I'd always thought personal trainers were a concept for other people (stressed out bankers? lonely housewives?) until someone introduced me to Phoebe Parnell.Phoebe is young and fit, as you'd expect, and passionate about healthy living but in the most enthusiastic, non judgemental way. As well as specialising in high intensity interval training - short bursts of hardcore exercise followed by brief recovery - she advises on diet and nutrition, even making sugar and wheat free snacks that taste so good you'd swear off brownies for life (butter, sugar, flour, why would you?).
She arrives on a bright winter's morning and after a brief health analysis we proceed to the tennis court to work out. This immediately strikes me as a plus - I'd never considered exercising on our rather shattered court but, Phoebe emphasises, anywhere will do - your office, your sitting room, the kitchen, the park.
And so it begins. The exercises are relatively straightforward, even for someone as unco-ordinated as myself, but you do them at as fast and furious a pace as you can manage.
We start with lunges, then reverse lunges, a jump into a lunge and a curtsey, which is exactly as it sounds only you are doing it repeatedly and at speed. A sequence of squats follows, then something Phoebe calls 'high knees' which basically means running with your knees raised towards your chin. I'm guessing it looks ridiculous but I couldn't care less, I feel as though my lungs are about to burst. The thing about the high intensity programme, however, is that just as you think you can't take any more, you're lying down on the mat taking deep breaths.
Some of the time was spent doing planks, sit ups and hip flexors on the mat and something called mountain climbers holding onto an inflated gym ball. The entire 40 minutes raced past accompanied by Phoebe's constant encouragement and occasional concern: "Are you actually breathing anymore?'
Afterwards I felt that endorphin high you only get when you've done serious exercise. The biggest test, however, was the next day when despite rigorous post exercise stretching I could barely move, with deep aching in muscles I'd forgotten existed (toned glutes anyone?). And this, for me, is the real advantage of working with a personal trainer. I've been running and going to the gym or yoga classes, on and off, for years but I've never felt results like this.
Working with a personal trainer encourages you to push yourself much harder than you normally would but it also helps you target the areas you really want to work on. The whole session took 40 minutes but felt much more effective and a lot more fun than my normal hour in the gym.
The friend who recommended Phoebe sees her twice a week, every week. She said: "I'm in my 40s and I'm fitter than I have ever been.'
Which kind of sums it up. None of the effort of going out to the gym, all done in less than an hour and I think I'm hooked. One to one sessions with Phoebe cost £25 or can be booked more cheaply in a block. She also runs fitness classes at Pythouse.
Contact her here