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Sir Rod Stewart, 78, still performs on stages for hours across the globe despite injury or even surgery largely thanks to his personal trainer, Gary O’Connor, 63. Gary has worked with the musician for the past 20 years and spoke exclusively to Express.co.uk before embarking on a physical challenge of his own.
According to Gary, who enjoyed a lengthy career in the fitness sector long before working with Sir Rod, there are three simple guidelines that every exercise routine should abide by.
He told Express.co.uk: “You have to look at what’s attainable, what is repeatable, in other words it has to be something you can do on a regular basis, and it’s got to be relevant to your lifestyle.”
Even Sir Rod’s exercise regime follows these three rules, as the trainer recalled when he first started working with him, the rockstar was still playing competitive football.
Gary shared: “He wanted to keep playing football so I had to keep the program intense enough and relevant enough so that he could.
“He doesn’t play football now and therefore the program changes but he still needs to be fit enough to complete three two-hour shows per week on tour for months on end which is a hard workout in itself.
The fitness enthusiast joked: “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 aren’t they.”
Gary explained that one constant in Sir Rod’s exercise routine is the swimming pool, but noted: “We don’t do normal swimming, we do crazy swimming.
“We have obstacles 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.”
However, Gary strongly advised other 78-year-olds not to partake in this level of exercise, adding that a 20 or 30 minute walk every day is good enough.
He advised: “That’s for everybody. If you don’t want to hammer in the gym, put your headphones on, pick your route and march around for 20 minutes and that’s great for your health.
“Attainable, repeatable and relevant.”
The trainer also offered his own exercise routine as an example as, when he spoke to Express.co.uk, he was about to embark on the SAS Fan Dance challenge to raise funds for Myeloma UK.
He shared: “This thing that I’m doing, it’s taken an inordinate amount of training but that’s realistic in terms of what I’m trying to do. Once the event’s over I don’t need that level of fitness anymore so therefore it’s not relevant beyond that.”
And for those concerned about the pressure of social media’s body standards, Gary revealed it even extends to those in the fitness industry.
He said: “We don’t all have to aspire to these high standards that people see on Instagram and in the media.
“Sometimes it’s even worse for the trainer because you have to look the part.
“I’m an old fossil now but I go down to the gym, looking at these young kids in there and thinking, ‘Wow, they’re in good shape’, but I wonder if they look at me and go, ‘Ah, look at him over there’. Everybody judges themselves harshly.
“The high expectations that people are shown cause us a lot of problems because we can’t and shouldn’t have to attain them.”
Gary also encouraged people not to be disheartened by it, noting that social media doesn’t reflect the full story: “You look at their physique and think, ‘Oh my god, look at that’, but what you don’t realise is the amount of work that’s gone in to keep that physique and the amount that’s needed to keep it.”
The former gym manager admitted that there is usually a correlation between wealth and health as not everyone has access to personal trainers like himself.
However, he highlighted that he can’t do all the work: “At the end of the day whatever the level of income you have, a trainer can’t do it for you. You can get advice and have a chef but you’ve still got to eat the food.
“For an ordinary person, personal training is an expensive luxury. Classes or fitness buddies are great if you’re advising someone with a lesser income. I myself have existed by having great training buddies.”
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