By Zoe Peck
Even through my quarantine-induced early morning brain fog, I can see that Chris Thompson and Sylvia Thompson-Wong are a striking couple.
Both personal trainers, they possess the sort of affability and high energy that really is essential if your job is making people move.
The couple started North Leeds Fitness in 2010 and both offer personal training and group fitness sessions either from their own home, or the home of their clients.
As is the case for many, quarantine has disrupted how they work, so they now offer 1:1 sessions and group classes to their clients over Zoom.
Options for virtual classes include; Zumba, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Pilates. And if regular Pilates isn’t enough, there’s Pilates Burn.
The couple met at a fitness class that Chris was teaching. Their first impression of each other? “I thought he was rude and he thought I was loud,” Sylvia laughs. “He looked at me like a deer in headlights.”
An ex-professional boxer with Leeds’ Camp Detox Gym, Chris’ favourite clients are those working through multiple injuries: “When someone’s injured and in pain it can have a really debilitating affect on their life and it can affect them both physically and mentally. So it’s great seeing someone get out of pain. They motivate me to do the best job I can.”
His genuine passion is evident when he talks about the difference between fitness and health (a distinction I had never considered.)
“A professional athlete is fit, but they might need a knee replacement at 50, instead of 70. Being healthy is about being able to play tag in the garden with your grand-kids,” he says.
For Sylvia, a highlight has been teaching yoga to a class of women in their 70s. “They were active ladies but new to yoga and they progressed massively to doing headstands and handstands. They have sent lovely messages to me expressing how amazing they feel after yoga and I always feel proud when I see what amazing things they are able to achieve.”
A North Leeds Fitness client, Kam Bahia, praises the “easy to follow” instruction provided by the couple and credits them with helping her survive lockdown through the creation of a routine as she, like many others, is struggling to stay focused.
“They help give structure to the day, [which is also] important for others who are vulnerable and not going out,” she explains. “It’s also helped with my anxiety and sleep. I could go on and on!”
In a scene played out across the country, our video-call is interrupted by their cheerful three-year-old son – Robin. Sylvia admits that juggling home and work can be difficult sometimes: “I’ve tried to barricade the door but he always gets in.”
The complaints from people around the country adjusting to the experience of working in the same house as their partners must be amusing for people who run a family business.
Sylvia’s advice for when your life partner is also your business partner: “Try not to always talk about work, set official meeting times to discuss business, then outside of those times be a normal couple and have fun!”
And her advice for keeping fit in lockdown is to do an activity that you enjoy, “even if it’s just dancing around the house.”
They couldn’t talk forever, Sylvia had to shoot off to teach a yoga class and Chris, HIIT.
I was left feeling like maybe it wouldn’t hurt to do some exercise…just not Pilates Burn.