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Get a great body in time for Summer

by David Crookes

Singer Cole used one to become a "brunette Barbie". Presenter Morgan ensured he hired one when he began to enjoy the trappings of stardom. And the person tasked with getting Amy Winehouse into shape certainly has his work cut out.

What are we talking about? Personal trainers, of course.

A personal trainer is someone no self-respecting star would ever do without and hiring one is proving attractive even to us mere plebs, many of whom are realising they can have real value.

"One of the things some people lack more than anything is motivation," says personal trainer Rick Winstanley, a 27-year semi-pro footballer who works at DW Sports Fitness in Bury. "Motivation is the most important thing for anyone who is looking to improve their fitness and what a good personal trainer will do is push a person to their limit while ensuring they enjoy their sessions. It's not meant to be a relentless slog but something you look forward to."

Having played for Leeds United, Bury, Hyde, Ramsbottom United and now Unibond One North side Rossendale United, Rick is giving others the benefit of more than a decade's worth of fitness. He employs a 12-week fitness plan - "you see real results after three months as long as you keep it up" - and it builds up the body gradually.

Rick advises those who start a training plan to have a goal and to picture how you want to look at the end of your initial training period. "If you knew you were going to spend eight hours in a metal tube, would you relish it? Of course not," says Rick. "But knowing that at the end of it you will be in glorious sunshine on holiday, you put up with it. Training is like that in some sense - there is pain but, at the end, there is lots of pleasure."

Exercising consistently and at a consistent level will give you great results. Cardio-vascular workouts are also just as important as weight training to achieve the body you want. The danger is becoming stuck in a rut - if you find a particular exercise regieme has worked for you and helped you to lose four pounds, it may well be that following that exact same path the next time around will have a worse result.

"Your body gets used to exercise," says Rick. "You have to provide fresh stimulus - up the weights, do something new. That's where a personal trainer comes in. They will look at your body, work out what you've done and how it can be improved and a good personal trainer will also look at your diet. I ask my clients to write down everything they eat each day so we can analyse it."

Nutrition is an important part of any intensive workout program. If you are trying to achieve weight loss, it is important that your output is greater than your input. This means that we need to burn more calories when we eat and lower our fat intake. Research shows the most calories are burned when we are resting, so it makes sense to increase the speed at which this happens.

The rate at which calories are broken down or metabolised when we rest is called our resting metabolic rate. Increasing muscle mass plays a major part in increasing our resting metabolic rate.

Eating also increases our resting metabolic rate, so it pays to eat five to six small meals per day rather than three large meals.

"What people also have to understand that everybody's body is different," says Rick. "We get lads at the gym coming in with pages of Men's Health magazine and they've been sucked in by the promise of great abs after eight weeks. But while the advise and the plans in that magazine are fantastic, it's not a tailored plan. What you really want is something that looks at your body."

To that end, a personal trainer will not only weigh you but work out your body water percentage, your muscle consistency and your body fat but inside and on the surface.

A good way to burn fat is to ‘stagger’ the intensity of your cardio workout. For example, if you were to warm up with 10 minutes of walking, then for 10 minutes alternate between running for one minute then walking for one minute this would change your heart rate every minute. The effect this kind of exercise has on the heart rate has been proven to be a very effective fat-burning way to exercise.

"I would always advise people to make very good use of their gyms," says Rick. "Go to the classes, use the gym staff and get a gym buddy to help motivate you. But if you decide you want to get good, fast results and to develop a safe technique that won't overwork you but will ensure you make steady progress towards your goal, then consider a personal trainer. Check them out, talk to others in the gym and ask for a consultation. There's no harm in exploring the option and it may well lead to a new you."

How to choose a personal trainer

Do ask questions before committing to this tailored route to fitness. Will a trainer fit into your lifestyle? When do you want to train? Can you do the same time each week? Will you be able to commit to regular sessions?

Don't forget to budget. Trainers range from £15-£50+ per session (normally an hour), dependent upon their experience and how busy they are. On average, you will need three sessions a week to get results.

Do make sure there is no personality clash. Choosing a trainer should be a bit like choosing a nanny for your children or a hairdresser. It is a decision that shouldn't be made on a whim, or the partnership won't last.

Don't plump for the first trainer available. Check out at least three and contact them either via email or by phone. Call them and discuss your needs. Remember you are paying them so if you don't like the way they propose to train you, just say you will get back to them.

Do make sure they are on the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPS) and the National Register of Personal Trainers (NRPT). Funded by the Department of Health, REPS provides the public with a guarantee that fitness professionals on its books meet required standards and possess acceptable qualifications. Search the NRPT directory (nrpt.co.uk) for trainers in your area.

Don't become dependent on their guidance. Ultimately, what you are searching for is a personal trainer prepared to make him or herself redundant. Gradually, their motivational skills should rub off so that you are able to train by yourself.

Do exercise caution. Once you have decided which trainer you'd like to see, always meet in a public place or in a gym reception and ask to see their credentials (qualification certificates) and insurance documents. Any good trainer will have no problem with this.

To contact Rick Winstanley email rickwinstanley@live.com.

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