Fitness, food and feeling fine – meet Paul Collins

Covid has meant no face to face interviews during 2020-21, but we did set up our ‘interesting people’ section to basically ‘meet’ interesting people, be they from local businesses or organisations, or historical figures. If you’d like to join in, get in touch at and Dawn will send you some questions – or you can simply write your own narrative to share. One day, maybe face to face will be possible again!

Paul Collins

The latest ‘interesting person’ is Paul Collins of Paul Collins Fitness. It must be said that fitness classes are not my thing these days (though I have had many a gym membership and used to enjoy swimming when I had a pool handy), so it was interesting to find out what motivates someone like Paul to live ‘fitness’ and enjoy an active life.

Paul started out as a chef running his own seafood restaurant (The Grove in Dorset), so I asked where his love of cooking/food came from and how it developed?

I used to help my Grandmother in the kitchen on our family farm and, as a teenager at school, I enjoyed the more practical subjects, rather than the academic lessons.When the careers advisor suggested I joined the army as a chef, I opted for catering college instead at Bournemouth and Poole College. I enjoyed the creativity and the expressive nature of cooking.Plus, I loved the camaraderie and teamwork of working in a kitchen and the discipline needed for a smooth running of a service.

It struck me that this is one of the qualities needed for consistent fitness: self-discipline.

Also, I had the opportunity to work in a Michelin starred restaurant in France, which gave me a solid foundation in classical skills and developed a strong work ethic.

I later travelled around Australia and New Zealand and this exposure to other cuisines further influenced my love of cooking and led to my developing my own style of lighter and healthier options based on classical recipes.


For a chef job in a restaurant, expect to work 7 days a week for 12 to 14 hours each shift, according to Culinary Lab. 50 hours a week or more is the industry standard, and the work can be brutal, so burn out is to be expected after a number of years. It may be different when you own your own restaurant, but while working your way to that heady position, the pay is not so great either. So, what prompted Paul’s move to Bude?


After five years of running our own seafood restaurant, and 20 years in the catering industry, we sold up and moved to Bude to have a better quality of life with our children and to, of course surf!

From fine food to personal fitness training is linked but still a leap, which is perhaps why Paul also offers nutrition and weight training. How do the two link?


I have always been involved in sports and exercise has been an important part of my daily routine as an adult.  I became a Personal Trainer because I wanted to help others achieve their potential. I made a lot of mistakes in my younger years, where I wasn’t shown how to do certain exercises correctly, so it was important to me to see people develop their skills safely. I started my own fitness business ten years ago and have a studio for 121 and small group sessions but I also train a lot of clients outside as there is the extra benefit of working in the fresh air.

As a chef, I understand the health benefits and importance of eating a balanced diet.  The old saying “you are what you eat” is very true.  If we eat junk food, we feel like rubbish.  Good physical and mental health is created in the kitchen, not just in the gym.


There are so many fitness trainers around, people who love sport and activity and therefore follow it as a career. What makes Paul’s training any different to the rest?

My focus is on getting people moving well and enjoying good health and exercise, rather than looking at the aesthetics which are a benefit of making positive life changes.  I encourage clients to develop intrinsic motivators such as exercising for personal reward or enjoyment as this is proven to be more successful long-term than extrinsic motivators such as looking a certain way or getting ready for a holiday.  It is important to me that clients develop healthy habits which can be sustained permanently.

And Tai Chi?

I have always enjoyed practicing martial arts from Kung Fu, Tae Kwon Do and for many years Tai Chi. I saw a man practicing Tai Chi on a beach in Australia in the 90’s and felt the calmness of it so sought out my own teacher.I practice Tai Chi and Chi Gung daily as part of my own healthcare regime.


Paul’s website mentions Intrinsic biomechanics and I Move Freely, so what are they?

Over the last two years I have incorporated intrinsic biomechanics into my programmes with clients.  This looks at the healthy movement patterns of the body for functional health and the safe performance of movements or tasks.  People’s movement patterns may have been affected by previous accidents, injuries or illness such as someone presenting with a knee injury may in fact have a hip or ankle issue.

The initial assessment, done fully clothed, identifies areas of restriction which can then be rectified through a series of simple and easy-to-do exercises starting with muscle release and mobility, then developing core-work and stability, finally ensuring movements are fit for purpose eg running more easily and without restriction or injury.  Intrinsic Biomechanics can improve the functional fitness of anyone, not just athletes. It is all about helping people move more freely as movement is medicine.

I don’t have a particular target audience.  I seem to attract clients who do not feel comfortable entering a regular gym environment as well as people who come to me for cross-training for their particular sports such as running, cycling and hockey.  

Unusually, Paul offers training in a field.

Our small group sessions are focused on having fun and working at your own ability level.  Ages range from 30-60 and groups are kept deliberately small so that everyone can be supervised safely. We use a wide range of activities to ensure every session is a full body workout but still fun.

Physical fitness and mental health can be closely linked, so I wondered how Paul felt about that.

I have suffered from depression since my teenage years and have used exercise to manage my own mental health. 

I have recently qualified as a Mental Health Exercise Coach as this is an area I feel passionate about and wish to develop. More so now than ever, with the mental health repercussions of the pandemic and lockdowns, etc.  I want to empower others who are suffering with mental health issues and let them know they are not alone.  That there is a safe place for them, and that exercise can be a key ingredient to maintaining positive mental health.

I use all my prior experience and professional training to develop a holistic programme for my clients depending upon their individual mental and physical needs.

The mental health charity, Mind, tells us that physical activity can improve mental health by making us physically tired so we sleep better, by releasing energy-giving and happiness-endowing endorphins, and by helping people to manage stress, anxiety and intrusive thoughts. Meeting exercise goals can improve self-esteem, while connecting with people also helps reduce depression.

Paul seems to personify this through his training techniques and how he lives his active life. Here is his website link again, which has loads of testimonials and online booking.

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