Gym of the week: W10 Performance

Jeans Genius

Gym of the week: W10 Performance

Can a fitness programme turn a hardened jeans-phobic into a snake-hipped denim diva inside two months? Sharon Walker puts W10 Performance's Skinny Jeans Challenge to the test.

The last time I wore a pair of jeans it was 2008. I’d flown to meet a friend in Miami where she was working at the Miami Music Festival. As the holiday kicked off we headed to South Beach for a girly shopping spree in one of those strictly-for-models Miami boutiques.

When I emerged from the changing room in a pair of 7 For All Man Kind skinny jeans to ask her opinion, there wasn’t much good to say. Even encased in the achingly hip, eye-wateringly expensive uber-denim, my 43-year-old bum looked more comfortable housewife than pert club kitten.

It was one of those fashion moments that bores into your retina and recalibrates your personal sense of style: jeans, two-piece bathing attire and those cute Sixties-style mini-skirts I’d always been so fond of, were no longer my thing.

I wasn’t fat exactly, but my weight had been creeping; a dress size a decade and I was now nudging a size 14. My friend shook her head, kindly but firmly. I’ve worn dresses ever since.

Then, last summer, a man I know started getting up at 5am and spending his Saturday mornings travelling to the other side of town to a tiny gym in W10. I thought he was nuts. But over the next six weeks he transformed before my eyes.

He wasn’t the only one, a gym-phobic colleague, who rarely leaves her desk, turned up to a party looking she could give Beyonce a run for her money. She’d ‘turned’ she confided. She’d become a gym bunny thanks to the Skinny Jeans Fitness programme at W10 Performance in Ladbroke Grove.

“If you do what they say,” she told me confidently, “it will only take eight weeks”.

Which is how I found myself standing on a special set of scales which sent (painless) electric pulses through my body and spewed out numbers – I weighed 64 kilos, 25% per cent of which was fat.

Not too bad, optimal body fat ranges from 15% to 25% for women and 10% to 20% for men, but not exactly bootylicious either. Call me vain, but so what if I live longer? I want to look hot in midlife-crisis skinny jeans.

Fortunately, the W10 Jeans Challenge promises to shave off two sizes in eight weeks. I’m in.

W10’s founder Jean Claude Vacassin, who looks fit in a ‘could-look-after-himself-in-a-fight-with-Mike-Tyson’ kind of way, says this programme doesn’t suit everybody, “It’s going to be tough, you’ll have to work bloody hard.” But I’m determined. Vacassin is nice enough not to say too many rude things at our first meeting.

He doesn’t scoff at my goals (feel confident in a bikini, weigh 60 kilos) but raises as an eyebrow at my goal weight. He doesn’t think weight is the thing we should focus on. For someone who’s spent their entire life hoping on and off scales, it’s something of an epiphany. “Most women are under-caloried and under-muscled.

Dieting eats away lean tissue,” he tells me, “If your basal metabolic rate is 1200 calories and you cut that by 400, the body will break down muscle for fuel, because it’s easier than burning fat.” Plenty of the women he sees are “skinny fat” – they might weigh eight stone but they have a high body fat percentage.

I’m not sure you can have high anything if you weigh eight stone, but he seems pretty sure.

And as for my fear of bulking up a body builder? “Bollocks. It’s nearly impossible for most women to gain more two or three kilos of lean tissue.

” Women don’t have enough of the raw materials needed for fast muscle gain and anyway I’d need to load up on calories a bodybuilder, whereas I’ll be cutting back. His challenge for me is to strip away fat while maintaining the muscle I already have.

After that it’s mostly about building strength and redressing postural imbalances, my computer-stooped shoulders and arched lower back.


To do the Jeans Programme I must live at the gym. Well not live exactly, but I am expected to show up three times a week for weight-training and again once or twice a week for the aerobic metabolic circuit.

Despite sporting names “Death Row” or perhaps it was just “Death” – a mix of boxing sparring and old school exercises burpees, squats , skipping and sprints, designed to get your heart pumping – the circuits are over in, a mercifully short, thirty-five minutes.

Surprisingly, it’s really quite manageable, perhaps because Jean Claude and his trainers seem to have a sixth sense which tells them just how hard they can push you, before you start to cry.

As for the weights, JC has put me on a programme based around “more bang for your buck” compound exercises (squats, press up, rows and deadlifts) using body weight and dumb bells, which use more than one joint and set of muscles at a time, for fast results. But you have to train “ you mean it”, he tells me firmly, “Your muscles should be screaming.”

Three weeks in: it’s working. The lady in the corner shop asks what I’ve been doing. After a month one of the school mums stops me in the street: “You’ve shrunk.” My yoga-honed fitness friend demands that I strip off in the loo at a dinner party so she can see my bottom. “Wow. It’s amazing,” she says without a shred of irony.

The great thing is I’ve done this without feeling hungry. I haven’t so much cut back, as changed my diet. The first two weeks take some getting used to as every meal is based around protein (a palm sized piece, in my case around 100g).

Simple carbs are out, my morning Starbucks muffin and latte is off the menu, ditto alcohol and most grains. Even fruit is limited to two pieces a day, although I’m allowed blueberries (low glycaemic index) for breakfast with a dollop of Greek yoghurt. It’s all about balancing blood sugar.

Butter, strangely, is good, “a rich source of iodine which stimulates the thyroid”, coconut oil is even better, “brilliant for cooking as it’s stable at high temperatures” (un olive oil which degrades replacing the healthy compounds with unhealthy ones).

I develop some odd habits, grabbing packs of Parma ham to munch on the run, but eating out is a doddle, providing I avoid the breadbasket. Perhaps the single most useful tip is to write down everything you eat.

Week seven: I approach Zara’s changing room clutching a size 12 black lace dress, and, less confidently, a size ten pair of jeans. The dress is a tad on the loose side. The jeans fit a glove. I can even squeeze into a size eight (if I lie on the floor to do up the zip).

The turbo charged scales show I’ve lost 3% body fat and three-and-a-half kilos of fat. Fifteen packs of butter! And that’s not all. A strange thing has happened with all this squatting and jumping and lifting and sweating.

I’m sleeping better, I’m nicer to my kids when they won’t go to bed; I’m in a better mood all round. I’ve become one of those relentlessly spritely, annoyingly positive people. AND I am even considering signing up for the ‘Tough Mudder Challenge’, a macho team competition W10 enter every year.

Skinny jeans? Pah, that’s nothing, with Jean Claude and his team on side I reckon I can take on a bikini.

W10 Performance DietStep one: take out all the processed foods and wheat.Step two: reduce carbohydrates and increase protein.

Step three: gradually re-introduce carbs as you get leaner and build more muscle.

Eat four meals a day at regular intervals. No snacking.Include a small palm-sized piece of protein at each meal and one serving of carbohydrates from the list below.

Your fat intake will be taken care of by naturally occurring fat in the foods you eat and in the cooking process.

Use cold-pressed olive oil, coconut oil or butter (a rich source of iodine which stimulates the thyroid) and cook with a level tablespoon at each meal. If you are eating salad, use a tablespoon of cold-processed olive oil for the dressing.

ProteinSelect grass-fed meat and avoid intensively-farmed animals.One palm-sized portion per meal, choose from:Fish (including shellfish)ChickenTurkeyLambVenisonBeefWild gameEggs (3-4)FetaMozzarella

A handful of nuts (you should be able to close your hand).

CarbohydratesChoose one of the following at each of your four meals:1 apple1 pear1 small tub of berries (excluding strawberries which high in sugar)75g (before cooking) wild rice40 g (before cooking) brown rice50g (before cooking) quinoia50g (before cooking in water) oats1 small sweet potatoEat as many of these vegetables as you :Asparagus, artichokes, aubergines, broccoli, bamboo shoots, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, courgettes, onion, leek, green beans, lettuce, mixed greens, sprouts, water chestnut, vegetable juices.

Choose seasonal vegetables and minimize cooking times or eat raw.


Meet the Trainers | ELLE UK

Gym of the week: W10 Performance

We’re gearing up for May 18th, when four members of the ELLE Running Club will be lacing up to take on the Copenhagen Marathon. Our biggest challenge yet, we’ve put together a crack-team of specialists to show us— and you— how to reach our running goals. Say hello to team #CPHmarathon…

Tim Weeks, Lead Coach

Tim is a trainer and elite athlete with a background in Olympic Sport, who specializes in women’s fitness. We love his infectious positivity, real-life approach and seemingly limitless knowledge of all things running. He’s worked with some of the world’s top athletes— and newbies us, too. We’re following his bespoke training plan created exclusively for ELLE, which you can download and use to reach your own running goals. He has completed the London Marathon in 2 hours, 35 minutes; in addition to being fast on his feet, he is also the class inventor and Programme Director for Psycle London, quickly becoming an ELLE favourite. I think he might be the Siddhartha of running. Website:

Jean Claude Vacassin & W10 Performance, Strength & Conditioning

W10 Performance is a semi-private gym and conditioning hub in West London, filled with gentle giants who just get fitness. This is a vanity-free zone— no mirrors, no meatheads— just a positive community, both members and trainers, who love what they do and have a genuine desire to share their experiences.

And these guys really know their stuff; apart from their collective qualifications, JC has competed in ironman events, ultra-running challenges and has an understanding of macro-nutrition that borderlines obsession.

And he doesn’t judge us for drinking champagne; he will, however, break it down into grams-of-carbs per coupé. Ta.


FRAME, Flexibility & Recovery

A few visits to the #ELLEfashioncupboard by FRAME’s Gede Foster, AKA the bendiest woman in London (no joke: she runs a Bend-It–Barbie and splits workshop at FRAMEshoreditch) and we were hooked. Operating on a pre-book or rock-up basis at both it’s London locations (Shoreditch, Queens Park), FRAME has a variety of high energy classes ranging from dynamic stretch to dance to full-on aerobic workouts. We’re taking advantage of the flexibility-focused classes to keep us limber and release our tight muscles after long runs, but love that we can mix it up so training never gets boring. The sessions are fun, the music is good, and the vibes are totally uplifting.: @FRAMEshoreditch, @FRAMEqueensparkWebsite:

Felix Economakis, Psychologist

Because running is as much about state of mind as state of body, we’ve enlisted the help of Felix Economakis, one of the UK’s leading practitioners in the treatment of fear and anxiety.

As a chartered psychologist, hypnotist and NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) Master Practitioner who has worked with a broad range of clients (including athletes), we think he’s in a unique position to help us conquer our running fears.

: @FelixEconomakisWebsite:

Download Lead Coach Tim Weeks’ bespoke training plan (coming soon)


Gym of the week: W10 Performance

Gym of the week: W10 Performance

Gym name: W10 Performance

Type of facility: Personal Training Gym

Membership costs: £79 – £1499

Opening hours: Monday – Friday 6am – 9pm, Sat 7am – 3pm

Address: W10 Performance, 202-208 Kensal Road, London, W10 5BN

Tel: 02034895428


: @w10performance

We spoke with memership services manager and coach, Adam Jones, 

about the gym's ethos, training environment, and the importance of having standards.'

How did W10 start?

W10 started in 2009, there were PT studios and gyms and we thought there was a gap to bridge the two. We thought we could do Personal Training better, and make it more professional.

What's the ethos of the gym?

Our strapline is ‘Results Based Fitness’; our purpose is to make sure that people get what they came for through progressive programming and a strong gym culture/community.

What's your position there?

Head Trainer who is responsible for the everyday running of the gym.

Who came up with your standards?

JC came up with the concept, the idea being to provide people with non-specific training goals something they can work toward.

What was the rationale behind the selection of exercises?

Most of our clients come to us with general fitness goals and they want a balance of strength and fitness. We chose all the traditional strength exercises and movements, and paired these with our cardio standards. The weights and times weren’t designed for elite athletes they were designed to be achievable by the general population.

How many people who train at W10 have achieved them?

Broadly 75% of members can do 4-5 of them and 25% can do them all.

How are they beneficial to members?

It gives them a purpose and training focus, and it gives us a basis on which we can program for.

Do you think everyone should work to a set of standards?

People should have focus. They don’t necessarily need to be W10 standards as they might not be right for everyone, but it is useful for people to have something to work toward.

How regularly should they update their standards?

We review every 6 months to make sure they move inline with the improvements our members make.

What does achieving the standards say about you?

The people who can hit our standards are the strongest, fittest and the least ly to get injured in our gym. We believe that being able to these standards gives you a solid base upon which people can take their training to the next level.


Strong is the new skinny at W10 Performance

Gym of the week: W10 Performance

Jean-Claude Vacassin opened W10 four years ago because he believed that the mainstream gym experience was really letting people down. Un the big gyms, whose business model seems to be “come for two months, keep paying forever”, JC wanted his clients to show up several times a week and actually get tangible benefits from their time in the gym.

By making each client feel they are part of a community and that they were properly looked after, they would keep getting results and keep coming back. The concept has really taken hold. Not only does W10 enjoy a loyal following of core members, they have just moved to a brand new, state-of-the-art facility on Kensal Road to accommodate their growing membership.

I sat down with JC to find out what makes W10’s workouts work.

What makes W10 different from other gyms out there?

We are a small club with the capacity to get to know and look after all of our members. We are all either professional trainers or athletes and have focused our careers on results-based training. Our small membership and consistent team make it possible for all of our trainers to get to know you.

This is not a gym that is full of shiny new kit that offers no structure and no guidance. If you don’t show up for a week, we’ll call you to check in. But we also aren’t rigid in our training approach.

We will work with you on your goals, priorities and schedule, and work with you to develop a program that will get you there.

Our members are really diverse, from seasoned athletes to total beginners, busy professionals squeezing in a workout before heading to the office and busy parents fitting in a session between school runs.

What they all have in common is that they are interested in getting results. We don’t want you to just put in three hours a week, doing the same old thing and not challenging yourself.

We will be there to make sure you are supported and are working out effectively, whatever your fitness level.

Bottom line, the best workout is the one that you can do consistently. Our culture reinforces that by focusing on results but also engaging members and keeping it fun and challenging.

There are weekly challenges and group classes. All of our training is semi-private rather than exclusively one-on-one so that even new members start getting to know people.

Having a group of -minded people creates a real community spirit and motivates everybody.

Is fitness different for women?

There is a lot of fad-driven information out there on women’s fitness. It is confusing and misleading. One of the biggest myths is that strength training is going to make you bulky. This just isn’t true. The only thing strength training is going to do is make you stronger.

Did you know that the muscle mass and strength are key markers of resistance to aging? It helps posture and combats bone loss. It will make you better at other activities, such as running and yoga, because it will give your body the platform to run faster and hold poses longer.

The most important things are to train with a purpose and eat according to your goals.

Whether you want to run a 10K or fit into your skinny jeans, working toward something and using realistic, measurable targets to get there will make it possible to achieve your goals. Eat sensibly. Start by cutting out processed foods, drinking more water.

Eat plenty of vegetables and make sure you get enough protein. Once you have a healthy routine in place we can work with you to make further adjustments and meet your goals.

A lot of people are super busy these days—especially mums. How much time does someone need to put in to make strength training worthwhile?

Women need to work out less than they think in order to make a difference. Twice per week is a start. In fact, if you aren’t working out at all, you’ll see a big improvement with two workouts per week.

If you can fit in a third workout, you’ll see an even more significant benefit. Four workouts is unnecessary for most people.

Two to three is really the sweet spot for getting results without wrecking your schedule.

From the standpoint of a professional trainer, I can tell you that we don’t ever advise a client to change everything all at once.

Your body adapts to whatever you give it, so if you chuck everything into the mix all at once you risk not only burning out but you run things to add in when you plateau.

You lose the ability to figure out what was working on your body and what was a waste of time. It just isn’t a smart way to train.

It is New Year’s time and we all know dieting and training are top among resolutions. What are the most common mistakes you see? Do you have any strategies for success?

I don’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions, but if I had to make a recommendation it would be to resolve not to need a resolution next year.

The best way to accomplish that is to not set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals or unrealistic timelines. You don’t need me to tell you that you can’t transform your whole body in the month of January.

To see and feel meaningful improvement, you need to commit to at least four months.

You don’t need to overhaul your whole life, just make improvements. Modest changes will add up if you are consistent. But if you give up carbs and coffee and booze and everything else all at once, by February you will be tired, cranky and bored.

You will get much better results doing something modest consistently than doing something extreme inconsistently.

If you can stick to the basics through to next holiday season—workout two to three times per week and eat a fairly sensible diet—you will never need another New Year’s resolution to get fit.

W10’s membership options range from fully bespoke personal training to a basic membership offering access to 30+ mobility, strength and endurance classes weekly as part of their new Conditioning Hub. W10 is located at 202-208 Kensal Road W10 5BN.

For more info on W10 Performance, please visit:

About the

Kate Albrecht is a lawyer-turned-chef and mother of twins. Originally from Washington, D.C., she now calls west London home.  Kate is passionate about cooking authentic, wholesome food, as long as ’wholesome’ broadly includes both kale (rich in vitamin C and calcium) and cake (chock full of happiness).  She blogs about cooking for her family at


How often should you train for best results? – W10 Personal Training Gym

Gym of the week: W10 Performance

Everyone wants the answer to the age old question: How often should I train to get results?
The honest answer (as with most things) is: it depends.

The key to the question is better answered from the standpoint of how well you can recover.

There's a lot of talk about over training (exceeding the physical demands that your body can sustain), but the truth is, for most people, overtraining won't be an issue.

The answer lies more in the rate at which you can recover, and this will depend on a multitude of factors and will indeed be individual.

Here are some factors that will influence how often you should train

As you can see from the list it depends on quite a few things, all of which will vary from person to person.

Training age

Over time your body will build up to a better work capacity. Elite athletes for example, aren't just suddenly able to train twice per day, six times a week. They've taken years of training, building intensity up and getting to a level where their bodies can sustain a fair amount of volume and an ability to recover well from their sessions.

As a rule of thumb, the longer you’ve been training, the more capacity you have for greater workloads. If you're new to training, then recovery might take a little longer and this is why we do a full evaluation with everyone who starts on our 30 day trial – because we need to understand where you’re currently at before we can help you achieve your goals.

Monitoring how you're feeling and recovering after each session is important. Perhaps if you've trained a few days in a row and are feeling really fatigued then take a rest day.

Training volume

Volume means total number of reps and sets for each body part. The more sets you perform for a particular body part, the more time you might need to recover.

Generally if you're not performing as many sets, your body will be able to recover more quickly.

This is also linked to your training age as with more years training under your belt, you're going to be able to recover more quickly so will be able to cope with more volume.

What type of training you're doing

Exercise that is higher in intensity will place the body under greater amounts of stress and so it might take your body longer to recover.

If you go to classes that are HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) based, or include lots of plyometric (jumping) work then it's going to be more taxing on your central nervous system, joints, tendons and ligaments.

Just be mindful of this way of training and see it as a supplementary training method as opposed to the main bulk of your training, especially if you want to train for long term health and minimise risk of injury.

If you’re a beginner without much training background, doing this type of training where you have fairly complex moves performed under fatigue, form is ly to breakdown and that will impact on recovery in the long term.

Generally you'll be able to recover more quickly from lower intensity training styles

Have a think about the types of training you're doing over the course of the week and try to organise your training accordingly. For example, if you are doing three strength sessions in a week, try and spread these out so that you have a rest day in between and fill the rest days either with some cardio or a circuit style class or some mobility work.

Your lifestyle: home life, work, nutrition and sleep

This is probably one of the most important factors, yet one that most people tend to overlook when considering their training and results.

Many assume that it's only what you're doing inside the gym that counts, but really your training is only one part of the bigger picture and it's important to look at other factors here too as it'll have a big impact on how often you should train and might vary even week to week for the same person.

Sleep – the time in which all your hard work in training actually pays off. It's when your body rebuilds damaged muscle tissues, grows stronger and metabolises fat.

If you're not getting enough quality pillow time you're not going to be able to recover well enough from your sessions, making your body feel fatigued and less able to hit the next training session with the same intensity.

Nutrition – if you think of your body as a car, it needs the right amount and right kind of fuel in order to keep it running efficiently. The lower quality fuel you put into your body the less you'll be able to perform well.

Making sure the majority of foods you eat are whole and unprocessed will mean that your body will take on more nutrients and be less ly to suffer from things inflammation and fatigue – things which are going to hinder your performance.

Eating enough protein will ensure that your muscles can grow and repair, making you stronger and leaner.

Getting a balance of good quality carbohydrates and fats will ensure that you provide your body with the energy it needs to train. The balance of carbs and fats is up to you – they are both fuel sources and some people run better off one vs the other.

Lifestyle – taking a broader look at other stresses in your life such as home life and your job will be important too. Particularly as these things may change week to week, or month to month so could be an indicator as to why you're not recovering. Your job may be more physically demanding (I.e. A construction worker vs.

working in an office) so recovery might take longer here. You may have had a stressful week at work with lots of late nights and high pressure deadlines. You may have recently had a new baby in the family and have gone from getting an unbroken eight hours sleep to a broken five.

These factors will hugely effect your energy levels and ability to recover.

Perhaps if work has been abnormally stressful or for other reasons you haven't been getting much sleep, resting might be more beneficial than getting in an extra hour at the gym.

What works for you and is realistic

Prescribing the same amount of exercise to everyone isn't useful, partly as not everyone will require the same amount of exercise but also because what works for one person but not be achievable for another. We could say that training 5 times a week is optimal but that might not be manageable with the lifestyle you have.

It's all about being as savvy as you can with the time that you have. To be more time efficient and to get more bang for your buck, full body compound sessions are great as they allow you to hit multiple muscles at the same time and give you a greater metabolic (energy burn) effect.

Equally if you only have a short amount of time to train (say 20 mins), it might be better to do a higher rep based circuit in order to create as much moving time as possible.

Ultimately it’s about getting as many good quality sessions in as you can – turning up isn’t enough, you need to put the work in to make every session that you can fit into your schedule count.

In summary

Different people will just be able to tolerate different levels of stress (we want enough stress to stimulate a response but not too much). Only train to the extent to which you can recover – listen to your body and monitor how you are feeling.

Are you still progressing at the gym and feeling energised?

Chances are you have nailed training volume and frequency.

Feeling you’ve hit a plateau and always tired?

Then it might be worth looking at your schedule and de-loading what you’re doing at the gym for a week, get more rest and you’ll probably return feeling stronger.

Just to clarify here that we are referring to training rather than simply staying active. Low intensity activities such as brisk walking, leisurely swims and mobility work can be performed as often as you . In fact, we’d encourage you to move as much as you can every day!

Be in an environment where you have experts on hand to guide through the best way to train for you. At our Gym in West London we have a mix of strength sessions and cardio based classes as well as recovery mobility sessions to ensure the body gets the right amount of stress and overload to make performance and aesthetic changes, without ruining you!

We monitor how our members are feeling each session and tailor the workout this.


What your personal trainer really thinks of you

Gym of the week: W10 Performance

Every personal trainer, whether their clientele is made up of celebrities or harassed mums trying to get in shape, has their ‘worst client ever’ story. For some, it’s the six-pack-chaser who texts at midnight because they’re thinking of ordering a pizza, or the banker who shows up every day with a steaming hangover.

For most, it’s some variation on the client who expects results just because they turn up, thinking they can buy an off-the-peg body. For Jessica Wolny, it was a client who didn’t speak during training sessions – at all.

‘He’d flat-out refuse to do most exercises by shaking his head,’ she recalls, not fondly. ‘He wouldn’t change his diet – prawn sandwiches and curries were favourites – but he still blamed me for the fact that he wasn’t losing fat, on the basis that we weren’t doing enough “stomach exercises”. I fired him after three weeks.’ 

London personal trainer Jessica WolnyCredit:Rick Pushinsky

Personal training, once a luxury enjoyed exclusively by A-listers and the ostentatiously wealthy, has gone mainstream. It’s now available for almost any budget – from the £200-an-hour uber-trainer who’s on call every hour of the day to the cash-in-hand aspiring-model-slash-actor who might have to cut your boot-camp session short if the park-keeper walks by.

According to the Register of Exercise Professionals, of the 32,000 practitioners registered in the UK, 16,000 are personal trainers – an increase of more than 50 per cent since 2005, and it’s a number that’s still going up.

Looked at  dispassionately, the client-trainer relationship is one of the oddest you’ll encounter in adult life, ranging from avuncular to outright adversarial: where else, after all, do adult men and women hire someone to make them do things they don’t necessarily want to, in pursuit of a higher goal?

“People take one look at a scary-looking dumbbell and say, “I can’t lift that”, when I know that they are perfectly capable of doing so”

Sally Moss

The best trainers are an odd blend of counsellor, confidant and cheerleader, while the worst, says Wolny, ‘don’t do much more than count reps and carry a stopwatch’. But what do they think of you?  It partly depends on why they’ve taken the job in the first place.

‘It’s telling that a lot of gym chains financially incentivise their personal trainers the number of sessions they sell, rather than more telling factors such as client retention, satisfaction and results,’ says John Richardson, an independent trainer working in Kensington. ‘Most chains make money by signing people up on an annual contract who then give up after January – the unofficial yet much-used term is “four-weeker”.

Assuming they stay on, the next step is to sign them up to a trainer, who either pays a fixed “rent” to the gym – £500-£1,000 a month is typical in London – or kicks back roughly half the cash they take for the session. Even if I’m being charitable, a lot of those PTs aren’t terribly invested in your results.’ 

Tom Eastham, of W10 PerformanceCredit:Rick Pushinsky

This is a quality-control problem – and other PTs can spot it from halfway across the weights room. ‘Honestly, bad trainers are the most infuriating thing in the gym,’ says Sally Moss, an Olympic lifting and strongman-training specialist.

‘The lazy ones who put their clients on the treadmill and chat to them for 20 minutes while they just trot along. The rude ones who are texting or bantering with a colleague and not even looking at their client training. The incompetent ones who let their clients get away with poor technique just so that they can lift more weight. It’s their job to know better.’ 

‘The biggest problem is, we live in a world of quick fixes and a desire for immediate results,’ says Pieter Vodden, a strength and conditioning coach currently working on the forthcoming slate of DC superhero films.

Vodden works with the famously hardcore training team Gym Jones – also responsible for the rippling six-packs on show in 300 – but even there, he’s not immune to people lured in by the expectation of instant success.

“The biggest problem is, we live in a world of quick fixes and a desire for immediate results”

Pieter Vodden

‘Far too many people come in expecting overnight results,’ he says. ‘But your body’s a highly evolved tool designed to conserve and survive – it isn’t going to change unless you force it to.

’  ‘My heart sinks every time I hear someone in the gym say, “I’ve decided I’m going to do a six-week juice fast, bulking plan, no-carb diet, whatever,” ’ says PT Tom Eastham, a  strength and conditioning coach working the City of London’s W10 Perfor­mance. ‘It’s all rubbish.

At my gym you can only sign up for four months as a minimum term. We don’t want to work with you unless you are fully committed to change. Short-term doesn’t work.’ 

One anonymous PT says, ‘I had one client who trained with me for literally four sessions over two weeks, then said, “Well, I haven’t got the body I want yet, so this isn’t working.”  It might have taken you 30 years to “build” whatever body you’ve got now. Do you really think you’re going to completely change it in a fortnight?’

Another hurdle comes in the form of the proliferation of training ‘advice’ – good, bad and downright nonsensical – with which every client comes pre-loaded. Imagine being a dentist in a world where every­one has strong opinions about dentistry – where every January shops are flooded with quick-fix toothcare plans and magazines come with guides to getting molars Chris Hemsworth’s.

Sally Moss, a trainer for Strength Ambassadors Credit:Rick Pushinsky

That’s the reality for most PTs, who are contending with years of misinformation and half-remembered advice from questionable sources.  ‘The nightmare client is the know-it-all,’ says Nick Mitchell, one of the UK’s best-known body transformation specialists.

‘At its best, the role of trainer should be as a trusted adviser – you don’t go to your lawyer and try to tell him that his take on tort law is wrong, but sometimes we’ll encounter the prospective client who hires us, then insists that he knows best.

We’re by no means infallible – and the hallmark of a great trainer is that they listen to everything that their client is consciously, and unconsciously, trying to say.

But in 99 cases 100 this sort of client’s doomed to failure – or at the very least, doomed to fight their trainer until the trainer wins or the relationship ends.’ 

A step down is the client who constantly asks questions. ‘My ideal client just shows up, works hard, and does as they’re told,’ says Ash Grimshaw, a professional martial arts fighter as well as a personal trainer.

‘I mean, sure, if you’re asking questions to better understand what you’re doing and why it works, that’s fine – but you’ve got a limited amount of time in the session, and a good trainer’s probably planned your sets, reps and rest for a reason.

Save the questions for after the session.’ 

“The role of trainer should be as a trusted adviser – you don’t go to your lawyer and try to tell him that his take on tort law is wrong”

Nick Mitchell

And, if you’re confident that you’ve chosen a good PT in the first place, let them do their job. ‘I hear, “But I don’t want to get too bulky” from men and women when I bring out the bigger weights,’ says Wolny.

‘Here’s a suggestion: look at the number of men who’ve spent years trying to get huge, and how few of them actually manage it – it takes hard work and a lot of commitment. It’s not going to happen by accident.


Then, of course, there are the clients who don’t question the exercise programme they are given but balk at actually doing the work.

‘What drives me crazy is people saying “I can’t” before they’ve even tried,’ says Moss.

‘People take one look at a scary-looking dumbbell and say, “I can’t lift that”, when I know that they are perfectly capable of doing so. People say this without even knowing how much the dumbbell weighs!

It’s OK to be unsure when you’re presented with a new challenge, but do allow yourself the possibility that you’ll succeed if you give it a proper try.  ‘I don’t really have any moany clients, but boy do I hear some stories from my fellow PTs.

“It’s too hard”, “it hurts”, “it’s too heavy”, “I can’t do that”, “I hate those”, “I can’t eat that”… and on and on for the whole hour. Your trainer isn’t trying to torture you, they’re trying to bring out the best in you. And you are acting a two-year-old.

You are an adult who signed up to a process to get a result. Act it.’ 

Pieter Vodden, who trains actors appearing in superhero films, atthe Warner Bros studio in Leavesden, HertfordshireCredit:Rick Pushinsky

‘There’s a big element of first-world problems to it,’ says one City-based PT, who would rather remain anonymous. ‘My absolute worst client seemed to regard it as a crime against humanity that she couldn’t eat cake every day. It didn’t last long.

’  And there are those who feel no need to turn up at all. One PT, who also doesn’t want to be named, remembers a client ‘who, I’m fairly sure, only booked me so he had an excuse to get away from his wife and do, uh, extracurricular activities elsewhere.

He still paid me, though, so that was fine.’ 

The flip side, according to every PT, is the client who wants to go too hard, too fast. ‘Men are the worst,’ says Eastham. ‘They’re too proud of a previous best lift on the bench press or whatever, and it’s all they want to do.

They don’t realise they are stopping themselves by failing to address weaknesses. If you only do the things you or are good at, how will you improve yourself year on year? You won’t. Your ego won’t allow it. Generally speaking, women are much easier to train.

They’re more open to change and they listen more.’ 

“It’s actually a lot easier to be a good client than a bad one”

And that’s the key. For every horror story a good PT is willing to share, there are half a dozen recollections that make them smile.

For most, it’s the one who beat the odds, Wolny’s City banker who didn’t start training until he was 42 – and had to have his suits remade to give him more space in the shoulders – ‘His tailor told him he’s the first guy his age who wasn’t asking for adjustments to the waist’ – or the 50-year-old woman who, Vodden says, ‘Never missed a workout, lost 20lb in four months, and became an ambassador for our company.’ 

It’s actually a lot easier to be a good client than a bad one – ‘As long as they’re following your instructions and working hard, you can’t ask for much more,’ notes Grimshaw – but sometimes a trainee goes above and beyond the call of duty.

‘At one point I was possibly over-obsessed with exercise and also utterly miserable,’ says Richardson. ‘But a trainee called Simon, who never once turned up in a bad mood, was never anything but entertaining and inspiring, said to me during one session, “Don’t forget to live.” It was a valuable lesson. After all…’ he pauses, ‘there’s more to life than working out.’