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Interview: Hollie Grant and Faisal Abdalla, EWF


 The Edinburgh Wellbeing Festival will be at Assembly Rooms Edinburgh this weekend Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 February.

Faisal Abdalla and Hollie Grant take to the stage as Fitness class headliners. Hear more about what inspires and motivates them.



The Pilates PT Method - Sunday 2nd Feb, 9.30am - Find out more here


What inspired you to become a Pilates teacher?

I was working flat out as a Pastry Chef, in the role I had always dreamt of, for the chef I had always dreamt of working with. It was not what I had hoped it would be and with really long hours, and very high stress levels, a year in I realised I had developed depression and needed to leave that career behind. A friend of mine mentioned that her friend was looking for a receptionist at her Pilates studio and I should take that on whilst I decided what I wanted to do with my life. I had always been super interested and involved in fitness, attending a military boarding school from 11 to 18 years old and with a father in the Parachute Regiment, so it seemed a great idea. I instantly fell in love with Pilates. I loved that it was all about strength and performance, not weight-loss, and this really resonated with me. Over the years I became obsessed and advanced at Pilates, and the instructors suggested I do my Pilates teacher training. I did, and never looked back.


What is your biggest source of motivation?

Women. We are judged so harshly on our appearance, our body shape, our age, and yet there are so any women who are willing to put all that aside and put their health and strength first. My biggest motivation is helping women learn to enjoy exercise again. Diet culture has taught us that exercise is about aesthetics and weight loss, when really it is about so much more than that. I want every woman to exercise because they want to, and because it improves their physical and mental health – NOT because it’ll make them look good for others validation.


Which of your life experiences (good or bad) has influenced you the most?

I would say my experience with depression. It was a really tough time in my life yet I learnt so much from it, and so much positivity stemmed from it. I read a lot of self-help books, and they genuinely helped. I quit my job, which was scary, but this gave me the space to find a new passion. I reached out to friends and family, and they in turn can now reach out to me. It has meant that I put mental health up there as just as important as physical health and it has really influenced how I train my clients, and the type of language I use around wellness.


What is the question you get asked most often?

Is Pilates like Yoga? It’s as similar to yoga as boxing is. It’s a completely different methodology, with different roots, and a different focus.


What would be your one top tip for life long fitness?

You HAVE to enjoy it. There is 100% a type of exercise out there for everyone! If you hate spinning, STOP going spinning! If you like dancing, dance every day. You do not have to do what Tracy down the pub does – it’s all about you and keep trying things until you find the movement you enjoy.




The PMA Method - Sunday 2nd Feb, 10.30am - Find out more here 


What inspired you to become a fitness trainer?

It was never a life long dream, it was more something I fell into, but I couldn’t be more grateful because I feel like I’ve found my calling in life. I wanted to be an actor originally and it was hanging around with stunt crews on film sets that got me thinking about how my body moved and what it was capable of. I became fascinated with finding out what my physical limits were and eventually that evolved into how I could help other people do the same.


What is your biggest source of motivation?

Career wise, I’m a big fan of Dwayne Johnson for how he balances work and family life. He’s a huge inspiration in terms of his mindset and output. But I’d have to say my little boy is my biggest source of motivation these days. Since he was born in 2018, absolutely everything I do is for him and to give him a shining example. I hope I can always show him the way rather than just telling him, and I think staying fit and healthy is a great positive example to set our children. 


Which of your life experiences (good or bad) has influenced you the most?

Again, becoming a dad has been my most life changing experience. My entire training schedule had to change so I could have more time at home with my boy and I have had to seriously adapt to function at a high level on barely any sleep. It has taught me to train smart and make every second count when I exercise, but also to truly understand clients who are parents when they turn up to sessions feeling tired and low on energy. I can empathise as a trainer in a way I never could before. 

Nobody can prepare you for how much it transforms your world. I’ve always had a very strong mindset but it’s verging on bullet proof since I became a dad. I just refuse to settle for being anything than my very best and I’m thankful to my son for reinforcing that attitude in me. 


What is the question you get asked most often?

How can I get a six pack? And it drives me mad! A six pack shouldn’t be the motivation for you to train. That’s madness. I try to adjust people’s thinking so they chase performance rather than aesthetics. The physical stuff follows soon enough so, if you trust in the process, it will come. But, it’s far healthier and more beneficial to focus on performance based goals. How far/fast can you run, how heavy can you lift, how many burpees can you bash out in a minute? What can your body do is a much better driver than how does my body look in my opinion. 


What would be your one top tip for maintaining a positive mental attitude?

Don’t strive for the perfect life because that’s a waste of time and energy. Positive mental attitude is all about accepting the perfect life doesn’t exist and being ok with it. 

Bad things are always going to happen. You’re going to have some serious rubbish thrown at you throughout your whole life. You can’t always control what happens to you, that’s a fact. But you CAN control how you respond to it. How you deal with the bad stuff is a choice you make in life. Happiness is a choice. Positivity is a choice. Once you realise that, it puts you in control and that’s a liberating feeling. And that’s when I say, welcome to the PMA club baby!


Find out more and book tickets at www.edinburghwellbeingfestival.co.uk