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Regional News

Pulling no punches in helping KI

Regional News

Personal trainer and local gym owner Ken Smoglian has used his business Island Fitness to help hundreds of Kangaroo Islanders improve their mental health and make better lifestyle choices.

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After selling his Melbourne cocktail bar in 2017, Ken visited Kangaroo Island with his dogs for an extended holiday to check out the beautiful scenery and vibe of the place.

Instantly drawn to the people and pristine coastline, the 35-year-old decided to move over and make American River his new home.

“Originally I was going to open up another bar and have it based in American River,” Ken says.

“But then another business popped up just at the right time and I committed to make a go at this.”

With a background in personal training work and competitive boxing, Ken took over the existing gym in Kingscote and gave it a complete overhaul. He reopened the gym around 16 months ago, with a new focus on mental health.

“Just before I took over the business, a lot of people over here lost their homes and livelihoods and struggled,” Ken says.

“So I wanted to implement the boxing ring and make people happy again.”

Ken says Island Fitness was significantly impacted by COVID at first, as “members were dropping off left, right and centre”, but he pushed the business through and not long after people started realising how important their health really is.

“Covid taught everyone that they should make health a priority,” Ken says.

Ken developed a 12-week challenge program as a body composition challenge to get people involved.

“Everyone has a different reason why they join,” says Ken, with some training to lose fat, others to increase their fitness, but the main reason is to improve their mental health.

“Often people are at a low light of their life and need something new to focus on,” he says.

To celebrate everyone’s achievements, Ken organises a gala dinner at the end of each challenge. During the night, every 12-week challenge participant gets to vote and a winner gets announced, receiving $1,000 prize money for their efforts.

“I like that it is a people’s choice, everyone gets to have a say and it is not just me deciding,” Ken says.

“The last challenge’s winner was transgender and just shifting to that when he joined up.

“Afterwards he became a gym member to put on extra muscle and look more masculine. It made him feel more accepted by the island now and a great part of the community.”

The impact a gym can have on an island is often underestimated as it’s not just about staying fit and connected.

“Chelsea is the epitome of what I offer,” Ken says.

“She was massively affected by her mental health, not in a good head space and used to go to the local candy shop every day to fill up a bucket.”

Since joining the gym a few challenges ago, Chelsea has lost more than 25 kilograms, replaced sweets with protein shakes, eats broccoli and kale for breakfast and does more steps in the morning than Ken.

Seeing her lifestyle changes positively affect her mental health makes Ken extremely proud – of her and his business.

“I came from making profits by serving people alcohol, and now I am making people a healthier and better version of themselves,” he says.

“I have the best job in the world.”

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