Men Ask

DAVID KINGSBURY

You may not instantly recognise the name, but you will recognise the work David has done over the years. David is a fitness trainer to the stars, having worked with the likes of Hugh Jackman and Chris Hemsworth (and more, as you'll read later). He has also had his own fair share of problems with mental illness.

David has written for the Daily Mail, Men's Health and a number of fitness websites. Here, David talks openly about his work and how he has used physical fitness to help with his own mental health. It's an incredible read and we thank him so much for finding the time to talk to us.


For someone who’s been through anxiety, panic disorder and depression, we ask the most important question first…..how are you?

Firstly I wanted to say thank you for having me, it’s a real pleasure to chat to you. Secondly I am pretty good thank you. Overworked but happy!! 

For many people, your name might be a new one, but they will have definitely seen the results of the work you do. Can you tell us the names of some of the actors you’ve worked with and the movies you’ve worked on?

 I have been working in the film industry as a personal trainer for around 6 years now. Over this time I have worked with around 40 actors and actresses so I am sure you will have seen some of them on the silver screen. Some of them I can mention, some I can't.
In recent years I have worked with Hugh Jackman on many movies including Pan, The Wolverine and the X-Men movies, Michael Fassbender on X-Men and the new Assassin's Creed movie, Jennifer Lawrence on latest X-Men movies, Sam Claflin in Pan, Amanda Seyfried on Les Misérables, Jessica Chastain on the forthcoming The Huntsman and Chris Hemsworth on In The Heart of the Sea to name just a few.

Who are the hardest working actors when it comes movie roles? Who really surprised you with their passion to inhabit their roles?

 I would have to say most I have worked with have an intense work ethic and will just keep going when it seems impossible.
The life of a successful actor is tough in its own way (not so in other ways I know) with press tours, travel, shooting, rehearsals and intense lack of privacy. It’s pretty amazing they make it through the gym door really.

When you work with these household names, what does your role involve? How much ‘control’ do you have to get them into the physical shape they need to be in?

 This will vary from to person to person, but for the most part I manage their training and nutrition. More often than not we will have a chef cooking the meals for them on set which I will plan. I also take care of the fitness requirements for them. This can be gym training, out and about doing cardio or helping to warm them up for stunts.
Out of hours I trust them to stick to the program. When you are putting so much into it you want to get the full return so most will be pretty strict. 

Do you ever worry that your role at risk from technology and creating characters from CGI? Can you make the body beautiful from pixels or will hard work always win?

This has already happened in a number of blockbuster movies, I think that is probably all I can say! Ok maybe a little more, adding abs, boosting muscle and thinning waists are all part of the movie magic.

How did you get started as a personal trainer? Was fitness always something you were keen on as teenager?

I have loved fitness my whole life and have been in intense training myself since age 12 when I played football for a Premiership academy.
I qualified as a personal trainer at the age of 18 and worked in a number of gyms before starting my own business. My experiences in sports, from cycling to Muay Thai and everything in between, have certainly helped develop my methods of training.

You’ve had your own struggles with anxiety and panic disorder leading to depression. How did it affect you and how did you (and do you) use physical fitness to help you through it?

Fitness is my number one stress reliever and without it I would be lost I think. When I am stressed or anxious a blast out on my bike does the trick, all the discipline and structure are a huge aspect of keeping my anxiety at bay.
For me, I understand my mind better now than I did when I was younger and I know what triggers my anxiety. I try and avoid these things and keep positive about it. Sleep is one of the most important things for me, and sure enough my exercise helps this massively.

One thing that people with depression often share is the feeling of hopelessness that the feelings won’t get better and things won’t improve. You seem to be proof positive that isn’t the case.

Can you share your experiences of how you won your own personal battles?

I still get those feelings from time to time and want to try and achieve more to feel more positive about myself. Other days I look around my gym or my home and feel proud about what I have done.
I really feel that, when I have had the negative feelings in the past, I have tried to rewire them into a positive. Rather than feeling things won’t improve, I have thought, "how can I make things improve"

As a personal trainer, you clearly understand the benefits of physical fitness. How do you think being physically fit and mentally fit coalesce?

I think mental and physical fitness go hand in hand for a number of reasons. We have all heard about the positive endorphin releases exercise give you. If you have ever talked to someone after a great training session you will see this; they will be buzzing, chatting fast whilst experiencing a mini euphoria.
I also think that confidence and pride are a big part of this. If I can help someone develop these feelings about themselves through exercise there is no greater achievement as a trainer. Confidence and pride in your body will help improve mental confidence too and that is a big part of it I believe.

Aside from your work with the Hollywood 'A List', you also work also work with us ‘normos’. Have you seen any signs of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (aka Bigorexia) in recent years. Is it becoming more of a problem in your opinion?

I think so yes, I personally don’t see it as much as I used to because I don’t venture out to gyms any more really, working just at private gyms for the actors. But on occasions I do visit a gym there are number of body dysmorphia issues, like you mention bigorexia or people who are really lean but thinking they are fat.
Health and fitness are at their most popular I have seen currently in my career with huge numbers of people following clean eating plans, or weight training sessions. I always try and remind people that priority should be health and if you what you are doing isn’t healthy, then it's worth being aware of that.

How has society’s fascination with physical appearance impacted your work in recent years?

As I mention above, there has been a huge influx of people into the fitness world, bodybuilding shows and cross-fit have been making weightlifting and high intensity training mainstream. I believe the increase in social media use and more fit bodies in the public eye have really started to put the pressure on people to get in better shape.

Do you think we place to much emphasis on being physically fit, but not enough on being mentally fit.

Absolutely, most people are willing to train for hour and many hours per week, but won’t spend 20 minutes on relaxation or mental fitness. Life is all about balance and without your mind being healthy, your body is unlikely to follow.

Clearly fitness is a huge part of your life, personally and professionally. Do you ever feel the urge just to pig out on junk food?

 I do feel the urge, and I do on occasion overeat but I don’t worry about it. I eat what’s good for me 90% of the time probably, and that 10% of the time if I fancy a burger, I have it. However ,with my exercise and physical job, it gives me huge flexibility on my diet.

Here at Men Tell Health, we’re a big believer that good nutrition and it’s impact on mental health plays a vital role in getting well. Working out and exercise are only a part of getting fit. Nutrition is also a huge factor.

Given that most of us will have overindulged a little over Christmas, can you give us some tips on foods that can help our minds as well as our bodies.

Keeping blood sugar levels in check I think is really important for the mind. Trying to reduce spikes in insulin will help reduce mood swings and hanger (hungry anger). Slow release carbs are great for this, such as brown rice, sweet potato and oats. You can also add cinnamon into your diet as it is a natural blood sugar stabiliser

Being an 'online' personal trainer seems like a strange marriage. How do you use technology when working with your clients, to get them fitter and healthier?

I love working with people in person, but since working on the films, I do this a lot less. I went from doing around 50 sessions per week to more like 5 with the transition from a “normal” trainer to a “film” trainer. I love to interact with and help as many people as possible and with my work schedule the way it is going online was the only option for this.

When you’re not working with the great and the good from Hollywood, how do you like to spend your free time?

With my wife and daughter, it doesn’t matter what we are doing, just being together.

What's your guilty pleasure?

Too many espressos (one or two I wouldn’t say is 'guilty', but I am certainly in the guilty zone with the amount I drink!)

What kind of music do you use when you’re working out? Any favourite songs or genres to get the blood pumping?

I pump a lot less iron these days and a lot of my training is outdoors on my bike, I listen to the thoughts in mind and the world around me.
When I do gym sessions it will either be some upbeat music, maybe rock or hip hop. Sometimes in the gym I also listen to audio books when I am training, I wouldn’t recommend this though, it doesn’t do much for my training intensity!

For many people who may be suffering through mental illness but struggle to make that move towards physical wellbeing, what advice would you give for someone as a first step towards fitness. Are there any simple exercises you could recommend that people can do anywhere without spending a fortune on equipment?

My first tip would be to find something you enjoy. This for me is crucial. The gym certainly isn’t for everyone and that’s no problem at all as there are plenty of other options.
Sports that have a social aspect are great and a team environment is always going to help with positive thinking.

As part of our ‘chain reaction’ feature, one guests asks a question of the next, our last guest, Eddy Temple-Morris, wanted to know….....Can you expand on the link between physical exercise and mental health, from your viewpoint?

I see mental and physical health being very strongly linked and are very positive for each other. At the same time I can also see the mental pressure applied to people to be in perfect shape through social media and the media. Fitness should be about health, wellness and positivity. If you enjoy your exercise it will have a positive impact on you mentally.

When you’re feeling low, which of these would you always turn to make you feel better (and why)…

Movie....

Napoleon Dynamite; it's funny and positive.

Song...

Electric Feel by MGMT – me and my daughter dance to this!

Album....

Foo Fighters – memories of being in Thailand when I was younger.

TV Show…

I don’t watch much TV really.

Place….

My parent's house; family support is always important to me

Book…

I am really dyslexic, so I don’t read often. I do listen to audiobooks, but don’t have any specific ones.

I can imagine that the post-Christmas, pre-summer exercise boom is one of your busiest times. What advice can you give to make those New Year Resolutions last longer than normal?

Make it a lifestyle choice and do something good for you every day. Large or small steps every day lead to great results over time

Finally, complete this sentence. It’s important to talk about male mental health because…….

We need the topic to be out in the open to give people the confidence to talk about it.

We just wanted to thank David for taking time out of his busy schedule to do this interview and his honesty and openness. You can keep up-to-date with David on Twitter where he's @DavidKingsbury.

If you're motivated to kickstart your own fitness program, you can visit David's website at www.davidkingsbury.co.uk . We can only hope he's not this handsome in real life! ;-)