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This personal trainer stripped his gym of distractions and people are flocking to train there

A Sydney gym owner has stripped out the traditional selling points in a gym because he believes they distract you from training effectively.

There are no mirrors, no loud music, no televisions, no bright lights and no treadmills.

Cato Rutherford of Lift in Redfern says distractions such as iPhones, music players, and TV are everywhere – so he’s taking it back to the basics.

“When your brain is receiving a lot of information from a lot of senses, it actually lowers you ability to focus,” said Rutherford who believes in “proprioception” – a “sixth sense” in which your brain senses your body, its position and muscle movements – and it’s the key to fitness success.

“For weight lifters if you put a blindfold on them and block their ears, they actually lift better because they are ‘feeling’ the movement. So the worse thing you can do in a weights room is stick in a mirror or television with Nicki Minaj doing her latest video clip.”

A rumour emerged that Rutherford banned selfies in his gym, but it’s not true. However, he says “there’s a time and place for everything”.

“Wanting to look at yourself in a mirror has a legitimate purpose”, he said, “They want to look at themselves after they’re finished their weights and see the results and what else needs work. I get it, I’ve got no problems with that. But we’ve got iPhones and video and Go-Pros so you can film it and then critique it after without distracting yourself.

“I don’t think selfies have a place in health. Play with the mobile during the day, while you’re training, focus on the training.”

Why the mirrors had to go

Mirrors were first introduced during the “Arnold Schwarzenegger days”, says Rutherford, when bodybuilding was on the rise. The Terminator trained in contemporary dance studios because they were the only places that had mirrors.

“Now, people can’t give me a decent answer or reason for why they need a mirror,” Rutherford said.

“I’m not out there parading that mirrors are bad. I just want a legitimate answer.”

The music and TVs went too. Distractions.

But why did the treadmills go?

“They are actually the most dangerous piece of equipment you can have in a gym. Most deaths, most accidents. Treadmills destroy your knees, destroy your ankles, your back,” he said.

But colour matters. He’s painted the walls in bright primary colours for the good vibes. A local artist painted several murals for a splash of interest and inspiration.

“We’ve even put a diffuser on the bottom of the lights so when you’re lying down on the bench you’re not blinded by the light,” Rutherford said.

The weight-lifting equipment is the same stuff used in the Olympics: Eleiko, from Sweden.

“It’s the most expensive stuff you can buy,” said Rutherford.

Changing habits

The cardio workout is over. Big players such as Fitness First have halved the number of cardio machines, replacing them with sled tracks.

Rutherford is at the forefront of the change, focusing on principles taken from weight lifting and gymnastics.

“It’s interesting to see the way the industry has moved over the last five years, this push into strength training,” he said.

“Gymnasts have the highest level of relative strength, they are the most flexible athletes in the Olympics, so we like to learn as much as we can from them. Weight lifters are the second most flexible athletes in the Olympics, and they have the most explosive power of any athlete. So we teach the classics, but we use a lot of their methods for physique training.”

For high-intensity interval training, Rutherford uses air bikes, rowing machines and sled tracks.

Lift has only been open for four months, and already has hundreds of customers. His clientele include Commando Steve and Jarryd Hayne before he set off for the States to play NFL.

He puts many of the big-name customers down to word of mouth.

“It’s been a lot of hard work to get that this point, in terms of building not only your own skills but the team, building the revenue, developing the business plan and point of difference of your model,” Rutherford said.

Now Read: Meet the Australian personal trainer who showed the world before and after photos are pointless.

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