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How to get yourself back into exercise, according to a celebrity personal trainer

If you've fallen out of love with exercise, how do you make yourself fall back in? We asked a top personal trainer and put her tips to the test.

Rachel Hosie
Monday 12 June 2017 11:56 BST
(Getty Images)

Even the fittest of people can fall out of love with exercise.

In fact, a couple of years ago, top personal trainer Nicola Addison - who’s trained Elle Macpherson, Daisy Lowe and Erin O’Connor - didn’t train for a year.

“I hadn’t fallen out of love with exercise, I had just ran out of motivation to get up and do it,” Addison told The Independent.

Nicola Addison

She says there are many types of motivation, but two of the major ones are intrinsic and extrinsic:

  • Intrinsic motivation is the self-desire, the ability to self motivate.
  • Extrinsic motivation comes from influences outside of the individual.

“I had fully ran out of intrinsic motivation,” Addison explains. “I knew myself well enough to know that. So I turned to the help of one of my trainers, Luis, to motivate me.”

Sometimes you just get bored of your exercise regime, you might plateau in your progress, and making yourself do something you really don’t want to do is incredibly hard.

It happened to me. At uni, I would go to the gym a few times a week, take dance classes and swim. But then I moved to London, started working, life got in the way and I told myself I could neither afford to exercise (be that joining a gym or taking classes) nor find the time.

Excuses, really. But it meant I’d completely fallen out of love with exercise. I didn’t like that fact, and I’d done sporadic workouts or classes in a bid to kickstart my fitness but had never got anywhere.

Slogging it out on the treadmill for 40 minutes just wasn’t fun - and wasn’t really making any difference to my fitness.

But it turns out I was doing completely the wrong thing.

It’s not in the slightest bit new that resistance training and weights are the key to getting fit, but when you want to shift the pounds, it’s hard to shake the idea that you need to do cardio, as that’s what was drilled into us all for years.

Plus, running on a treadmill for however long is easy as you don’t have to think - working out with weights and scary-looking machines means you have to know what you’re doing and plan your workout.

The thing is, just doing cardio isn’t very effective if you want to burn fat - you need to build muscle to boost your basal metabolic rate. And by doing that, you’ll burn more fat over the course of the day.

“Muscle is three times as dense as fat (so you are heavier),” Addison explains, “But the same weight of fat over muscle will take up 19 per cent more bodyspace. That’s why we (and most fitness professionals) will recommend a measuring tape over the scales any day!”

Strength training doesn’t have to mean lifting heavy weights, you can do brilliant resistance training using just your own body.

Addison told me she could get me back into fitness in three weeks. I was sceptical, but as I was desperate to rediscover my fitness motivation, decided to take her up on the offer.

With just three workouts for three weeks at Addison’s personal training studio in Knightsbridge, Eqvvs Training, I re-realised how good it feels to work your body and use your muscles.

What’s more, with each session lasting just half an hour, it was never daunting. Addison not only understands that most people don’t like exercise, but she admits that the main reason she works out is to look good.

Booking sessions into your diary means you have to go, and having someone pushing but encouraging you is really motivating. Your colleagues, friends and family may always be urging you to just have a piece of cake or skip the gym, but personal trainers genuinely always have your health in mind.

For a personal trainer, Addison is refreshingly normal - she drinks alcohol and her favourite food is curry, which I was thrilled to hear as I turned my face tomato-red in the gym.

By doing lots of different and creative exercises, I never got bored and not only started looking forward to my workouts but genuinely felt a bit sad when I had a few days without a session. Could this really be me?

The workouts were based around resistance training and compound exercises - there was strictly no cardio, but I finished each session sweaty, red in the face and was frequently out of breath. I felt it in my muscles the day after each workout, in the most glorious and satisfying of ways.

But of course, if you really want to lose weight and get fit, you have to look at your diet too. As I didn’t want to completely overhaul my lifestyle for three weeks, Addison recommended little changes such as not drinking caffeine after noon and making sure I eat dinner at least two hours before bed.

And the thing is, it helps. When you start feeling fitter, you genuinely want to eat healthier, and vice versa. It’s an upwards spiral.

Addison is a big advocate of the 80:20 rule - that is, making healthy choices 80 per cent of the time and allowing yourself to enjoy what you want for the remaining 20 per cent.

And she takes this attitude to fitness too, saying it’s better to be consistently quite good than inconsistently great - don’t workout crazy intensely for seven days in a row and then do nothing for three months.

“You are far better off being consistently good at 80 per cent than being inconsistently excellent at 100 per cent!” she told me.

After three weeks of training I lost two per cent of my body fat, which was a pretty pleasing side effect of simply trying to rediscover my fitness motivation.

In fact, one of the best things I’ve taken away is about my posture - young women in particular have the tendency to stand with our pelvises at an angle that makes our bums stick out (probably subconsciously influenced by Kim Kardashian).

But if you tilt your pelvis so it’s vertical and suck your tummy in, you look so much leaner and slimmer. It’s revolutionary.

Of course, having a personal trainer makes things easier, but there are so many free online workout plans and videos you can find that tell you exactly what exercises to do and how to do them. That way, you don’t have to think.

Granted, it’s harder to make yourself workout without having an appointment and a lot easier to cancel on yourself, but if you make a plan with a friend and put it in your diary, you’ll feel more of an obligation.

And when you’re working out, don’t force yourself to do loads of cardio - building muscle is absolutely the best way to get fitter. You won’t suddenly become really chunky - you’ll actually get leaner because muscles is way denser than fat.

I'm no longer training with Addison, but three weeks was enough to give me the fitness bug. See you in the gym (I'll be the one whose face is the colour of a post box).

Four top tips for getting back into exercise, by Nicola Addison

1. Ask for help

It’s OK to not be able to do it ALL by yourself. Acknowledge where you need assistance and then go and find it. There are so many resources available to you. A lot of which are free of charge. Seek help where you need it.

2. Start somewhere

It doesn’t matter where you start, but just start! Don’t put it off till next week. Don’t say to yourself you need to get fit first… just start! It’s the hardest, most intimidating part…but it’s achievable no matter how small that start is. Do something different TODAY!

3. Manage your time and do it old school

Planning time to be active, organising what to eat, getting up earlier in the morning all takes planning and a lot of it! Making activity a priority is a step in the right direction. Small steps = big wins.

Don’t set yourself up to fail by creating unrealistic goals. Start off small and tick off in your diary when you have completed your task. Charting your progress is incredibly important to see progression.

4. Find something fun to do

Most the time it’s not what you do, it’s how often you do it. If it’s not fun, you simply won’t want to do it! You have stopped before you have even started! Yes, potentially there are ‘more’ efficient ways to achieve goals (doing resistance work, compound movements etc) but if you love Zumba and you are going to do Zumba three times a week… stick to Zumba!

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