“Most amateur mistakes can be traced back to a lack of or bad programming.”
I recently caught up with Will Harvey, co-founder of The Athlete Centre in Oxford, to talk about fitness, Paleo and much more. When I was living in Oxfordshire I trained at The Athlete Centre and wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone. Rest assured if I’m back in Oxford it’s where I’ll go.
Will has been involved in both playing and coaching sport from a very young age. He has competed at a high standard in Aussie Rules Football (AFL), Soccer and Triathlons before starting his personal training career in 2004 in Melbourne, Australia. After retiring from AFL, Will moved over to the UK to continue working in the fitness world building his client portfolio and co-found The Athlete Centre. He currently trains amateur and professional sports people and business professionals. Will is passionate about fitness, health and diet, helping to assist people to reach their goals and will regularly be seen leading a Crossfit class.
When did your interest in fitness and nutrition begin?
As far back as I can remember I’ve always wanted to run and jump and ride a bike. Anything to keep active. I started taking AFL seriously around ten years old and I’ve been involved professionally in Sport and Fitness on some level my whole life.
Around 14 years old I started following the traditional athlete diet (i.e. lots of pasta and heavy carbohydrates) and seeing links between food and performance. But later on in life I found that I enjoyed cooking and experimenting in the kitchen.
What elements of a Paleo and Primal lifestyle do you incorporate into your own life and what benefits have you experienced?
All of it. Even before I started eating Primal I had naturally found a clean way of eating that was high in good fats. When I found Primal it just made sense and agreed with what I’d already discovered myself through trial and error.
I also apply the other Primal facets that don’t always get as much attention like getting enough sleep, doing sprints and trying to relieve stress in your life.
I think a lot of people are attracted to Primal and Paleo for the weight loss benefits but because of my background in sports I never struggled with weight gain. For me the biggest benefits have come in the form of consistent, high energy and stabilized moods. Sugar used to have a great affect on how I felt but now I’m completely in control.
You’re a co-director at The Athlete Centre in Oxford, England. Why did you decide to form The Athlete Centre and how does it differentiate itself from other gyms?
My partners and I decided to form it because there’s nothing like it. The members, the trainers they’re like my family. We are completely results driven and want everyone who trains with us to have a plan and the means to execute it. There are no contracts, no unnecessarily complicated equipment just people working fucking hard and getting fucking strong.
The Athlete Centre’s slogan is ‘train like a pro’. How do you train like a pro and what kind of amateur mistakes and bad practices do you see in other gyms?
One word – programming. Do you think Athletes get into the gym and think ‘What shall I do today?’ No and if you want to get anywhere then neither should you. We programme all of our classes and monitor the results closely. Most amateur mistakes can be traced back to a lack of or bad programming.
“It’s just practice, practice, practice. And programming.”
What tips do you have to help people lift more on the core lifts such as the bench press, deadlift and squat?
For most of the movements the same drills apply – keep your shoulder blades tight, squeeze your butt and keep braced throughout the lift.
When it comes to benching imagine driving your feet in the ground. With squatting keep three points of contact between your feet (big and little toe, heels) and the ground and drive your knees out the whole time. Finally with the Deadlift lean back, take the tension of the weight and be quick with your hip drive.
Then it’s just practice, practice, practice. And programming.
Let’s talk about the importance of mobility work. Why do you think this is often neglected and how often should people be concentrating on mobility?
You want to be able to get into the full range of motion of any movement in order to complete it correctly and prevent injuries.
I think people neglect it because they don’t understand its importance. Also, everybody’s needs are different. For these two reasons everyone has a one-on-one with our Osteopath when they sign up at The Athlete Centre and we also offer free mobility classes. We want people to be aware of their weaknesses, including any mobility issues, and to help fix them.
What are the most impressive success stories and transformations you’ve encountered at The Athlete Centre?
You know her actually. It’s Dani (see our interview with Dani here) who runs The ProNutrition Centre (Café and wholefoods shop) and MyPrimate (Primal events company). I met her whilst she was right in the middle of her weight loss journey. She went from 95kg to 60kg and along the way gained a wealth of knowledge of the Primal/Paleo way. With the encouragement and support of myself and the guys at The Athlete Centre she started her own business to help others make the same positive changes. She is changing people’s lives day-by-day, month-by-month, year-by-year. I think it’s amazing from where she started to where she is now.