Working out a way to fit in your fitness

I MUST admit, my track record of gym memberships does not make me a prime candidate to become the next Kelly Holmes. Four different gyms in five years is clearly not a shining example of commitment – or fitness. But I ve had my reasons for continual no-sh

I MUST admit, my track record of gym memberships does not make me a prime candidate to become the next Kelly Holmes. Four different gyms in five years is clearly not a shining example of commitment - or fitness. But I've had my reasons for continual no-shows at various different establishments.

Firstly, at university - there were obviously better things to do with my time, and I don't mean studying.

Then there was the first Huntingdonshire fitness centre - my direct debit managed to cancel itself (I honestly had nothing to do with it) which was surely a sign that I wasn't supposed to be anywhere near a treadmill in the first place. Turning up one day and being informed your membership has expired does not inspire confidence - and the thought of spending the fee on at least one extra pair of shoes a month was just too much for me.

Different town, different gym, same story, I'm afraid. A few Pilates classes (I really didn't think it was having much effect) and then, five months of non-attendance later, I again thought my cash would be better off spent on my wardrobe.

The only vague success story I've had was when I lived in Spain. I went religiously to fitness classes three times a week with two friends - our enthusiasm may have been something to do with the tanned instructor or perhaps the fact our favourite bar was situated two doors down from the gym (one hour work-out, three hour drinking session seemed a good ratio).

So, when the offer of a session with a personal trainer at Huntingdon's Marriott Hotel came through, it had my name all over it.

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Although I arrive at the hotel's leisure club fully prepared to change into my kit, trainer Carl Akielan suggests we sit down in the bar and chat, as he usually does with new clients during their first session, before entering the gym itself. Great, this does sound like my kind of fitness activity...

Twenty-two-year old Carl is a qualified YMCA gym instructor and FutureFit personal trainer. And I like him already when he lists "sense of humour" as one of the top characteristics for success inside the gym.

"It's important to keep everything in perspective", Carl, a former St Ivo pupil, says. "The members who have a good sense of humour, who are overweight but take it with a pinch of salt, are often those who are easiest to work with."

With New Year's resolutions long forgotten by now, life-changing events seem to be the most common catalyst for joining the gym squad - with forthcoming weddings and the wish to lose the post-pregnancy pounds coming out on top.

Never ones to be demanding, we women apparently have two things on our wishlists:

"Firstly, ladies normally say to me 'I don't want to look like Arnie' - well that's not going to happen anyway," said Carl. "The next is 'I want to lose four stone in a month'."

So that's NOT a viable option then?

"It's obviously completely unrealistic and, once we laugh about it, we can sit down and find some obtainable goals together.

"Motivation is the key and that's the hardest thing to maintain. Many people do find coming to the gym a chore but it's all about keeping things interesting with new programmes and working different muscles on a regular basis."

A first session with Carl includes a discussion about long-term targets, detailed health history and then the fun begins. Weight, measurements (these are optional) and body fat percentage ("this shocks quite a few people") are all noted and fitness tests completed on various machines inside the gym.

"The majority of people have not been achieving their goals and, as a result, are very apprehensive. The first thing to do is calm them down, relax them and take it from there. First impressions are crucial and if you set off on the wrong foot, the sessions are not going to work."

It is Carl's job to help his clients keep up their momentum and be there to back them up.

"It's about being a friend in some people and having some banter to take their minds off where they are. Obviously, everyone approaches it differently and some people are harder to motivate, but, if you can have a joke around, it definitely helps."

Well it sounds like fun to me - that's obviously where I was going wrong.

With almost 50 clients ranging in age from late 20s to 60s on Carl's books over a six-month period, the personal training word seems to have spread in Huntingdon. As expected, there are more women than men, but I wonder why?

"I think that's more to do with men not wanting to take advice from another guy in the gym."

Why does that not surprise me? But, whatever the age or sex, Carl is helping people achieve their aims.

"It is rewarding to help sculpt people into what they want to be. It's a new challenge every day. But I can give you all my knowledge and advice but things are only going to change with effort on your part."

With that in mind, I'm off to aerobics...

INFORMATION: To book personal training sessions with Carl or for more details on the facilities on offer at the Marriott's leisure club, call 01480 446002.

* Don't miss The Hunts Post later this month for Amanda's fitness test in the gym and a chance to win one month's free membership at the Marriott, as well as five sessions with a personal trainer.