8 Common Questions We Get Asked By You

Over the course of a month, we speak to roughly 30-40 people who aren’t quite sure what we do or if we’ll be a good fit for their needs.

We get asked all sorts of questions, and so we thought we’d put together a short list of the ones we get asked most often, just in case one of them was on your mind.

(NOTE: If you’ve got any that haven’t been included, please feel free to email us with it and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.)

1. “I’ve been ripped off by PTs in the past. How do I know you’ll not be the same?”

This breaks our little hearts as we’ve dedicated ourselves over a combined few decades to delivering reliable and transparent service with integrity.

However, we’re aware that it’s a bit of a minefield out there so here’s what we’ll say to answer that question:

We’ve got something like 40-odd 5-star reviews on Facebook and nearly 30 on Google.

If we were in the business of ripping people off we would have at least a few 1 and 2-star reviews, we’re sure.

We’ve also got, roughly, 130 people using our gym at the moment with an average monthly member retention rate of 94% over the past year.

If we weren’t ‘good’ or were con men/women, we’d have nowhere near those numbers (which *prepare yourself for a humble brag* are up there with the best in our industry).

2.  “I’ve never lifted weights/been to a gym before, will I be okay?”

If you’re totally new to exercise and have never done much ‘structured’ stuff before; i.e. lifted weights, etc. then you’ll be absolutely fine with us.

You will struggle a little in your first few sessions and your muscles will be sorer than you’d like for a few days afterward.

This is pretty unavoidable, however, we do our absolute best to make sure you’re appropriately challenged. What we mean by that is that we’ll try not to take it too easy on you or push you too hard.

We respect that everyone is at different levels and we’ll aim to ‘meet you where you are’.

3. “Is your gym busy at peak times?”

The bottom line is that if a gym isn’t busy at peak times it’s most likely going to go out of business sooner rather than later so if you’re looking for somewhere quiet then you’ll likely have to find another gym in the not-too-distant future.

At our place, as much as things can get a bit manic at times, we structure our sessions and programmess in such a way that everything works like clockwork so space is never an issue.

Your results and the quality of your sessions are always at the forefront of our priorities and so business will never be an issue.

4. “I’ve trained with PTs in the past and I’d have sweated more going for a run around the block. Are your workouts hard?”

To re-use a phrase from above, we believe in appropriately challenging our members. That means that the fitter and stronger they become the harder we tend to work them.

At the start, you’ll find things hard. But as you get ‘better’, you’ll not necessarily find things get easier, you’ll simply be challenged at a higher level.

Put even simpler, we do not believe in namby, pamby bullshit.

Going through a workout that’s designed solely for how many likes it’ll get on Instagram, with a full face of makeup and jewelry on whilst not even breaking a sweat is not for us.

We spend a lot of time designing our programmes and have dedicated our professional lives to delivering workouts that increase strength, burn fat, build muscle and improve technique.

We probably wouldn’t get many likes on Instagram, but that’s not important to us.

Your results, however, are.

If you’re enticed by Instagram hunnies and are looking for workouts akin to what they do you will likely hate us.

5. “Is your gym full of meatheads who’ll intimidate me?”

We did an anonymous survey just last month where we asked our members to describe Improve Glasgow in 3 words.

With over 50 responses, the most common 3 words were:

Fun, friendly and family.

We don’t think those words connote intimidation or induce fear, and we’re sure you don’t either.

Our gym is full of people who don’t like gyms and therefore they’ll totally empathise with you no matter what stage of your journey you’re at.

Also, at the time of writing, our membership is 53% female and 47% male. We’re fairly sure that if our gym was intimidating for females that ratio would be dominated by males.

So, if you’re female you’ll be absolutely cool. And if you’re male, you don’t have to worry about huge egos and ‘dickheadedness’ as we simply wouldn’t, and won’t, stand for it.

6. “What if I don’t like it?”

Honestly, it’ll break our little hearts.

Only joking – we’ll be adults about it and respect your opinion, as well as valuing your feedback.

But, we set up in such a way that it’s quite difficult to get to that stage.

Before we ask you for a penny, we’ll have spoken to you on the phone, had a few back and forths over text/email and have had you in the gym for a 40-60 minute introductory session.

We do this to ensure that you’re totally comfortable with who we are and what we do before you make a financial commitment.

From there, we kick everyone off with a 30 Day Trial to deepen that sense of comfort and ensure that you know exactly what we’re all about before deciding whether you want to hang around afterward …or run for the hills.

That said, if you go through that process, sign up for the trial and instantly regret it, we’ll refund you your trial fee.

We’ll even hope to stay friends afterward because life’s just too damn short for ill-feeling.

7. “Can I come in and check the place out before I sign up?”

Of course, you can.

As we noted in the previous point, you’ll have loads of opportunity to back out before you commit; either after speaking to us on the phone or coming in for your introductory session.

The bottom line is we’d never put pressure on you to sign up with us if you weren’t sure/didn’t want to.

Just as you’d prefer not to spend time somewhere you don’t want to be, we’d also rather invest our time coaching people who want to be with us.

8. “Will I get results?”

If you show up regularly and consistently, improve your eating habits and make a conscious effort to be more active in your daily life (i.e. walking more often, etc.), then you will 100% get results.

If you think that by parting with a few quid, showing up once in a blue moon, half-assing workouts and continuing to eat like an unsupervised 7-year-old then you are unlikely to achieve much.

However, we assume that, by taking the first step to start working with us, you want to make positive changes and we will do all that we can to enable you to do just that.

Fancy giving taking us for a test drive?

If you’d like to get involved with myself and the magic our team produces at Improve Glasgow simply click on the link below to apply.

Our 30 Day Trial gives you access to up to 10 Personal Training sessions, in our small group format, and unlimited access to our group HIIT classes for £139.

Included in the trial is a body composition scan on our state-of-the-art Inbody 270. We do this on the first and last day so that you can see, in black in white, exactly what you’ve achieved.

We’ll also help you out on the nutrition side of things with as much support and guidance as you need.

Here’s that link again, if you’re keen:

www.improveglasgow.com

6 Things to Consider Before Hiring a Personal Trainer

The Personal Training industry has been a bit of a joke for the past few years.

An online multiple choice exam and an hour in front of an ‘assessor’ and you’re good to go and charge people £30+ per hour for your services.

Websites don’t cost much these days and Facebook pages/groups are free so there’s not really any barriers preventing Billy Nobody from bursting onto the scene with no qualifications or experience and taking your cash off you.

I’m going to kick off with the three most obvious factors that you should consider:

1. Location

Ideally, you’re going to want to work with someone who operates out of a facility that’s within 15 minutes from where you live or where you work.

Many people are willing to travel further for their ‘ideal’ gym/trainer, but the general rule of thumb is a 15-minute journey.

Anything more than that and you’ve got too easy an excuse to skip out after a hard day, a shit night’s sleep or anything else that crops up.

2. Atmosphere

This is a biggie that I don’t think enough people consider.

You’ve got ‘hardcore’ gyms that’ll put the fear of God into newbies. You’ve got ‘nicey, nicey’ country club type gyms that’ll struggle to motivate someone who’s a bit more hardcore.

And you’ve got supportive facilities that cater to those who want/need a bit more attention.

These places will be best suited to those who struggle with motivation to workout on their own but will be no use for those who just want to get in and get out again without having to interact with anyone.

Your trainer will be able to push you a bit harder in the ‘nice’ gyms and he/she will also be able to hide away in a corner with you in the more hardcore gyms.

But it’s going to make the most sense to match your values with both the trainer and the gym he/she works out of.

That way you’ll feel comfortable throughout your whole training experience.

3. Price

There’s a host of different gyms on offer; from the budget 24-hour gyms to health clubs to bootcamp-type facilities to Personal Training studios.

Each will have dramatically different levels of personal service, facilities and price points.

What you should weigh up is what you’re going to get for your money.

If you’re knowledgeable enough and have enough self-discipline to train on your own, then budget gyms will offer fantastic value for money. As will health clubs, if you’d like fancier changing rooms, etc.

If you’re interested in ‘classes’, the same applies as above. However, I’d add that if you’re totally new to exercise, you’ll most likely need a little more coaching and ‘TLC’ than you’ll be able to receive sitting at the back of a spin class.

If you fall into the camp of the majority you’ll likely need a bit more help, accountability and support.

In this case, you’ll probably at least consider hiring a Personal Trainer once you’ve joined the gym. If you do so, the trainer’s fees will turn your ‘budget’ membership into a more premium one.

Once you’ve established the above factors you should then dig a bit deeper before making your final decision.

There’s a lot more to consider than simply location, price and the atmosphere within a gym.

A good trainer can help you avoid all of the pitfalls the majority of people fall into when it comes to losing weight.

They’ll have been helping people like you for years (even decades) and can save you both time and money with good advice.

Here are a few more factors I feel you should consider before hiring someone:

4. Their track record

Have they got results working with people like yourself?

Do they have testimonials, before and after photos and/or positive reviews?

Check out their website and their social media channels. If they don’t have any of the above I’d recommend caution. But if they do then you can begin to dig a bit deeper.

(Check out our testimonials page or head over to Facebook and/or Google and you’ll see 40+ five star reviews.)

5. Their values

Similar to my point on the gym-front, some trainers have a very hardcore approach where they only train monsters.

Others prefer to solely work with post-natal females. And some choose only to work with men over 30 who are looking to lose belly fat.

If you’re a mum with two kids under 5 you’re not most likely not going to want to work with the trainer who specialises in helping men lose belly fat.

Likewise, if you’re an overweight 42-year-old man, you’re going to steer clear of the trainer who’s focussed on helping mums.

Most trainers will have blogs you can read, Facebook pages to follow and most will also be active on their personal Facebook profile. Then there are videos on Youtube and Instagram photos, too.

Some trainers will also have podcasts you can listen to.

By taking some time to read, watch and listen to trainers that you deem suitable for your needs, you’ll be able to narrow the list down a lot quicker and negate your margin for error in hiring the wrong one.

6. Their actual service offering

Most trainers in commercial/budget gyms operate on a 1-to-1 basis.

This is typically the most expensive form of Personal Training, with trainers typically charging £40+ per session (or £175 per month for 1 session per week). Training 2-3x per week with a 1-to-1 trainer will run you up a monthly bill of £350-500+.

NOTE: If they’re charging less than that their either brand new to the industry, in which case you should question their track record. (I’m not saying they’re definitely going to be ‘bad’ – everyone’s got to start somewhere, but you should do your due diligence and ensure you’re not going to waste your time and money.)

Other trainers run larger group programmes with 20+ people in a session.

This’ll certainly work out cheaper per session/per month, but you’ll likely not get much (if any) coaching or support in these sessions. They’ll ‘work’ for a period of time but it’s likely you’ll either get bored or hit a plateau with your progress/results. At this point, you’ll either quit or look for something ‘better’.

Then there’s the area in the middle, in which we operate in, where up to 4 people work under one coach.

This method allows us to keep the quality of our service/training high, whilst keeping the price relatively low for Personal Training.

The lower numbers allow us to coach people in a near identical fashion to the way we used to coach our 1-to-1 clients without our members having to pay the premium prices.

We’re obviously a little biased, but we believe our structure to be the sweet spot when it comes to personalisation, accessibility and affordability in the Personal Training realm.

30 Day Trial > Guaranteed Results

Over the course of the next few weeks, we’re going to be bringing a few new faces into our Personal Training program.

Cards on the table, we’re almost at capacity in our current facility so we’re literally only bringing in a few people before we move in to a our new, twice-the-size, swanky facility. (Like, seriously, bull$hit marketing tactics to the side, we’ve not got much space left on the program.)

We kick everyone off with our 30 Day Trial and that gives you access to:

  • Up to 3 Personal Training sessions per week with our expert team of coaches;
  • Unlimited access to our group fitness classes where you can ’empty the tank’ and blow off some steam, whilst helping you recover from your last session;
  • As much nutritional education, support and guidance as you need;
  • Access to our private Facebook group, monthly reviews and nutrition coaching calls;
  • 2 body composition scans (one at the start and one at the end) so that you can accurately track your progress;
  • A full, 100%, money back guarantee if show up, do the work you don’t feel a difference.

It’s just £139 for EVERYTHING above, including the money-back-gaurantee which we’re yet to have redeemed in years of offering it.

If you’re ready to ditch the boring gym routine and start getting RESULTS…

All you have to do is… [CLICK HERE NOW] to register your interest and we’ll be in touch shortly for a quick chat to see if Improve Glasgow is a good fit for your goals.

 

Here’s a couple of extra posts I think will help you at this time of year:

4 Things You Should Know About Fitness Before You Get Started

8 Reasons You Didn’t Lose Weight

Do You Realise How Easy it is To Overeat?

Always Struggling to Stick to Your Diet? Here’s Why…

People of Improve: What Does Fitness Add To Your Life?

 

Fitness is so much more than six-packs and bikini bodies.

We asked a few of our favourite people what fitness adds to their lives and what they said hits home perfectly with what we’re all about.

Improved sleep, better energy levels at work, more confidence and a chance to switch their brains off and focus on nothing but themselves.

The aesthetic improvements come with consistent hard work over time, but the short-term benefits our guys speak about in the video are almost instantaneous.

It’s amazing for us to know the positive impact we have on so many.

Join the tribe by clicking the link below to apply for our 30 Day Trial:

www.improveglasgow.com/30-day-trial

‘Ruth the Truth’: Why We Invested in the Best Scales on the Market

 

Bathroom scales and measuring tapes just weren’t cutting the mustard for us at Improve Glasgow, so we invested in the best body composition analyser on the market…

The Inbody 270

‘Ruth the Truth’, as we appropriately named ‘her’, allows our members to accurately test and track their bodyweight, muscle mass and body fat (amongst other measurables).

She also tells our guys how much weight they need to lose (or gain) to get into a ‘healthy’ range.

Cooler still, she tells us exactly how many calories we should be eating per day to get to our target.

The best part about Ruth is that she’s as unintrusive as can be. Some would even call her a prude.

No need to strip off. No need for someone to grab onto your soft bits. No need to do anything, really, except take your shoes off, wet wipe the machine and hop on.

Our members get a complimentary monthly test on the first few days of each month to help keep them accountable for their goals.

Ruth prints out their results on an A4 sheet, which gives them as much context as possible as to what their training/nutrition is actually doing to their bodies.

Going into 2018, we’re as committed as ever to leaving no stone unturned when it comes to delivering our members the results they set, work for and deserve.

Fancy having access to monthly Inbody scans that’ll help you keep track of the muscle you’re building and the fat you’re burning?

Click the link below to apply to join our 30 Day Trial:

https://improveglasgow.typeform.com/to/KTGMYS

On our trial you’ll have access to:

  • Up to 3 Personal Training sessions per week with our expert team of coaches;
  • Unlimited access to our group fitness classes where you can ’empty the tank’ and blow off some steam, whilst helping you recover from your last session;
  • As much nutritional education, support and guidance as you need;
  • 2 Inbody scans (one at the start and one at the end)
  • A full, 100%, money back guarantee if show up, do the work you don’t feel a difference.

Here’s that link again:

https://improveglasgow.typeform.com/to/KTGMYS

Making Fitness Fun with MYZONE

What allows you to accurately track your effort levels in the gym (and also indirectly lets you know that you’re pregnant)?

MYZONE!

It’s one of the ‘cool tools’ we use at Improve to help keep our members accountable and also to ensure that they’re training is as tailored to them as individuals as possible.

In short, MYZONE is a state-of-the-art heart rate monitoring system that allows our members to monitor their effort levels, fitness progression, and exercise frequency.

You can see your effort levels – in real time – on our big screens in the gym. You can track your progress in the MYZONE app and you can get competitive (if you’re that way inclined) with others, in terms of ‘effort points’ achieved.

We introduced MYZONE at Improve Glasgow in January 2017 and it’s been a huge hit ever since.

Around two-thirds of our members use it and we’ve found it to be amazing when it comes to accountability.

You don’t even have to be in the gym for it to work. A lot of our members travel with work…and everyone loves a holiday, right?

With MYZONE, all you need is your ‘belt’ and it’ll store up to 16 hours worth of data, which automatically syncs with the app on your phone as soon as you’ve got a Bluetooth or wifi signal.

So we can keep tabs on your training frequency and effort levels even when you’re not within our four walls.

Yes, that is a little creepy…but it’s damn good for making sure people are getting their workouts in.

From an actual coaching point of view, we (as coaches) can clearly see how hard everyone is working. This means that we can kick people in the butt if they’re not quite putting a shift in…figuratively, of course. And also give people that bit more rest if they’re feeling more tired than usual, are newer to exercise or are just struggling on the day.

It’s allowed us to further personalise our already super-duper personal service.

If you’d like to get involved with us at Improve, click the link below to apply to join our 30 Day Trial:

https://improveglasgow.typeform.com/to/KTGMYS

We’ll look forward to hearing from you and will be in touch as soon as we can be.

Lessons Learned From 2 Years of Gym Ownership

Two years ago today I got the keys for what is now Improve Glasgow.

At the time of opening, we were predominantly a 1-to-1 Personal Training business, with two coaches (one being myself) and an intern.

We decided to open our own place because we simply felt that we could no longer deliver the level of service we wanted to, and that we expected our clients to expect from us, in an overly crowded commercial gym. (Nae disrespect to Future Fitness, it’s the best commercial gym in Glasgow; we knew we had to have our own house so we could continue to grow.)

I was running a bootcamp in Clarkston at the time and figured that by simply merging our bootcamp with our 1-to-1 business that we’d be laughing. We’d then add small group Personal Training and the fitness world would be ours.

Unfortunately, yet annoyingly obviously with some hindsight and a bit more experience, nothing runs as smoothly as that.

Over the past two years we’ve changed things numerous times:

Business model, gym layout, timetable/schedule, staffing (to a very small extent) and general direction.

There’s been times there hasn’t been enough dough left at the end of the month for me to pay myself and there’s been other times I’ve been on the receiving end of unexpected bills that I was sure were going to put us under.

“I’d be better off getting a job flipping burgers at McDonalds. I’d work less hours, get paid more and wouldn’t have to think about anything once I walked out the door.”, I’d often think to myself.

Thankfully, I held on tight every time, faced the challenges head on and overcame them.

It’s been nowhere near as easy as I thought it’d be, but there’s certainly no doubt in my mind that I’m doing exactly what I want to do with my life.

We now go into our third year in our strongest position to date and with our clearest vision for the future.

That doesn’t mean it’s plane sailing from here on out – far from it. It means that there’s even bigger challenges ahead as we attempt to push forward and grow.

I speak to a lot of other trainers about the business side of the industry, I speak to people involved in other industries about commonalities and differences, and I speak to a bunch of people who aren’t necessarily involved in business but find the goings on interesting.

I figured I’d put some of the lessons I’ve learned down on paper in the hope that someone finds it interesting.

Maybe it’ll help you make a better decision in your business, maybe it’ll help you understand the way your boss/manager makes decisions or handles situations. Or maybe it’ll just give you a better insight into what goes through my peanut-sized napper.

Who knows, but here goes (in no particular order):

 

Equipment matters a lot less than I thought

 

Space is king in any gym. We’ve gone from trying to pack the place with cool toys to trying to throw stuff out for the sake of a few precious more square feet.

Gyms need to be full of people, or at least have the capability to handle more of ’em, not fancy (or unfancy) kit.

 

Good coaches run good workouts, good people who are also good coaches run good gyms

 

The key to Personal Training isn’t to know the ins and outs of anatomy and physiology (although it’s certainly useful), it’s to give a shit about the people you’re coaching and be prepared to bend over backwards to ensure their whole experience is as flawless as can be.

The more you care the more you’ll seek to learn so as you can help more…and so the positive cycle continues.

 

Any good business runs off systems, but at every growth stage the systems break

 

You can then either paper over the cracks and allow the ship to sink or you can go back to the drawing board and start again.

The latter takes more time, energy and effort, but that’s the difference between sinking and swimming.

 

There’s no such thing as a perfect program

 

You can program off percentages, for energy systems, based off rep ranges and a whole host of other factors, but you’ll have to change just about everything in every session you run.

Someone’s back is always a bit niggley, someone’s always got a bit of a sore shoulder, someone else has always had some sort of operation/previous injury.

A program is simply a structured template that has to be coached around. This is the difference between coaching and ‘fitness instructing’.

1-to-1 Personal Training and large group training are both very difficult to scale

 

There’s just not enough hours in the day to flood a facility (one the size of ours, anyway) with 1-to-1 sessions. Add business trips, holidays, injuries and illness and there’s just not enough consistency for it to make sense.

Large group-wise, the retention rates just aren’t high enough to rely upon. Programming has to be simpler to coach, space needs to be utilised ninja-ly (yup, I made up a word) and individual attention to detail needs to at a higher level than most coaches are capable of so as to keep injury rates as low as possible.

The sweet spot lays somewhere in the middle.

Add a flexible training timetable, top-class coaching, a ton of laughs, individualisation as close to 1-to-1 level as possible and essentially 4 sessions for the price of 1 and you could just about have something that’s scalable.

(Big shout out to Jean-Claude Vacassin for opening my eyes to this as I was, without doubt, heading down the sure-fire failure path before we met.)

You’re never as good as you think you are

 

Every time I think we’ve cracked it and are just about to take a dramatic growth spurt, something comes up and bites me in the ass.

It’s equally frustrating and humbling, but ensures that I’m now always on my toes. As soon as I take my eye off the ball, even if only for a day or two, we lose ground.

I’m too slow to make changes that will inconvenience people

 

Even when I can see things coming that are going to have a detrimental effect on the gym/business, I sit tight, ride the wave and right the wrong after it happens.

On one hand I feel this is a positive, in that I’m constantly looking out for the best interests of our members. But if I don’t look out for the best interests of the business more often they won’t have a gym to train in.

It’s a tricky balancing act to get right.

That said, I do hope that I become more hard-nosed and decisive as I gain more experience.

 

You can always work harder and sacrifice more

 

There’s 24 hours in a day – if you’re not willing to work 16 of them, plus weekends, running a business isn’t for you.

Sure, you can be self-employed and earn a few fun tokens, but when you want to make a difference and have other people’s livelihoods depending on your output, you better be prepared to put in the hours.

As time goes on, things get a bit easier and the less needs to be done/more is outsourced/delegated…but that’s when the trigger needs to be pulled for expansion/growth and it’s back to square one again.

 

Self-doubt never leaves, but you can’t let it win

 

Everything’s scary…

Should I spend £X on this new bit of kit? Should I hire a new coach? Should we bring in a new intern? Should we expand into a bigger facility?

All of those questions involve financial re-investment, which could ruin cash flow and sink the ship, but without those questions (and acting upon them) we can’t grow.

And if we’re not growing we’re dying.

 

Owning a business means you have about ten different jobs

 

Until you’re at the fortunate position of being able to afford the wages of ten people, as a small, independent gym owner you’re going to be undertaking the daily responsibilities of the following roles:

Personal Trainer, manager, admin assistant, customer relations, accountant, marketing manager, CEO, cleaner, chief patter merchant (for me, anyway), bookkeeper, content creator and visionary.

Admittedly, I fulfil some of these roles a helluva lot better than others, but the thing I love most about my ‘job’ is that it’s ever-changing.

The skills I’ve learned over the past two years are the foundation for the progress we’ll make in the next two and beyond.

 

Being a boss isn’t about barking orders and telling people what to do

 

Of course, you have to lead, make decisions and orchestrate, but the key to the daily functions of any business (certainly ours) is to have a team who not only love what they do, but know that you respect and care for them.

In the two years we’ve been open, I’ve never blamed on of our coaches for anything that’s gone wrong. Everything’s “my fault”. If someone makes a mistake, it’s because I’ve not communicated what I want done clearly enough. If someone does something that’s not quite right, it’s because I’ve not trained ’em effectively enough in how I want our gym to function.

I believe that that attitude, along with trying to make the ‘workplace’ as positive and laugh-filled as possible, to be the reason our team gets on as well as it does. And I feel that both Ally & Rachel’s Facebook posts yesterday highlight this point well.

Of all the things that have happened over the past two years, it’s the strength of our team I’m most proud of. It’s the aspect (being a manager/boss/leader) I knew least about before opening the gym and, quite frankly, it’s the aspect I’ve ‘winged’ the most, but I think I’ve gotten it about as right as I could have done.

I’ve got a good idea of what’s going to happen next and I’m both excited and nervous.

Excited because I know we’ve got the ability to make positive and impactful change on not only people’s lives but on an industry on both the local and national stage.

And nervous because at every step of the way, I know my character, resilience and commitment are going to be tested.

I’m up for the battle and can’t wait to look back in another two years time with a helluva lot more progress to show off and even more lessons to have learned from.

“I Don’t Know What I’m Doing.”

“I don’t know what I’m doing.”

This is the most common answer to my question: “What do you do when you go to the gym?”

Most people tell me they do some cardio, some people tell me they play around in the weights room.

But no one I speak to seems to know exactly how to get the best out of the time they invest into their fitness.

Stuff we think is simple causes confusion amongst people who aren’t fitness professionals, which makes total sense…after all, put me in your work place and I wouldn’t have a clue what I was doing either.

“I don’t know what’s best, stretches to warm up or just running for 5mins.”

“I don’t know what order to do my exercises in…I’ve heard people talk about ‘leg day’ and stuff like that, but I just kinda move round the machines.”

“Sets and reps are a mystery to me…I just choose a weight I’m comfortable with and do as many as I can.”

(Again, this isn’t mean as a dig at you if you fall into this camp. Give me a toolbox and ask me to fix something…the outcome would be You’ve Been Framed level funny.)

The thing is, going to the gym is fantastic. If you’re already spending 2-4 hours per week exercising you’re definitely ahead of the curve.

But the majority of people I speak to aren’t happy with what they’re getting from their training.

They’re putting the time in, sure. But they’re not getting a return on their investment – in terms of an improvement in shape, strength, confidence and/or fitness – that justifies them continuing to put the time in.

That’s why the majority of people fall off the fitness wagon.

It’s not because they don’t want to continue to put the time in. It’s that they don’t feel that it’s worth the time they’re putting in because they’re getting nothing back from it.

It’s totally understandable.

After speaking to at least 8 new guys this week who all had similar stories, I thought it’d be helpful to throw a bunch of words at a page aimed at helping them understand how this whole fitness thang works. And I figured it’d probably be beneficial for you to read, too.

So here goes…

The most important thing to note is that everyone is different.

At Improve, we predominantly train 4 people at a time with one coach calling the shots. There’s very rarely a time when we’ve got 4 people doing exactly the same movement or lifting exactly the same amount of weight.

We’ve all got wee niggles, we’ve all got different skill levels and we’ve all got different ability levels; in terms of strength, fitness and even down to human characteristics, such as: determination.

Niggles can be managed with easier versions of the same exercise, which requires knowledge of movement. The majority of gym goers tend to stick to cardio and resistance machines so a knowledge and understanding of movement is never really developed.

Machines are built so that they kind of fix you in place and prevent you from doing anything majorly wrong. They’re great in some cases; i.e. for bodybuilders and for those who’ve got injuries, but at the end of the day, you’re sitting on your ass on a machine moving one body part so it’s difficult to develop an understanding of movement…or burn a significant number of calories.

Skill is simply acquired by doing things more often. The best way to explain this is through a quote I heard when I was younger: “The best way to get better at squatting is to do it every week for ten years.”

So if you’re in the stop-start majority of gym users, it’s difficult for you to see major improvements because the stuff you’re doing (if indeed you’ve even gotten so far as to try lifting weights) is never really getting a chance to get embedded into your brain.

Along the same lines, in terms of ability, if you’re not getting better skill-wise, your ability isn’t going to improve. And if you continue to try to force your body to get stronger/fitter without putting the time in to developing the skill you’re going to be putting yourself at a greater risk of injury than is necessary.

It’s about as unsexy as a pair of granny panties, but this fitness thing takes time.

If you’ve never set foot inside a gym before, it’s unrealistic for you to walk in on day one and smash it.

You’re more than likely going to have to spend a few months sussing out movement patterns developing a basic foundation of strength and muscle development before you can really start smashing things.

Don’t get me wrong, you should still achieve every single time you walk through the doors.

Whether that’s lifting a weight for the first time, finally nailing a movement (a squat, for example) that you’ve been struggling with for ages or making it through a cardio-based session without giving up half-way through.

These are all wins.

Furthermore, you’ll be burning more calories, which means (as long as you’re not using that as an excuse to eat more food) you should be noticing positive changes to your body shape.

The cool thing is that the more your skills develop the better your ability will become and the more your body will be able to do. The more you’re able to do, the more calories you’ll burn and the more impact you’ll have on your body shape.

So, whilst you’ll be notching small wins from the get-go, the real wins will come when you put in the time over a longer period than just a few weeks.

I’m going to move on to talk a bit more geekily about training, and what you should be doing. Maybe you’ve gotten enough from this article to get off the train and get on with your day. If that’s the case, farewell my friend.

If not, let’s keep on rollin’, baby.

There’s three energy systems you should be concerned with when you’re training (or exercising…but let’s stick with training) and they all have different jobs when it comes to improving your wonderful self.

We’ve got the phosphocreatine system, which I’m going to be referring to as the ‘strength system’.

This is when you take a big movement, for example a squat or a deadlift, and you aim for between 4-6 sets of between 1 and 6 repetitions (depending on your program).

Typically, the weight will be heavy here and because of that and the demand it places on your body, you’ll need quite a bit of rest between sets. (Typically 90secs-3mins.)

(NOTE: If you’re new to training you’re going to be best skipping this energy system for the first wee while. The main reason for this is that the strength zone is where most injuries occur, and injuries tend to happen when skill levels aren’t up to the challenge you’re making your body face.

Your focus should simply be on getting better at the movement and you’ll do that by doing loads of reps; i.e. sets of 12-20, which is more ‘toning’ than ‘strength’. You’ll be able to shift a bit more weight after a while, but don’t rush it.)

We’ve got the lactic acid system, which I’m going to be referring to as the ‘toning system’.

The toning system is where you do more repetitions and take less rest. This is what most people do when they go to the gym. You’ll do 3-4 sets of 8-12…even up to 15…reps and you’ll rest for between 30 and 60 seconds between sets.

When you’re training in this system things gets really burny, which most people consider a good thing because they can feel ‘it’ working.

The more experience you have training the easier it is to feel this ‘burn’. If you’re brand new, you’ll probably find your muscles don’t burn the way a more experienced person’s will. You might even find muscles working that shouldn’t necessarily be working.

This is cool…again, you’ve just got to put the time in developing the skills and allow your muscles to slowly adapt to the new stresses you’re placing upon them. It might take a few weeks, it might take a few months but sooner or later you’ll feel that burn and you’ll know you’re heading in the right direction.

As I mentioned above, this system (or zone) allows you to develop skill because you’re doing more reps. It also helps build muscle, which is what gives us that ‘toned’ look. And, even cooler, the more muscle we build the more weight we can lift so we can then start utilising the strength zone safely.

If we can develop our skill and ability in both the tonight and strength zones, it means we can place greater stress upon our body (safely) and therefore yield greater results from our efforts.

The last of the three systems is the one most people are familiar with: the aerobic system, which I’m going to call the ‘cardio system’.

This is when you exercise for between roughly 2 minutes and, well, however long you like: 20mins, an hour, 10 hours, without stopping.

This is what gets the majority the most hot and sweaty and therefore it’s where most people spend most of their time when exercising. It’s where people feel the most ‘bang for their buck’ is and they’re right…to an extent.

The problem with only training in this zone is that it’s very difficult to build muscle in it. So people will burn a ton of calories (and therefore should lose weight), but they’ll struggle to achieve the ‘toned’ look that the majority of people are after because they’re not placing any effort into building muscle.

But, if we consider the 3 systems together…the cardio system is what helps develop the heart and lungs (which is obviously fantastic for general health and wellbeing) and the better they are at dealing with the demands of exercise, the more you can do without having to stop. Which, similar to the strength and toning zones, means that you can place more of a demand on your body and yield greater results.

To bring it home, in my (not so humble) opinion, we should all aim to train each of these 3 systems.

Each one helps the next one out and they all combine to improving you, both as a human being and as a physical specimen…so, yeah, it’s the smart thing to do.

We can train them all in a variety of different ways; i.e. train strength for a week, tone for a week and cardio for a week…or even months at a time.

But I think it’s best, for the lion’s share of us, do train all three energy systems in the same session.

We’re busy after all, aren’t we?!

We can do this in two ways:

Advanced

A1) Trap bar deadlift: 5 sets of 6 reps, 90secs rest

B1) Walking lunges: 4 sets of 12 reps, 60secs rest

C1) Push ups

C2) Inverted row: 3 sets of 10-12reps, 45secs rest (do both exercises together with no rest in between and rest after you’ve done both)

D1) Mountain climbers x30

D2) Knee hugs x15

D3) Dumbbell push press x15      Do all four exercises back-to-back and rest for 60secs. 4x

D4) Burpees x10

Beginner (NOTE: Skipping the strength zone and making a few movements a little easier.)

A1) Kettlebell deadlift: 5 sets of 15 reps, 45-60secs rest (Some American dude in the video…not me with a new accent.)

B1) Step ups: 4 sets of 12 reps, 45-60secs rest

C1) Push ups

C2) Inverted row: 3 sets of 10-12reps, 45secs rest (do both exercises together with no rest in between and rest after you’ve done both)

D1) Mountain climbers x30

D2) Knee hugs x15

D3) Dumbbell push press x15      Do all four exercises back-to-back and rest for 60secs. 4x

D4) Straight arm plank x20-30secs

Hopefully reading this post has given you more of an idea about what ‘training’ is and helped you understand how you can get more out if it.

If you’d like a little bit of help to get you started, you can apply to join our 30 Day Trial by clicking on the link below:

https://improveglasgow.typeform.com/to/KTGMYS

We’ll help you get to grips with everything and get the ball rolling for you.

Also, if you’ve found this post helpful it’d be awesome if you could share it. I’m sure there’s people around you who would benefit from reading it too.

After 7 years & 4 Advisors, I Finally Nailed It (So There’s Hope For You Yet)

I remember when I first started working for myself, my old man created a spreadsheet for me so as I could track my income and expenses.

6704-249bb5b219a3df9e7d6980146d968a97He thought it was simple to use, and it was for him. But, for me, it was a physical representation of a headache.

I told him I’d use it, purely because he’d spent time creating it, but never had the slightest intention of even looking at it again.

After a while, tax and self-assessments became stressful so I hired an accountant.

He took one look at the pile of receipts I handed him, asked me a couple of questions and arrived at the perfectly correct conclusion that I was useless with numbers, figures and tracking anything meaningful.

He gave me a notebook to use, which was way simpler than the spreadsheet my old man crafted, but still “too much like hard work” for me to even consider using.

A year or so after that, I met up with an old mate of mine who founded and runs Scotland’s biggest, and fastest growing, digital media and graphic design company (those may not be facts, but I think they are).

He showed me some of the spreadsheets he uses to track the goings on in his business and asked if I used anything similar in mine.

“That stuff gives me a headache, mate. I started working for myself so I could avoid doing stuff like this. I’m really shit with numbers.”, I told him.

“You don’t need to be amazing with numbers, you just need to be a bit good with them.”, he replied.

That piece of advice always stuck with me – “you need to be a bit good” with numbers – but I still didn’t action the advice.

The way I looked at things back then was that I avoided formal education, by pursuing a degree in sport, and avoided a ‘grown up’ job that involved sitting at a desk with my head buried in spreadsheets by pursuing a career in fitness.

Around August last year, I felt I was smashing my head off a brick wall every single day, was going nowhere fast and was facing imminent failure if things didn’t change.

One of the most respected dudes in the fitness industry, who I’d hosted for a seminar last May and learned a lot from, set up a kind of ‘independent gym owners super group’ with the idea of contributing a monthly fee so that every 4 months we could collectively afford to hire a fitness ‘hot shot’ to come teach us what they specialise in.

The idea was to combine our knowledge, expertise and experience to help each other achieve more and then bring in the best guys (and girls) to learn from so as we continue to improve ourselves, our teams and our service offerings. The ultimate goal was, and still is, to improve the standard of the fitness industry as a result.

When I joined, I was sent over a two-part on-boarding questionnaire.

The first part asked about marketing, business model, etc. and I breezed it.

The second part asked about numbers, figures and key performance indicators (KPIs).

“I don’t know” was all I could answer every question on the 10-odd part questionnaire.

I felt like a wee boy amongst men; out my depth and about to get majorly found out and ridiculed…

So I opened Google Sheets and spent about 4 days creating numerous spreadsheets to track everything I could possibly think of that was important.

Income, expenses, retention, number of members, etc.

(Ya, all the ridiculously obvious stuff that you and I know I should have been tracking, but had been avoiding for years and years.)


From then until now, there’s not been a period of more than a few days that’ve passed without me dipping in, updating and analysing what’s going on. And it’s no surprise that I’m a lot less stressed and ‘in control’ now than I’ve ever been when it comes to ze bizniz.

I was convinced I was missing a trick and that there was an easier way to track…a magic pill, if you like…so I asked at our first meet up how everyone tracked their KPIs.

“It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you fucking do it.”, I was told.

“What’s the point in me telling you all this?”, I hear you ask.

Well, over probably around a 5 year period, I had been shown three different methods of tracking my finances by three different people I respected – my dad, my accountant and my high-flying mate.

They all emphasised the importance of ‘knowing my numbers’ and even went so far as to give me their preferred method for tracking; complete with fancy graphs and all.

But I didn’t take heed until it got to the point I felt like a total dafty.

“How hard can it be to simply enter data?”, I eventually asked myself.

At that point I knew I had to make a significant change to the way I worked, and to my attitude about numbers.

I looked at a few different bookkeeping software systems and even signed up for one, but I found it to be too complex for my state of understanding at the time and decided to create my own ‘system’ instead; in the form of a series of the world’s most idiot-proof spreadsheets.

That way I could tailor everything to how my peanut-sized brain works and get things in the kind of order that my OCD tendencies enjoy.

As I’ve got more comfortable with tracking and analysing, I’ve tweaked and changed the spreadsheets to ensure they’re constantly getting easier to use, easier to read and easier to analyse.

And the cool part is, I reckon I could now use fancy software without throwing a hissy-fit about how “useless” or “stupit” I am. (But, for now, for the sake of continuity of habit, I’m sticking with my ‘simple sheets’.)

The importance of this is that finances and nutrition are pretty much identical – they’re both numbers based.

With finance you have income and expenses, with nutrition you have calories in and calories out.

You can set up spreadsheets for both, you can use ready-made mobile apps or you can use a notepad and physically write stuff down in two columns: money in Vs money out or calories consumed Vs calories expended.

You can start with one method (eg. a notepad food diary), change to another (eg. MyFitnessPal) and finally arrive at your preferred method (eg. photo food diary) months and months down the line.

The important factor is that you monitor what’s going on so as you can measure your progress.

In the case of nutrition, your KPIs are going to be your body weight, your mood, the way your clothes fit and/or your performance in the gym/your sport, amongst others.

If you’re not tracking any of these stats, it’d be a smart idea to start doing so, because, as I was told over and over again at the first meet up of the gym owners:

“You can’t measure what you don’t track.”

When you track your weight, for example, you can check at the end of the day, week, month, quarter…or however often you see fit…the same way you might check your bank balance to see how much money you’ve got left before your next payday.

If you’ve lost weight, cool.

If you haven’t (and weight loss is your goal), you need to cut down your ‘spending’ (ie. the amount you’re eating), the same way you’d have to cut down on spending if you checked your bank balance and you were overdrawn or only had a few quid left to your name.

If you’ve got a bunch of data, it’s really easy to see where you can make ‘savings’ or where you could cut back to then give you more wiggle room for special occasions.

For example, spend less money during the week so you’ve got extra for a night out on Saturday night. Same with calories – eat a bit less during the week so you’ve got more calories to ‘spend’ on your night out.

We can track nutrition using any of the following methods (or even a combination of a few):

  • Ad libitum, which means basically no tracking whatsoever.

This is typically reserved for people who don’t give a shit or people (probably like myself) who’ve either got a solid enough understanding of their body and food in general…or have just been conscious about their health for most of their life…to be able to maintain a similar physique all year round without too much fuss.

  • Photo food diary, which simply involves taking photos of your meals and potentially creating collages of your daily meals.

This is useful for everyone as it gives a fair idea of portion size, the number of meals you’re eating per day and how often you snack. However, people can be quite selective with their memory or dishonest with ‘what counts’ and forget to take a photo of that chocolate hobnob (or 5, if you’re like me) they had with their cuppa.

  • Food diary, which just involves writing down what food you’ve eaten/drinks you’ve drank during that day.

This is a little bit more time-consuming than a photo food diary and there’s more room for you to conceal the truth, as you can shrink portion sizes or say “a few crisps” when you really mean half a bag of Sensations, but its still a useful method.

  • Tracking protein intake and your weight on a scale, which involves keeping note of how many grams of protein you consumed in a day, weighing yourself and then making adjustments depending on the result.

You can either do this by guesstimating (if you’re clued up enough to do so) how many grams. Or just aim for 4 ‘servings’ of protein per day and classify a ‘serving’ as a protein shake, 1.5 chicken breasts, 3 eggs…etc. Or you can use MyFitnessPal and enter in what protein sources you’re consuming. Totally up to yourself.

If your weight doesn’t change, you need to cut down on carbs and fats. If it comes down, you’re all good. (Obviously, assuming weight loss is the goal.)

  • Tracking protein and calories, which involves using MyFitnessPal to track everything you’re eating.

This is a wee bit more time consuming again, but gives you more than enough data to avoid failure. If your weight isn’t coming down, reduce your calories or increase your daily activity or the number of sessions you’re doing per week. If it does come down, great – keep it up.

  •  Tracking macros, which involves tracking the number of calories and grams of protein, carbs and fat you consume each day.

This is the most time consuming method; although, assuming your diet is quite repetitive, which all of ours are, it becomes less so as the days go by.

I think this is largely overkill for those not looking to compete in bodybuilding/physique competitions, but can still be a useful tool to gain more of an understanding of what’s in the food you’re eating and to test how your body responds to simple tweaks and adaptations to macros/calories.

The main point in all of this is that, at any point in time, we can abort the method we’re using and make life easier or harder for ourselves; based on our mood, levels of adherence, levels of success and/or motivation.

Just because you commit to macro tracking and abandon it after a week doesn’t mean you’ve failed or the you can’t succeed in tracking your nutrition. It simply means you need an ulterior method, and in that case you can make a call based on the above list.

Similarly, just because you’re keeping a food dairy doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to succeed.

Many of us underreport what we eat and lie to ourselves (and then to our food diaries)…or just simply forget about a wee snack hear and there, which can add up to make a big difference as to whether or not you lose weight.

So, in this case, a photo food diary or calorie tracking would be a better bet, at least for the short term until you gain a better understanding of yourself, nutrition and your body.

For the lion’s share of us, not tracking anything is simply not good enough to deliver the result(s) that you would like/work hard in the gym for.

I know how difficult it is to get your head around this; after all, it did take me 6 years to get into the mental space necessary for me to simply track my income.

But I also know how much easier it is to make changes, understand what’s going on and how much less stressful life is once you make the commitment and put the habit in place to get it done; whilst also accepting that tracking is a constant sliding scale that you need to be adaptable with for it to be effective.

26.2 Miles in 8 Weeks Time With Zero Running Training – Why?

The single hardest physical endeavour I have ever endured was the Glasgow Half Marathon.

I finished it in 1 hour 27 mins and it was pure hell from mile 3 onwards.

Despite my own internal advice/self talk and the advice of the experts around me who I both respected and admired (mainly my good friend Tommy Lawlor), I set off too fast.

I was aiming for 7 minute miles.

My first was 5:40. Second mile: 5:50.

“You need to slow down, wee baws. You’re gonna blow it”

Third mile was just over 6 minutes.

The sensible voice in my head piped up with: “Right, well done, you’re slowing down. But you’re still far too fast. Get yourself to 7 minute miles.”

But it was combatted with the brash, arrogant and stubborn part of my brain (which, unfortunately, tends to dominate):



“Fuck off, we’ve just done a 5km in under 20mins. Just over an hour of hell and this’ll be done – goal achieved. Keep pushing and stop being such a pussy.”

The sensible voice was overruled and I kept pushing. The miles gradually slowed down, but I was on track.

Mile 3 to mile 10 were a blur. I was in a state of ‘flow’. No thoughts that I can remember; just a physical and mental void of performance, contentment and ‘you’ve got this-ness’.

Then it came.

Exactly as I’d been warned: “Don’t set off too quick. You’ll ’blow your load’ and you’ll have nothing left when it matters most. You’ll hit a wall.”

At the 11 mile marker, running down past Eglington Toll, towards the Gorbals and the finish line at Glasgow Green, my state of ‘flow’ was shattered.

Now I could feel everything.

My feet were blistered (should have taken the advice of ‘breaking my trainers in’, rather than buying a new pair for the race). My shins were on fire – shin splints are real. This pace I’d been running at was definitely too fast for my body to handle.

My knees were aching.

I’d run this distance a few times before, but never at this pace. My lungs were on fire. My heart rate monitor was ‘beeping’ so often, indicating that I was above 85% of my maximum heart rate, that I turned the thing off.

I didn’t want to know anymore. I thought about stopping, walking to the nearest train station and going home.

“You’ve fucked it. I told you to pace yourself.” said ‘Captain Sensible’.

“Bolt! That’s not what we need just now.” the arrogant side fired back.

My family were at the finish line. I told people I was running. I’m not a quitter. I’m many things in this world but, when it comes to physical work, I’d rather my body failed me than mind quit.

2 miles to go.

Suffer, endure, move forwards…just do not fucking stop.

My pace was slower than I think I’ve ever ran and every single step hurt. But I was still on track for sub 1:30 and that’s all that mattered.

I came round the last bend at Glasgow Green, the crowd was loud, encouraging and inspiring. My legs were ‘jelly’ at this point. With every step that I took I got closer and closer to them not responding.

I kept thinking I was going to fall over.

“Just don’t fall. The finish line is there – get over it and then you can fall.”

I was side by side with an older runner and he put his foot on the gas for a sprint finish. I sent the signal from brain to legs to match him, but there was no response.

My legs kept moving, but only at the snails pace they were now only capable of. I ate his dust, but I got over the line.

I knew it was sub-1:30, I just didn’t know by how much.

I looked up and saw my family to my left. I briefly made eye contact, but pretended I didn’t see them.

I needed time. My throat filled up with emotion – pride, achievement, fulfilment. I needed a minute.

My eyes started to water. Tears trickled down my cheeks.

I’d done it.

My body was in pieces. Everything hurt. But the overwhelming feeling was one of euphoria.

I’d worked hard for this. I’d consider quitting at the 11 mile mark. But I persevered. I suffered. I endured. And I did it.

I believe that those feelings are paramount when it comes to personal development.

I think we should all expose ourselves to extremely uncomfortable conditions; whether physical, professional or personal.

Over the past few years, I’ve coasted physically.

Other than workouts in the gym, which are tough at the time but only for brief periods of 20 seconds to 15 minute bursts, I’ve not had a truly challenging physical test for a long time.

Most people workout/exercise to improve their body shape.

I’ve ‘set my body up’ with 14 years of investment. I can now maintain relatively low levels of body fat with a lot less effort than the next man (not because I’m lucky, but because of those 14 years of consistent and relentless investment).

So, for me, training is more mental than physical. The physical challenge will always be there. 100kg is 100kg – you’re either ready for it or you’re not. But the lift is over in a few seconds. It’s intense – extremely intense – but it’s a microcosm for real and true suffering.

I feel I need to suffer in order for my mind and my character to develop and grow. I need to be forced to endure. And I need to overcome when everything inside of me is telling me to stop.

This morning, as I was walked through Glasgow’s sunny, yet cold, streets I started feeling that I needed a challenge.

My first thought was the Glasgow Half Marathon all those years ago and my next thought was: “Double it. Find the next marathon that’s nearby and sign up for it.”

After a quick Google search, I signed up for the Belfast City Marathon on the 1st of May, 2017.

It’s over 10 miles further than I’ve ever ran before, and it’s in just over 8 weeks time.

I have got no where near enough time to prepare. I’ve got no where near the ‘running fitness’ to complete it. But I believe I have the the mental strength.

Or, a better way of putting it is that, I’m intrigued to find out if I have the mental strength.

This has been a massively rash decision, but it’s already given me a revived sense of purpose and being.

I think you should have a think about what you could do (no matter how big or small) to reinvigorate and test yourself.

Maybe that’s signing up for an event that you’re not sure you can complete. Maybe it’s getting off the couch and joining a gym. Maybe it’s as simple as going for a 20 minute walk.

Whatever it is and whatever stage you’re at…

Do it.

IGP 009: How To Avoid, Manage & Overcome Niggly Injuries with Jonny Kilpatrick from Physio Effect

🎙 Episode 009 is LIVE 🎙

Ross & Ally sit down with Jonny from Physio Effect and discuss a range of topics including:

– The most common injuries Jonny deals with;

– How to best prevent injuries from occurring in the first place;

– Why you should think about the way you move even outside of the gym;

– Why it’s better to go private with physio rather than waiting on lengthy NHS waiting lists;

This is a really solid episode that’ll benefit anyone from someone who doesn’t exercise but experiences back pain, to someone who does a bit of running now and then, to regular gym goers, athletes and Personal Trainers.

Massive thanks to Jonny for giving up a few hours of his afternoon to come hang with us and talk shop.

…and apologies for Ally periodically ruining your sheets 😂😂😂