Could you please tell our readers about your journey?
I was brought up in the country without a worry or a care and a love for the outdoors. I was in my second year of a mechanical apprenticeship and my interests/hobbies included motorbikes, snowboarding, camping and four-wheel driving. I was definitely a thrill-seeker, which ultimately resulted in my life-changing accident. When I was 17, I was involved in a head-on collision with a car and my motorbike, travelling at a combined speed of 180km/h. Being left a complete paraplegic with other severe injuries, the medical professionals described me as a “broken man”. In an induced coma for two weeks and spending the better part of a year in hospital, after discharge from rehabilitation I struggled with depression and obesity. I isolated myself from the outside world due to a lack of confidence and embarrassment. This took a long time for me to overcome and I eventually found myself again through exercise. The stronger I got, the more independent and confident I became. I was no longer ashamed of the person in a wheelchair that I was looking at in the mirror. This new outlook on life has driven me to continue pushing myself out of my comfort zone, something that had restricted me for so long.
You said that you found yourself again through exercise. Could you expand on this and your path to becoming a personal trainer?
Exercise, health and fitness was one of the main contributing factors to my improved state of mental health, regaining my independence and self-worth. I never really understood what it meant to suffer depression, and having met huge goals and feeling great satisfaction, I continued to set the bar high and achieve goals I never thought possible. Although I had a strong network of family and friends behind me, they didn’t truly know the obstacles I faced as a paraplegic. I wanted to become the person to help others through their struggles, who were potentially facing that same mind-set as the 17-year-old boy I used to be. The thought of another person thinking their life is over, like I thought mine was, is where the path originated from to become a personal trainer and motivational speaker.
Congrats on achieving your goal that you set on Channel 9’s second series of This Time Next Year. How was the training process for the triathlon?
My training regimen was strength-based rather than endurance. When I decided to lock in the goal of completing an Ironman, my training changed significantly. I was petrified as I am one of the laziest people that you will ever meet. Everyone laughs when I say this, but it’s true! This was a huge undertaking, so I sought guidance from a professional coach to maximise my performance and help me with my routine. I didn’t have the slightest idea of how to train for such a long distance (3.8km swim, 180km bike, 42km run), then I realised this would all be with my arms! Steve Foster from Team Barefoot is a Mornington Peninsula triathlon coach who created weekly personalised programs. This included training six days a week. Steve swam with me on a regular basis as this was my weakest leg. He was there to encourage me when I was doubting myself — which was often.
What made you decide to pursue becoming a motivational speaker?
There are people sitting at home waiting for something to happen, missing out on life and all the experiences that are out there, due to self-doubt and anxiety. I think about this regularly and it upsets me because I can empathise with how they feel. I wanted to reach out to people on a personal level. Everyone can experience these feelings and I want to help them see how you can overcome any obstacles. By sharing my story I hope to do this. When you see you’ve helped someone feel better, it makes you feel better. It’s like a smile — it’s contagious.
Do you have a five year goal?
My five-year goal is to continue to help others improve their lives and better themselves; show people with disabilities the accessible programs available and what they can achieve. I am now actively involved in wakeboarding, snowboarding and of course personal training. With regards to my speaking career, it would be to break into the corporate world, allowing me to reach a wider audience and do what I can to help others improve their mental health through the benefits of health and fitness. As for my sporting goals, I have set my sights on competing in the 2022 Commonwealth Games in the sprint distance triathlon category. My ultimate goal is to compete at the Paris Olympic Games. Somewhere in between I will aim to qualify for Kona Hawaii Iron Man world championships.
Keep an eye on Robbie’s journey on Instagram @robbiepeime and his website www.robbiepeime.com.au