remembering mark rimell

Looking back at the achievements of a remarkable man whose fitness career mirrored the evolution of our industry.

This year’s Fitness Industry Awards ceremony saw Australian Fitness Network posthumously award the Inspiration Award to Mark Rimell. Here’s why.

In 1970, Mark emigrated with his parents and sister from England to a dairy farm on the outskirts of Albany in WA. Here, he attended Christian Brothers College where he quickly discovered that it was in the great outdoors and while playing sports at which he truly excelled.

He would go on to dominate the squash court, winning a Junior Club Championship in his first year playing and then two consecutive Open Club championships by the age of 20, at which point he moved to Sydney to pursue a career in competitive squash. Before long, his focus moved to other athletic endeavours, and he soon found himself teaching ‘aerobics’ – something that would prove to be the start of a lifelong passion.

Mark’s foray into competitive aerobics in the early 1990s – an era when legends such as Michelle Dean and Kylie Gates were competing – saw him narrowly miss out on a place due to his failure to wear a G-string on stage, a quality that was deemed by the judging panel to be essential for his future success...! Another quality he needed to develop was the ability to perform the Chinese splits. He duly set about tying ropes to his ankles, while using the legs of couches as pulleys to stretch his legs out to a full split… During the next four years, he pushed his body to the limit and at his peak could perform 10 one-arm push ups with 30kg on his back. This hard work paid off in 1994 when he won the State Aerobic Championships.

Harnessing his discipline and incredible work ethic, Mark later went on to compete in natural bodybuilding, placing fifth in his first competition.

Given how much Mark loved to use his body, and how much he loved to give, it’s not surprising that he discovered remedial massage. More than discover it, in fact, he changed his main career from motor mechanic to masseur. He was truly gifted at healing people and pursued this passion in China and then through teaching massage in Thailand.

Like many in our industry, Mark’s professional roles were many and varied, and in addition to being a masseur, he continued instructing numerous group exercise classes, both freestyle and pre-choreographed, and was also a personal trainer. Mark was notable not only for his abilities, but also for his loyalty: he worked with BodyCare Health Club in Albany for 27 years as both instructor and trainer, during which time he mentored many new instructors.

Back on the personal fitness front, Mark was always looking for something new to get his teeth stuck into. Never one to shy away from a challenge, he tried his hand at triathlons. First step, learning how to swim! He learnt fast and managed to win many local events and then quickly progressed to the Busselton Half Ironman, finishing in the top 10 for his age group. This thirst for the thrill of competition later evolved into a passion for adventure races.

Triathlons introduced him to the world of cycling and at the Albany Cycling Club he was named club champion in 2006 and 2007. Always keen to take a challenge and make it even harder, Mark now turned his efforts to riding a unicycle – which he claimed was the hardest thing he had ever tried. After eight months of painful practice, he eventually got it!

It was with this same grit, determination and resilience that Mark met a new challenge head on – cancer.

Two years ago he was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer, stage 4. Like everything he did, Mark gave 110 per cent to the battle. Within 12 months he had reduced it to stage 1 and doctors were amazed. It bought him more time to do what he loved doing, but wasn’t enough. In mid-August he taught what was to be his final RPM class – and by all accounts you wouldn’t have known he was ill. Just less than two weeks later he passed away, one week shy of his 50th birthday.

During his whole cancer journey, Mark never lost his incredible ability to consider others before himself. After hearing about an exercise class for cancer patients in Perth, he decided to make it a reality in his hometown of Albany. Mark and his wife Mary, in association with Solaris Care and BodyCare Health Club, formed the Albany Chemo Club which provides free exercise sessions for patients that are also attended by a physiotherapist, an exercise physiologist and trained nurses who are all volunteers. The formation of this group gives an insight into the massive depth of Mark’s strength and generosity of spirit. He got it up and running in the final month of his life, and now Mary and the team at BodyCare crew will ensure it carries on and serves as Mark’s legacy.

Remembering her long-time colleague, Amber Cekerevac from BodyCare Health Club, recalls: ‘He was one of the originals and his passing was a great loss to the industry. He was often described as the ‘Energiser bunny’ – his energy was contagious – he was the most positive person everyone ever met.’