This week we celebrate the 10th anniversary of our personal training studio, No1 Fitness. Although it still only feels like yesterday, so much has changed in that time, and I wanted to use this week’s column to share some of the lessons I’ve learned.
1. There’s more to personal training than working out
When we opened No1 Fitness, I was relatively new to the business. Back then I thought my job was just giving clients the best workout, pushing them to their limits and repeating the process in the next session.
But fitness is about far more than lifting weights. What happens outside the gym has a huge impact on a client’s progress. I realised that personal training is a form of life coaching, taking in aspects of nutrition, habit changing, accountability, mindset, sleep and recovery.
Everything is linked, and improving one area will have an effect on the others. If I can get a client to sleep better, they will have more energy, be happier, train harder and recover better.
2. There’s no one diet that works for everybody – but there’s one that works for you
When I ask people what’s holding them back from achieving their fitness goals, most say nutrition – especially those who work in the City. They turn to the new popular diet – keto, low carb, paleo and Atkins – and get dispirited when it doesn’t work.
The key is finding the right solution for you. Everybody knows eating junk food and drinking alcohol has a negative impact on your fitness and your weight. But not everybody is willing or able to give these things up. If part of your job is entertaining clients, then maybe you can’t give up meals out or a few bottles of wine a week.
I’ve learned that my job is to help people navigate these problems. You can have a boozy night, but you might have to skip breakfast. You can eat out three times a week, but then consider fasting for a day. The important thing is understanding how nutrition affects your body.
3. Be prepared to work hard
When people come in for personal training they usually have a goal in mind. Lose weight, tone up, get stronger. Some people assume that once they pay for training, they will automatically get results. I wish this were true, it would make my life a lot easier. But getting results requires commitment. Change only happens through sacrifice and discipline. The clients who see great results are those who cut back on nights out, make changes to their diet and increase the amount and intensity of exercise. Patience and consistency are key. I wouldn’t expect to see any major changes in less than three months, and that’s if you put the effort in.
4. Pick a good PT
Trainers come in all shapes and sizes, and personality types. Not all of them are any good. I’ve learned – sometimes the hard way – that the successful ones have a genuine interest in health and fitness. They listen to and care about their clients. They keep learning and adding to their skills. It’s amazing how many trainers haven’t been on a single course since they qualified. When you’re booking a trainer, ask them about their education. Ask to see photographs of their results with other clients. Tell them what you want to achieve. You’re paying a lot for their services, make sure you get one of the good ones.
5. Ignore the social media noise
Social media has completely changed the way we access information. When I started out, there was no Instagram, Twitter had only just arrived and we were still learning what a hashtag was. These can be great platforms for fitness advice but you need to know where to look, and take things with a big pinch of salt. So much misinformation gets spread through these channels by people more interested in gaining followers than they are in helping people to get fit.
6. Meditation really works
A decade ago I thought meditation was a waste of time. Now I do it every morning. The benefits of starting the day in a positive and relaxed frame of mind can’t be overestimated, helping you switch off from stress about work, family and finance. I can’t imagine living without it these days, and neither can millions of people across the country. What started as a trend has become a way of life and people are getting amazing benefits. If you haven’t given it a go, try downloading one of the popular meditation apps. It changed my life, now I’m even learning to teach it to future clients.
7. Measure your progress
Many people come to a personal trainer as a last resort. They tell me they have tried everything, with no results. Often, part of the problem is they aren’t looking in the right places. Progress doesn’t only happen on the scales. I’ve found that when people track various metrics – distances covered, fat percentage, strength, waist size – they will see the improvements, and this will encourage them to press on with their regime rather than abandon it.
8. The importance of sleep
We’ve always known that a good night’s kip makes you feel better, but sleep research has come on leaps and bounds in the last decade. Part of the reason athletes are now beating records every year is sports scientists have made sleep an exact science. We can now measure how and when athletes recover after training, with peak recovery only coming during certain phases of sleep. If you’re not getting the right amount and quality of rest, you won’t be able to push yourself, and your workout will suffer.
Another innovation is the emergence of the sleep tracker, which allows you to accurately measure your own sleep. I recently discovered I haven’t been sleeping well for years thanks to mild sleep apnoea, and my body had simply adjusted to that poor quality sleep. I was able to take measures to help, and it’s gradually improving. You should do the same.
9. Find a friendly face
One of the main reasons people stay with their PT is the relationship they build. Being a part of a community keeps you accountable and takes the sense dread away from exercising. Having a friendly face to cheer you on can make the difference.
10. Take control
People complain about being swept through life, scraping by at work and looking forward to the weekend, only to feel tired and irritable until Monday morning. Juggling family, jobs, friends, hobbies and a million other things is tough. But you have the power to make positive changes. A couple of years ago, I stopped drinking. I was tired of the hangovers, tired of the regrets, tired of being tired. One day I just said ‘enough is enough’.
I’ve never felt better. I get up on Saturday mornings and go for long bike rides. I’m getting personal bests in every exercise I do. I’m not saying you should stop drinking, but you have the power to change things in your life that aren’t working.
• To book a session with one of the trainers at No1 Fitness, visit no1fitness.co.uk