What was the gap in the market exactly?
The fitness industry has never been a shining beacon of truth, honesty and integrity. Historically, it has been defined overwhelmingly by hucksters out to make a quick buck with the latest fad or ‘personalities’ selling fitness fluff and empty promises around eating more, moving less and still getting in shape. This is something I’ve always detested about the industry and one of the things I wanted to change most with UP.
So the gap in the market was providing a professional service that clients could trust to deliver the results they wanted. Too many personal trainers are ‘rent-a-friends’ or glorified ‘gym babysitters’. UP came into being to become trusted advisors for executive clients in the same way that they would recruit a lawyer or an architect.
I tell all my trainers that we don't care about being friends; we care about being listened to as trusted advisers because that way we get consistent results. We know that telling the truth doesn't always win you friends, at least in the short term, but it is the fastest and only real way I know to get lasting results in any aspect of life.
So, building a business or getting people in good shape – what was your primary motivation?
The motivation is, and always will be, delivering exceptional results for clients. I can only look myself in the eye when I think I am providing value and standards. I sincerely believe that, if you take care of that, money and commercial success will follow.
When I started the business, I knew from day one that it was all about results. Get amazing transformations, tell the world about them and we’ll have a virtuous cycle of the best trainers being attracted to the business. Clients will be willing to pay more money per session because they know we can maximise their results in the shortest possible timeframe.
How did you get your first customers?
I didn’t tell anyone I was a personal trainer for at least a year or so. Going from doing what I did previously to becoming a personal trainer, it was embarrassing. The professional cachet of being a personal trainer is rightfully way down the scale because the standards in the industry have historically been very poor. I kept it quiet until I got my first big feature in Men’s Health.
I opened my first Ultimate Performance gym in May 2009 on Paul Street in the City of London, right in the middle of the worst recession in a generation. I just ground it out step by step, starting at the bottom as a personal trainer. I did everything: 35 hours of PT a week as well as writing articles, doing press, going out networking, and building the business. I was working 15 to 18 hours a day, seven days a week.
Who is Ultimate Performance for?
It is for absolutely anyone who wants to achieve life-changing results; develop lifelong knowledge about training and nutrition; and look, feel and perform at their absolute best. Age, sex, lifestyle, training experience, dietary preferences and so on are never barriers.
And how does it work?
Our gyms are private, personal training-only facilities – there are no memberships. Clients are allocated a dedicated personal trainer. They pay for a block of training over a set period of time during which it is incumbent on the trainer to deliver the absolute maximum results over the lifetime of the package. This results-driven approach runs contrary to 99% of the personal training industry in that our trainers’ success is measured and incentivised solely on the quality of their results and the value they deliver to the client, not on how many sales they make or spaces in the gym they fill.
The service is completely tailored to the clients’ needs and goals from start to finish. Every client completes an in-depth form with more than 50 data points covering goals, lifestyle, sleep, stress, diet, training history, injury status and myriad other factors. First, this enables our training team to pair the client with the ideal trainer. Second, it enables the chosen trainer to put together a detailed personal training and diet plan designed to deliver the maximum benefit to the client.
Clients have weekly progress photos taken, alongside body fat and body weight measurements, and updates on inflammatory status, blood pressure and insulin. These gives the trainer the power to track the visual and numeric progress of their client in the most scientifically robust manner possible.
Trainers aren’t just there for the hour in the gym. It’s the other 23 hours that really help the client master the requisite healthy habits for ultimate results. Trainers are there for support, guidance and education around the clock on everything from sleep strategies and stress management to smart supplementation and lifestyle optimisation. Trainers have even been known to take their clients food shopping and read through local restaurant menus when their clients are on vacation.
How much will all of that set you back?
We are not cheap. We are for someone who wants something a little bit special. We offer an all-encompassing, holistic experience where we work with you across all aspects of your lifestyle. Each gym will have different rates based on location. For example, in the UK we are between £75 and £175 per session depending upon the gym, the trainer, the time of day that you come in and, of course, the length of your commitment as a client.
How many hours a week will you have to commit?
The average UP transformation is just 2.7 hours a week of gym time. We find that most people can get exceptional results training with us just three hours per week.
And how long until you see physical results?
This is unique to each client and there are myriad factors – from dietary adherence and training intensity to hormones and sleep quality – that can determine the speed and scale of results. Many clients will start feeling changes within the first couple of days. It can be a matter of days or up to a few weeks before you can see tangible results in the mirror. This is why Ultimate Performance’s training team fastidiously track the progress of every client in multiple ways. The detailed layers of data allow our trainers to then tweak and evolve each client’s training and diet plan to maximise progress.
What’s the hardest part for clients – and what advice do you give to get through it?
The hardest part always comes right at the beginning. Even taking the first step to sign up for a body transformation can feel like a huge step into the unknown. It’s only natural to feel overwhelmed by how far it seems you have to go to reach your goal. If you are just starting out, every one of those initial workouts will feel really tough, your fitness levels will be at their lowest ebb, and the muscle soreness may make you wonder why you ever started in the first place. But persistence, perseverance and determination will see you through. Beyond that challenging first phase lie a better body, better health, improved self-confidence and the myriad benefits that are to be enjoyed from being fitter, stronger, leaner and healthier than ever.
Just take each rep, each set and each workout session one step at a time. Breaking that big, seemingly insurmountable goal down into mini-milestones will make it feel so much more manageable. Small steps add up to big goals. When our clients click into this mindset, they soon see what they are really capable of and that even the big, scary end goal is well within their grasp.