Matt Fox is the epitome of transforming a negative into a positive. When life seems like it has come to an end before you’ve had the chance to truly explore your potential there is nothing else more inspiring than defining the odds. When I caught up with Matt Fox, business owner, fitness lover, new dad and cancer survivor it was apparent in the first few minutes of our interview that he lives, breathes and feels every moment out of life. A serious multi-tasker who likes to live life in constant motion, Matt’s young son demands his attention to come and play while he answers my interview questions. It’s not just Matt’s son and myself that are vying for his attention, his passion for working out is heard through the microphone of our phone conversation as he exhales sharply, finishing up a set from his afternoon training. But this strong mindset and ambition for making the most of every minute didn’t come easily for Matt. It took the mental and physical determination he had learnt through a lifetime of sport and working out to transform from cancer sufferer to a fitness motivator.
At the age of 22, Matt Fox was an aspiring young tennis player who had been spending the last few years’ overseas training with elite coaches and fitness experts. Upon returning home to Australia Matt’s regular check up at his GP launched him straight into chemotherapy. Matt had been diagnosed with testicular cancer. As his career had been soaring into an all time high his health had severely plummeted and his future aspirations to become a father barely seemed possible with a decreased fertility rate.
“This cancer is the second most common cancer in males ages 15 – 35. It is not always an easy subject to talk about or get checked up for, but given the fact more cases are being diagnosed with a 50% increase in the last 30 years, men need to be more aware!” Matt said.
It is hard to find reasoning as to why a young active male’s life is a magnet for such a common disease. With the removal of the tumour it became clear that Matt’s mental and physical masculinity was damaged. He found himself struggling with his identity and therefore his confidence declined with it. Matt was lost in a whirlwind of questions like, “why me?” and fought with the mental strains of setting realistic fitness and career goals after chemotherapy. Despite the ever wondering questions, Matt reassures me that during his diagnoses, feeling sorry for himself was not an option. He viewed the disease as a challenge.
“I remember heading over to my mates place a day or two after my chemo and jumping on the exercise bike. I think I only lasted a few minutes. It was a challenge but I got there. It was from this point I knew I still wanted to be in the health and fitness industry. I wasn’t giving up.”
Matt never stopped working on this physical fitness despite his lack of motivation in his work life. He worked in the family business of construction but found himself just going through the motions of living and being content. Matt didn’t want to be content he wanted to really do something. He found himself constantly questioning, “how can I find that spark? And what really drives me to better myself?”. He no longer wanted to feel lost and just satisfied with his life. He wanted to love life.
“It starts by setting small goals for yourself mentally." said Matt, when I asked how he found the courage to pull himself out of this dull state of being. “These mental goals can then translate into physical goals.”
Matt says finding the mental strength to realise you are in a dark place comes from speaking to family and friends about how you really feel in your day-to-day. Matt explains that speaking and even just hanging out with his closest friends was enough to motivate him.
“I think about an internal driving factor,” Matt explains, “without that internal, do something for yourself, you can’t do much else to really feel like you are living.”
Matt’s advice to push past mental pressures is to find what you like to do in your day-to-day and work hard on it. Make this activity your focus.
Matt explains that he knew working out and being active was what he liked to do but there was no spark. He was sick of going to the gym and fighting the crowds and seeing way too many gym-goers using equipment incorrectly and straining their bodies. Matt said he sees the need for males in particular to push themselves in the gym because it makes them feel more masculine and reach their full physical potential however he saw the desperate need to educate and inspire and what better way than to test it on himself.
Matt’s Body Weight Built online and bootcamp business started amidst the most hectic yet rewarding time in his life. Matt had just been delivered the news that his wife was pregnant. Absolutely ecstatic to become a dad, Matt worked extra hard on researching and trialling out workouts that involved purely moving your own body weight without the need for fancy expensive gym equipment.
“At 27 I hadn’t had any motivational progression any in my gym workouts,” details Matt. “A good time to move away from the gym was around the time my wife was pregnant so I looked into calisthenics and body weight training so I would have more flexibility working out in my own home and not being too far away from her [Matt’s wife]. I didn’t have to worry about rushing from work and getting to the gym. I got unbelievable results and then my wife started training from home after she had our son and she lost about 24 kilograms in 6 months from this training all from home. From here we knew it worked and the business grew from there.”
There was no doubt that launching a new business and raising a child was going to present some pressures. Matt explains that so much time working long hours is glamoursly masked behind his now roaring online business.
“There were times I would have a slight thought that something was too hard but then I would think back to my recovery and see how far I had come. Now I also have to think about the future of my family. I live my life for them now too.”
Matt lives by setting up little stepping-stones in the way of goals. He asks himself every day how he wants to feel. If it is a fitness goal he thinks about how he can achieve it through implementation and practise. It is from here he can develop bigger goals like physically teaching others how to achieve the same goal and incorporating that goal into the fitness regimes and classes he takes runs daily for his clients. Matt believes it is important to have a strong mindset and we need to exercise it everyday.
“Stay true to you because if you do that then no one can blame you for being full of shit. Don’t rely on other people for inspiration because that doesn’t last. Set yourself little goals just for you so you can see how far you have come when you reach for the bigger goals.”
When I asked Matt the extent to which his mindset had played in his mental strength he said, “I was myself. I posted my workouts online and through my social media channels purely to help other people because I had trialled and tested the workouts myself. I wanted to document it and show other people. I kept going because I believed in what I was saying.”
Looking at Matt Fox’s flourishing 145k individual followers and the Body Weight Built 18k Instagram community it is apparent that this business owner, father and cancer survivor has made the most of adversity. You’ll find him teaching classes for Body Weight Built at 5am every morning in Noosa, walking with his family to a café for breakfast, completing his own workouts, trialling and testing new callisthenic techniques for his programs and completing the office admin and he does all this, his way.
R U OK? Day 2019 takes place on Thursday 12th September. If you would like to make a donation, you can reach out here: www.ruok.org.au
If you know someone struggling, or are facing difficulties yourself, you can call Lifeline at any time on 13 11 14