Nicolas Antakly is an accomplished Athlete who excels at Swimming and Physical Training since his early school days. During his late teens he discovered the rich & challenging universe of outdoor sports, push-ups, pull-ups & improvised training at home while young kids of his generation where caught by the rising fever of Digital Games & Virtual worlds. Today, at only 32, Nicolas is a recognized & acclaimed Personal Trainer who made it all the way, pursuing his dream of opening his Gym & Fitness Center in Gemmayze, Beirut with his lovely wife Tania.
Kamsyn met with Nicolas,“El Hajj” pour les intimes, around an early cup of coffee in Ashrafieh, Beirut where he is based, curious to know more about his unusual story that mixes natural talent, hard training, cocktail dreams & a titanium hard determination.
Today, his passion for Sports follows Nicolas in the most unusual places and is embedded in his daily schedule just as like a Spartan Warrior “when I travel I find a place to practice my daily routine, for example if embarked on a specific preparation cycle, I can come up with creative ways to use my hotel room & suitcase as a training pool to avoid skipping a session (laughs). I even managed to train right before my wedding ceremony !”
Yet, the “tough looking young man with a golden heart” according to his closest friends was not intended for a career in Sports. Fate had decided otherwise. After his Business studies at the American University of Beirut AUB and the early death of his father which came as a shock, he took over the family business for five years as an Exclusive Agent for the French lingerie Lejaby before selling the brand to Fattal group who then hired him as Brand manager in 2008.
“Even as I worked in the Corporate world, I never stopped training and thinking about ways to improve myself”. From 2003 to 2013, Nicolas practiced Body Building, then Power lifting and Strength training, all technics to develop each part of his body through specific exercises. “What I like in sports is the self-development challenge it represents; body & soul. Also, since I was getting results pretty fast, it encouraged me to go deeper into it and aim for excellence. Furthermore, it helped me maintain a healthy lifestyle. I eat “clean” which means I’m against shock dieting and recommend a healthy and balanced nutrition habit”.
In June 2012, Nicolas decided to leave the corporate world behind and change his life. Starting something new was scary and challenging: “at that time, I was already thinking about opening my own gym and even started to visit locations. But the fact that I didn’t have any experience in training clients convinced me to build-up my teaching experience and personal network first.”
His first client was recommended by common friends: “He needed help to recover strength in his hand after a surgery. I said yes and that’s how it started: Through word of mouth. In less than a year, I become a Full-Time Personal Trainer and felt comfortable knowing that it is what I want to do in my life”
Nicolas now works from 6:30 am to 9 pm daily. To be able to see his 7-10 clients/day in their private venues or gyms, Nicolas chose to drive a scooter to avoid being stuck in endless traffic. He trains women and men of all ages, each having their own requests, whether for muscles and body strength or tone and body slimming. “In addition to physical preparation, it is also essential to be able to act with tact, to know when to speak or not, and choose discretion at all times. I want to offer a 5 stars service, it’s not only about the training itself. You have to build trust with the people you work with because you go into their homes and life, it’s also nice to know how to hold a good conversation. People also expect a good listening ear, some even become close friends. I have to be ready to answer the phone anytime in order to offer advice about food, looks or training tips for example while remaining strictly professional at all times. For example, I had to learn about body language to know the best response to give in different situations”
It took Nicolas and his wife Tania a full year of location visits to find their ideal space in Gemmayze, Pasteur street (on the ground floor of Kharrat building, construction currently being finalized). They hope to open the Gym, called Barbell House, before Christmas 2016, a space of 270 m² with an innovative concept: “I will be both the owner and Trainer so I will be there full time, with our Professional team of trainers of course. Unlike some of the other gyms today that became a pure business, our emphasis will be on human interaction & personalized experience first among many other features”.
The Interior Design is signed JM Architects a rising firm already famous for multiple projects locally & international. Barbell House’s equipment is currently being shipped-in from abroad to have the “Best of the Best, that currently doesn’t exist in Lebanon”.
Follow Nicolas on Instagram @lebstrengthcoach