GUILDFORD wellness coach Louis Dunstan has qualified to represent Western Australia and the Australian Powerlifting Union’s inaugural National Championships.
He doesn’t expect to win – the 40-year-old is competing in the Masters 1, 120kg division – but really, that doesn’t matter.
Through powerlifting, he’s already won his most important battle – the battle for his mental health.
Depression and anxiety have had a major impact on Dunstan’s life.
“From personal experience I’ve always, or I became aware that I suffered from depression and anxiety in the mid-2000s, and then kind of looking back at it I realised that I was suffering from it probably from my late teens and just thought it was something else.
“It’s something that’s impacted my ability to have relationships, to communicate with people.”
Playing in bands in Perth and Melbourne for over a decade, Dunstan was self-medicating with alcohol and drugs in an industry where that isn’t an uncommon thing.
Nobody would have assumed he was struggling with his mental health.
He’d always had a fascination with power and strength, and when he took the plunge and began training in powerlifting, he said it had a benefit he hadn’t anticipated.
“Once I started doing it I really enjoyed the benefits I was getting from a mental health perspective.
“When I started lifting weights, that need to do all the other stupid stuff kind of went away, I knew this was what I needed to be doing.”
There’s a fair difference between a wellness coach and a powerlifter, and it was the unexpected death of Louis’s brother Pete in 2015, and his own dissatisfaction with his career, that put Louis on his current path that will see him open his own gym, Wellstrong, in Guildford in January 2019.
“I was working in logistics, in a national role, and I was just so stressed out.
“I was making the same mistakes over and over again, burning out, working really hard, trying to compensate for working hard by doing as much as I could over the weekend, never resting to the point where I pretty much had a breakdown at 38 and just thought no, this is pointless, I’ve lost my brother at a really young age and if I don’t change the way I’m living I’ll probably end up the same way or have bad health.
“I went and studied and I became aware of different ways of training that weren’t just go into a gym, pump weight, run until you spew.
“So I packed up all my things and moved back Perth, and I thought it would take me two or three months to get picked up but I was working within two weeks.”
While some may be sceptical of anyone who works in the wellness industry – Dunstan admits there’s an element of “snake-oil salesman bull” in the industry – that’s not his deal.
“My version of wellness and how do you feel, and what can we do to improve on that.
“I encourage people to be active and to do sport, and to pay attention to how you are before you did it, to how you are while you’re doing it.
“In your state of mind, how do you feel physically, mentally, all these kind of things and if you notice an improvement, it speaks for itself.
“What I coach in is progressive, hybrid stuff, I’ve got a squat rack in my gym but I hardly get any of my clients to touch it, it’s more about moving in ways people aren’t used to moving in to get mobility.”