He’s represented the nation as a soldier, entertained the nation as a reality television contestant, and now Matt Filippi is resolute about doing his bit for a healthier nation, too. The boot camp trainer opens up about life in the military, fame, fitness, and his exciting future.
It could easily be a scene from an army barracks, as a fit, tanned silhouette loads heavy sandbags, tyres and ropes from a shed into the back of a ute.
It’s not however; it’s a shed in industrial Kawana, but for personal trainer Matt Filippi, 30, his preparation to train his group fitness troops is inspired by the military regimes of his past.
Originally from Victoria, Matt, his twin brother and parents moved to the Sunshine Coast when he was 14 years old.
“Going through school I didn’t want to be a typical tradie on the Coast. I decided to join the Australian Army and it’s the best thing I ever did,” says Matt.
After finishing high school, Matt joined the Australian Defence Force and was posted to Townsville and Darwin with the rank of a private,
I was always interested in fitness, and having a military background I wanted to do the boot camp type stuff…”
“The job was infantry, in the army we are known for doing the job on the ground, the gritty stuff,” Matt says.
In 2006, as part of Australia’s military involvement in the Middle East, Matt was deployed to Iraq for three months, his first ‘boots on the ground’ mission, and undertook border security.
Then in 2007, Matt spent seven months in Afghanistan, tasked with protecting the engineers rebuilding schools, hospitals, and army and police checkpoints.
“Our job was to keep the Taliban away because they would try to fire rockets and set off bombs to stop the engineers from building,” says Matt.
“There were some heated moments where we were under fire, definitely.”
Tragically, among the mateship and bravery, there was loss.
“In the first two weeks I was over there one of my mates got killed when he was driving one of the tanks,” says Matt.
“We were kind of pumped to do our job and then that happening blew us back a bit, we realised – we’re actually in a warzone now,” Matt remembers soberly.
“It’s devastating. When you’re over there you can’t let it get to you, the next day we’re out on patrol again.
“There were other times, we found an IED (improvised explosive device) on patrol and got the engineers in to detonate it and it ended up blowing up on an engineer, and he lost an arm and half his other hand … it’s heavy when you’re out there.”
When Matt returned from Afghanistan, he switched to aviation and ground crewman aircraft support, refuelling and rearming aircrafts in Darwin for 18 months.
“Then I got out and wanted to come home to the Coast,” he says. “There are more important things in life.”
Of the transition from military life to ‘civilian’ life, “It’s pretty hard, but you have the right people there and the army provides help for you,” Matt reflects.
“The whole reason I got into the army was because I didn’t want to do a trade – and then I started a sparkie apprenticeship!” Matt laughs.
“I got to my third year and decided I wanted a new adventure, so I applied for Big Brother 2013.”
On the now-defunct reality show which sees strangers locked in a house at Dreamworld on the Gold Coast with cameras filming their every move, Matt was touted as the war veteran-turned-electrician, and was a popular contestant, lasting 50 days before being evicted; into a whirlwind week of meeting fans at Dreamworld.
“It was a bit full on, even back home going to the Sunshine Plaza, people wanted photos,” Matt laughs, sharing his time on the show was an “amazing experience”.
Post-show, Matt stayed in the public eye, landing a cover of Men’s Fitness magazine, and was promptly offered a scholarship at Fit College in Maroochydore to study his Certificate III and Certificate IV in Fitness.
“I was always interested in fitness, and having a military background I wanted to do the boot camp type stuff, you see a lot of them around, but people don’t have the military experience,” says Matt.
Matt launched Fitness Resolution in January 2014, kicking off a range of outdoor sessions around Point Cartwright, before expanding to include his training shed in Kawana, ‘keeping it old school’ with tyres, ropes, sandbags and circuit training, resulting in incredible transformations.
And on home soil, Matt’s recently returned from a trip to Europe with his now-fiancée Emma, a holiday that proved to be more memorable than most.
“I proposed to her in Europe, and a week after that in Rome, we found out she was pregnant,” Matt smiles.
In 2016, Matt will mark two years of running Fitness Resolution, before welcoming his first child in March, and continuing to change the health of his local community.
Now, that’s a mission.
Matt’s tips for health, fitness and wellbeing:
- Eat healthy and train hard – back to basics.
- Get out of your comfort zone to get results.
- Don’t worry about anyone else’s fitness level. As long as you feel like you’re getting a good workout, that’s all that matters.