Real Life

Weekly people: “Exercise is my drug of choice”

This former drug addict is getting his life into tip-top shape and has a new book to prove it.

As a teenager, Bevan Eyles was a high school drop-out and drug addict who struggled to spell simple three-letter words. But today the Christchurch father, who has been in a loving relationship with partner Jo Reid, 38, (seen above) for seven years, has conquered his demons and become one of the country’s most successful fitness instructors – and author of a new book inspiring men and women to reach their goals.

“I was a miserable failure from a very early age,” Bevan (37) admits. “I couldn’t read or write and I managed to socially manipulate my environment so I could get away with a lot of things. By the time I got to fifth form, I had no hope. I left school with the perception that I was a big loser and I had very low expectations for my life.”

Nowadays, the Les Mills instructor is a ball of energy and his zest for life is truly infectious. It’s hard to imagine that there was a time in Bevan’s life when he was heading down such a destructive path.

“For three years I got into heavy drugs and alcohol. I began losing my ethics and morals. Eventually, my self-confidence became so bad that I even developed a stutter.”

Bevan says his catalyst for change came after a nightmare experience while hallucinating on the drug LSD.

With only a gloomy future in sight, Bevan says his catalyst for change came after a nightmare experience while hallucinating on the drug LSD.

“It was a pretty intense situation. I had this over-whelming sense of depression. I was seeing dark ghostly faces looking down upon me and, for about three hours, I was in a horrible place. For the first time in my life, I saw myself for what I really was – vulnerable with low self-esteem and a bad influence in people’s lives. I suddenly had this massive awareness and that moment forced me to change my life.”

Soon after his wake-up call, Bevan turned his life around. At the young age of 19, he became a father and, wanting to be a role model to his daughter Tyla (now 18), he began thinking about what he was good at – athletics – and became fully focused on his fitness.

Bevan prepares to work out with Claire (left) and Jenny.

“Working in the fitness world suited my personality. I love the energy you get from exercise and I love helping people achieve their own goals,” he explains. “I also taught myself healthy ways to deal with my stress. I replaced drugs with more positive activities, such as meditation, writing journals and, of course, exercise.”

For the past 15 years, Bevan has been one of the most sought-after instructors at Les Mills, and he often travels the world as a fitness teacher.

He also signed up for reading lessons – it took him four years to become a competent reader and speller – and he’s enjoyed the new skill so much that he’s written a book, The Fitness Attitude, which is released this week. It teaches people to find their own enjoyment in exercise.

“I’m concerned at how exercise programmes are sold to us – implying the only benefit of exercise is six-pack abs and weight-loss. The goals are often unrealistic and many people feel worse than before they started, because they can’t achieve them.

“A lot of people set themselves up for failure by choosing options that are well above their current ability. For the non-exerciser, we select tasks they know they can do, and this allows them to grow.”

Two people who have benefited from Bevan’s teachings are Clare Ogier and Jenny Pringle. Both are 35 years old and never thought they would be capable of running more than 5km. Losing 10kg between them since joining Bevan’s weekly running group, the pair now thank him for helping them change their attitudes towards exercise.

Both Clare and Jenny have benefited from Bevan’s teachings.

“I feel lucky to be able to fit in time with Bevan, and I’m learning life skills that are transferred to other areas,” says Jenny, a mother to three young children. “I feel healthier and fitter, which is making me a better mum.”

For Clare, working with Bevan made her a confident runner, and she’s just completed her very first half marathon. “It was a gradual, slow process,” she admits, “but Bevan helped me to set realistic goals.”

Although Bevan has enjoyed success in the fitness world, it’s writing his book that is his proudest achievement.

“Writing has been a hard path for me because there was a time I couldn’t fill out simple forms,” he tells.

Bevan continues to use his success story to inspire others.“Being a trainer is like being a hairdresser, because people are always confiding in you. By sharing my story, they can also reveal their own struggles.”

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