Ever wanted to slim down to fit into that nice dress you have, or get back into the kind of shape you were in back in high school, only to be too embarrassed to set foot in a gym in your current state to follow through? A pair of Scottish lifestyle coaches understand – they’ve got your back and they’re bringing their kilts.

Stephen Clarke and Rab Shields go way back together, although their first meeting was in the field of journalism, and not fitness.

“We met when we were 13,” recalls Clarke, who was joined by Shields in a Zoom chat with Celtic Life International. “We both had a paper route, and we went from there. Our paths crossed a few times before we both became personal trainers.”

“We always just enjoyed fitness,” Shields chimes in. “We kept fit ourselves; we loved action movies, and we wanted to get action movie bodies. We realized we were quite good at it, and then we realized we liked helping people, and effectively, we decided to help people the best way we knew how.”

The pair used to work as fitness trainers at a commercial gym, but they soon spotted a flaw in that model of training.

“There was a big problem with the health and fitness industry, in that a lot of people take themselves too seriously,” says Clarke.

“And it is fuelled by social media,” adds Shields. “People will see images of Adonises that are probably competition-ready that will say ‘you can look like this in six weeks!’ This is false, and it gives people unrealistic expectations. They feel like they will never get there, and it becomes a vicious cycle.

“Instead, we believe in making small, gradual changes that have a huge impact over a long period of time,” Shields continues.

The duo formed their own lifestyle and fitness training program, although they don’t consider themselves just personal trainers anymore – they are the whole package.

“‘Coach’ encompasses more,” explains Clarke. “It encompasses everything; fitness, nutrition, psychology, lifestyle, mental well-being…”

“Sometimes, people are afraid to join gyms because they feel like they need to be fit before they join, so we break that barrier down,” says Shields. “The main difference with our coaching plan compared to others is you actually get us. A lot of plans, people buy into them, and they just get left to their own devices; they go away and follow the plan to the best of their ability.”

Clarke and Shields run their coaching business entirely online, with upwards of 500-600 members tuning in weekly from around the world.

“We start with a 12-week program,” says Clarke. “Then it goes on to an ongoing membership, and then people can interact with us on video calls and get the help that they need.”

As such, the member experience was largely unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. If anything, it might have galvanized some to use their time at home to improve themselves.

“It made people take stock of their health a bit more,” Shields surmises. “I believe that it gave everybody a fright, especially when certain indicators came out related to the virus that, potentially, you were at more risk if you were extremely overweight. Certainly, people that we know or had spoken to took charge of their health and started looking at making changes.”

Okay, so – why the kilts? Clarke and Shields explain that the kilts are about conveying the message that it is important to be the best you that you can be, not the perfect you.

“The kilts, for us, bring out our authentic selves,” says Shields. “We can just be who we want to be at any given time. We have a joke that ‘you can say what you want when you have a kilt on.’

“We are trying to inspire our clients to be the biggest and best versions of themselves. We want to teach sustainable change, and the only way to do that is by creating solid habits.”

“It is important that we create that mindset of ‘there is no finish line,’” adds Clarke. “There is no finish line in life, other than death.”

What’s next on the horizon for the Kilted Coaches? A book? TV deal? Or just expanding their member base?

“All of the above, actually,” says Clarke. “We do have a book coming, which will be next year. And yeah, we have a TV show that we will be starting to film shortly.”

“In terms of our business, we are very mindful that, while we want to expand the membership, but we need to expand it slowly,” adds Shields, who practices what he preaches – he is aware of the risk of taking on too much too fast and setting unrealistic goals. “If we had 10,000 members, how much of us would they get? We might expand that in the future but, for now, we are going to see how we manage it in the short-term.”