Former commando on Wairarapa mission

By Nathan Crombie

A former British commando turned personal trainer is widening his lone wolf mission to challenge beginners and battle-hardened veterans of physical fitness and exercise in Wairarapa.

Dean White has been based in Masterton for about 18 months with wife Carrie and the couple's two young children, Pippa and Jack.

The 38-year-old originally established his personal training business in London in 2000 and within four years had moved with Carrie to Wellington, where he later started training a gamut of customers including corporate groups, office workers and managers, police officers and company directors.

About a year ago he shifted his business focus to Wairarapa and today completes client assessments at Masterton's Wai Weight gymnasium and leads bootcamps in the town for up to a dozen trainees at a time, at the Queen Elizabeth Park green space across from the War Memorial Stadium in Dixon St.

Long-term corporate groups and some leading sports people in the region have already been counted among his clients along with members of the Eketahuna women's rugby team who were in the running as prospective Black Ferns.

Dean said the Royal Marines had forged his core values regarding physical training, and passing on some of those principles about striving and achieving were vital to his bootcamps and individual sessions.

He said a crucial element for a successful personal trainer is "getting people to realise their limits aren't what they think" and helping trainees to move beyond physical and psychological sticking points and blocks.

"Looking back, it's probably where a big part of my business was established because in the Royal Marines it isn't about the fittest or even the strongest, it's about whoever just keeps getting up and going again."

Dean first crossed the threshold of a gym when he was 15 and living with his family in southeast London.

Three years later he fought tooth and nail through 30 weeks of basic training for a place with HM Royal Marine Commandos.

"It was a toss up between going to art college or doing something physical. I wanted physical and decided on the hardest thing to join, which was the Royal Marines.

"I wanted to challenge myself and elite military service is where you do just that - it's just you, your mates, your fitness and your training."

He said the initial induction, interviews and basic training were all intense and he relished being "pushed to my limits. That was the military service I wanted to join".

He successfully completed basic training despite breaking bones in his foot in the sixth week of the gruelling do-or-die regime, which was merciless for the candidate who stumbled or fell.

A grim example was when rations in "survival week" were replaced with live pets that "became your food" after a 16km run with full kit had completely exhausted the prospective and sleep-deprived commandos.

"Then out in the middle of nowhere you get to watch your trucks pull away and disappear. That snapshot of your reaction gives the leadership team a window into where you're at.

"A lot of guys take it on the chin. Some break down and they're out, literally out. Because you need the guy who will pick up and go, not the guy who collapses into himself."

Dean rose to the rank of lance corporal and completed operational tours to Northern Ireland and Asia during his seven years of service as a commando.

He took on plain-clothes roles in Northern Ireland and also spent eight months Asia tour that eventually took his unit to Hong Kong in August of 1997 at the time of the handover of sovereignty from Britain to China.

His military service is never far from the surface during his personal training regimes, he said, although he also believes rest and recovery stages as vital elements in training as well.

"It's a different level but my bootcamps involve some of the same human dynamics as basic training in the Royal Marines. It's about getting people to force out that extra rep or two or that extra sprint. Heads will drop but we will go beyond what we think are our limits."

Training needs are based on "your current reality, experience and goals" and goal-setting is vital.

The first week of training is gradual and starts with dynamic warm-ups and movement designed to increase heart rate and body temperature.

"From there we step up the intensity a little, effort levels will peak at the 15- to 45-minute stage depending on the length of the session.

"The last 10 to 15 minutes are geared towards warming down, stretching and reversing the warm-up effect."

Dean has clients who train three to four times a week and others who train with him for only an hour a fortnight. He goes as hard as any on his bootcamps, he said, and he relishes "leading from the front" while at the same time completing sessions only "as fast as the slowest" trainee.

He was aiming to meet Sports Wellington Wairarapa and at-risk youth organisations in the region, he said, as well as other youth, elder care and mental health agencies to help drum up bootcamp recruits.

"Exercise helps younger people get up and going, it helps with injury recovery, and it's a way for older people to maintain their strength and flexibility.

It's also proven to help with depression, so you get all these benefits that you don't actually associate with being fit," he said.

"Here in New Zealand there's a big emphasis on getting fit for sport but if you're not into sport, where does that leave you - why would you bother?

"You need to be fit for life, you know, it's not a practice run," he said.

For more information go to or call Dean White at 021 954 799.

- Wairarapa Times-Age

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