Before and after: Alex Dymoke embarks on a transformation

I’M NOT sure I have any muscles on my abdomen. I’ve certainly never seen any and it strikes me as an arrogant leap of faith to assume they exist. From the outside you wouldn’t be able to guess I’m so out of shape. At 6ft 1, I look quite skinny if I wear the right thing. Clothes off, it’s a different story. I’ve always been covered in a layer of insulating flubber, but since starting university, booze and bad food have turned me into a paunchy, oversized 12 year old, all dough and puppyish squidge. Getting a job as a journalist didn’t help. Boozy press nights and long, sedentary hours cemented the bad habits that begun forming a few years earlier. I was beginning to come to terms with the fact that fitness just wasn’t for me when I came across Ben Camara, personal trainer and owner of No. 1 Fitness, a personal training company with two studios in the City.

I meet Ben at his gym next to the Gherkin and he shows me the before and after pictures of Sam, a City worker he trained for three months last year. Ben won Personal Trainer of the Year for the transformation, and it’s not difficult to see why. Over the course of twelve weeks Sam turned from a pale, pot bellied drone who spent so much time stuffing greasy food in his mouth that he didn’t have time to shave, into a bronzed, lean, renaissance sculpture of a man. Gone is the distended paunch, gone is the pallid complexion and gone is the clumpy four day beard. He glares at the camera, his arsenal of abdominal muscles tensed up and bulging. Impressive, but it’s this kind of thing that always put me off gyms: the posing, the body-worship, the narcissism.

“Wow, does the transformation come free with a full-body wax?” I joke. Ben says that the hairlessness and fake tan were for the professional shots. He shows me the ones they did themselves in the gym free of all the cool lighting and make up.

“Oh alright,” I say. “But I don't want to look like Sam. I want to look normal. Toned, healthy but normal.” That he can do, he says, and the regime begins.

Intense gym sessions are just half the effort. For the first two weeks of the programme you can’t drink. At all. And no carbs either. A shocking adjustment, definitely, but a surprisingly pleasurable one. For ages I’ve wanted to eat better and drink less but lacked either the excuse or the will to do so. Now I do have an excuse, and I can feel my body thanking me already. The sessions in the gym are difficult, especially coming from a position of a total lack of fitness, but it’s true what they say: the feeling you get after a really hard work out is addictive. After a week, I certainly feel better, and I think, though I couldn’t be certain, that my body might be beginning to change as well. Still not an ab to speak of though. Oh well, maybe next week

Read the next Transformation column in a fortnight to see how I progress. Find out more at

Call the Tower Bridge studio on 0207 403 6660 or The City studio on 0207 621 1321.

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