Travis Allan: MyPsyche
“Working with athletes is honestly great”, said Travis Allan, London’s top practitioner of the Muscle Activation Technique (MAT) recovery technique.
“You get to see them in the arena and experience that feeling whilst watching them that you were slightly part of this happening. Those things though, as exciting as they are, I still get an equal feeling when I help someone get over a hip replacement or if I am rehabbing a guy who ends up being able to play golf again and do 10 chin-ups at 70. Those kinds of things are just really cool.”
It is clear that exercise specialist and Muscle Activation Technique (MAT) guru Travis Allan has learnt to put his ego aside when it comes to assisting his clients. It doesn’t matter whether he’s helping prepare David Haye for a brutal boxing battle against a 7 foot Russian beast or whether he’s offering his support to pensioner David from Hayes who seeks to regain fitness from a complicated surgical operation. In the infectiously enthusiastic eyes of Travis, there’s no job that is more important than the other. Because of this determination to help support others and, in turn, offering a plethora of ways to assist the individual, when asked to define what his role entails, it isn’t easy to pinpoint.
“I’d say that I basically create a customised experience for individuals. It’s a really hard one to sum up though because when you are creating a customised experience for a client or a patient, they are going to describe you as different things. Their experience is going to be different based on their needs.”
Travis feels this attitude, by and large, is slightly different to most personal training programme aims out there. For starters, he weighs a greater emphasis on the word personal.
“Today’s approach, or the approach that has been out there for some time, is kind of like a cookie cutter approach within our industry. It gets called personal training but a lot of the time there’s not really anything personal about it. It’s very much a case of the client, regardless of what is going on for them, gets the exact same dosage and treatment as everyone else.”
As a keen athlete whilst growing up in his native New Zealand — holding aspirations of playing for the All Blacks — Travis admits that it took a little while to develop this nuanced and strategic approach when it comes to health, fitness and wellbeing. It wasn’t until Travis was introduced to the knowledge of MAT and resistance training that his eyes were opened to the value of what keeping an open-mind can have on his career and improving his clients’ wellbeing.
“I was working with a lady at the time who was having really bad knee and ankle issues. When I was seeing her she would seem to get better but then end up regressing. It got to the point where I had to just say to her that I didn’t feel comfortable taking money off of her because I didn’t feel I was helping her. So she ended up seeing a guy who was doing MAT, he was the first one in the UK that was doing it. She came back singing this guy with praises and going on about this thing MAT.”
What he had emphasised to her, in the case of utilising MAT, it wasn’t actually about finding what was tight in the body and doing whatever necessary to get rid of that tightness, instead it was about looking at the broader picture. It’s about identifying the weaker muscles and getting them switched on so that the muscles experiencing the tightness aren’t getting tight because of working overtime. After getting in touch, Travis invited him to his gym where his eyes were opened at what this could mean going forward.
Learning about both MAT from Greg Roskoff and resistance training from renowned RTS instructor Tom Purvis in Oklahoma, this truly opened Travis’s eyes to the need for trainers within the industry to come at training such as this with a layer of inquisitiveness and determination to learn. After all, the more personal trainers know about different teachings then the more likelihood of finding ways to better the health and fitness of those who are trusting them to give them the best possible advice.
“Those conversations were really challenging initially,” Travis said, as he commented on his urge to not be perceived as an aggravating preacher.
“I was so excited by it all but it was put to me that you should never go into a conversation wanting to change the mind of someone because nobody ever goes into a conversation wanting to have their mind changed. After all, I was once that person.
“It became more about learning how to have these conversations with other people in the industry. How do I do it in a way that we create a community where we create some interest surrounding it, where people are open-minded and want to learn about what it all could mean. It’s important we are open enough to take it on and try to find different things for us to take back to clients who are ultimately trusting you with their health and wellbeing. This saw me change the way I did things, it opened my eyes to the fact that there’s so much I don’t know and I’ll always have stuff to learn.”
A huge learning curve for Travis throughout his journey has been to not hang his own ego and wellbeing on the success of his clients. As someone from a sporting background, it would be natural for him to almost want to translate his competitive streak into helping other people. For example, if someone improves under his training and support? Win for Travis and time to pop out the champagne glasses. Someone fails to improve or regresses? Defeat for Travis and a weekend spent crying into his pillow. Instead of these two drastic extremes, Travis attempted to totally remove his own ego when it came to helping clients and instead fully focus on them and their outcomes. With less internal focus on what it all means for him, the better the results got.
“I learnt to take failure and success in the same stride. If someone got a great result, how much of that is really down to me? Being able to not get caught up and realise either way I can handle it is really important. After all, it’s about the client and them improving isn’t it?
“Having worked with professional athletes, that’s always been something really exciting. At the same time though, like I said earlier, you have to check the ego. You’ve got to realise how little you really had to do with it because these people, athletes, they tolerate force better than most. That’s why they go out and be so successful. I was lucky enough to work with England rugby international James Haskell for the last seven or eight years of his career. You create these relationships and it becomes more than just doing a little bit of work for them.”
Haskell, a 77-time England international and a member of the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand squad, turned to Travis during a time in his career in which his training regime was having a negative impact on his performance. A player being worse off because of training, Travis reiterates, is the complete opposite of what training is about.
“He’s one of those guys who always wanted to find something to make him better,” Travis said of Haskell.
“He was referred to me by a former teammate of his and a client of mine and after that we built up a solid relationship. Over time, we started talking more. I remember one day in particular I said to him you keep on doing all these different things during the week (extra sprint training, intensive weight sessions etc) and have delayed onset muscle soreness at the weekend when you’re supposed to be playing games. I told him to back off during the week. After all, you don’t get medals for how much you train during the week.
“We had that conversation about his workload then one day I saw who he was playing and sent him a message and some targets, just a few KPI’s to think about since I realised he was quite goal-orientated. I got nothing back and thought that perhaps I’d overstepped the mark, but that game he got Man of the Match. The next week he asked me to send him some goals for the game. We then got to the point in the relationship where we had this rapport where he would go out and have a game and we’d talk afterwards and discuss what he needed to work on.”
Speaking to Travis it is easy to see why clients like Haskell and the two David’s have reaped the benefits of having his assistance. He has the technical knowledge of his subject and the enthusiasm, but most importantly he is a good guy who you can’t help but want to do well for. After firing over to him the first draft of this interview, he pointed out a few tweaks he wanted changed from a few quotes. Instead of it being frustrating or an extra chore, I found myself within seconds opening up the laptop and wanting to finish an article that does him justice. That’s why Travis is far more than just a personal trainer or a recovery specialist, instead, he is a health, wellbeing and fitness chameleon (proof reader too) who knows exactly what is needed to help improve the lives of his clients. So if you’re recovering from a knee operation and looking to increase your range of movement or if you are a high-level athlete looking to maximise your potential, you can get in touch with Travis on Linkedin or email him at email@example.com.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Honest, empathetic and mindful.
How would your friends or family describe you in one word?
Are you more introverted or extroverted?
I get energy from more introverted things but the right setting or right group of people then more extroverted.
What energises you the most?
What drains you the most?
Biggest personality strength?
Thinking of others.
Biggest personality weakness?
Thinking of others. It can sometimes be pouring from an empty cup situation.
Best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Maintenance is progression over the course of your lifetime. That really framed how I looked at exercise. Also, an old chap said to me there’s no such thing as luck, luck is when preparation meets opportunity.