Tried And Tested: Is A Personal Trainer What You Need To Really Get Fit?

Is A Personal Trainer What You Need To Really Get Fit?

I'm in good shape. I run a lot. I do the occasional kettlebell session. Once, I even managed to do a 10K in under 39 minutes.

So yeah, I'm in good shape.

Only it turns out I'm not. After a quick assessment at W10 Performance Gym I soon realise I'm about as flexible as a Pringle and only half as strong.

I'm also quite fat for a skinny guy. My body fat weighs in at 16%, which doesn't sound the medical alarm bells, but I'm assured could easily be reduced to single figures.

Now I've tried personal training before (at an unnamed high street gym chain) and can't say I particularly enjoyed it.

Sure, it worked me harder than I could achieve on my own but I couldn't shake the feeling the trainer was just going through the motions and the routines he gave me were the same ones he gave every other person.

This is a pigeon stretch although I have never ever seen a pigeon in this position

So it was with some slight skepticism that I accepted a trial with W10 Performance Gym who insist "we don't do mainstream fitness" or "fads or gimmicks".

I was even more at a loss when I walked into the gym - one treadmill, a couple of bikes and what looked like some kind of torture rack with all manner of implements along one wall.

It soon became apparent W10 take a slightly different approach to things. Firstly they're not a body-building gym which is a huge relief to someone of my... ahem... slight build.

In fact, everyone is pretty normal. The staff are the most ripped people here and they - deliberately or not - are always covered up in hoodies and tracksuit bottoms.

I may or may not have made it back up again

Anyway, to the training. I was signed up for their semi-personal training sessions which involve a trainer, yourself and one or two others.

Sessions consist of a warm-up, which at first felt like a workout in itself, followed by two sets of two or three exercises in quick succession with a short rest in between.

Each session ends with a 'finisher', which is as bad as it sounds - a tortuous combination of exercises designed to be performed until the point of exhaustion.

More than once did I have to take a little rest for fear of throwing up, but hey, when forking out for a personal trainer I'd expect nothing less.

The end product

As well as the actual exercise, W10 provide a ton of no-nonsense information on diet which - if you want to see real results - is about 70% of the battle.

They even convinced me to give up booze in December, something I kept up right until I swan-dived off the wagon into a pool of Jagerbombs on Boxing Day.

Gym founder, Jean-Claude Vacassin, says: "W10 is a service driven, rather than commodity driven, business. Ie we're not selling hoards of equipment, a pool, sauna and cafe, it's about training, and helping people get the results that they came for.

"Our team our fixed, no freelancers, and employed by us so there is continuity. This and the way that we deliver the vast majority of our training means that there is a tangible culture with the gym, where the members feel part of the team, rather than just dropping in for a workout.

"We make fitness simple and doable, whilst also making it effective. People get results, but we don't baffle them with bollocks and we keep stuff as simple as we can get away with."

After six weeks of PT sessions here are a few things I took away from the experience.


- A PT will push you more than you will achieve by yourself. It's too easy to cop out of that last rep when you're on your own although training with a friend could help.

- They can teach you good form which is essentialas you can easily do you some damage if exercising with bad posture.

- You don't have to worry about keeping track of what weight you're lifting and how many reps you need to do, the PT will do that for you.

- They're professionals and they know what they're on about. They'll teach you what actually works - some people will have you believe doing endless bicep curls is the key to sexy arms. They're not.


- If going to the gym is more of a leisurely swim and half an hour in the sauna type of affair then W10 is not for you.

- Because W10 isn't a chain gym, there's only one of them and it's near Paddington. If, like me, you live in South London it can be a bit of a trek.

The price:

This comes into it's own separate category. The debate over whether or not PTs are worth the money comes down to one point - how much you use it.

W10 offer a package that provides unlimited sessions for £399 so the more you go the better value it is. And while that sounds like a lot of money, investing in your health is probably one of the wisest moves you can make. And you can always recoup it from the the beer money you save.


If your finances allow it a PT is without doubt the best way to get in shape, but if you're going to spend that much making sure you get the right one is crucial.

Most gyms offer a free or heavily discounted trial so you can get a feel for them.

Go along and get a feel for the place and make sure they can help you achieve your goals which you need to have a clear idea about before you go. And, crucially, make sure you can get along with your PT - you'll be spending a lot of time with them.