As we were running through the woods the other morning my client grudgingly admitted to a new habit she’d developed and it was annoying her greatly: weighing herself daily. She said she never did it until watching a well known American personal trainer’s DVD. This trainer advocates daily weighing so that you keep a check on yourself.

Daily weighing: good or bad habit?

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Knowing women and having been brought up in a breeding ground for eating disorders (the ballet world), I was shocked by the trainer broadcasting this advice. Without wanting to come down hard on her, I searched to see any advantages in getting into this routine but I struggled. Already before my eyes my normally confident, well balanced and healthy client was in a twist about a pound that she has gained overnight. So I fired off the standard questions on elimination, menstruation or an imbalance of acidic food the night before. But it isn’t the pound that is the problem but the obsessing. Any trainer must know that a pound of fat cannot grow overnight. If we are to look at the sheer volume of a pound of fat this would be much more evident to us. For instance four pounds of fat is the size of a small netball. Four pounds of muscle is a third of that.

Expert’s DVDs: can you always trust them?

It made me think about the production of DVDs and the advice contained therein. The majority of people are willing to hang on their every word and and follow the trainers advice at all times. Why wouldn’t they? They are an expert and they have a DVD on the shelves! But it doesn’t hurt to question and stop short of putting all our faith into these experts and presenters, after all we don’t generally do it with politicians, economists, journalists, scientists or theologists! This might sound odd coming from someone with eight workout DVDs out there! But when I make mine I decide on the technical aspect of all the content; the layout, the exercises, the order and the whole script. Every word and action is created by me. Production read it through for staging purposes only and not for professional correction, that part is my job and where all content is tightly entwined with my conscience and very closely monitored by me. Frequently as I am assembling my ideas for screen, I have to have a self check, ‘Is this exercise worthwhile, do I believe in it and know that it works? Or am I adding something that is variety for the sake of it to fill out my commissioned duration?’ And where I have any vague uncertainties I get studying again utilising various sources and I have no qualms about turning to others who I know to be experts in certain fields for corroboration and clarification. The whole thing is something of an agonising process but it means the end product is always something I can proudly stand by. At the point of filming no one corrects you. If you have gained a reputation (and being in the fortunate position of putting out workout DVDs suggests you might have done), you are expected to know your subject well and no one contradicts it in production. After all if they know better why aren’t they co-writing it with the presenter or ‘artist’ as we are generously called? Their job is to create a high production value environment and picture, make it user friendly and then market and distribute it. Some celebrity trainers are so well positioned in the marketplace that no matter if some of the advice or technique therein is questionable, these DVDs fly off the shelves. And a glowing quote from a famous actress or model about the presenter and they’re away. That is the nature of modern society. I look at all those trainers leaning on their celebrity connections and endorsements and it catches the eye and no doubt works for them. I have no doubt it is to my detriment, but I have never dreamed of asking one of my rich, famous or titled clients to endorse my work as I believe their privacy comes first. My PR man does pull out what remains of his hair over this sometimes, but that is my decision. Each to their own of course. Honest, natural and real_2

U.S. vs U.K.

Nowhere does ‘selling the sizzle’ better than the U.S. They really know how to reel the public in and convince them of product necessity and status. Having worked on the fitness side of things for QVC in both London and the U.S. I’ve seem first hand the hugely different approach to sales. Believe it or not, our approach is subtle and inviting. The American style is head-on and fearless. And for the masses who take things literally they are brilliant at presenting every item as the best product ever known to man. America has everything in extremes – terrain, weather, personalities and wildlife. Recently this contrast of gloss and glamour versus wild and wonderful smacked me in the face. My son Oscar and I flew to Tampa, in a quiet, laid back area on the west coast. Even alligators casually paraded across the golf course through puddles with their young. The creeks are rich with intriguing life that you don’t find elsewhere. We took a slow boat gently down the river, dressed in wetsuits and snorkel ready to meet our manatees. It was tranquil, modest with a small group and a guide passionate about the creatures. They live and graze in shallow warm waters, are endangered but protected. They are extraordinary, huge, thick skinned, full of organs and no blubber, so extremely sensitive to a drop in the water’s temperature. They are herbivores, as slow and sleepy as a panda, related to the elephant and interestingly have no predators. They are wild, untrained of course, yet we had the privilege of bobbing respectfully in the water, with these mammals brushing passed us and having them snuffle at our snorkels. And all for $30. We even had a dolphin dash by us. I know you can’t put a price on nature but for such a glorious variety, you knew no one was lining their pockets and taking advantage of the species. Seeing these mermaids – as they were once mistaken to be (obviously nobody had seen Daryl Hannah in Splash at that point!) – in their natural habitat was peace on earth. The next stop was in sharp contrast to our manatee experience. We moved onto the Florida Keys to see dolphins. This was a different spectacle and not with the peace and harmony with nature that we had just observed in manatee magic land. Here everything was turned up a few too many decibels with lots of chat, geeing up, shrieking and hype. Dolphins are undoubtedly exquisite creatures but kept in their coves, performing countless times a day with their excitable trainer, it robs them of something and replaces it with showbiz, all to please punters like us. Does it get to these intelligent beauties? They pulled off their stunts for their squealing trainers, we shook hands and fins, had a kiss and a dance and it was wonderful. But there was something hugely lacking that I didn’t want to admit to and it had to be a genuine sincerity. It didn’t seem like a trainer bonding with a creature, synchronising their moves and exchanging a connection with one another, it was more like a routine, packaged for fifteen minutes, 7 times a day for $150, plus ten bucks for every photo! (No personal cameras allowed of course…). Rather like some DVDs, it wasn’t so much about the contents, the honesty or accuracy of the delivery but knocking out the numbers and giving the audience something to go home buzzing with. So we humans can really taint a good thing, but we have worked out how to partially inform or even misinform people whilst still winning their trust and putting on a show. Given the choice I’d rather be the manatee; a bit rough and wrinkly, knowing my terrain, peaceful sleeps without predators nipping at my tail, a little slow off the mark maybe but… keeping it real!

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