An interview with Alex Hipwell is more than a conversation – it’s a life-changing experience. The mother, dancer, Iron Woman, bodybuilder, personal trainer, CrossFitter and motivator shares her inspiring story and fitness advice with the Urban Sports Club community…
Even the way Alex Hipwell sits is extraordinary. She sits on the ground with both her legs in splits – “I can’t sit cross-legged because of my glutes,” she says. But after chatting to Alex for a few minutes, with both her legs stretched out in opposite directions, it makes total sense. Her entire world is about going above and beyond, and that extends to the way she sits down.
Alex has a powerful presence. She’s petite, although every muscle is fully defined, and she has blonde corkscrew curls – the kind of hair that little girls dream of. She has big, round hazel eyes that, once focussed on you, are completely locked in. Because Alex has the rare ability to make you 100% her focus and, in a world where we often choose smartphones over eye contact, this focus can be disarming at first. But it means that Alex is able to create genuine connections with whoever she’s with, so that focus quickly becomes extremely gratifying.
This attention to human connection is even more notable because of Alex’s strong social media presence. Check out her Instagram feed and you’ll find she isn’t so much an influencer as she is an inspiration. You’ll find snaps of her teaching (outrageously) challenging Bootcamp classes at John’s Bootcamp, or heaving a loaded barbell into a power snatch or trying on some new Nike garms (she’s a Nike Master Trainer, as well as everything else). The captions that run alongside her images guide, rather than lecture, and she dedicates much of her messaging to confronting the pitfalls of the fitness industry, rejecting fad diets and openly sharing her personal challenges and struggles.
Some fitness influencers can make you feel alienated but Alex does the opposite. Her message is that you are good enough – better than you realise – and that you should put yourself first. And that message runs through every class she teaches, every person she trains, and as it happens, every journalist she speaks to. Because I feel like a million dollars just chatting to her.
Her story begins in Australia’s sunshine coast where she grew up playing a variety of sports with her big brother – they’d try out a different sport every day, she says. “I was really big into Iron Woman on the beach. I’m very very competitive so that was great.” At the age of 14 Alex was offered a place to train with Australia’s national netball team. “But the thing is,” she leans in confidentially over her split legs “I’d started dancing at the age of 8. And I was terrible. I mean terrible. But I loved it. I’d go on stage and wouldn’t even remember the choreography and just do my own thing.” So, although a future in netball was all set up, Alex’s mum let her follow her dream and sent her to dance school.
But, Alex says, it wasn’t an easy ride. “I’d get anxiety and my mindset was all shades of wrong because I thought I wasn’t good enough. But I still danced, I never left the stage, and I pushed through which I think defines me as a person today as well.” She trained four hours a day, six days a week. “I was offered scholarships at the age of 17 and just carried on to be a professional dancer and choreographer for 15 years and travel the world. How amazing right?” Her eyes light up, wide with disbelief at her own life. But Alex knows better than anyone what happens when you fight through your fears and work for what you want.
That mantra remains today. “I was travelling in and out of Germany as a dancer and organically transitioned into the fitness world about ten years ago because I just wanted to learn more about my body.” Alex says that although dancers are great athletes, they’re also the most unhealthy. As Alex learnt more about her body she unearthed the truth behind her dancer physique and learnt that much of her lifestyle hadn’t been doing her good. So she set her mind to turn everything she’d learnt into a positive – and I think we all know what happens when Alex sets her mind to something. She began competing in Iron Woman competitions, CrossFit, Bodybuilding, paying close attention to her body’s needs and never forgetting to stay present for her friends and family.
“And then Nike women picked me up and it’s just been the most amazing roller coaster since then,” Alex says. “I pinch myself every day. I’m so grateful that I’m in this position – to be a part of people’s journeys, to help people create a better version of themselves.”
To Alex, training a community with her custom-built classes is more than a dream come true. “I don’t think I could ever have dreamt of it – and I’m reminded of it daily. I teach a woman who’s fought cancer and she came up to me the last class I taught and said ‘I live for your class.’ It was my Strong Barre class where I kick your butt and make it burn […] but I’m impacting her life daily and it reminds me and motivates me to show up – and they show up for themselves. I mean – what more could you ask for?!” Alex’s eyes are alight, burning with joy. Her enthusiasm for what she does is radioactive.
But Alex says that having such passion and drive can have its pitfalls. “You can be too competitive and never be good enough,” she says. “But I don’t believe in that side of it. I’m competitive with myself and I can reach a lot of big goals, but it’s not the goal that concerns me. It’s the journey.” Alex recalls the moment she won the German World Bodybuilding Championship. “I was standing on stage and they asked me what does it feel like to win? And I swear in that second, the entire six months rolled through my head so fast. And I thought: I didn’t quit. I didn’t give up when I thought I was going to. Every moment from the last six months came up in my mind and that’s what it’s about – it’s that journey. Don’t miss the journey.”
And her advice for the Urban Sports Club community? “Be kind to yourself. Be careful what you say to yourself. And the most important thing is to show up for you. Which is why I think Urban Sports Club is amazing. […] So when your boss or someone else says “I need this project by then,” or whatever – you need to show up for yourself first. Stop always being there for your boss or for everybody else.” She pauses for a second. “Why are we the first people to cut out the greatest thing of the day for everybody else? I don’t get that and I never will. I don’t do it. I’m a single mum, I work 500 different jobs, and I show up for myself every single day. Get up earlier, stop looking on Instagram, cut things short – so you have the time. That’s my advice and I’ll drum that into you every fricking day.”
See? You don’t need new year’s resolutions when you’ve got Alex Hipwell. Sign up to her Strong Barre class at Jane’s Soulbase today.
And read our Strong Barre blog post to find out what it’s like to get your ass kicked by Alex Hipwell.