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Robbie Dutton: From Prisoner To Mentor – Using My Past Mistakes To Guide Others

On today’s episode of the Engaging Marketeer, Darren speaks to Robbie Dutton of RDS Fitness WCFC, who is using his past to propel him forward, and helps to spread positivity through the fitness projects he offers. He takes a compassionate approach to sport, and his work is the epitome of healthy body, healthy mind.

How Robbie’s journey into physical fitness started

Darren: So today, I am joined by Robbie Dutton of RDS Fitness WCFC.

Robbie: That is correct.

Darren: Which is not a football club.

Robbie: No.

Darren: Not a football club. So, do you want to explain what that actually means?

Robbie: So with the fitness, there’s two parts to it. The first part, the RDS Fitness, is one-off classes or one-to-one training, so if you just want to come and try some fitness out, and you’re not 100% sure it’s for you, you can dabble.

The WCFC, the Wild Cats fitness challenge, is more of a program, and I’ve based this around people who struggle with confidence to go into fitness classes. If you’ve got around 40 people on one gym instructor, you can’t utilise everybody’s ability in one go. So what I’ve done is, I’ve broken down the session to build up people’s confidence, so they can be more confident to go into any fitness class.

Darren: Yeah, going into a fitness class, I find it’s not so much worrying about the instructor not being able to cope with all the people. Typically, I find it’s that you don’t want to walk into a room full of people who are often a lot fitter than you.

Robbie: That’s very true Darren.

What I’ve found is that a lot of people are going into gym sessions or fitness classes, and they’re going once or twice, and the gym instructor is obviously totally six-packed up, and they just feel a bit intimidated or overwhelmed, and they never go back. Even I feel a bit intimidated going into certain gyms.

Darren: Do you?

Robbie: Yeah, so what I’ve done is, I’ve took this Wild Cats fitness challenge and I’ve made it into more of a family environment. We’re all supporting each other, we have a WhatsApp group, and there’s a chat room there where you can just get confidence speak to people who have come from similar situations, with a lack of confidence or motivation. I’m giving them the skills to walk into that gym with ease.

Darren: And what prompted you to do this in the first place?

Robbie: When I was young, I had a lack of confidence and just totally went down the wrong path with my “associates”. I was in a dark place. I ended up using fitness as an escape and to try and build my confidence, and I found that it worked. I thought, “wow, this is really good. It’s clearing my mind and helping me progress from day to day, and I feel like I’m achieving something”. I saw then that fitness was good for the mind and body, but as I went later on through life, I didn’t have the right mindset. I was all about the physical, so I was getting that instant gratification, but at I got older and wiser, I realised I needed the mindset to go with it.

Darren: When you were talking about when you were younger, you were very careful to use the words “associates” rather than friends. What did you mean by that?

Robbie: When I was younger, I was raised in a pub down in Wales where my parents were very busy, and used to work all the hours God sent, so me and my brother were often left to our own devices. We ended up getting into a bit of bother, that led into some more bother, and the behaviour pattern just escalated, which ended up with me at the age of 20 going into custody, which was a wakeup call. That’s when I first had my first taste of the gym, but I wasn’t fully committed, I was just trying to get through my sentence and get out as quick as possible. But it was an eye-opener, and I thought, “I don’t want to spend my life doing this”, so I started looking into rehabilitation, and how I can help others not go down the same path.

How prison helped Robbie to change his life for the better

Robbie: I’ve always been like a book in the wind, with the pages constantly flipping back and forth. I could work a good job, and then easily flip back into mixing with old “associates”, and that’s exactly what happened. I had a disagreement, to put it mildly, with my brother’s son, and the pages flicked straight back into the old ways. I had a job, but I slowly started mixing back in with the associates, which built up and built up. To cut a long story short, in 2007, everything escalated. I lost my dad, I mixed with the wrong people and ended up getting into serious trouble. I ended up getting an IPP sentence.

Darren: What’s that?

Robbie: An IPP sentence is a sentence that David Blunkett brought out in 2005. Tougher crimes meant tougher sentences, but after seven years, it was found to be inhumane, and they abolished it. IPP stands for imprisonment for public protection, so it’s technically a life sentence, but with a tariff. My tariff was under two years, yet from that in total I’ve served 11 years, and I’ve been going in and out the system for about 16 years.

Darren: Wow. And how do you feel when you look back on that time?

Robbie: Really sad. I do believe I deserved a sentence for what I’d done. I’d been mixing with the wrong people, and I was taking substances like they were going out of fashion. I just had no purpose, and no direction. I was at a point in my life where I wouldn’t have been fussed if I was here or not. So, in some ways, I could say that prison saved my life. If I would have continued how I was on the outside, I think I would have just taken too many drugs and overdosed, or I would have taken my own life. So, looking at the negatives and turning them into a positive, I think it did save my life.

However, for the sentence, I think it’s just diabolical. I’m one of the lucky ones that’s managed to get through it. I’ve been in and out of custody a number of times on a recall, which means that they can call you back to custody for the most minor of things. I’ve spent more time in custody on recalls for non-offensives; so, behavioural concerns, which is what they write everything down as.

Darren: So not matter what the offensive is, they can put it down as that.

Robbie: Yeah, so no matter what it is you’ve done, they can put it down as a behavioural. I ended up going back for a common assault that carried a six-week sentence, which should have been three weeks, and I ended up doing three and a half years inside for it, due to being an IP prisoner.

I now do work alongside a company called Inspiring Your Future and Ungripp, a campaign for people who have suffered a miscarriage of justice. There are people still inside who have been sentenced to an IPP. These can be sentences from 12 months to two years, yet because of the tariffs, they’re still in 18 years later. These organisations are campaigning for different legislations, and we even have David Blunkett on our side, despite the fact that he was the original person who brought it in. There’s a bill going through the House of Commons now to change the license, to give people the opportunity to be released, and to have support networks there. He’s admitted that it was a mistake, so hats off to him for that admitting that.

How Robbie managed to break the cycle

Robbie: The IPP sentencing is like the story of Pavlov’s dog.

If you take a dog and put an electric fence in front of him, and he tries to jump over it, he’ll get stunned. When he tries to jump over it again, he gets stunned again, and it becomes a cycle. In the end, the dog gets stunned so many times he falls into depression, and that’s what happens if you keep putting people in prison without giving them skills or putting things into place for them to succeed on the outside. That’s where the depression kicks in, and that’s what’s happening to people on an IPP sentence. They’re just slowly falling into depression, with no motivation, no inspiration, and no purpose. Purpose is a big thing to help you succeed in life. If you haven’t got a purpose, you haven’t really got much going for you.

To have a purpose is a key element in survival, be it for society, or as an inmate. You need to have direction, which thankfully through self-education I’ve managed to learn. It’s taken me having to step up and say, “right, I’m not going to get everything out of this system I need, so I’m going to go and find the elements to make things better. That’s the fitness, that’s the personal development, that’s reading the books. That’s the constant purpose to try and better myself every day.”

What motivates Robbie to keep going

Darren: So, what prompted you to start the fitness business?

Robbie: Through my past experiences, I brought fitness into it because I was seeing people not getting the best out of life, be that through the gym or their mental state of mind. Going through all the trauma and mishaps, to put it mildly, that I’ve been through, I just wanted to help people out. I’m just intrigued of how far people will bend in a sense, or break, before they have this remarkable change. Sometimes, it can just be one seed planted, or one voice. I’ve just wanted to be that person to say, “yes, I’ve come from literally the rags and ruins of mental destruction to this person, and there’s hope out there. If I can do it, then you can too.”

About Robbie:

Robbie founded RDS Fitness as an opportunity to help people transform their lives, combining physical fitness and mental well-being in his approach. He is currently in the process of setting up a YouTube platform to extend his reach, and has a new book available for purchase on his website. He offers personalised fitness classes, as well as programmes to suit all abilities. Links to his platforms can be found here:




About your host:

Darren has worked within digital marketing since the last century, and was the first in-house web designer for video games retailer GAME in the UK, known as Electronics Boutique in the States. After co-founding his own agency, Engage Web, in 2009, Darren has worked with clients around the world, including Australia, Canada and the USA.



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