When Mike Hamby began as a personal trainer, it really was personal. He studied for his Certificates III and IV on the Gold Coast to further his own knowledge – “to learn how to better myself in bodybuilding, in putting on muscle”.
“I had personal goals rather than professional goals,” says the 31-year-old former rugby league player and cross-country runner. “Obviously though, it opened the door into a career that I love.”
Hamby has just chalked up his first month as manager of ActivateFit on Harris and is focused on flexing his muscles to build membership across UTS and the broader Ultimo community while also training to head back on to the national bodybuilding stage.
His effectiveness will come down to one key attribute: seamless customer service. The England-born, New Zealand-bred “sports nut” has now spent a decade working in gyms in New Zealand, the UK, Queensland and, most recently, Sydney. The successful ones, says Hamby, are always those that put the customer first.
“It might sound obvious but not everyone does it well. To encourage people to want to become members in the first place, or to build gym visits into their regular routine, everything needs to run smoothly from the first point of contact – at the reception desk – through to their personal training session or class and keep going until they walk out the door,” he says.
“Any potential member, or current member, should experience the same level of service, from any team member, no matter the time of day or the day of the week they visit. If your gym visit is enjoyable it’s something you’ll do willingly rather than forcing yourself.”
One of the things that immediately struck Hamby about ActivateFit on Harris is how many staff have been working there a long time. Members appreciate that sort of commitment and loyalty, he says. His aim is to bolster what works, as well as roll out some of his own initiatives.
Liz Morgan-Brett, chief executive of ActivateUTS, says building a healthier campus is at the core of what ActivateFit strives to achieve.
“We know that healthy students and staff are happier and more productive – both in the classroom and in the workplace.”
Brett hopes the gym will increase its presence on the Ultimo landscape as the enlivened business precinct grows. Hamby’s strong corporate fitness experience can only be a plus in that, she says.
In the 10 years since Hamby entered the industry, he has watched it morph into something that focuses on people’s lives, rather than just the 45 to 60 minutes they spend sweating at the gym.
“Technology has made gym equipment shinier and more adjustable but the treadmills are still doing what they’ve always done. It’s nutrition and daily living that have become more of a thing,” he says.
Nutrition is certainly a big deal in the Hamby household – he is married to his childhood sweetheart and they have a five-year-old daughter – especially when he and his wife are in bodybuilding mode.
He says his daughter “spent a lot of her infancy in the gym” and he jokes that she “thought tuna and beans were great” when she was younger, which was good when he and his wife were on strict training diets.
“My wife trains harder than me but I can eat better than her. That’s the trick – I won’t step away from my diet at all. I’ll weigh everything down to the gram; I’ll have 10 almonds, I won’t have 11. But she probably pushes harder than I do in the gym – she’s pretty dedicated.
While bodybuilding has been on the backburner for a time, Hamby says he now has the ideal training environment and motivation to return to the stage.
“I enjoy doing it and I enjoy the results, the changes to your body that you get to see with it,” Hamby says.
“Mind you, when I’m not training for a show, I’ll eat those burgers or I’ll shrink. I need those calories.”