THE COMFORT ZONE
He is the former footballer turned fitness-empire builder. She is the former television newsreader who has battled alcoholism. As Ben Lucas and Talitha Cummins tell Stellar, they found their inspiration in each other
otted along the walls of Sydney’s Flow Athletic studio are the kind of mantras you’d expect to hear personal trainers shout out. There’s one, in particular, that resonates with the business’s co-owner and CEO: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
Ben Lucas’s new life as a fitness entrepreneur began after a bone-crushing, brain-numbing tackle during his last game of professional rugby league in 2007, playing for the Cronulla Sharks. “I went to make a regulation tackle that I would make 100 times out of 100 and I was out snoring,” the 39-year-old tells Stellar.
“I just had too many concussions. From the neck down, I’m all good,” he adds, and then pauses. “I don’t have any issues now, but the prospect of dementia [or] Alzheimer’s scares the life out of me.” Both conditions have been linked to repeated head knocks.
Making the decision to retire from the game in his mid-20s was made easier for Lucas by having his side-hustle as a personal trainer. It was a job that proved to be his passion, purpose and profitmaker. He and co-founder Kate Kendall employ 35 staff, boast a thousand clients, and have their third premises opening in February. “I’ve pretty much worked seven days a week for the last 20 years, but I love it,” Lucas says. “I was up at 3.30am today so I could train before I had a few clients. Then I took Oli to swimming… and that time to me is the reward.”
Oli, aka Oliver, is the two-year-old son Lucas shares with his wife of five years, former TV newsreader Talitha Cummins, 38. The couple is also planning to welcome a daughter – due on Christmas Day – into the fold. Yet their current bliss belies a rocky start to their relationship. After being introduced by Cummins’s former Weekend Sunrise co-star Monique Wright, Cummins was two-and-a-half hours late to their first date after getting stuck on a reporting job.
“I thought I’d been stood up,” recalls Lucas. “I’d eaten 12 buckets of edamame, but I stuck around.” Their next attempt wasn’t much better. Cummins says they were “both just off our game” and she admitted to him that night she was
being treated for alcoholism and bipolar disorder. “I was only three months into not drinking and I really didn’t know who I was or what was going on, really,” she says.
Lucas remains in awe of his wife’s strength and honesty. “She is one of the most together people I know because she knows what her challenges are,” he says.
Cummins sued the Seven Network for unfair dismissal in 2017 after being told nine weeks into her maternity leave that she would not be welcomed back to her former Weekend Sunrise job, and was instead offered another position as a 5am newsreader. They later reached a confidential settlement. She now works in media training and holds an additional advisory role for mental health organisation Mindframe.
Even with the birth of her second child fast approaching and renovations to the couple’s Paddington home due for completion this month, Cummins’s professional goals are still front and centre. “I feel like I want to have more influence in the area I’m in, whether it’s shaping policy around alcohol or mental health. I see lots of different problems, speaking at conferences,” she says.
As for Lucas, he couldn’t be prouder. “To see what she’s achieved and how hard she’s worked and the person she is and the great mother that she is… she’s a big part of my inspiration. The good thing is I can do it all without fear. I can build these businesses up and they could all go to sh*t tomorrow, and that’s still not the most important thing to her. As long as I’m a good husband and a good father, we’ll go and sleep in a caravan until we get back on our feet. That’s a great feeling, to know that I can’t fail as I’ll always have the love and support of my family to go home to.”
Not that it’s without its limits. “He was talking about opening up another business today,” Cummins says with a laugh, “and I said, ‘Do that and I will divorce you.’”
Wella Professionals has given the perm a modern makeover with Wella Wave. The formula conditions during processing so hair maintains its strength and elasticity, and minimises damage and breakage on fine hair. The process takes about three hours, and there’s no washing for two days post-treatment (you can tie it back). Some old-school elements remain: the solution emits a faintly unpleasant odour, and the process still utilises rollers, but the results are customisable – from tight curls to loose bends – and should last anywhere from four to 12 weeks. At home, it was suggested we avoid using a towel on damp hair and instead hand-wring and let it air-dry, using a diffuser only if necessary. It made our natural waves more uniform, smooth and wash-and-go – exactly what we crave at this time of year.