Member Stories

Member Stories

Chiropractor student breaking records!! 

Natalie Boen Balhald

I can always remember being involved in sports. Before I began weight training, I had been a member of the national team for athletics and the international team for football, back in Norway. When I came to Australia in 2013, to gain my bachelor’s and master’s degree in Chiropractic, I signed up to the university gym and decided to turn my sights on bodybuilding-style training. Throughout this endeavour I was helped by Cameron Chung and Robbie Frame. At the end of 2014, I had my first competition and placed 4thin a highly competitive ‘Fitness’ division.

After that, I decided to try my hand at power lifting. For those who may not know too much about it, power lifting consists of three main lifts; the squat, bench press, and dead lift. At the start of 2015, before I started I could squat 100kg, bench press 40kg, and dead lift 120kg. It’s now been a full year since I began competing in power lifting, and I really love it – most days! The training is more structured and the results are more objective than traditional bodybuilding training.

Recently I competed at the inaugural ACU Barbell Challenge. At the meet, I performed a squat of 132.5kg, a bench press of 62.5kg, and a dead lift of 170kg. These results gave me the junior Australian record in the total (the sum of all three lifts), the junior and open Australian records in the dead lift and an unofficial junior world record in the dead lift, all of these within the under 57kg class.

My next competition will be junior nationals in August, and after that the Asia/Oceanic Championships in New Zealand at the start of December, where I hope to officially break the dead lift and total world records in the junior U57kg class.

To anyone reading this who may be interested in power lifting, I recommend that you give the training a go! Seeing constant improvements in your training is incredibly motivating, as is not having to diet down for a bodybuilding show anymore! Oh, and ladies, it won’t make you look like a man, either – I promise!

The power of determination

"Four years ago, at the age of thirty- six I took up rowing. Having never rowed before it felt a bit like a slightly early mid- life crisis but I quickly found that I loved it." 

"It fitted in with my family (the 4:30am starts meant they were asleep) and I found it provided me with the motivation I needed to keep exercising during a busy period of my life."

- Liz Roche

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Part of my club’s program included doing weekly ergs (on a rowing machine). While I didn’t quite have the same passion for these as the on-water work, they were essential for fitness and having to send my scores through to my coach each week left no room for excuses. After a period though I started to have trouble with my back. I was frequently finding myself barely able to get up from the machine at the end of a session and started to miss a lot of on–water sessions. Desperate to keep rowing I approached Mark Cadle at the gym one day to ask whether he could develop a cardio program for me that was comparable to the work I would be doing on the erg. Mark explained that what I needed wasn’t a cardio program but a weights program that would build up my posterior chain and support my back. The theory being that if my back was supported I would then have no problem getting back on the erg.

Having very little experience with weights Mark then spent about six sessions working with me to develop my confidence and explain the process to me. Within weeks, I was back on the erg while still maintaining the weights and I’m still going. Importantly too my back has stopped being an issue! The highlight of my rowing journey to date was coming second and third in two fours at the Australian Masters Rowing Championships in May 2015 and I can in all honesty say I wouldn’t have been there if it weren’t for Mark’s knowledge, experience and time. I feel incredibly lucky that I approached a professional who didn’t give me the program I wanted but gave me the program I needed. Thank you Mark.

Commitment means results

I have been a member for over 5 years and I love the friendly atmosphere, people say “hi” and you feel welcome.

I started Small Group Training 3 years ago and I got great results! Starting as a size 16, I got down to a size 12. I kept on fine tuning my workouts with Health Club Trainer, Matt Bartholomew, doing weights training and getting further great results.

I come to the gym 6 days a week and I feel as though something is missing if I don't have a work-out. My favourite training style is weights. It is the only way to go for me. Four days of weights and two HIIT training days.

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My inspiration is the fabulous range of ages of members at the gym, with everyone giving it a go. I am inspired by the people around me and by life. If I had to describe myself in three words, I would say that I am passionate, happy and motivated. I set myself regular achievable goals.  I am currently recovering from ill health so right now my goals are staying fit and making a difference for others. 

I attribute my success to having goals, support from like-minded people, giving it a go and not giving up ... #I’mgoingforit! “

Martina’s daughter Genevieve says her Mum was the first to join and was her inspiration, as she saw what great results she was getting and how happy it made her. They train together on weekends sometimes but Martina is more of an early riser while Genevieve prefers working out in the evening.

The Mother Daughter combos definitely keep each other accountable, making sure that they both go to gym, eat healthy. Sometimes they use the pool if they’re feeling like a lower impact form of cardio and a change from their regular HIIT sessions.

Both of them love the Crunch Cafe for their post-workout coffee.

Conquering fitness hurdles

“Two months ago I was eating junk food, smoking and not training. I really wanted to have a healthy lifestyle and to eat clean food. I also wanted to look great and be proud of my body - this is why I started training. I quit smoking, started eating healthy and after one week my blood pressure goes down and I can breathe well. I feel very good right now.”

“My personal trainer (Matt Bartholemew) has a sense of responsibility for me, and he always pushes me hard. He gives me insight into what foods are best to eat. I hope to keep training with Matthew, train hard and continue my path of healthy eating.”

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Matt says “Troy is a highly dedicated client who has very clear goals. His biggest achievement so far is that he reduced his blood pressure from 150/100 to 120/75 - a massive improvement over only four to five weeks. This is a testament to his drive as an individual, as this achievement is paired with successfully quitting smoking. I look forward to continuing to push Troy's improvements in strength and speed and I'm keen to see his weekly improvements as we move forward together.”

"A typical session with Troy would be compound movements such as squats and dead lifts to begin with. From there we would move on to isolating particular muscle groups but compound exercises which use lots of muscles at once, are always priority. Some days Troy completes a gruelling HIIT session but my number one priority is that Troy trains with intensity and discipline, to ensure that he works to his capacity day in, day out.”
“My tip to other members would be to have a clear goal in mind, get the right advice on how to achieve it, and truly commit to it. Troy doesn't question his goals for a second, they are rock solid and full proof to the point that he is capable of putting all of his mental and physical energy into it. Troy is reaping the benefits of this commitment, and follows my guidance in and out of the gym to the letter. It's an absolute pleasure working with such a cooperative, enthusiastic and driven individual." 

Troy trains five to six times a week and does cardio by himself as well. He says “I think if u are a member, you are going to keep training. I don’t want waste time in the gym. If I go to the gym I’m ready to work hard”.

The unlikely partnership of James Robertson and Raj Patel

James met Raj at Macquarie University gym in late 2014. They had both been regulars at the gym for many years however they preferred to train on their own, thinking that a training partner was a world of distraction.

James says “We are the unlikeliest of gym partners. Aside from him being twice my age, he is vegetarian (I can't imagine a world without meats - food is a tough discussion), Raj hates headphones and music ("what's this crap on now?") and doesn't really know what any time earlier than 7am looks like.”

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“Despite all our obvious differences, we found that our goals were very similar. 2015 was to be the year of the bulk - excess weights, excess training and excess calories. We embarked on an ambitious program together. I had always formulated my workouts based on internet readings. Raj introduced me to new exercises I'd never attempted before and weights that previously scared me. We removed each other from the comfort zones we were accustomed to and the results were brilliant.”

“I've introduced Raj to performance indicators such as weight tracking, progress photos and calorie tracking. He has brought new exercises, intensity and "the business end" - never finish your workout early because of a lazy day.”

Here are our Stats:
Weight: 89 up from 2015 start of 80.
Bench: new max of 105 for 3 vs 90 for 3 prior.
Dip: new max of 35kg for 7 vs 10kg for 8 prior.
Barbell walking lunges: new max 50kg for 14 steps vs 35kg for 12 steps prior.

Weight: 82 up from 2015 start of 77.
Dip: new max of 25kg for 8 vs never attempted before!
Pull Ups: max of 15kg weighted for 8 vs never attempted before
Box Jumps: 10 reps 3 sets at 75cm. Never attempted before

“Training with a partner isn't for everyone. You go to the gym to work, not to sit on your phone or talk the ear off the bloke next to you. It is constantly frustrating to see one group take up multiple machines for the better part of an hour and achieve little more than a conversation. It requires discipline and commitment. No longer can you skip a session for a night on the couch.”

“Age is absolutely no barrier. We work as hard as each other - Raj lifts almost the same weights as I do on most muscle groups. Our cut (summer shred, bro) has just begun. It's time to see what we've crafted over the past year!”

Kevin GhaziThe member who is too fast for our treadmills

Meet Kevin - he is a current Macquarie University student completing his MBA while working part time and training for the 70.3 Western Sydney Ironman. Growing up, Kevin was a National Swimming Champion. After narrowly missing out on the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games he decided to leave swimming and focus his energy elsewhere, taking up distance running. His personal best for the half marathon is 1 hour 10 minutes and 52 seconds.

We recently found out Kevin was too fast for our treadmills so we had to increase the speed of some of them! Kevin's tip for his fellow MacWarriors is "I aim to improve one aspect of my training every training session even if it just one extra repetition or a larger sub goal."

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From a young age, I have been motivated by a strong passion for elite sporting success. My background as an athlete began from the age of 11 when I was the world age champion in 200 metre Individual Medley. I trialled for the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, 2007 XII FINA World Championships and the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.  At each of these meets, I narrowly missed the team being held back as a reserve.

Although I was not resilient enough to remain in competitive swimming, I was extremely ambitious in my search for new challenges to break the limits.  This is when distance running became a part of my life.  During the running season (September to April) my training comprises of 100-150 kilometres of running plus four weight sessions at the Macquarie University Sport and Aquatic Centre per week.  During the off season it is 40-100 kilometre running at high intensity, 10 kilometre swimming and five weight sessions.

In 2014, I was fortunate enough to compete in the NYC marathon as an elite runner as well as completing six marathons since 2012. My goals for the future are looking at the 21 kilometre and 10 kilometre over the full marathon. I am now training for the 70.3 Western Sydney Ironman where I will be doing the run leg in a relay with my training partner.

For the MacWarriors who are thinking they can't do this, you can! I am not a full time athlete as I study part time at Macquarie University doing my MBA as well as work part time. If you set a clear goal and have the drive to achieve it, you will. A good tip I use all the time in the gym is that no matter how my day is going, I aim to improve one aspect of my training every training session even if it just one extra repetition or a larger sub goal.

My current personal bests for each distance are:

  • 10 kilometre - 28.54
  • Half Marathon (21 kilometre) - 1:10.52
  • Marathon (42 kilometre) - 2:28 (Nov 2013)
  • My first marathon in July 2012, I returned a time of 3:44.

Constance ChedauteFrom France to Macquarie University and 17 kilograms lighter

Macquarie University International student member Constance has battled with her weight for years, it's made her "extremely hung up about my body and really shy". While preparing to move here to study for 12 months she "realised that it would be a great opportunity for me to start training, losing weight and feeling better with myself". About to turn 23 she decided on a weight loss goal of 20 kilograms. She knew she could get free consultations with a personal trainer as part of her membership and after a friend convinced her she booked in. With personal trainer Matt's help she got a program and hasn't looked back "10 months ago I couldn't run for two minutes straight. Now I'm at the gym around eight hours a week (workouts and yoga), and I even surprised myself going to the 6am Body Pump classes!"

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My whole life I thought working out was not for me. I rarely enjoyed it, and PE classes at school were anything but a pleasure. I've also been overweight for years, and it made me extremely hung up about my body and really shy. On top of that, I always struggled with food, so losing weight was really complicated.

While preparing for my arrival in Australia where I would be studying for 12 months, I realised that it would be a great opportunity for me to start training, losing weight and feeling better with myself. I would have the time and I would be living right next to the gym, so no excuses. I was truly motivated and signed up for my membership only a few days after arriving in August. I knew that sessions with a personal trainer were included in my membership, but I was too shy to do it. After many hesitations, a talk with a friend motivated me and I eventually booked into my complimentary Health Club consultation.

I started training with Matt in October, and it changed everything! The beginning was physically tough, but he taught me to surpass myself and his positivity really helped me to stay motivated. He checks up on me to see if everything is okay, helps me when I need it and always has encouraging words. It truly feels like I'm not alone in this and that someone cares about my progress. I also found that having programs is a better way for me to train, as it allows me to do something different every day.

My minimum goal is to lose 20 kilograms. I've lost 17 kilograms so far and I hope to reach my goal before I leave. Obviously, I want to lose that weight to accept my body. And if I still have a long way to go, I've already done a good part. Today I feel really good and I'm really happy and more confident. 

I realise now that I'm actually more proud of all the training I've done, and still do, than my actual weight loss. I never thought I would be able to do everything that I do now. Just 10 months ago I couldn't run for two minutes straight. Now I'm at the gym around eight hours a week (workouts and yoga), and I even surprised myself going to 6am Body Pump classes!

During the last few months of training, I found amazing support and I'm really thankful for that. I will truly miss training at the Health Club when I return home. Signing up for a membership was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life. The Health Club is such a pleasant place to train at, and everyone is just so nice! I don't know if I would have made it this far without Matt's help, so thank you very much!

Elizabeth GalbraithNight shifts and four kids can't keep Liz away from her BodyPump classes

It was five years ago when Elizabeth Galbraith was asked by a friend to come and try out a Group Fitness class at Macquarie University Sport and Aquatic Centre. She signed up and has never stopped coming. She fits classes in during the day when her four kids are at school and works as a full time nurse doing night shifts "I get a few hours of sleep when I get home, and then again after attending my 10.45am Group Fitness class." On top of her passion for group fitness, "BodyStep and BodyPump are my favourite classes", Elizabeth has also learnt to swim "because of the pools here, I've even learnt how to swim, which is something I never thought I'd ever be able to do!"

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A friend asked me to come to the gym as a guest and try out the classes. That was five years ago and I've never stopped attending. 

BodyStep and BodyPump are my favourite classes. The instructors are great, the classes are always fun, the music is awesome and it's a brilliant workout. The classes really get your heart pumping and your blood flowing and they are great stress relief from life's pressures too! I love the 'team' aspect of group fitness.  Everyone pushes each other to the next level. Plus you can't quit or you feel bad. 

My kids could see how much fun I was having at the gym and how committed I was to training, so they were inspired to come and check it out for themselves. Now we all come!  They love it!  My kids attend different universities, but they love the Macquarie University Sport and Aquatic Centre. The group fitness classes and gym equipment here is first-class. Plus their mum is always good for a lift, so no transport issues!

The kids are at school during the day and I work nights, so daytime group fitness classes work out very well. With four kids, we usually prepare dinner for the coming week on the weekends, and pack it all in the fridge. It's a massive effort, but everyone helps out and it saves us all a lot of time during the week. 

I work full time as a nurse doing night shift, usually from 11.30pm to 6.30am. I get a few hours of sleep when I get home, and then again after attending my 10.45am group fitness class. If I'm being honest, I'm usually a few minutes late to class and I do sometimes feel (and perhaps even look!) like a zombie when I enter the group fitness studio. This never matters because as soon as I'm there my mood lifts and I'm powering on as hard as the next person! 

I've met great people here, many of whom I now call good friends. My health is in better shape than it's been in years and because of the pools here, I've even learnt how to swim, which is something I never thought I'd ever be able to do! 

I'd have to say I'm most proud of my commitment to this gym. I've joined gyms before but usually quit quite soon after. People I started with have left and moved on, but I haven't stopped coming since I first signed up!

Claire BuechelDespite attending another university Claire calls Macquarie University Sport and Aquatic Centre home

After participating in sport at school Claire had never considered going to the gym. With body image on her mind she looked around at a few gyms and never felt comfortable. When she started teaching swimming here she decided to try the gym and met Mark for a complimentary Health Club consultation. She has become an avid gym goer over the past two years and says "the Health Club at Macquarie University Sport and Aquatic Centre feels like home and it is the best part of my day." She is now looking forward to competing in weight lifting competitions.

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Two years ago I would have never considered going to the gym. Losing weight was always on my mind like any girl, but the only exercise I was willing put myself through was sport for school. Macquarie University Sport and Aquatic Centre has completely changed my outlook on exercise and staying healthy. The trainers have such great positive attitudes and are always approachable. I started out just going into the gym spontaneously here and there but meeting with a trainer made a huge difference in my motivation and enthusiasm.

Mark has been an incredible inspiration. He's opened my mind to the idea of competing in weight lifting competitions and has inspired me to get my own personal training accreditations. I have my good days and bad days and Mark is always there to keep my outlook positive. The Health Club feels like home and it's the best part of my day. It has a huge impact on my mentality and I always leave with less stress on my shoulders and a clearer mind.

I still have goals to achieve and things are getting harder with a busy schedule at university, but I'm keeping my head up and working at it every day. I wouldn't be here without Mark and the rest of the trainers. They have influenced my views on health and fitness and have taught me lessons that I will carry with me throughout my life.

Steve ClarkA member who inspires us

Steve Clark has been a member since 2004 and he has always been active. As a child and a young man he was involved in swimming, soccer, skiing, rock-climbing, martial arts and surfing. Keeping fit was and still is an integral part of his life.

When Steve was 27 he was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS). This is a form of arthritis that mainly affects the spine and pelvis but often involves the neck, ribs and shoulders. AS is particularly painful and often saps Steve's motivation to train.

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"I was shattered when I was first diagnosed. The pain of movement meant I was almost bedridden for days at a time and when I could move, I was living in constant pain. It was pretty hard to keep a positive attitude to life. With the help of several people including rheumatologists, family and friends I forced myself to start to try and regain mobility.

Initially I tried stretching, swimming, gentle weights and rowing. Then as my strength and mobility improved I discovered group exercise, particularly BodyPump and Spin classes. Having a specific time when you have to be at the gym, especially if you have a friend or two who expect you to be there, can  really help encourage you to turn up and keep training, even on the painful days. 

Over the last ten years I've met some fantastic instructors, really awesome people who day after day motivate me to keep training and keep fit and mobile. Leisl, Jessica, Katie and Sophie. Thank you to all of you. 

These days I aim to do at least three BodyPump classes and two Spin classes a week and depending on work demands, I sometimes swap in free weights and swimming. I try and push myself pretty hard in the gym lifting enough to make it a challenge to finish every rep or keep my pace on the bike. Outside the gym I still rock climb with my mates once a week, I coaching two soccer teams and I've just taken up Jujitsu. My long term goal is to stay mobile enough to keep up with my kids and enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle with them. 

Sticking to a long term exercise program and prioritising my fitness has been the key to enabling me to feel that my life with AS isn't too different to what it would have been if I didn't have it. I encourage anyone who has arthritis or similar conditions to work with your doctor or physio to design a program and really stick to it".

Content owner: Campus Sport Last updated: 10 Sep 2019 10:13am

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