John Godfrey, Trainer to the Stars, takes on the Middle East
By Priya Kumar
With over ten years’ experience in the fitness industry and a contact book of clients to make even the most seasoned publicist blush, John Godfrey is far from your average trainer. The fitness entrepreneur and owner of Private Events Club has trained some of the biggest names in Hollywood, business, sport and entertainment including Richard Branson, Matt LeBlanc, Heather Mills, Marc Rich and Christian Horner (Team Principal of the Infiniti Red Bull Racing Formula One team). From his hometown of London, I had the chance to catch-up with the fitness guru on the lawns of Buckingham Palace to discuss what led to his storied career. With his sights now set on revolutionizing the way the Middle East approaches fitness, he shows me what it takes to be one of the world’s leading voices in health and wellness.
When building your career, how did you end up working with ultra-high net worth (UHNW) clients and celebrities?
Word of mouth; I think the first was billionaire Marc Rich [renowned commodities trader who passed away in 2013]. That was when a personal trainer who was training his daughter came to me and said, “I have a client that I would like you to see.” The other ones have been quite sporadic, usually referral or word of mouth when one client refers another after having skied or done fitness with me.
What about Matt LeBlanc and Richard Branson?
Those are the exciting ones. Matt was in town at the time and it was a referral. It was the same for both.
When travelling with your clients, how do you fit physical conditioning into their hectic lifestyles?
First, you have to understand to what capacity they want to train. If someone has a very busy day, you don’t want to run him or her into the ground at five o’clock in the morning because obviously they are not going to function well. I establish to what capacity they want to work, what goals they have alongside that, and tie it all together. So that could be early morning training and then post evening therapy work.
If a woman were to only do one exercise, what should it be and why?
If she’s capable of doing it, I would probably go with the pistol squat. It’s a challenging glute exercise that strengthens the hip region and shapes the bottom. The goal is to sit your down to your heel on one leg and rise back to standing. If you’re initially unable to achieve full depth, scale the difficulty by holding onto a suspension strap or doorframe to offset your bodyweight with a pull.
Besides training, what are other projects you are involved with at the moment?
Under the guidance of my events company Private Events Club, I have put together a “10 Years Younger in 10 Days” programme. An extension of my intensive fitness and food programme, 10 Years Younger is in collaboration with the Urban Retreat at Harrods and world-renowned medical specialists on Harley Street in London. Not only does it create stunning lines and contours along your new athletically transformed body, but the programme also includes the added benefits of dermatology, cosmetic dentistry and hair treatments. The result will make clients look younger than their years for their healthiest and most attractive form.
What are some fitness fads you absolutely do not recommend and why?
Promises that you are going to get amazing fitness results in one or two days. Fitness is a progressive thing. It is a lifestyle you need to work on. Progress will always be fastest when you first start, it will taper and you will have your peaks and troughs, but it is something you progressively work at building and that’s the best way to maintain consistency in the long run. Things that promise super fast drops lead to disillusion; it just doesn’t really work.
Like diets built around juicing?
With the juicing, you are effectively starving yourself. You are dropping your calorie intake to a much lower level than what your body needs to sustain. You can drop that fat quite quickly, but your body will put it back on quite fast as well. It is best to go consistent and work down gradually. Projects like twelve-week programmes that people begin to advertise now are a great start but really you should be looking at one to four years as a long-term progressive lifestyle.
How do you approach fitness with your Middle Eastern clients?
The Middle East likes to see innovative fitness coming in. They have a tendency to get bored with themes of fitness. I think it is quite important to continually reinvent yourself to stay motivated.
The Middle Eastern climate is an obstacle in pursuing a fitness-centric lifestyle. How do you recommend training in the hotter months of the year?
If you’re looking to train outside, look to do it in the very early morning or late in the evening when the temperature is cooler. When training inside in an air-conditioned environment, look to stay hydrated. Dehydration affects your physical performance, so keep a water bottle with you at all times. Sip small quantities regularly throughout your workout.
For more information on John Godfrey and his fitness programmes check out his website johngodfrey.co.uk; watch this space for updates on his Middle Eastern endeavors.