A 53-year-old personal trainer with more than 50,000 followers on TikTok is kickstarting a middle-aged fitness revolution after ditching desk jobs for a six-pack, saying: “It’s so rewarding when you get people to do things they never thought possible.”
Jason Smith, who lives in Leatherhead, Surrey, with his wife Catherine, and their 14-year-old son, James, lost 18kg in under four months after “mortality struck” on his 49th birthday, on December 8 2019.
Jason can now run around with his son playing football without getting out of breath – something he never thought he would be able to do – and his mental health has dramatically improved.
In lockdown, he began his personal training business, with his oldest client being 70 years old, while he also posts motivational videos to his thousands of followers on TikTok.
Jason’s favourite video is of him showing people how to do a ‘sissy squat’, saying: “It’s a very difficult squat to do. It’s named after the Greek mythological God who was condemned by Zeus to forever push a boulder up the hill (Sisyphus).”
Jason gets a lot of comments from people saying he is an inspiration and thanking him for his expertise.
He said: “It feels really good, because I feel like I’m making a difference to other people, and that was the original intent.
“I made a difference to myself, and then I wanted to make a difference to others.”
He added: “On TikTok, I can at least do something to inspire people or make them think: ‘Oh, actually I could do something like that.
“One of the things I certainly suffered from before I made my changes was lack of belief that those changes weren’t possible.
“It was only when I started I realised just how significant those changes can be.
“I just want to show people that you can do this.
“I feel better now than ever, including when I was in my late teens, which is really cool.”
In his teenage years and early twenties, Jason exercised most days, but his demanding consulting job led to him constantly being at his desk, and his health declined.
Jason began relying on quick meals and did not prioritise his health, ending up with hypertension and mental health issues – he felt low and unfulfilled in his job.
So, in 2018, he decided to hand in his notice, saying: “At that point, I lost my self-identity and self-respect. I felt very unsure of myself and worthless.”
And, a month after his 49th birthday, he decided to change, saying: “Mortality struck me. I was thinking, I’m nearly 50, and I don’t know how long I have left.
“I, therefore, decided to change my lifestyle in such a way that it would support a better life in its broadest sense.
“Having a relatively young boy was a big incentive as well because I wanted to feel fit, healthy, and energetic enough to kick a football around in the garden with him.
“The way that I was feeling as a result of the way I was living my life really prevented all of that.”
From that moment forward, Jason instantly changed his diet, giving up alcohol, processed foods and simple carbohydrates, and eating a lot more protein and vegetables.
He also began going on hikes in the Surrey hills, and the gym three times a week, following his own fitness plan after extensively researching fitness regimes online.
Starting in January 2019, Jason lost 18 kilograms in just four months, and his mental health dramatically improved.
Since losing weight, Jason no longer has hypertension, and his cholesterol is healthy.
He said: “I was a lot happier in myself. I mean, the benefits of exercise on mental health are well-researched and documented.
“I started to regain my self-respect, my self-worth, and that puts you in a better mental and emotional state and (makes you) an easier person to live with.”
When going to the gym, Jason realised that most of the personal trainers were in their twenties, and he wished someone in his age bracket could help him.
He said: “When you’re in your late 40s, 50s or 60s, the body works differently, and younger personal trainers haven’t experienced it.
“I thought, if I had a personal trainer, I’d want someone like me, but more like how I want to be.
“And I think having someone a similar age helps you build that rapport.
“I’d also want someone who has been through it, has the evidence, and has gone through what I’ll be doing.
“So that’s why I decided, ‘I’ll become a personal trainer, and my focus will be on people in those older, middle-aged age brackets’.”
However, as soon as he got his qualifications, in 2020, lockdown struck, and Jason began holding one-on-one sessions on Zoom with his contacts, eventually growing his business.
He now has clients from 40 to 70 years old and teaches specific movements for this age bracket, saying: “When you’re in your 20s, you can get away with a lot more.
“So we don’t go with super heavy weights, we go with lighter weights, and we control both the tempo and movements. So it’s actually called tempo training.
“The first thing that most of my clients will say is, to begin with, they want to lose weight.
“But, there’s usually an underlying reason why they want to look better, feel better, be able to do more, feel stronger.
“It’s so rewarding when you get people to do things they never thought possible.”
One of Jason’s most memorable clients is a man in his mid-60s, saying: “He’s had a very good career, which started in the Royal Navy.
“Over time, I’ve gotten him to be able to do 20 press-ups really well.
“The first time he did it, he looked at me and said, ‘You know, I haven’t done press-ups like this since I was on the deck of the HMS Ark Royal in my 20s’.
“To be doing that in his mid-60s, he would never have thought that that was possible.
“He’s completely changed his lifestyle and is living a life now, where he does paddle boarding and hiking – a whole host of things that he didn’t feel physically capable to do before.”
He added: “I just want to help others have a happier, healthier life, like my transformation.”
To find out more about Jason, visit his TikTok page at www.tiktok.com/@fit_in_midlife?lang=en.