￼In an industry as relatively young and vibrant and dynamic as the fitness world those who populate it tend to be young and dynamic too. And when your place has been partly forged by how you have performed physically and how you look, it’s hard to retain that position as the years advance and new generations pick up the mantle.
Only a rare few manage it. And one such person in particular who certainly bucks this trend is Joey Bull.
Now 50 she is enjoying a profile as high as ever and a continued international reputation as an outstanding fitness professional.
Multiple Fitness Champion
During the heyday of her fitness competition success during which time she picked up four UK national titles, competed around the globe and ranked well inside the world’s Top 10, she was in significant demand and approached to endorse all manner of products (most of which she rejected), and front numerous workout videos – all of which she turned down.
In fact all eight of workout DVDs now available around the world were filmed since her 40th birthday. “I was never interested, desperate or ambitious enough, whichever way you want to look at it, to attach my name to something, present a celebrity workout vehicle or deliver some kind of pre-prepared bog standard exercise programme just for the sake of seeing my face on the high street shelves.” This lack of desire to chase the spotlight is also reflected in her approach to PT work.
She has never been short of A-list celebrity clients, training international rock stars and significant society figures at home and abroad, but she has always operated a policy of absolute privacy for her them and never attempted to trade off any names. And it is only in recent years she has felt in a position to finally pursue DVD filming and book publishing. “I’m a big believer in life experiences and using them to inform me.
Nothing beats experience
By applying this process I think I can be the best trainer and example to others. Despite the relative success, glamour and attention that came with being a fitness champion I never felt it was the right time to launch into workout films and books of my own. However over the last few years I’ve felt I have enough in the locker to start putting it all down in book and film form. “We live in a media age in which anybody who believes they have a good idea or something to say or sell they can do so immediately, but nothing beats accumulating knowledge and experience over time.
“When it came to DVDs and books I wanted the freedom to create and control the content and the products would stand or fall by my work”.
She added, “Thankfully I’ve been able to have that freedom over the last few years and I am so proud of what I have produced with IMC Vision Ltd”.
This empirical approach stretches far beyond finding out where her best heart rate zone lies and how best to perform all manner of exercises. Joey leaves no experience untapped and they have been many and varied from the euphoric to the tragic. She attended Elmhurst Ballet School near Windsor from the age of seven and retains fond memories, although she now thinks the structure and training from such a young age has dubious merit in terms of mental and physical stresses.
The end of a dance career…
All went well and she became a very fine classical dancer and choreographer. But plans were derailed in an instant when a skiing accident led to knee reconstruction and a final curtain call on a promising dance career. Yet ironically it was this very incident that led her to the vigorous world of fitness competition and a whole new life path.
“Basically I rehabbed from my injury and just kept on rehabbing!” She recalls. “I really enjoyed the training and the benefits I was seeing and feeling. Then I came across fitness competitions and thought, Hey if it’s spinning around and smiling you want I can do that!” Of course there was always much more to it than that but amongst her other skills Joey has certainly mastered self-deprecation.
Her fitness competition victories incorporated not only bikini and figure sections but gymnastic/dance routines and multi event cross training challenges against the clock. She was a complete all-rounder. Her results were outstanding but she admits that some of the training practices back then taught her as much about what not to do. “The training was obviously quite intense – twice a day and sometimes four times and that’s over and above what most people require or can apply themselves to. But it was effective without ever being draining or depleting and I’ve subsequently been able to
“The training was obviously quite intense – twice a day and sometimes four times and that’s over and above what most people require or can apply themselves to. But it was effective without ever being draining or depleting and I’ve subsequently been able to maximise results from minimum time input. However I’d do the diet differently now. It was all fish, chicken, rice and broccoli which brought shape, but a more drawn appearance rather than one of freshness and vitality.
Check out Joey Bull Pre-ski workout. Download the plan on WatchFit app and be ready for the Ski season!
I would now get stuck into foods that were discouraged in that world!” After walking away from fitness competition whilst still very much on top Joey looked for other challenges and typically opted for something that embraced her love of the outdoors and would test her limits. Adventure Athletics followed. Races up ice capped mountains, across deserts, seas and down rivers were a great test of mind and body. Perhaps the ultimate was the notorious Eco Challenge which required 10 days navigating dense Borneo jungle . “We barely slept, no more than two hours a day, and were physical wrecks by the end but we finished!”
Part of the secret of her longevity in a business where so much is rapidly transient must be her breadth of knowledge, experience and skills.
If it’s dance, all matters of fitness and physical performance, a climbing instructor, mountaineer or exploration leader into the Himalayas you need – Joey has been there, done it and fits the bill. In fact the same applies to: mountain biking, skiing, scuba diving, music, public speaking, broadcasting (even when it requires speaking fluent French on live Belgian TV!), modelling and motherhood… It’s an awful lot of talent to cram into a petite frame!
But it hasn’t all been triumph after success for Joey…
Her beloved father Peter, who introduced her to outward bound experiences from a young age and was still scaling perilous mountains at the age of 70, entered hospital for a relatively routine operation but died from complications. And only months later she was dealt a life experience that shattered her in every sense.
In 2009 Joey’s second pregnancy went full term and on going into labour she entered hospital. What should have been a standard procedure and buoyant return home to the newly constructed nursery, turned to tragedy. Edward died during delivery, her womb ruptured and a messy caesarian ensued during which time she already knew she’d lost her child. At the end of it all Joey was left cradling her dead “but otherwise perfect” baby.
In that instant her mind, heart, and body were broken. “Every sense was smashed, everything I believed was blown apart. When things go wrong you often try and find some purpose or justification for it, any kind of vague positive. But in this case there was nothing. My healthy baby had died and I was in mental and physical pieces as a result. “The realisation that having lived a healthy, fit and active life counted for absolutely nothing during those critical moments was hard to take.
“A lifetime of doing the right thing by my body and leading, motivating and educating others gave me no advantage whatsoever over the smoking, drinking, sedentary, overweight mother-to-be. When my body needed to perform the most important of functions for my baby, things went wrong.”
On returning home she was a shadow of her former self, dog walking was out of the question and she was barely able to climb more than a few steps for weeks. Her body had a lot of healing to do and her mind more so.
“Little Oscar was a rock on which I built some sort of recovery. Although not yet 4-years-old he seemed to instinctively know that he had to be strong and was just amazing.” But after the despair and anger and doubt it was also fitness that got her placing one foot in front of the other again – literally and metaphorically. “After the horrendous pain of losing Edward and being incapacitated at home I realised that I had to get back to working with others and the prospect of inspiring and motivating them actually gave me the inspiration and motivation to move forwards again.”
Getting back on her feet
The fact she did a workout photo shoot only four months later and filmed two DVDs 11 months after the tragedy bears testimony to her resilience, understanding of physical preparation and also all those years of dedicated training. “I don’t expect to get over what happened but I am learning to cope and a huge part of that coping mechanism has been this fitness industry that I stumbled and limped into by accident over 20 years ago.
“Working in fitness is a genuine pleasure. Having the opportunity to change people’s health, fitness, well-being and even mental outlook is an absolute privilege. It has also changed and bolstered my own life in ways I could never have expected.”
Since the tragedy of Edward’s death and Joey’s gradual return to full fitness and workload, she has had a sister for Oscar and mother and baby are absolutely fine and Joey remains one of the truly inspiring figures of the fitness industry.
Visit www.joeybull.com. Joey’s eighth workout DVD will be in shops and available online from December 22nd. Details at www.imcvision.com Her fitness and food book Tidy The Temple is available through Amazon.co.uk, waterstones.com and from www.tidythetemple.com
Also check this out: Joey Bull combines her extensive experience and expertise in fitness with her love of skiing to deliver a great 7 Day Pre-Ski/Snowboarding Holiday Workout. Joey has shot her instructional film in the beautiful sunny Swiss Alps and it’s a must have plan if you are tackling the slopes this winter!