I’ll confess. When I first started going to the gym, I did so with the sole purpose of eating more. With time, my work-outs have irreversibly transformed into a reinvigorating part of my routine, without which my day would feel oddly incomplete.
Of course, a “work-out” can take shape in a number of different ways – from pilates to power yoga (both of which I’ve pursued in the last year alone!). However, I’ve recently found myself plateauing, with limited progress in terms of my strength and endurance (let alone any visible results on my waistline).
Having passed by Matt Roberts’ studio in my neighbourhood countless times, it finally seemed like the right moment to walk in and enrol myself.
For the unfamiliar, Matt Roberts is a name synonymous with the highest degree of fitness. His unflinching dedication reflects in a high-profile roster of clients, featuring everyone from David Cameron to Tom Ford and Naomi Campbell.
Roberts’ chain of gyms are modelled as personal training studios. The one-on-one sessions are personalised to individual goals following an initial consultation, which is designed to – quite literally – identify your Achilles heel.
In my case, we’re working towards mobility, stability and strength – as it’s not just a better tone than I’m angling for, but also a better sense of balance, improved posture and greater flexibility.
My assigned trainer, Jack, is surprisingly easy to strike a rapport with (we instantly bond over a mutual appreciation of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups); and he masks the challenging nature of my exercises behind an easy smile.
Despite its gruelling nature, each session is ultimately quite therapeutic – particularly as we start with gentle (almost massage-like) movements to stretch the muscles and break down all those knots that have built up from sitting behind a laptop for much of the day.
The unequivocal focus is on incremental improvements to hit personal milestones. Variations are continuously introduced into the routine to push me out of my comfort zone, whilst paying particular attention to the precision and stability of the underlying movements. Case in point: I’ve always prided myself in being able to hold myself in a plank for at least a minute. As it turns out, the position is much harder to maintain when you’re bracing yourself correctly…
It’s not a cake walk, but helping me to move past the “I can’t do this mindset” – the sessions also work towards building a sense of confidence and gratification in the gym. Much to the startle of the more athletically-inclined around me – I can’t help but whoop when I’m able to push a prowler sled across the length of the room. You see – the first time I attempted it, I barely made it a few steps without collapsing in a breathless huff.
Our Mayfair trainers, Devan & Tara, competed with our latest addition to the gym, the Prowler. The challenge was to see who could do the most amount of sprints/pushes on the Prowler with +50% of body weight (female) and +75% of body weight (male) over a 5 minute window. The winner, Tara! #mattroberts #mattrobertspt #fitnesschallenge #prowler @thelifeofsj
Of course, training is only part of the puzzle.
As part of my initial consultation, I’m also given a literal “food diary” to fill in over the span of a week, and hand back to the gym’s nutritionist Sarah-Jane. I’ll spare you the details (as I’m sure you’ve seen my dessert diaries already by now) – but suffice it to say, the comprehensive dietary analysis breaks my daily intake down to the last decimal gram of carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
What I’m eating is then compared with what I really should be eating, based on my goals. I’d love to tone up and lose a couple of pounds, but as Sarah-Jane sensibly voices – weight-loss might be a misleading target in my case, with focus duly required on muscle definition instead (as part of my objectives of getting stronger).
At this point, I’m compelled share a bit more on my background, explaining the responsibilities that come with being a food writer. Our consultation immediately shifts gear to a more pragmatic discussion of how I can work towards finding a balance as part of my lifestyle.
Nutritional guidance is of course contextual in nature (depending on the person, body-type etc. etc.); and for me, key takeaways include better pairing of foods, so as to ensure a steady protein-intake through the day. A high-protein frequency is associated with an “anabolic state,” helping to burn fat rather than muscle tissue – even when you’re not training.
Sarah-Jane also shares tips for monitoring calories and cutting corners where possible (a G&T or good-quality champagne is always a cleverer choice than a sugary cocktail, for instance). And we discuss ideas for lighter meals at-home when I’m not eating out – speaking of which, I’m quite looking forward to experimenting with a bean chilli and “cauliflower rice” as a high-protein, low-carb option for my next night in.
At the time of writing, following the initial consultation and a series of three sessions, I’m already starting to notice a subtle difference in my energy levels, not to mention the promise of a leaner physique! As for my next workout? Well, I can’t remember the last time I was counting down to it!
Matt Roberts, 16 Berkeley Street London W1J 8DZ