As I come into the Gym Manager’s office at YMCA Wimbledon, Interim Fitness Manager David Bassett, who I have a 9.30 appointment with, is nowhere to be seen.
I pop my head into the gym next door, and there, in the far corner of the room, I see a teenager on crutches being guided carefully from one apparatus to the next by David. He turns and waves to me – “I’ll be with you in five minutes, ok!”
I spend the wait observing the two of them. I see how David instructs, adjusts and explains the correct techniques, and how he gently takes the young man through his programme.
“Sorry I’m late”, says David later. “It was my first session with Alejandro and since it was flowing so well, I didn’t want to cut it off even though we were running over”.
“He has got Asperger’s and his mother, who set up the appointment, asked if he could train with me specifically, because she knew that I have a brother with Asperger’s too”.
Influenced by his brothers
It is actually because of his two brothers that David ended up with a career in fitness. Although he has always been into martial arts and fitness and even studied it in school, when he was in his early twenties he jumped off the fitness wagon and started a graduate training scheme for Toyota and ventured into car sales instead.
Having to care for his brothers, who both have special needs, changed his life.
“I quit car sales and started doing bits and pieces of fitness again, covering a couple of classes and stepping in when they needed extra help”, David says. “It just fitted in nicely with the responsibility I had at home, so I came back to fitness and have kept doing that ever since”.
Being the carer of his two brothers has influenced David’s attitude to both fitness and people.
“I come from a home environment where it’s important to be positive and motivational”, he says.
“From my brothers I’ve learnt the importance of tonality, patience and being positive. As a fitness instructor, it’s important to remember that your way of being affects the clients.
I always try to be happy and I see how that affects the consultations. Someone might come in and be a bit down or in a bad mood, but by the time they leave, they are all excited and positive and looking forward to making all sorts of changes in their lives”.
Inclusive fitness for all
“The YMCA is truly an inclusive fitness facility and what I really like about working here, is that my days and clients vary so much. I can start the day with an Inclusive Fitness booking, moving on to meeting someone who has been referred to us by their GP, to a Get Started session with a new gym member, then holding a multisport class before finishing off with meeting on of my own personal training clients”.
“My brothers even used to come to the gym here, because of the inclusive atmosphere. I believe in delivering a high standard, really good quality service to everyone”.
“I think that for the YMCA, being the facility we are lends to comfort. We are unique in the market place, and I don’t think we should change that”.
The Get Started programme – amazing value for free!
“I don’t think I know any gyms that offer as much as we do”, David says.
All new YMCA gym members are offered a free, five steps Get Started Programme when they sign up, which if booked as individual sessions, would be worth over £100. In five sessions with qualified fitness instructors, members get nutritional advice, personal training and follow up reviews.
“The five stages Get Started programme is probably the best product I as a salesman have ever sold to people. For a start, it’s such a bargain! When you sign up as a member you even get it for free. I don’t know about any other gyms where they offer such a thorough and good introduction. Basically, what we give our members through the five step programme is the same knowledge and service that people pay lot of money to get from a personal trainer”, David explains.
“The programme basically gets you up to speed”, says David. “It lets you see an instructor ongoing and builds your progression into that. And the best thing about it is that it’s a product that works! I can guarantee that you will see some change by the end of it”.
“Also, here at Wimbledon we do ongoing monthly reviews after people have finished the Get Started programme. It’s not like we give them the introduction and say ‘off-you-go’”
Quality and passion
To David, what makes the YMCA stand out from other fitness centres is “quality, knowledge and experience”.
“Knowledge, not only about fitness but also about the gym member, is key to deliver quality services. A good consultation is imperative, and I always say that you have to make whatever you do for the customers totally bespoke because no one person is alike”
“Also, people have to believe that you are genuine. If you are passionate about what you do, that comes across”, he says.
“I do believe passionately that if you as an instructor is genuinely interested in fitness, you should do your research and stay on top of new trends, as well as constantly try to improve your repertoire and keep your qualifications fresh”.
Working as a team
For the last few months, David has acted as the Interim Fitness Manager at Wimbledon, working closely with Fitness Manager Ann Hart, who has 30 years of experience working for YMCA St Paul’s Group.
“Working with Ann is great! I think we have an equal liking for the YMCA, and although we bring different things to the table fitness wise, we are also on the same page. We feed of each other, and whilst Ann wants the quality of the classes we deliver to be top notch, I want our consultations and the five step programme to be the best it can be”.
However although David likes being able to influence the other fitness instructors and have his say in how the fitness facilities should be run, he does not want to give up on doing what he likes best: Being in the gym, with the members, giving advice and improving people’s lives through fitness.