“It’s simply a case of eating less and exercising more”

By - Friday 14th February, 2014

Scott Guyett, fitness coach at Premier League club Crystal Palace, talks to Tom Lickley about how citizens can lose weight and keep up motivation, and about the Eagles’ attitude towards physical health

It’s a grey, rainy day at Crystal Palace’s training ground in Beckenham. Wrapping up and evading the puddles seems to be the priority in most people’s minds in the walk from Beckenham Junction along Copers Cope Road, which has never sounded so relevant. Running in the sunshine on Bondi Beach it ain’t.

However, a warm reception greets me as Palace fitness coach Scott Guyett strides over. Guyett is exactly how you’d expect the man in charge of physical health at a top sports club to be; lean, with a confident air underlined by his Australian upbringing. The mood is good at the training ground, which is unsurprising from a team steadily rising up the league table; as Guyett poses for our photographer, an audience consisting of bushy haired physiotherapist Alex Manos and a couple of youth team players lines up to make light-hearted digs at the ex-professional.

Perhaps the pinnacle of Guyett’s career was playing for Yeovil Town at Wembley Stadium in the League One playoff final in 2007, as they lost to Blackpool. As we take our seats in the canteen, opposite an enormous montage of Palace celebrating their own play-off success last season, I query how Guyett made the leap from ex-professional to coach.

“I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Yeovil, but there’s not much going on. I used to find myself coming in after training, at about half past one, with nothing to do. So I thought I’d use my time more wisely and study for a Sport Science degree from Manchester Metropolitan University.”

It was while studying his distance degree at Manchester Met that Guyett found his chance to join the Eagles and, as is so often the case with great opportunities, a mixture of luck and talent secured him the role.

“After Yeovil I went to Bournemouth for a couple of seasons. It was after Bournemouth, after I’d finished playing, and the guy who was fitness coach before me at Palace [Chris Short] was on the same course. He got offered a job at Leicester City when Sven-Göran Eriksson took over. I was in a great position, I’d just finished playing football, and it all fell into place.”

Guyett doesn’t give the impression of somebody who gives up on something because it is difficult

Not that Guyett found Palace in a healthy state when he arrived, on nor off the pitch. The Eagles had only recently surfaced out of administration, and the manager at the time, George Burley, had struggled with a team which was near the foot of the table. Burley was sacked following an awful defeat at Millwall on New Year’s Day 2011, in which current Palace player Jason Puncheon hit a hat-trick.

“George got sacked on New Year’s Day and none of the staff knew where we were [in terms of the future]. It was difficult, as I was commuting in from Bournemouth two or three times a week and still living in digs. For a thirty three, thirty four year old, it was quite difficult.”

However, Guyett doesn’t give the impression of somebody who gives up on something because it is difficult. His continued presence at the club, having served under four different permanent managers, plus a couple of caretaker managers in just over three years, demonstrates the kind of attitude he wishes to instill in the players he coaches, and indeed, his mantra for those struggling with the motivation to keep fit in general.

“I think it’s difficult at times to motivate yourself to do it. Motivation is key. Personally, while fitness is important to me, I find it very difficult to do in winter. I always find short sessions benefit me more than long, hour and a half sessions – I get bored of that. So I do very short, half hour, forty minute maximum sessions.”

I question whether seeking professional help in terms of hiring a personal trainer is key to finding motivation.

“From a motivational point of view, personal trainers are quite helpful because they do push you harder. If they set you out to do a twenty minute bike, and you’ve got someone over your shoulder making sure you do twenty minutes, you’re going to do it.”

“Whereas alternatively, and we’ve all done it before, twenty minutes can become eighteen minutes. I do it! I’m guilty of doing it as well. If you do struggle to motivate yourself then a personal trainer is key. I do think once you have a plan set out and you’ve had three, four, five sessions then it’s pretty obvious what you need to do. Of course, if people start to lose weight early on, then that’s motivation in itself.”

“A lot of it is simply eating less. Half the amount of pasta, half the amount of chicken, and simply cutting out the biscuits and crisps and chocolate”

Looking around the training ground, it’s hard not to feel inspired to head to the gym. Guyett particularly highlights the efforts of both club captain Paddy McCarthy and last season’s top scorer, Glenn Murray, in their attitude and dedication to remaining in top condition whilst recovering from long term, arguably career threatening, injuries.

“The good thing about players these days is that they maintain their fitness very well, even when they’re out [injured]. Both Paddy and Glenn haven’t put an ounce of weight on. In particular, it’s been a tough time for Paddy [the Eagles skipper having been missing since the 2011/2012 season, not participating in the entirety of the promotion winning campaign] but he’s one of those, even going back four or five months, if you’d given him any fitness tests he’d be up there with anyone else.”

Given the setbacks McCarthy has faced, with his entire career on the precipice at times, it certainly is inspiring that the Irishman has not let the struggle get to him, and happily he played the entirety of the recent FA Cup defeat against Wigan Athletic. Not giving up is key, and this is a trait Guyett feels is crucial to those struggling with new year’s resolutions in terms of physical health.

“You hear it this time of year, every year. People come up to me and go ‘Scotty, what do I need to do to lose weight?’ It’s simply a case of eating less, and exercising more.”

“I know it’s difficult, with people working full time jobs and long hours. Even here, it’s not easy. The senior players at lunchtime eat very well. With the younger players, we’re trying to educate them as to what they should or shouldn’t be eating.”

So is nutrition key, I ask.

“It is a key part. When they’re eating, what they’re eating, how much they’re eating. They feel as if they have to fill the whole plate with food. A lot of it is simply eating less. Half the amount of pasta, half the amount of chicken, and simply cutting out the biscuits and crisps and chocolate. Our kit man [Brian Rogers] at the moment is on a diet – he’s lost seven kilograms in four weeks. And it’s pretty simple. He’s just doing things right.”

“Under Tony, the lads do have to be very, very fit”

Doing things right has certainly been the Crystal Palace way for the past couple of seasons. In terms of fitness, Palace’s record is up there with the best. I mention the physical health of players such as Damien Delaney, a near ever-present this season having missed just one league game.

“If you can have someone like Damien go a whole season without picking up an injury, it’s an achievement. Certainly in the second half of the season, those who have played pretty much every game – Damien is a good example of that, and is a little older – maintenance is something you have to take into consideration.”

Palace’s record for keeping players fit last season is astonishing. “We looked at the top six teams, players who had played thirty-eight games or more. I think most of the teams had three or four players who had played that much. We had nine. Considering the facilities and budget restraints that we had here, it was an achievement.”

Perhaps fitness is something which slid for Palace at the start of this season. I question the impact of Tony Pulis on this side of things.

“Under Tony, the lads do have to be very, very fit. We look at the Prozone stats now and the players are doing a lot more now than they were under the previous regime.”

I ask whether Guyett feels that is one of the reasons for the Eagles’ recent upturn in results.

“I think that’s probably showed. It was difficult because we’ve had four managers in the space of twelve months [Dougie Freedman, Ian Holloway, Keith Millen and Pulis] and they all have their different ways of working. It’s about adapting those ideas and regimes to get the players used to it as soon as possible.”

“If I knew one single way to lose weight effectively, I’d be a millionaire”

Of course, there is a clear difference between working with full time, professional athletes and a beginner struggling in the gym. However, there are transferable skills, and one in particular, according to Guyett.

“Running, definitely. It burns more calories than a cross trainer, or a bike, or swimming. At the same time, you have to be a little bit wary. It’s difficult for sedentary people to just break out and start running.”

“If people are slightly overweight and they go out for a twenty minute run, there are issues with overload injuries, people are just not used to it. If you are going to start off in the gym, the bike and cross trainer are low impact on the muscles. Then once you get to a certain level of comfort, break on to the treadmill and start running.”

Finally, I ask him what his winning formula is for losing weight and getting fitter.

“If I knew one single way to lose weight effectively, I’d be a millionaire. It’s something that takes a little bit of planning, a little bit of motivation and a little bit of thought. Burn more calories than you consume.”

Tom Lickley

Tom Lickley

Contributing a variety of roles to the Citizen since early 2013, Tom now focuses upon regeneration, urbanism and real estate writing. He is a strategic communications consultant specialising in the real estate sector, and counts a number of the world's largest investment and fund management companies amongst his clients.

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  • Anne Giles

    Try telling all this to people with overactive thyroids, like my cousin, or people who are having to take a high dose of steroids for leukaemia and other conditions. They could virtually starve themselves and exercise all day, but the weight won’t go down. When I had cancer, I was put on a drug which made me put on a stone. Luckily there weren’t any articles ordering me to become thin!

    • Tom Lickley

      Hi Anne – I believe you may have misread the article. This article is pitched towards an audience who are looking for tips to keep fit as motivation wanes after the New Year. It isn’t an endorsment of any shape or size – it is merely an article giving advice to those who want it.

      If you could please tell me exactly where in this article there is a suggestion it is “ordering…to become thin” then please do let me know and I will be happy to address your concerns, as I took great care to avoid precisely this.

      • Anne Giles

        Thanks Tom. I know someone was rather upset by your article. I misunderstood you. Apologies!

  • Anne Giles

    Excellent article anyway.