for him to just accept that and plug away making decent cash.
“No progression with my education, I hadn’t done anything that would help improve my knowledge & my business! I hadn’t built up a network of fitness colleagues that I could refer clients to or people I could learn from in order to become much better!”
So Simon is living on minimal income, struggling to make ends meet but doing OK and all he can focus on is that he needs to improve. Simon may also be the first PT I have ever met who would want to refer a student on to someone else. For no personal gain! If I was struggling to make ends meet, last thing I would want to do is pass on a client to someone else, even if it was in their best interest for their own goals.
That’s probably why Simon has done so well, and I am the one interviewing him to tell his story!
Speaking with Simon now, 7 years on from this tough time – he explains it better than I ever could. I am not usually one for long quotes but these are wise words.
“Trainers & coaches are afraid that they will “lose” clients if they share knowledge & or try do something they have little or no knowledge of because of the “copy & paste” methods they adapt. They are afraid to work with other fitness professionals as it might show their lack of knowledge about their field or dedication to their work. Refer – when you are confident at what you do, you also know what you can’t, then send your clients to trusted contacts you have built whilst networking in the knowledge they are being looked after by an expert in their field! Share – if you have knowledge share it, I have done this my whole career, & have always had it returned with interest! Help people – I didn’t start in the fitness industry thinking about money – I made it a mission for myself to help as many people as I could! Many of my hours are spent sitting with people talking about issues they need guidance with, & if it helps them advance or improve something in their life then it’s time well spent!”
Simon decided to go back to college and study nutrition. He was getting busier from referrals. Eveything was going great in 2009 until another disaster struck. The gym he worked at, to cut a long story short, fucked him over. They attempted a contract change and the terms of the deal as such were that if he accepted them he could no longer trade. He had to find a new gym. Most of his clients came with him – a testament to his skill, even 6 years ago.
Simon moved to the new gym in 2010 and it proved difficult to start again from scratch. Really difficult. He was again questioning why he got into this game. But he kept going. Still. Then things took an interesting turn
“A colleague of mine Mark mentioned a crowd called the ISI. I hadn’t heard much about them due to the lack of knowledge in the gyms I had worked in but they were running classes in Artane, which I decided to go along one Sunday & try out, then I heard about a seminar they were running & decided to go along with Mark. This would be my first encounter with a guy called Eoin Lacey, little did I know how important a role this man was going to play in the future of my career!”
In part 2 of this article, we will cover Simon’s journey from here to how he ended up at SBG Ireland.
The first 5 years of Simon’s career are a pretty apt demonstration of Passion. His story also embodies two of the other things I mentioned about him. His drive to set goals for himself and his never give up attitude. This is certainly something that he conveyed at the seminar.
“If you are someone who wants to improve, you set them as high as possible”
Simon went from the hell of the start of his career to where he is today. He has lived that quote. That would be on a macro level. On the micro level however, Simon demonstrated this at the seminar – here is just one example.
Iain Ballantyne attended the seminar with hopes of a slight increase in flexibility. Nothing drastic. Notoriously inflexible, Simon’s assertion that Iain could touch his toes by the end of the seminar was greeted with laughter at the start of the seminar.
Nobody is laughing now.
Simon is big on setting big goals and not stopping until you achieve them. When I said to Simon I’d like to have 300 BJJ Matches, he asked “why not 500”. This enthusiasm and drive is infectious and had a massive effect on everyone at the seminar.
“I now have a goal” – Stewart Morrison, who had trained with GCG for 6 months before meeting Simon, and only now had a clear goal.
Helping someone get in shape by beasting them on weights is one thing. Getting someone to assess their own lives and choose their own goals based on their interaction with you is quite something else. This leads nicely on to another thing you notice with Simon – he get’s results. With ANYONE.
“I have been fortunate to work with a huge variety of clients over the last few years, and everyone of them has taught me something useful, & many have achieved amazing results thanks to the education I choose to learn to assist their progress”
Simon loved his time in Aberdeen. He honestly seemed absolutely thrilled to be there. He has reached the peak of his industry, training UFC champions, yet he was just as happy with a small club in Aberdeen.
Simon genuinely got the same buzz out of helping Iain touch his toes as he does with getting Aisling Daly to 10% body fat 4 weeks out from a UFC fight. It’s this attitude, combined with results that make his seminars excellent – nobody who attends his seminar will not improve.
Yes, he works with the best athletes in the world and chances are you reading this/attending his next seminar will not be like that – but ask yourself this? Those incredible athletes Simon works with – who got them into that condition? That’s a guy you want to learn from.
Part 1 of this article covered Simon’s journey into personal training and his general outlook on life and coaching.
In Part 2 we will look at how he wound up at SBG Dublin, we’ll look at his seminar in Aberdeen in much more detail, chat about his work with 5(!) UFC fighters and we’ll also discuss his acting career on hit TV show Vikings and his love of the WWE!
Remember to visit Simon’s FB page at https://www.facebook.com/King-of-Kings-Personal-Training-122591454432413/timeline/ and his website at http://kingofkingspt.com/