Ben Coleman: Helping Clients Make the Shift From Gym to Home Workouts

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Life in the fit lane with celebrity trainer, Ben Coleman.

One of the most common sentences I hear from new clients is: “If I just had more time, I’d be much fitter.” Another common expression is: “Gym memberships are so expensive. And even if I did go, I won’t know what I’m doing. To be honest, I’d be scared to walk through the door.”

It’s my job, as a personal trainer, not just to help clients work out but to give them the skills to understand that being fit and healthy doesn’t mean hours in the gym every day or thousands of pounds invested in equipment. A few simple lifestyle changes, along with a change in approach to exercise, will reap significant – and, even better, long-lasting – results. 

The secret? Clients need to understand that bodyweight is the best tool they can use – no matter where they are. Away on business? No problem. Holiday? Just five minutes a day will keep you ticking over. Quarantined / self-isolation with no hope of leaving the house? Not to worry. You have everything you need right where you are. Body weight can be used for a full-on cardio workout, a strength and conditioning session or to improve your flexibility – you just need to set some goals and then stick to them.

Starting from scratch?

Clients that are completely new to exercise are always great to work with. They usually have high levels of motivation and just small changes can make huge differences. I tend to start by advising them to increase their day-to-day movement – hitting 10,000 steps a day is an easy way to increase daily activity. Taking the stairs or getting off the bus just one stop earlier can help to do this. Combine these sorts of changes with two workouts and your clients will be delighted with the results. They might even be ready to take it to the next level…

Middle Laners?

I often get approached by clients looking to step up their activity – and to design some bespoke workouts with specific goals in mind. These clients tend to be regulars at fitness classes, but aren’t as confident to go it alone. I create and share a lot of content on social platforms – Instagram and YouTube mainly – that gives a really clear idea of the training I can offer. They know what they want to achieve but need some inspiration and new ideas to help them reach those goals. 

Speed Geeks

I love working with all fitness abilities, and experienced athletes are no exception. I regularly coach professional athletes, particularly in preparation for a new season or a particular tournament / event that’s coming up. Often, they are looking for something slightly different from what their team coach offers – and sometimes, they are looking for the edge over their teammates. Whatever the goal, the same principles apply – the right training, combined with the right nutrition, ultimately delivers results. 

We are What we Eat

Healthy eating doesn’t need to cost the earth. Some of the top tips I give my clients include:

  • Buy fruit and vegetables in bulk, chop it up and then freeze in small portions, so you can use only what you need. My favourites include red cabbage, peppers and onions. I also freeze fresh spinach and kale immediately and then just use what I need as I go; you can cook these straight from frozen, so you don’t even need to remember to defrost them!
  • Really think about what you’re eating and when. It’s absolutely fine to treat yourself sometimes, but don’t waste it! Eating out of boredom is a habit that can be tough to break, but once you realise you’re doing it, it’s much easier to stop. 
  • Have a drink of water. It’s often said, but it’s true: you can think you’re hungry when actually you’re thirsty. If you feel hungry, have a drink of water. If you’re still hungry in ten minutes, then have something to feed your body – a piece of fruit, a small salad. Don’t just immediately reach for the biscuit tin – no matter how tempting! (And, if it’s too much of a temptation, get rid of the biscuit tin!)
  • Always on the go? Pack your snacks into small Tupperware containers, so you can maintain portion control. It’s far too easy to take a whole bag of something and promise yourself you’ll only eat a certain amount – and then break that promise later in the day. 
  • Avoid eating foods high in saturated and trans-unsaturated fats. These types of food are much higher in calories and eating these can lead to weight gain if not burned off. The types of saturated fatty foods to avoid are sausages, bacon and burgers. Stay away from trans fats like cakes, cookies, and pastries… I’m not saying never – but just not too often!

Energy In vs. Energy Out

When it comes to explaining weight loss to clients, I keep it pretty simple: knowing how much energy (food) is going in verses how much energy is going out (being burned off). In short, I help them calculate their Basel Metabolic Rate (BMR), which is the number of calories they burn if they basically lay in bed all day. Put this together with the number of calories they burn in a day – most clients have a fitness tracker which is a good enough guide to work this out – and you have the total amount of energy going out. They then need to ensure they consume fewer calories than are being burned off if they want to lose weight. 

I also have many clients who want to put weight – muscle-mass – on.  The exact same principles apply – they need to achieve a calorie surplus. It is also extremely likely they will need to significantly increase their protein intake.                                                                 

My advice for people who want to manage their weight, whether it’s to lose weight or to gain muscle, is to count your calories and work out your target macronutrients. From here it’s easy to see how far away from your goal you are. You can then make the right adjustments to either your diet, or daily exercise. 

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

With the proliferation of information and resources out there, it’s little wonder there is so much confusion about what to eat to stay healthy. Fad diets, ‘skinny’ teas, superfoods – the truth is: there is no quick fix that will solve your health and fitness concerns. Fad diets continue to hang around because they don’t work – which keeps people looking for the next ‘big thing’. I encourage all my clients to eat a varied healthy balanced diet – no food, or food group, is a sin. Being vegetarian or vegan can be a healthy way of living, providing your body is getting all the nutrients it needs to function properly. And while I’m happy to provide example diet plans and ideas, I strongly believe it’s my job to help my clients understand the principles of good nutrition so they can manage their diets without my help in the future.

I personally think it’s a disgrace that our industry isn’t regulated to stop companies and influencers pushing information that is often, at best, mis-informed and, at worst, deliberately deceptive. It’s dangerous. 

Invest in Your Body

As I’ve already mentioned, bodyweight is a great tool for getting in shape. But if your clients are ready to invest in a few pieces of equipment to use when working out – at home, in the park, while travelling – I have a few items I recommend again and again:

  • A suspension trainer – This is one of the most robust, diverse and portable pieces of kit you can buy. It uses your own bodyweight as resistance and can provide great benefits for everyone, from a complete novice to professional athletes. Even bodybuilders have been known to use them. 
  • Resistance bands – These come in a range of strengths, shapes and sizes and won’t break the bank. They are a great replacement for barbells and dumbbells and take up a fraction of the space. And they weigh practically nothing. 
  • Kettlebell – A fantastic, functional and versatile piece of equipment. They are much smaller than dumbbells too. It’s one to leave at home, rather than take out on your travels, but I highly recommend them for a full body workout, improving your cardio, strength and power. They are also great for conditioning the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings and lower back). Plus, once you’ve finished your workout, it’s a fab door stop!
  • Create your own kit – Sometimes I like to create my own fitness equipment to workout around the house. Using old towels, flannels or even kitchen rolls as fitness gliders make for perfect alternatives to more expensive gliding discs. Spray a little polish on the floor and not only are you burning calories… you’re doing the housework at the same time. 

Once you start thinking creatively, you can fit a workout in no matter where you are. I’ve trained clients in the smallest of spaces and the most crowded areas. There’s no reason you can’t do the same!

Ben Coleman is currently hosting live workouts on Instagram every Tuesday and Thursday at midday, BST. Follow him @bencolemanfitness to get involved.

Ben is the author of ‘4 Week Fitness Guide’, a progressive four-week bodyweight workout guide that also includes a healthy eating plan.

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