By AKIRA KATO
“When I was 35, my brother took his life. That’s when I started to be a trainer and that’s where my life changed.”
Coach Leon Stensholm, 43, relishes educating individuals on how to live a fulfilled life through his counselling and training methods in his own gym, Body by Leon. He is particularly passionate about taking care of those who suffer from psychological issues. He knows the pain and burden of loss that suicide leaves in its wake – his brother Dean committed suicide in 2012.
Stensholm says he also lost several personal training clients through suicide after Dean’s death. “Since then, I live with no fear because I have nothing to lose anymore,” he says.
Stensholm had started body building in 2001, after suffering injuries that would end his soccer career. But knowing the loss of suicide, the enthusiastic trainer decided to commit to help people transform their body and mind in 2014. He learnt the science of the physical body and completed a Diploma in Counselling to recognise his client’s warning signs of mental unwellness from their behaviours, words or body language. It became an intrinsic part of his business: the better the observation skills he developed, the more he found people visited him to ask for help.
And so Stensholm’s business flourished and branched out. He wrote a book It’s how you think, detailing his experience of meeting the challenges of adversity. His infectious personality and on-stage energy led to bookings as a keynote speaker, and he willingly shares his stories and techniques in mindset and motivation at these events.
As Stensholm believes that it’s hard to reach desired body composition without positive head space for a training, he focuses on the psychological side of individuals before coaching them physically. To get the best out of people, Stensholm sets up a room for one-on-one sessions to design a completely private space when he talks to the client. He says training and psychological well-being are closely related “more than people think”.
“Once you start training, your mindset is going to be in a better position – it’s almost guaranteed,” Stensholm says.
Statistically, one in five Australian experience one of the common forms of mental illness, including depression, anxiety and mood disorders in any one year. But Stensholm says the population that has mental health concerns may be much higher.
“People come here may not been diagnosed with depression, but they could be depressed,” he says. “People come to see me and most of the time they’ve got some psychology concerns.”
Through Stensholm’s genuine passion to transform people’s lives, he also offers free consulting on his Facebook for those who can’t afford to pay for therapy. Despite his busy schedule, he also provides his time freely for the community on suicide prevention, as part of The Alliance for Suicide Prevention.
“I realised how much help people actually need,” he says. “I try to give my time as much as I can.”