Rod Stewart’s personal trainer spills on rocker’s ‘military’ workouts

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Gary O’Connor, 63, began training international music sensation Sir Rod Stewart, 78, over two decades ago. While their meeting was by chance, Gary revealed that everything in the singer’s intense “military-type” fitness program has a significant purpose.

The fitness enthusiast spoke to shortly before embarking on the arduous SAS Fan Dance challenge in January to raise funds for charity Myeloma UK.

Reflecting on his 23 years working with Sir Rod, and his 20 years in the fitness industry before that, Gary advised that the key to a good fitness routine is for it to be relevant to the person’s lifestyle and what they hope to accomplish.

For the rockstar, this means “three two-hour shows per week on tour for months on end” at the age of 78.

Gary added: “He’s not someone who just stands in the middle of the stage.

“He’s a bit like Mick Jagger, the fittest of their age group in entertainment.”

So what does the fitness regime of a touring musician look like? It starts with what Gary describes as “crazy swimming”.

He shared: “We have obstacles (in the swimming pool) and he’s the kind of guy that says ‘time me’ and then tries to beat that time.

“We do some amazing pool workouts which aren’t just swimming up and down, they’re almost military-type workouts.

“Retrieving bricks from the bottom of the pool, tread water holding a brick above your head.”

While the multimillionaire musician has access to trained professionals like Gary to keep his health in check, the trainer noted that the intensity of their routines require more than just a PT at hand, it needs “desire”.

He continued: “I can say whatever I like, he’s got to do the work. He commits 100 percent.

“If he has an operation and there’s a requirement for rehabilitation he is out there and working on it harder than anybody.

“His motivation is still huge.”

Gary emphasised that he would not recommend these intense workout regimes for just any 78-year-old, noting that for a “typical” person at that age: “Going for a 20-30 minute walk every day” is perfectly acceptable.

While many look up to Sir Rod as the pinnacle of health and fitness, or as Gary noted one of the “fittest in his age group”, the trainer doesn’t quite connect to the idea that it’s largely because of him.

He shared: “Even I look at (Sir Rod) and go ‘oh my god. Can I attain that when I reach that age?’ I dissociate myself really.”

He first crossed paths with the musician when he was working in Essex as a manager at a gym the musician used to frequent with his own American trainer.

At one point, Gary got a call requesting him to fill in as the American trainer would not be traveling to the UK with Sir Rod. Then, what was meant to be a once-off training session snowballed into a 23-year career living life on the road with the rockstar.

Over the years the pair have built a relationship and when Gary decided to take on the Fan Dance Challenge, Sir Rod was more than supportive.

The trainer shared: “I’ve always wanted to do (the challenge) and my sister is suffering from myeloma so I thought, ‘Right I’m going to do this and I’m going to use it as a vehicle to raise money for Myeloma UK’.”

Gary and his friend Lee Arrowsmith were able to complete the challenge in six hours and 27 minutes, raising £3,370 although his JustGiving page is still open. 

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