Introducing UP Fitness

Introducing UP Fitness


Nick Mitchell is not your run-of-the-treadmill PT. He is the founder of Ultimate Performance (UP), which promises more than just sweaty gym sessions. It is known for radically changing your body composition to improve everything from your hair and skin to your self-confidence and sex drive. And apparently it takes less than three gym hours a week to achieve this transformation. We asked him for the full story…

Let’s start with your fitness story. Has it always been part of your life? 
Family aside, the gym has been the most consistent thing in my life. I’m 46, and I’ve been going to the gym for 32 years. My dad brought a magazine back from the States with Arnold Schwarzenegger on the front as Conan the Destroyer, and I remember thinking, ‘That’s what a man should look like.’ Then I read Arnie’s autobiography and, as a 6ft 1in 14-year-old, it sparked a life-long love affair with bodybuilding that still drives me on today.

And how did fitness become your career? 
I tried my hand at a few things. I started as a lawyer and ended up working in investment banking. I built a business and sold it, played at life for a while, then ended up working back in the City of London. None of it spoke to my soul. Back working in the City, aged 34, putting a suit on every morning, it wasn’t the life for me. In fact, I hated it. I didn’t know what to do.

A friend of mine suggested becoming a personal trainer and I remember thinking he was crazy. There are no barriers to entry in the fitness industry; anybody can do it, so there are a fair amount of muppets. Deep down, though, I wanted to do something where I could make a real difference – to my own life too. It had to be something that fired me out of bed in the morning, so I left that corporate career behind and started out as a personal trainer.

Where did the idea for UP come from?
My initial goal was to be known as the best trainer in the UK and have a PT gym business that was recognised as the best in London. But with Ultimate Performance, I wanted to create something bigger than myself. I wanted to create a world-class business that gave clients an unparalleled service that helped them lead healthier, fitter and more productive lives, and provided personal trainers with a genuine career path in the industry. 

I thought a couple of gyms might scratch the itch but, as ever with me, as soon as I get close to achieving my goal, I move the goalposts. I wanted two gyms, then only two London gyms and one abroad would work. Then I thought, ‘You’ve made it when you have five.’ We now have 19 gyms on four different continents, and I still want more.

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.


"I wanted to create a world-class business that gave clients an unparalleled service"

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. 


"Too many personal trainers are rent-a-friends or glorified gym babysitters"

Is eating and drinking completely out of the question?
This ultimately comes down to the client and how much they want to achieve their goals and how fast. If they really want ‘maximum results in minimum time’, that means 100% laser focus on their goals and adherence to their training and nutrition programmes. But equally, no client is a robot. There will be times during any transformation, whether through work or special occasions, where indulgent food and drink may be a factor.

Ultimate Performance prides itself on teaching clients the key skills around nutrition and how to lead a balanced and healthy lifestyle that means they can enjoy family occasions and meals out without fear of ruining their progress or falling off track. What we find most beneficial for most clients initially is setting aside indulgences until they have developed the healthy eating habits and made them second nature. 

Do guys always stick to the diet and the lifestyle afterwards?
From a physiological perspective, our results are reasonably sustainable because we never crash diet a client, give them dubious or dangerous ‘fat burner’ supplements, or put them on some hideous cardio regime where they are exercising for two hours a day. Any fool can smash someone up in the gym, give them low calories, and see the fat melt away. The skill is in sculpting the body; you do that by coaxing, cajoling and stimulating, not annihilating. 

From a psychological perspective, we ensure results are sustainable through a number of methods. These include: not crash dieting in the first place, so the need to binge and stay out of the gym rarely arises; and post-result care where we keep in contact with a client to ensure habits are set in for a (hopefully) lifetime and to set a new series of (often performance-related) goals.

Finally, what can you expect to experience in the transformation?
Everyone’s experience of the body transformation process will be unique, but you only have to watch and read some of the hundreds of testimonials from clients on the Ultimate Performance website to understand what the experience means to them. It goes way, way beyond mere fat loss. You’ll no doubt hear some common themes in their stories – better health, more self-confidence, performing better at work and other benefits from improved sleep, concentration, digestion, hormones, mood, hair and skin, sex drive, and, of course, energy and vitality. 

Yes, getting there is no cakewalk. Achieving anything like this requires real hard work, discipline and consistency. There will be some days that are tough and some days you feel like giving up. But the sense of achievement our clients experience when they reach their goal is unparalleled.

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