If Instagram #transformationtuesday pictures are anything to go by, changing your body is easy if you just dedicate your life to it.
But the fact of the matter is, most of us aren’t able to dedicated our lives to fitness. We have jobs, social lives and commitments which mean we can’t workout everyday and eat chicken and broccoli for dinner every night even if we wanted to.
However surely it is possible to transform your fitness and physique and still live your life if you set your mind to it?
To put this to the test, two of The Independent’s staff members, Rachel Hosie and Matt Payton, worked out with a different personal trainer each for six weeks - we focused primarily on weight-training rather than HIIT or cardio.
Could we turn our bodies into those of fitness influencers in a month and a half? Read on to see how we got on.
For my six-week challenge, I was to train with top personal trainer to the stars, Rich Tidmarsh, who trains Professor Green, Vogue Williams and a host of professional athletes including Harlequin Jamie Roberts.
Given Rich has a reputation for being a tough trainer, I was mildly terrified. I exercised, but I wasn’t exactly into fitness.
As well as personal training sessions with Rich, I was to do group workouts at his gym in Clapham, Reach Fitness.
At 5’9”, my starting weight was 75.8kg, my waist measured 82.4cm and my body fat percentage was 31.2. I certainly had a long way to go.
I am not a fitness person – I am a ‘playing golf is enough exercise’ sort of chap who is more than partial to a pint in the club house.
The problem is I am 28, overweight and if I do not sort myself out now – I will never stop looking like a podgy Boris Johnson.
So off I went to the Six3nine gym in Covent Garden to meet Joshua Peters. Teaming up with Joshua was brilliant as we share a love of cricket, golf and music of the early 2000s. There was only one real difference – he is built like a terminator and I look like a trifle on a plate.
At 5’11” with a starting weight of 94.1kg and a body fat percentage of 32 per cent, I needed to get cracking.
My goal was to not only lose weight and get fit but to find a sustainable workout and regime and diet to carry on after my six weeks… Here is how it went.
In my first session with Rich, I do lots of peculiar exercises so he can learn how my body works. The good news: I’m quite flexible in my joints. The bad news: my back is like that of an elderly lady. Always excellent to hear at 24 years old.
I’m given an introduction to the basic weightlifting moves such as deadlifts, and am pretty chuffed to lift 40kg. Or I am until Rich tells me I should ultimately be lifting 1.5 times my bodyweight.
As I leave the gym sweaty, red in the face and with all my makeup melted off, I was mildly concerned by the fact that Rich said he was easing me in. This was not going to be easy.
The next day, I’d just shoved my second chocolate chip cookie into my mouth when Rich sent me my new nutrition plan. He wasn’t putting me on a diet as such, but explained that I simply needed to eat to fuel my fitness.
I’m to count my macros - that is, the amount of protein, carbs and fat I consume every day (the MyFitnessPal app was most handy for this). Rich set my ratios as 2:1:1, meaning I must aim to eat 150g of protein, 75g of fat and 75g of carbs each day.
He also tells me, tragically, that wine and prosecco are off the menu. I can, however, have gin, tequila and vodka. And I don’t need to be told twice.
As the week goes on, I keep getting caught out by carbs. There are carbs in everything! Even things you don’t think are carbs! And eating 150g of protein was a challenge too - I’d resorted to adding protein powders to me diet. Me! Protein powders!
After stepping on the hi-tech scales, Joshua calmed my nerves and explaining his approach is not to annihilate my body by the end of each session - his goal was to help achieve weight loss through weights-based training in the gym along with a balanced diet and lifestyle during my working week.
That being said I was put through my paces through some gruelling stretches and then introduced to correct techniques for weighted squats, press ups and other body weight-based exercises. After one hour, I realised I have never done a correct press up in my life… revelation.
Joshua made it clear our sessions were only a part of the program and outlined my daily goals:
1. Two litres of water a day
2. 10,000 steps
I’ve resorted to weighing out my nut butter and realised I have no concept of how big a portion is. Instead of taking a piece of fruit as a snack for a train journey, I take chicken. CHICKEN! Nope, I don’t know who I am either.
I start going to the group training sessions at Reach - I realise I love the weights-based ones but detest the sessions that are mostly cardio-based. Reach feels different to other gyms because people seem to be there purely to get fitter and stronger, rather than for aesthetics.
In my third PT session, I deadlift 75kg which feels incredibly satisfying, and I can really see myself getting a bit addicted to lifting weights.
I’m definitely not hitting my macros perfectly every day - with a social life that revolves around eating and drinking, it’s really difficult.
So those two little daily goals is easy right? Turns out drinking two litres of water throughout the day without running to the toilet every two minutes is quite hard.
To achieve 10,000 steps per day has changed my working day – I cut out lifts, escalators and get off the tube two stations earlier to fit them in. My lunches are spent frogmarching my friends round Hyde Park as I greedily watch my pedometer rise.
In our sessions – my flexibility is being addressed with the goal of me touching my toes (don’t laugh, this hasn’t been a reality since playdoh) as well as learning the correct hinging technique needed for deadlifting.
I’m enjoying learning new moves with Rich such as the overhead squat. As we move on to the 85kg deadlift, I’m told I need chalk on my hands to stop them slipping. I feel so legit and awesome.
I’m also using muscles I’ve never used before and have started to love the feeling of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) I get the day after working out.
After each session, I feel delirious and exhausted but happy, even if I get a slight feeling of dread beforehand.
I still feel like I’m dying in the group sessions because I’m less fit than most other people there, and I realise you really have to think about engaging your muscles when doing each move otherwise you’re basically wasting your time.
Amazingly, I don’t struggle at all to meet my protein goal any more.
After getting my daily habits under control, the toughest one yet is dropped at my feet thanks to Joshua: Keep calorie count down to 2,000 per day… now we hit the brass tacks.
I adore my food – pasta, cheese, butter…these are important to my existence. We shall not even touch on my love of London Pride and Chianti. Self-control has now become part of the bargain.
Joshua told me to forget food guilt and concentrate on positives while logging all my meals in MyFitnessPal. I soon realised what drinks and snacks to avoid but also meals that were filling but healthy – like veg-filled soups and tuna steak.
Back to the gym – I was steadily increasing my weights to squat along with the range of my press-ups. Did my first deadlifting with the bar – felt like an Olympic strongman at least until I looked at the single digits on the weights.
“I’M NOT LOSING WEIGHT!” I wail to Rich. To which he just says: “Good.”
“What?” I replied, with a perplexed expression on my face.
“I want you to be maintaining your weight or perhaps even gaining weight whilst your body gets smaller,” he explains. Which is good to hear.
This week, we focus less on super heavy weights and more on doing more reps of lower weights - I do 50 deadlifts of 60kg.
I used to be out eating and drinking every night. Now all I do is go to the gym and eat protein. I have no idea how this happened.
I had to put my training on pause for two weeks on holiday round the US Deep South with my wife - not ideal for my fitness intentions, but I managed to workout from my motel room and steer clear of potato salad.
When I got back I was amazed to learn: I lost body fat! I ate fried food any barely any vegetables and lost weight. Thank you heavens above (and some hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains).
Re-entry was still tough – Doing combination sets between pulling, pushing and lifting exercises with planks into the mix is no laughing matter.
Joshua has added to my daily habits – increase the proportion of protein in my 2,000 calories.
As protein shakes and their ilk don’t get on well with me, I knew I would be getting closer acquainted with biltong, low fat Greek yoghurt and beef steak (luckily not blended together).
More than anything it was the corresponding reduction on carbs that hurt – my beloved pasta was cut even more.
I deadlifted 60kg – Andre the giant who? And it was this week that beating my PBs became an actual goal. Mere survival was no longer my sole objective.
This weekend was not my greatest health-wise - going away with friends meant I drank a lot (including wine and Pimm’s) and threw any concept of macros out the window.
That said, when I got back in my gym kit, I actually felt slim. I see my reflection while doing tricep dips and think I looked slimmer too. My leggings feel looser, and when I get home, my flatmate says I looked “toned, strong and definitely different.”
Weight sleds and battle ropes are not pleasant things - they are distinctly painful - and when you interval them with planks, Dante’s inferno becomes a reality.
Am I making ‘mad gainz’? No, I’m making steady gains and have yet to stall. I was doing four hours in the gym a week including the two at Six3nine and I’ve gone down a shirt and waist size.
I leave my final PT session with Rich feeling amazing. Astoundingly, I deadlift 105kg, which is 65kg more than when I started. Granted, I only did one rep at that weight, but I still did it.
I realise I’ve learned so much about technique - now I don’t have to think about squeezing my glutes or getting my posture right, I just do it. And what’s more, I enjoy it too.
The last two sessions were hampered by Christmas parties and a throbbing cold. However, I managed a new deadlift PB of 90kg… Five reps I’ll have you know.
It has actually been fun – the gym has been made fun thanks to the guidance and week-long support Joshua and Six3nine offered.
I’m really chuffed with how my body has changed - unless I drastically cut down my calorie intake I’m not going to become skinny (which I wouldn't want to be anyway), but my body has become curvier in the right places, stronger and more toned.
In under six weeks, I’ve lost 8.2cm from my waist, with my final measurement coming in at 74.2cm. My body fat percentage has dropped from 31.2 to 26.5, a reduction of 4.7 per cent and - despite the muscle gain - I have lost a little weight: 1.6kg to be precise.
Physical benefits aside though, my six weeks of training with Rich have changed my life because I’ve realised I absolutely love lifting weights. It’s strange how being able to lift heavy objects can feel so empowering and satisfying, but it really does.
I dropped 4kg in total weight and over 5kg in body fat.
I wasn’t starved or forced to eat steamed turkey breasts on kale. I ate good food and was still able to drink alcohol with friends. At no point was I left hungry.
While my before and after photos are not impressive, my eating habits and general fitness have vastly improved.
I will be continuing with the daily habit goals, weights-based workouts and indeed keeping touch with Six3nine. Personal training is not a waste of time especially if you want to make your lifestyle healthy but lack direction.
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