MELISSA CASSAR - Pathfinder UK® Aerialist & Fitness Ambassador
So, tell us about yourself - who are you, where do you come from and what do you do?
I’m Melissa Cassar and I am 33 years old and living in High Wycombe - Buckinghamshire. Previous to what I do now I was a Make-up, Hair, Wig Artist working in the high fashion and editorial scene.
Since 2017 my work ambitions changed when I was led to Wild Training by moving into the area and wanting to keep fit with a gym nearby. Stumbling across Wild Training changed my life forever, my goals, my health and my body. I am now the Global Operations Manager looking after the Wild Training Gym and the Wild X Fitness App along with being a PT, trainer and the Aerialist at the Wild Training Gym.
How did you first get into training, particularly aerials and silks?
Prior to moving to HW, I used to want to keep fit. My motivation was how I looked which is a bad motivator to have, and this led me to actually hating the gym.
I then started as a member and Personal Training Client of James Griffiths back in 2017 at the Wild Training Gym and as I met him and had the tour, I knew I had to be a part of this place.
I fell instantly for Aerial Silks - the challenge and seeing the little wins which looked like they were impossible was addictive. The variety in what I could do at this one gym was immense - I wanted to do it all (and I do!) But it was the encouragement from James that really inspired me (and the competitive edge in me wanting to keep up with him which is still present!).
Now you’re in the advanced stages of pregnancy, how has your little passenger affected your ability to train?
Not going to lie - it’s had a huge impact. My training is all about movement and freedom in your body, being strong, mobile, flexible, adaptive, responsive to any skill I ask of my body and to not feel limited within myself - of course, pregnancy changes all of that.
I knew that pregnancy was going to be a journey which I prepared myself for by having the strongest and most versatile body I could have achieved. I am so glad I did as I am 8 months now - still full of energy, PTing, teaching (silks from the floor) and I know that my body has coped amazingly because of the training prior to pregnancy.
How do you fuel yourself for longer days at the gym and training sessions and has this changed much since pregnancy?
Usually (pre-pregnancy) I would be religious in my breakfast choices and make sure I have enough Carbs to keep me going, snacks are essential to keep you going through the day (long or short!) so nuts, peanut butter and marmite usually by the spoonful. Good quality energy bars, followed by a decent lunch, another set of snack and then dinner. But always a hit of sugar after training or when I’ve been teaching for long hours. Always aiming to have at least 3 litres of water a day.
Since being pregnant my eating habits and intensity of hunger has changed. I try to keep it as balanced as I can but also listen to my body as it’s using its energy for not just me - so to ignore what it’s asking for is crazy. Trimester 3 I have seen a huge dip in appetite, but when I do eat I am making sure the quality of the food is high.
Pre-pregnancy was your training purely directed at strength and conditioning, or do you do anything else?
I did (and will go back to) doing pretty much everything. I’m not one for entering triathlons or comps of any kind so I don’t train with a specific focus, I know I’d get bored and my body would suffer. I do what makes me and my body happy - and variety seems to work physically and mentally for me.
I will be throwing atlas stones around with some strongman medleys, adding in some elements of bodybuilding, I’ll be doing calisthenics on the rings and parallettes, movement based workouts like Capoeira inspired training, HIIT workouts, combat based fitness workouts and of course aerials; silks, hoop, pole. I love training for a skill - that’s such an under utilised motivator.
Also, pre-pregnancy, how do you ensure you effectively recover from the demands of your training?
Looking at my training I never purposefully scheduled rest days, I trained everyday - but because of the variety and periodisation of my training my body never cried out for set rest days. The days where I would dial off the intensity and volume would help my body recover with some stretching sessions. Fuelling your body properly and consistently is also a win, having quality time at home and with friends too helps. Plus a cheeky massage and chiropractic adjustments helps to keep my body in check.
How much of your ability to do your sport is down to your make-up and how much is down to training - could others be as successful as you at it?
I am living proof that anyone can do what I do. I wasn’t lucky enough to do any sporting hobbies growing up, my family didn’t do it, they were never into fitness so it was never an opportunity for me. I used to ask to do gymnastics as a kid, but it was never an option, so I taught myself from a young age how to cartwheel, handstand, do the splits etc.... I have a genetic thyroid condition so I am predisposed to weight gain, lethargy and all the other issues associated with Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism, which I hear all the time from people as an excuse for their out of shape body or their lack of energy... But, here I am, a self-taught unconventional aerialist who also lifts 180kg tyres and throws metal chains around in the Muscle Tunnel.
So it’s not just for those given the opportunities or those with perfect genetics. The secret is to enjoy it, try everything and you won't want to stop.
What's your favourite aspect of the facilities at Wild Training? And why?
The fact that no matter what I want to train or what skill I want to learn I can do it there and then from and with the most incredible, knowledgeable and legendary team of trainers I work with and the kit we have to hand. We share training skills, if I want to learn to be BJJ or become a Muay Thai pro I can learn from the best. If I want to do more advanced Capoeira movements I know who to ask and who to train with, if I need help with my clients or advice, I have the backup.
We train, so we know what we need to make the gym perfect and that’s why we are voted the best gym in the UK.
What does your perfect PT client look like? Do you prefer a blank canvas to work with, or would you prefer an element of skill, fitness and understanding?
Both. I love sharing my passion and knowledge with everyone. It’s always exciting to do the more colourful stuff with those who are more adapted to training, but everyone will get there if they stick at it.
Giving someone who has always hated training or never been in a gym before the spark for a fitter lifestyle is so rewarding. You’ve literally saved their life. Since becoming pregnant and knowing that my little girl is going to depend on me has made me realise that I don’t only train for myself - I train for her. To give people the ability to look after themselves first, get fit and enjoy movement, that is something that will be passed down to their children or inspire someone else, that’s the true power of exercise, trainers/coaches and personal trainers. Without your health being a priority - how can you look after your dependents?
What do you wish you had known when you first started training?
Do not fall in the trap of doing what everyone else does - you’ll get bored.
Learn as many skills as you can - this is your variety and you may find your passion.
Don’t use aesthetics as the motivator - you’ll never be happy.
Oat Milk - because we’ve outgrown cow’s milk as adults (plus it causes inflammation and bloating).
What do you still forget, or do wrong?
I want to enjoy everything, I don’t want to say no or I don’t like anything, but sometimes I have to tell myself I don’t need to love everything. I desperately wanted to love fight sports and sparring - but I didn't, I tried it, it’s not for me. There are elements I do like and use in my training and for my clients, but for my training I don’t need it.
What's your go-to order at your favourite restaurant?
1 - Lobster (which isn’t readily available I know, I just have a very expensive palette)
2 - Chicken Wings Extra, Extra, Extra hot.
What is something people get wrong about you?
That I have done gymnastics, dance, sport all my life and I’m just lucky I can do it all. Luck has nothing to do with it.
Tea or coffee?
Coffee - oat milk flat white or black americano.
Sweet or savoury?
Savoury all day long
Hot or cold?
I’m Mediterranean - I can’t cope with the cold. I think I say it a thousand times a day when the weather is lower than 20’C that it’s freezing.
What was your worst injury, and how did you recover?
I have been super lucky and not had many injuries but the worst was a 2nd degree hamstring tear I got from the silks. I was in a split position and slipped through. But, I had the right people around me to recover.
What's your favourite post exercise snack?
Fruit - mango, pineapple. Decent sugar hit and it’s refreshing.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
The team around me. They all have incredible skills and knowledge to learn from.
Do you have any quirky habits?
I can’t leave the house without a set of gold earrings in... If that counts as a habit?
Have you had any wacky pregnancy cravings?
I had an obsession for a little while with Japanese Ramens...
The weirdest combo once was Yorkshire puddings filled with baked beans...that was a bad day. Other than that I am smashing a big bag of kale most days.
What is the strangest thing in your fridge?
The amount of fresh chillies there. Literally I add chilli to everything.
Lots of tubes of tomato puree too - spread that on a decent sourdough with pepper and olive oil! (it’s a Maltese thing!)
What has your sport taught you?
Just what the body is capable of. Aerials looks impossible, but they're not. Our bodies are strong and capable of doing anything and we often blame our bodies for failing us, when it’s the mind that has stopped us all along.
Since answering these questions for us, Melissa has had a beautiful baby girl. We wish Melissa, John and baby Ahlia, lots of love and happiness as they start down their brand new family path together ❤️