Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Never too late: ‘You’ve got to find that thing that gets you up in the morning’ | Australian lifestyle


Name: Nick Fowler
Age: 60
Electrical engineer turned personal trainer

I was a severe asthmatic to start with. Living in Darwin every time the season changed, I ended up in hospital. They said I had to start swimming to build my chest muscles up and build my lung capacity. So I got into sport through swimming. I started playing AFL. My mother played squash so used to bash me around the court playing squash. I played cricket, rugby league. I was playing six sports a year as a young kid, from the age of about 14, or 15.

Then at 16 I had no idea what I wanted to do. My father was a power station supervisor up in Darwin and he said there was something going, and I managed to get it. I started off as an apprentice instrument control systems tradesman and worked my way up. It goes with my mind. I’m logic-minded. I was in the technical side of it for over 40 years, I saw huge changes in the industry.

But I’d always wanted to retire at a certain age, 55 or 60, and then move into something. In the electrical game, it’s rewarding. People give you a call, you get the power back on. But you don’t see anyone. You don’t get any feedback.

I was still playing sport – at least one sport per season – as an adult. I was a fast bowler at cricket, and when my left knee went for the third time I had to stop playing. I couldn’t run and bowl with a bad knee.

I started umpiring cricket and AFL as a volunteer. It became my passion. I was trying to become a first-class cricket umpire, which I managed to do for about five years. I thought that would be how I would see out the end of my working life – I wanted to get into training the umpires. I did my training and then I thought: “I don’t really want to do that anymore.” It changes all the time. You have a view of something, but when you get older you realise it’s actually not where you want to be.

Nick Fowler sits beside some weights in his garage.
“There’s a person that will be coming to you that is relying on you to set them on the right path, without them hurting themselves,” says Nick Fowler. Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian

I applied for a redundancy from AusGrid because I had enough super to tide me over until I was 100. They knocked me back the first time, and then I got prostate cancer, so I dealt with that. That’s been cleared now for three years. Having cancer gave me some other ideas about what I could do. Eventually I got redundancy the second time I asked. That was about when I was 58.

I always wanted to do the personal training, so I enrolled in Tafe.

Our intake at the Kingswood Tafe was 36, and not many of them were my age. There was the odd one or two older people that were doing it part-time or at night that would sometimes come in during the day. But learning to get on with these different people was a challenge at time. They’d look at me like ‘What’s this guy gonna be like?’ But, once you get through the week, it was fine. You just get into it.

There was trepidation, because you know there’s that gap between having a thought and the process of doing it. When I began to learn about physiology and exercise I went, “Well, I don’t really know as much as I thought I knew.” Then you realise that there’s a person that will be coming to you that is relying on you to set them on the right path, without them hurting themselves, and they’ll come to you with all sorts of injuries – like myself, I’ve got arthritis, bad knee, bad back, bad shoulders – and you’ve got to deal with all that expertly. So it became a little bit scary.

But I went through the study. You can imagine that there’s a big cloud over your head when you first start something – in that cloud there’s all these words “Can you do it?”, “I don’t really know much”, all that doubt – and as you get through it, that cloud just shrinks. By the time you leave, you go: “Yeah. I think I can do this.” You’re well prepared. That’s how I felt, anyway.

I’ve been doing it for 18 months – bar the Covid break. I love it. I enjoy the interactions with people. Working with people, the reward is almost instant. You see them work. You see them change. When they finish, you can see the satisfaction. They come up and say “Thanks for that, Nick. That was really good. We really enjoyed it.” I have one mother-daughter pair that come along and to see them exercise, and how great their relationship is – it’s beautiful. It’s rewarding to see that.

A lot of people, particularly my age and older, are defined by the job that they do. I know people who could retire anytime they want to, but they don’t know what they want to do. You’ve got to find that thing that gets you up in the morning. We do need to make money. Some jobs are a means to an end. But if you find your passion, you need to plan for it. I made sure I put as much extra into super as I could so that I wouldn’t have to worry about the money.

My philosophy is it’s your life, it’s your body. What do you want out of it? That’s how I look at it.

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