Sybille Hazward: fitness trainer

12 Feb

Everyone on Islington Faces Blog has a story.  Sybille Hazward started her business with just £80 after using her flatmate’s printer to create 500 flyers. The result was FreeFormFitness and Highbury Fields’ first fitness boot camp – but not the military style regime she despises.  Sybille talks about loving your body and the pleasures of working in Islington. Interview by Nicola Baird

Sybille Hazward: fitness trainer.

Sybille Hazward: fitness trainer.

It’s a wet, cold Monday afternoon. The café we hoped to meet in is shut. For many busy Londoners this conspiracy of small nuisances would infuriate, but Sybille Hazward isn’t phased at all. In fact she smiles and laughs throughout our interview in a way that makes me feel like I’ve had a happiness workout with my jasmine tea.

Sybille, now 37, was born in Austria and grew up in Lintz. She was a sporty child – did lots of skiing and won judo competitions. But then at 17 she left for New York. “Well,” she explains, “I told my parents I was going and they didn’t stop me!”

Sybille Hazward, fitness trainer: “I like to keep my feet warm, I teach in these on Highbury Field.”

Sybille Hazward, fitness trainer: “I like to keep my feet warm, I teach in these on Highbury Fields.” She’s also happy for clients to bring along a baby in a buggy or even their dog.

In America she eventually started to train as a doctor but with fees of $45,000 a year she needed a job as well. “I’d qualified as a personal trainer, and it had flexible hours and was well paid,” she says. “New York people are much fitter and more health conscious, there’s less of a drinking culture – it’s not straight from the work to the pub, it’s more work to the gym or a yoga class. Though I’m not saying you don’t have cocktails after that, sometimes!”

But after six or seven years, “When I was shockingly close to finishing my medical degree, I thought I’m not doing this anymore.” Baffling perhaps, but the date coincides with the attack on the Twin Towers. For a while Sybille moved to the Middle East, “trying to understand the political situation.” Then she met someone and came with him to London.

And of course, needed a job.

“I found people thinking that being thin is being fit, it’s not – and I didn’t like the format of gyms and fitness centres,” she explains which is how her company FreeFromFitness was born, offering tailored classes – including yoga, pilates and functional training, often outdoors on the edge of Highbury Fields.

Fit for life tips – focus on enjoyment
January and February are busy times for gyms and personal trainers – everyone’s get fitter New Year Resolutions bring Sybille extra clients. “Recently I’d been working for 16 hours and I was so tired that I walked into a lamppost and then apologised to it, in front of a bus queue!” she says, so here are some fit tips you can try at home:

  • Don’t skip a proper warm up.

  • Remember how much you loved moving as a child? How you wanted to kick higher? Keep the joy; fitness isn’t about losing 10lbs.

  • Dress for the climate when you exercise outside. Keep your hands and head warm in winter.

  • Move at home too. ”I used to live near Seven Sisters, but now I’m in Hackney. My apartment overlooks the Olympic stadium so no one can see me jumping around like an idiot for two hours.  But you could always go for a run along the canal rather than the treadmill.”

  • Rollerblade when it’s nice.

“You don’t need to suffer to get results,” explains Sybille. “Often people’s goal is they want a basic lifestyle change. I find out what their needs are, and to make it more affordable integrate them with other people. That way it’s like a team – people encourage each other.”

Combined with her knowledge of anatomy and nutrition learnt, at medical school, she’s a formidable trainer in positivity.  “I want exercise to be something you enjoy and a way to interact with other people, like you did as a child; rather than a way to strip away and forget yourself. Enjoying your body stops you from aging and breaking down.”

It’s a very attractive philosophy and combined with her own obvious fitness one many of us might benefit from, and maybe even enjoy. Good luck to all islingtonfacesblog readers embarking on a sporting or fitness challenge in 2014.


Maison d’etre coffee house on Highbury Corner with classic steamed up winter windows. Inside find fabulous cakes and drinks.

Fun places to unwind in Islington
“I love London, it’s the most exciting city in the world. You can’t let yourself get down when it’s grey. Keep well nourished to keep seasonal adjustment disorder away,” says Sybille. Here’s what she likes to do locally:

To contact Sybille Hazward to find out about her regular classes, email Coaching ranges from £5-£75 for a session.

See Sybille’s facebook page  here

Over to you
If you’d like to feature on this blog, or make a suggestion about anyone who grew up, lives or works in Islington please let me know, via Thank you. 

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook. Even better follow (see menu top right), @nicolabairduk

This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z list of posts, or the A-Z of jobs to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola


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