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Shannon Ponton’s Fitness Advice

Fitness advice from Australia’s Personal Training professionals.
Open Colleges has interviewed 18 of Australia’s top personal trainers, including Shannan Ponton of The Biggest Loser and Amelia Burton co-founder of 12WBT, to get their best advice on everything from how to get into the fitness industry, how to build a client base as well as how to overcome career challenges. Following is the interview with Shannon Ponton.
“Be patient when developing your business and your training style and study under many experienced mentors. Be exceptional.”
Celebrity trainer Shannan Ponton needs no introduction. The Biggest Loser continues to be amongst one of the highest rating shows on the Ten Network, with Shannan being the most successful Biggest Loser trainer, having trained four of the series’ winners… so far.

With over 20 years’ experience in the industry, Shannan has acquired extensive experience and knowledge in the areas of exercise, fitness, nutrition, health, people management and the media – which has landed him a role as Australia’s favourite fitness trainer and mentor on Channel 10’s The Biggest Loser for the ninth season running!

Outside of his work on The Biggest Loser, Shannan has written his first book, Hard’N’Up, published by Harper Collins in January 2012 and developed his own ‘Shannan’ range of exercise equipment. He also kicked off his first Shannan Challenge – an 8 week online weight loss program with the Biggest Loser Club, and his Biggest Loser Express Rapid Weight Loss Kit.

Far from being just another TV star, Shannan really helps transform lives. During his career he has developed and delivered innovative personal training, fitness, motivational and general life solutions to many participants.

Shannan is also incredibly proud to be an ambassador for a number of important charities and causes, including The McGrath Foundation, CanTeen, Obesity Prevention Australia and is also associated with The Millennium Foundation, RSPCA and Cancer Council.

Here, Shannan talks to Open Colleges about turning an accidental passion into a career in the public eye – and the tough lessons he’s learned along the way.

Let’s start at the beginning – what made you want to get into the fitness industry?

As a teenager I was actually on track to play professional rugby league! By age 20 however, I had two shoulder reconstructions and one knee reconstruction. As a building apprentice at the time, I had to make the devastating choice to say good-bye to my dream of playing footy.

Football life was all I knew and all my mates were still playing, so the best way for me to stay connected, involved and passionate about what I loved was to become a trainer. I studied hard and passed many courses at the top of the class. It wasn’t long after that, at about age 24, that I left building all together and focused purely on health and fitness. Something that, at the time, felt like life’s greatest travesty turned out to be a blessing.

2. You’ve had a long career in the public eye. What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and how did you overcome them?

My biggest challenge actually came early, way before I was in TV-land. When I first started in the fitness industry there was no personal training. You got paid twice as much teaching aerobics as you did on the gym floor. To make a decent living you had to ‘teach’. The problem was that I was totally uncoordinated and couldn’t even hear the beat of the music!

With dogged determination and a hell of a lot of practice I mastered all class styles available and went on to become a course designer and instructor trainer. That certainly did not come easily, but proved that if you want something bad enough and make the appropriate sacrifices, even a guy with two left feet like me will prevail!

3. How has your career path evolved over time? Did you ever envision yourself on television?

Haha not quite… It’s been like a mountain climb, steadily heading up hill, slowly at times with many setbacks but always moving forward! I started off as general ‘dogs-body’ doing everything I could in the gym, including cleaning toilets. I was always keen to learn anything and everything in health, fitness and nutrition. I gradually learned everything there was on offer. Even now, despite the public profile, I’m still studying at Personal Training Academy in the ‘off’ season to stay at the forefront.

Versatility is my strength, there’s not a class or training style that I don’t know about or that I can’t teach. Step, spin, aerobics, body attack, pump, trx, vipr, boxing, kick boxing, circuit, boot camp, teams, running, and so on. I loved being both an instructor and PT and was happy to serve my time out on the gym floor. Being on The Biggest Loser was just ‘the icing on an otherwise nice piece of cake. Fitness is my first love!

4. What advice would you offer those who are looking to get started in the fitness industry? Can anyone become a celebrity trainer?

That should never be the end goal. Simply focus on helping your clients and learn everything there is to know about movement, fitness, well-being and health. Don’t just do one course and suddenly think you’re a fitness professional. It take years of training, study and experience to become a great personal trainer. Once you earn your reputation for being masterful and effective, many great doors can open.

5. What’s the secret to setting up a successful personal training business that is eventually recognised in the media?

When you’ve been on television, people expect quality – so begin with your own development first. Choose the best education provider, such as the Personal Training Academy, as not all courses are the same. Be patient when developing your business and your training style and study under many experienced mentors. Be exceptional, better than other PTs of the same vintage. That’s what ultimately gets you noticed and to the top of your game.

6. Tell us about your book Hard’n Up and what inspired you to write it?

I wanted to give some of myself back to all those who I had inspired. Hard’n Up is everything you need to get your health, fitness and life under control. It offers a deeper insight into my upbringing and private life. It will give you the tools you need to get ‘your head right’. My style of training has always been unlocking people mentally to get the most from them physically and then empowering them to believe in themselves forever!

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