An “ipu ki” (cuppa) with Matt Bateman

16 prams line up by the lake, their hoods offering little reprieve from the 9am heat. Trustful Teddies are ignored as the babies watch their mums channel their inner Mowgli’s and squat, scramble and slither around the Hagley Jungle.  Toddler in tow, Matt Bateman aka “The BFG” to 4-year-old Bruno, bellows out motivational messages about life as he puts the mums through sets of quad-punishing “frog squats” and shoulder-smashing “bear crawls”.

These 15 and 30-second intervals are a far cry from the usual inner city gym experience, and the supermums take it all in their stride, breathing heavily, encouraging each other and dashing to give their baby some milk, water, snacks or a cuddle throughout the session. This Mums & Bubs class is causing such a spectacle that tourists stop and take photos, apparently some have been so intrigued they’ve walked up to the prams and taken selfies with the babies!

Mums and Bubs HIIT Squad Class @ Hagley Park.

This bizarre display is ‘Zuu’ the Gold-Coast born, workout phenomenon, that mixes mobility, lung scorching conditioning and an insane amount of positive teamwork. The creator of Zuu, father-of-four Nathan Halberg is an expert in these primal mobility movements and piloted Zuu in 2010. Since its inception, it has been earmarked by institutions as a Global trend and is fast becoming a global sensation that would rival the more established trends of Crossfit and F45.

Matt pictured here with Zuu founder Nathan Halberg at the recent launch of Iron Zuu. Nathan gave him the nickname “Tall Timber”

Our ‘ipu ki’ or cuppa today is a Chocolate Peanut Butter  Protein Shake from Soulfull Superfoods on Hereford Street. The owner Katie and her partner BJ Rakena are both Zuu frequent flyers, and a third of the mums have come down to try Katie’s divine Acai bowls on her first day of business. (The perfect post-Zuu recovery fuel!)

Zuu journey

It is hard to believe a 6’7, shredded athlete like Matt ever struggled with mobility, but he maintains that he “sucked at kicksits” at the start and that he is still a work-in-progress. (FYI- He can do 100 kicksits in 80 seconds)

A St Bede’s old boy, Matt played in the second XV at high school, a solid launchpad for future Rugby honours. He went straight into playing Division 1, then made the Metro, Crusader Knights and ITM training squads.  A career-threatening back injury, coupled with a building stint in the Pacific Island Nauru led him to answer his colleague’s call to give Zuu a try, and he hasn’t looked back since.

Fresh off the Iron Zuu launch in the Gold Coast this year, facilitating Zuu sessions with renowned fitness trainers in NZ, local Christchurch rugby clubs, a couple of months with the Crusaders under his belt and having at least 135 people come through his classes a week, are some pretty impressive numbers and they are growing still. Matt has business mentors in place  to help him plan for the future of his HIIT Squad brand.

Matt putting Northland Rugby trainer Tim Hurst through a rigorous Ankorr session.


Matt’s FB Post: #GetATouch ✋🏽#YewwwwwwwToday marks the start of something special as I took the @crusadersrugbyteam for their first @zuufitness session!!!! Pre-season has just begun and the boys are excited about #ZUU and the mobility aspect along with culture that it has to offer!!!!!

Come get amongst it! #HIITSquad #ZUU #BearCrawls #Crusaders— at Rugby Park.

On Family 

Matt spoke at length about his immediate family, like his now-retired Detective Dad’s sleuthing abilities, his Maori roots in Codfish Island and marrying his high school sweetheart this year in Bali.


They say behind every great man is an even greater woman. Matt’s fiance Whitney is a beast during the Zuu classes, and together they are straight #CoupleGoals.

I first met Whit during a four-week strength and conditioning class at Atlas Gymnasium last year. Her constant encouragement and frequent hi-5s (like every few minutes) was a shock to my introverted self.

She soon inspired me to get my Papanui Tigers league girls to Get-A-Touch (#GAT) constantly during training and every time we scored.

Such is their leadership that you’ll get big no.8 forwards like ‘Choccy’ Scott Robert posting a ‘Bro-mance’ worthy post about how much Matt’s mentorship means to him, and  when preparing to paint their house one weekend,  members of the HIIT Squad familia organised a surprise working bee and got the job done in a few hours.

Matt’s most recent achievement is his selection as one of 5 ambassadors from across Australasia to attend the Lululemon Athletica North America Ambassador Summit in Canada this April. His response to this,#Epiccccccc!

As we walk over to meet Tess and the team at the  Lululemon Athletica store in Cashel Mall,  Matt shares why he is an avid Zuu aficionado,

“Everyone is equal here, everyone is humble, and when our heads get into dark places, we keep each other honest.   When I see the bros or the island usos during a  Zuu session for rugby, I’ll cheeehoooo and tell them what they’re doing well. They love it, there’s too much negativity out there, everyone needs more positivity.  You’ve seen the mum’s and bubs, even if I only get 2 or 3 mums, I’ll still go, because they’re so determined, they’re legends!”  

And as I peer deeper into Matt’s journey of Zuu, I see why and how it transcends mere fitness: his high sense of self-efficacy, his personal training discipline, his passion for fitness, his desire to create a culture of inclusivity with no egos, and above all his humility to live out what he teaches. This is what makes you want to be a part of the HIIT Squad community and Zuu movement.

Tall Timber’ or ‘BFG’, this is one ‘Zuu Keeper’ of the future!

Til next time xox

Daisy Speaks


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