Week 8: Attitude is everything


WHAT if I told you that your attitude shapes the way you move? Would it make you think differently about your attitude?

Consider how fear, anger, happiness, confidence, doubt, positivity etc all impact on your body, muscles, nervous system, posture, energy, motivation, vibrancy and concentration.

The opposite can be true also – that movement can alter your attitude, which is why many people do exercise or train.

Kari, Ross and Sue, who are training with me on the Amazing 12 at the Core Results gym, are all contrasting personalities with different mindsets, jobs and lifestyles. It’s been interesting to observe their ups and downs, how they face challenges, how they impact on each other and how they have adjusted to the program week by week.


I call Sue “high maintenance with humour” and I mean that in the nicest possible way. Kari is steady, but has moments where (metaphorically) she beats herself up. Ross is up and down. When he’s down, he’s really down. When he’s flying, he’s like he can conquer the world and will help everyone around him to do the same.

This week, Kari was doing a particular movement that I could see was challenging her. She didn’t get the amount of reps she was aiming for and looked at me, as if to say ‘what’s going on? Why can’t I do this?’

I could see clearly, though, that there was doubt in her mind as she was getting set to start. She was intimidated. We’ve all been there before. Trouble is, the doubt quickly became a reality.

So I asked her, “What was going through your mind as you were about to start?”


She replied: “That I hate this exercise [which happens to be Sue’s favourite].”

Call it hate or fear, sometimes the two can become one. But the bottom line is that Kari was questioning herself and, consequently, virtually defeated before she began. So we had a bit of a pep talk and discussed how to make the mental shift.

I’m not saying it’s easy, particularly when weight-lifting. But remember we become good at what we practice the most.


One of the most impressive examples of mental strength for me is when an Olympic weight-lifter fails an attempt at a massive lift and then, minutes later, comes back to execute it perfectly. That’s real strength.

Kari composed herself and as she stepped up for the next set her body language was different and she proceeded to not just exceed the amount of reps on the movement that had thwarted her minutes earlier, but she tripled it!

This week Sue came up short on one particular movement, but I expect her to trump it next time she tries. Why? Because she’s a fighter and going to be more determined (motivation), she knows what she is up against (experience), she’s will be stronger from the training (adaptation) and we’ll make a few technical tweaks (skill). And if she falls short again, we’ll try once more the week after.

“I bring everything to my training,” said Sue. “The good, the bad and ugly. Training is the time I give myself to be free. It isn’t something I do to keep fit. I do it to stay happy. I never have a problem motivating myself. But it also means I take all my emotional baggage with me. If I’ve had a shit day with the kids, it ends up in the gym. If I have a bad day at work, it ends up in the gym.”

That could be a trainer’s nightmare. But Sue has the ability to use that anger or anxiety to her advantage. “The good news is that I get to work out the stress and frustration,” she said. “The bad news is that my trainer gets it in the neck a lot [sorry, Claude]!”

I’ll be honest. If I don’t believe I can get the best out of someone, I won’t take them on. But I know I can work with Sue. In fact, despite what she has said, she is great to train.

“My saving grace, I think, is my humour,” said Sue. “During the Amazing 12 there have been a few ‘I don’t know whether to laugh or cry’ moments and I’ve always ended up laughing. My attitude hasn’t changed, but my resolve has strengthened – we must all make time to do the thing that makes us happy and allows us to let off steam.”

Kari’s relationship with training is different. She admits she was addicted to getting muscle soreness that comes with training excessively. Prior to signing up for the Amazing 12, Kari had done little training for the best part of four months.


She now thinks it was her body’s way of shutting down, as a way of protecting itself. “I’m convinced that was the case,” she said. “It was like I went into training hibernation as a way to recover.

“I’ve always smashed my body to pieces by over-training. The Amazing 12 has taught me to slow down and listen to my body. In order to perform better, my body needs rest periods and proper fuel.

“My body has also taught me that it’s stronger than I ever thought. My mind has always stopped me from lifting heavy. If the weights looked too heavy or the monkey bars in a race looked too difficult, I would decide I could not do it.

“The mind still plays tricks during a session now and again [like this week]. So I know not to walk into something with negative thoughts as you would have already failed. ‘Know you can and you will’ is going to be my motto going forwards.”


Ross is still on an emotional roller coaster. He has a demanding job as a paramedic. This week he had to train after attending a nasty suicide. He also has PTSD, which affects his sleep. Often this, when combined with working shifts, leaves him tired when training.

The doubts about whether he will be successful in transforming his body remain. “I’ve struggled with the diet,” he said. “Although my strength has grown, my attitude is, ‘what will be, will be’. I’m doing everything that’s asked, but not getting the results.”

Ross trains hard and I’m excited by what he can achieve in the remainder of the program, but he isn’t seeing the results he has predicted for himself at this stage. Therefore, he still has a tough time believing the Amazing 12 will deliver what he is after. To some extent, it is like he is driving with his brakes on and complaining the speed isn’t quick enough.

I’m still confident he will be singing a different tune come the end of June.


Sue, however, has reached the point that if she were to finish now she’d be satisfied.

“My shoulder [which she had injured a year ago] is now strong again and I’ve got full range of motion back. I am also a better person for indulging myself in this bit of time where I feel me,” she said.

“The Amazing 12 hasn’t just made me physically stronger – I’m happier, healthier and better for my family because of those things.”

*The next wave of the Amazing 12 Chichester begins on September 5. If you would like to know more details and/or make an appointment for a free consultation or have any questions, please email me at Claude@Intelligentstrength.co.uk

Week 7: Breaking barriers…with ease


IN her CrossFit days, when Sue completed her heaviest deadlift, she remembers it being a struggle – the type of lift where you are dragging the bar slowly up your leg, shaking and grimacing and groaning at the same time. It wasn’t pretty.

Fast-forward roughly a year and to this week, just beyond the halfway point of the Amazing 12, and Sue managed multiple deadlifts with a weight that was fractionally less than the 1-rep max she achieved 12 months ago. She did a victory dance, of course, to celebrate.

These were not ordinary multiple lifts either. Sue did them all pretty easily, which confirmed to me there is plenty more in the tank. And she executed the lifts with good form.

Later that same day, Kari had a similar experience with the deadlift. And she, too, took the bar to standing multiple times, using sound technique (although there’s a few things I want to still work on with her) and a weight that was only marginally less than the best she had ever lifted. Kari, being tall and lean, isn’t built for the deadlift, which made it even more impressive.

So the progress – measurable and visual – is all becoming evident and being achieved without going close to excessively overloading the body.


That’s not to say the Amazing 12 is easy. Far from it. Ross said this week, “I can feel it’s getting tough now. I feel like this is when the [real] hard work is going to start.”

The more I coach this program, the more I appreciate the beauty of the process. If I had asked Sue and Kari in week 1 to do those deadlifts, the chances are they would have either failed or hurt themselves or struggled or looked at me nervously.

Success with lifting is as much about confidence as it is strength. We all possess the strength, but it’s difficult to manifest it when our heads are filled with doubt or fear and our bodies under-prepared. So to see Sue and Kari lift so effortlessly was satisfying to see. It tells me how much they are beginning to believe in themselves and how far they have come.


“I have learned over the past seven weeks I have more gritty determination and willpower than I thought,” said Kari.

“My engine is stronger than I ever gave it credit for. I am learning to fuel my body with the right foods and regular meals. Food no longer scares me.

“And it’s not only okay for a woman to lift. I think women SHOULD lift. It’s a fantastic sensation and creates fab, toned muscles.”

Ross, whose arms and shoulders are becoming like sandbags, still has plenty in reserve. He really struggled in week 1, but his strength has returned at an astonishing rate and the best part is that his technique gets better the greater the challenges I throw at him.


He joked “I never doubted you for a minute, you know, Claude. I totally believed you from the start.”

Of course, here’s a man who only a few weeks ago was teetering on the edge because things weren’t shifting fast enough for him. He was struggling with aspects of the diet. Everything got on top of him. But you wouldn’t recognise him now.

“I have really learned how to listen to my body,” Ross told me. “I rest when I am tired, drink plenty, eat the right foods and stop training when in pain.

“I’ve always had a die-hard attitude to life and this was evident in my CrossFit days. But now I value my body and, at nearly 47, I take greater care of it.

“Much like the care I give others [as a paramedic], I now give to myself. If I need a snooze, I no longer feel guilty, but look at it as my body saying it needs a break.

“So I’ve had a change in mindset which I feel will be better for my long-term health.”


Ross’ outlook becomes more positive with each week. He keeps us all amused with his jovial humour and knowledge of trivia. He’s now exploring what his next challenge will be after the Amazing 12 and talking about doing it again next year.


Sue’s also been assessing how she wants to move forwards – training and living.

“I have learned from doing the A12 I can adapt. Not easily [as I don’t like change], but I can do it if I need to – like drink my coffee black and eat tuna for breakfast. I may not like it, but it can be done.

“Things you thought are never going to change, can change. This makes me feel stronger more than the fact I smashed my PB this week. Now I know I can adapt.”

The A12 has also reinforced what she knew about herself – “for example, how once I focus I’m like a laser beam. I still surprise myself at how dedicated and focused I can be.”

All in all, aside from Sue pulling a muscle in her shoulder, it was a demanding but smooth week. Having injured herself badly previously, Sue obviously feared the worse.

But she was back in training the next day none the worse for wear and declaring with passion, “I’m not missing a session!”


Week 6: The ‘Everest’ connection


IF climbing Everest were easy, what would be the value in doing it?

Very little beyond admiring the view or using it as a stepping stone to something more demanding, I suspect. When we really challenge ourselves is when we grow or discover sides to ourselves we never knew existed.

Sue said before she started the Amazing 12 that this program was her ‘Everest’. Her late and dear father could relate much more to climbing than he could training in a gym. And when times have been tough on this program, Sue has switched her attention to her father, as though she were calling on superpowers.


Going up Everest is never going to be smooth sailing even for the most esteemed climber. But there is still a tremendous amount to be gained from scaling such a peak, just as there is in completing the Amazing 12.

I am using this analogy in relative terms, of course.

Sticking with the analogy, I am effectively the guide leading my group – Sue, Kari and Ross – up the mountain. Everyone is making great progress and on course as i put them through their paces at Core Results. There are no slackers. But along the way we’ve had questions asked and some difficult moments. All a part of the journey, I say. The goal is to reach the top and learn from overcoming the different obstacles faced along the way.

The hiccups thus far have been few, in fairness. Kari had to take a few days off in week 4 for work, Ross missed a few sessions in week 5 because of sickness and this week he tweaked his back while squatting, admitting he’d failed to check his breathing. These things happen. But it was a wake-up call for Ross.

“I realised what I did,” he said. “It could have been much worse. I’m actually grateful for it. It made me realise how important set-up is on these lifts and just the slightest loss of concentration can result in injury.”


So here we are, at the end of week six. Last week it was Ross who was in the tunnel of doubt, but he has now seen some light and is in a much better place. In fact, he was looking like a powerhouse at the end.

“This week’s been a real turning point for me,” he said. “I’m beginning to believe. I can see things happening. I feel really elitist to be doing this – not in a I’m-better-than-everyone-else sort of way, but more like this is a really special thing to do.”

It was the turn of Sue this week to lose the faith, if only very briefly. Again, metaphorically-speaking, she has had to battle with her thoughts and uncertainty, though never to the point of not continuing. Sue hasn’t missed a day. It was more like she was asking the guide – again and again – are you sure we are heading the right way?

For the guide (me), the answer is always an obvious ‘yes’. But a dark cloud can mean something different to a guide than it does to the inexperienced climber. To the climber, there for the first time and unsure of the terrain and conditions, it’s dicey territory, especially if you don’t relinquish control. It’s that trust thing all over again.


As the guide, I have the knowledge of how to get to the top and in the best and safest way. That’s my job. That’s my objective. I know the pitfalls and I have a method for dealing with them. But to travel with me, you need to have faith in me.

This week we had a small pep talk about mindset because I really believe – and I see it week in, week out – that limits are imposed by the mind rather than the body.

I don’t train to discover a limit, because where do you go when the limit is established? Instead, I don’t seek limits and seldom venture close to them. The aim is to continue progressing, because it’s about convincing the mind what is possible.


This week Sue overcame a  few challenges, one of which had stumped her last week – and she did it without much difficulty. What Ross can do now compared to the first week, when he struggled, is ridiculous. And Kari, a very steady operator, improves with almost every session though even she had a little roadblock this week.

When this journey is over, however, I’m confident they will feel like they have never felt before. They’ll look back on this experience and to the uneasy and questionable moments and wonder why they ever doubted themselves or me.

It’s normal. How many people who have confronted their ‘Everest’ haven’t faced periods and moments of uncertainty or anxiety? You just need to keep moving towards your goal. Focus on how far you have come, what you have accomplished, what are your strengths, what you CAN do…


No wonder they say your mind fails before your body. The mind gives the orders. Tame the mind. Feed it with information that strengthens and not weakens it. There are many lessons to be learned on this path.

It takes 12 weeks to scale the Amazing 12. You need to be equipped: eat the right foods; bring the right attitude; stick to the plan; stay focused; keep showing up.

I’m not at all worried. Sue, Kari and Ross are all precisely where I want them. Like I said, I know the way ahead. I know they can all make it. I know they can all achieve fantastic results. They now have to trust themselves as we move ever closer to the peak.

“The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a person’s determination and belief.”

The last session of the week was another strong one. Ross, with a smile back on his face, turned to me and said, “I feel on top of the world right now.”



10 things I learned from Muhammad Ali


I NEVER tire of watching or listening to Muhammad Ali. There is something uniquely captivating about him.

In case you hadn’t noticed or realised, there’s been a big exhibition at the O2 Arena in London celebrating the life and career of the former world heavyweight boxing champion.


I grew up during the time when Ali reigned supreme. His face was everywhere, as was his voice. I recall watching him on TV doing double-decker hamburger commercials, being interviewed by Michael Parkinson on the BBC and, of course, watching his fights.


His contest with George Foreman in Zaire in 1974 – ‘The Rumble In The Jungle’ – is one of the first I can recall.

Now Ali, who has Parkinson’s Syndrome, is a shadow of the man I used to see. He has lived longer with Parkinson’s than he has without it.

The exhibition at the O2 goes through the full spectrum of his existence – the good and the bad. It does a superb job painting Ali’s character, brilliance and contribution to sport and humanity. That’s why I urge anyone who hasn’t been, to make the effort to see it.

Ali played a major part in my life. I’m sure it’s partly because of him that I became interested in boxing and why boxing for many years (as a participant and then a journalist) was an integral part of my being.

But Ali, the man, meant more to me than just what he delivered in the ring. Here’s my list of the 10 lessons this great, extraordinary and beautiful individual gave me.


1. Boxing is a dangerous and unforgiving sport

ALTHOUGH Ali has Parkinson’s, I have no doubt boxing – and competing for too long in it – contributed in a major way to his condition. Sure, people from other walks of life have Parkinson’s and have never boxed or been hit in the head repeatedly. But we are all so different. What will break one man won’t affect another and what we are talking about here is damage to nerve and brain cells. Ali fought for too long and in boxing it’s the brave who usually get hurt. It’s a twisted irony that a man with such a pretty face, brilliant reflexes and the greatest profile the sport has known would suffer such a fate. Ali, though, didn’t know when or how to quit. He wasn’t the first or last in that respect. “I will return”, was his great tagline. His speech, however, had started to slur noticeably around 1976 and yet he boxed on until 1980. Don’t forget that boxers suffer punishment in the gym as well as in their contests. It is accumulated damage. Overstay your welcome and boxing will make you pay.

Cooper floors Clay

2. Back up your boasts

IF you want to make bold predictions, talk aloud, tell everyone what you can and will do and how good you are, then be prepared to back it up with something of substance. Ali, of course, talked the talk. He was, though, incredibly gifted, flamboyant, charismatic and outstandingly brave. Ali also had a way of bragging that came across as entertaining rather than annoyingly arrogant, although great rival Joe Frazier and many others didn’t often think so. He knew how, through the power of the spoken word, to stir interest, create excitement and captivate an audience.


3. Stand up for what you believe in

I don’t believe there are too many men of Ali’s stature who would have dared take the stance Ali chose during the Vietnam War and become a conscientious objector. He risked everything for what he believed in. That took immense courage. Ali was outspoken and challenged the status quo. He dared to be different. We ARE all different, but not all of us dare to be. He had the courage to face the world when his physical condition so obviously and harshly deteriorated. Ali never believed in hiding.


4. Be a giver, not a taker

NO-ONE personifies this more than Ali. I don’t know of a more generous sporting figure. You can argue he was wealthy and therefore giving came more easily. But I’m not really talking about money. Ali gave himself. He gave his time. And time is our most precious commodity. Even though he was the greatest personality in sport, Ali kept no barriers between himself and his fans, who came from all religious backgrounds, social sectors and corners of the globe. I know many people who took the journey to visit him when he was in training and they were always welcomed. You wouldn’t find that with today’s heroes. Ali loved it. I know stories about Ali and his generosity that would leave you astonished. He was a great man not only because of what he achieved, but because of how he treated people and bridged the gap between superstardom and the starstruck admirer.

5. Be humble

THIS may sound like a weird one. Ali and humble don’t obviously go together. But I think Ali was incredibly humble. He had many friends who were “common people”. In fact, he went out of his way to be with them. He didn’t sit himself on a pedestal, even though he often declared himself “The Greatest”. If Ali of all people refused to look down on others, then none of us ever should.


6. It’s not over until it’s over

ALI rose from the ashes and did the seemingly impossible. Twice – against Sonny Liston and then George Foreman – he won the world heavyweight championship as a massive underdog when many genuinely feared for his life. Those fights were 10 years apart. Ali’s spirit  – in the ring, in his battle with Parkinson’s, in his political and racial views – was unquenchable. He is a fighter in every sense of the word. The lesson here is to keep going – despite your setbacks and what others may think and say – until you achieve your goals.


7. Spend more time with your children

WHILE Ali loved children and being around them, what’s interesting is that it was often at the expense of his own family. His kids love and adore him. But during Ali’s career, when he was away training and travelling, they didn’t get to see much of him. The movie I Am Ali depicts his relationship with his children. The insightful film reminded me of just how important time spent with your children is and how fast it passes.


8. Don’t take health for granted

ALI doesn’t wallow in self-pity and never has. But he is clearly unwell and has been for many years. This has impacted significantly on his life and those around him. That he was an athlete and a magnificent physical specimen and still succumbed to poor health shows that no-one is invincible. By fighting too long, Ali abused his body and brain. It came at a cost that money could never replenish.

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9. Being smart comes in many guises

WHEN we think of smartness, often academia comes to mind. Ali was incredibly smart, but not if passing intelligence tests is the criteria. For example, he flunked the army induction exam – probably deliberately. But listen to any of his interviews and you’ll see a marvellously engaging personality with a razor-sharp mind and wit. The truth is that everyone is good at something. Find what you are good at and enjoy most and then work at it.


10. Strive to be The Greatest…version of yourself

DON’T settle for mediocrity. Success starts with a mere thought or dream and becomes a reality when we turn it into a goal and then apply desire, drive and focus. Ali always had a vision. I was fortunate to discover early in life what my passion was and went for it. Ali inspired me – and generations of others – to stick to their chosen path and never give up.

The Ali Exhibition at the O2, dedicated to the life of the former three-time world champ, runs daily until August 31, 2016. 

Ali died on June 4, 2016, several weeks after this post was first published

Week 5: Biceps, Self-talk & Doubts


ONE of the members at Core Results took a look at Sue, Kari and Ross on the first day this week and asked me, “Why are they doing this [the Amazing 12]? They already look amazing.”

Not a bad compliment really, considering we had just started week 5 and there’s another seven to go. Kari was on Cloud Nine this week. For the first time in her life she discovered she had biceps.

Biceps are not the be all and end all, of course. But it was more symbolic of how her body composition has so obviously changed and that she had noticed.

“Feeling on top of the world this morning,” she said to me the next day. “Starting to feel like I am taking shape. Absolutely loving this process.”

What’s interesting, though, is that at the beginning of the week, just for a few moments, she had felt almost the opposite. After one movement we were training, she didn’t feel as if she had done particularly well and said to herself, “Pathetic.”


It got me thinking about self-talk and how we encourage or discourage ourselves mentally. Everyone is different. But, more often than not, you’ll find successful people are those who have positive self-talk, don’t berate themselves and quickly move on. It’s a skill. You need to practice it. You need to first become aware of it. But realise also that doing the opposite – putting yourself down – is a skill as well. What you practice the most will likely stick and become your default action.

Training doesn’t stop with exercise or the physical side of our being. We are training the mind as well as the body. That’s why Sue said, “the Amazing 12 tests your metal as well as your muscle.” It’s true.

I was listening this week to famous American wrestler Triple H talk and how he explained why the gym taught him everything he needed to know about life: discipline; structure; practice; disappointment; victory; goal-setting; physical strength; mental strength; durability; stamina; sociability; team work; positivity; negativity; overcoming challenges; confidence; health….


The Amazing 12 is the same. My trio has been experiencing a lot of emotions and challenges. Ross has had a particularly difficult week. He missed a couple of sessions through being ill. He still doubts the process will work on him.

“I know how my body works and I just don’t think it [the A12] will work,” he said.


One of my A12 colleagues, Phil Earley of ITS Fitness in Newcastle, told me of one of his recent graduates – a 56-year-old (pictured above).

His results were outstanding, as you can see. Yet Phil told me that after nine weeks this client had come to him, patting his belly, saying “it ain’t shifting”.

Phil told him what I keep saying to Ross: “Follow it to the letter and you’ll see.”

Self-doubt is often self-defeating. There is a very strong link between what goes on in the mind in relation to the body.

But I will keep working on Ross. He is getting undoubtedly stronger and fitter. He has so much potential. I see changes to his physique and I know what lies ahead.

“Just keep doing what I ask you to do and it will happen,” I reassured him. But, for now – until Ross really starts to believe – I am working against his resistance. We’ll see what happens.


Ross and Sue even shook hands on a friendly bet because Ross didn’t think he’d get into great shape by the end. Sue wagered £10 that he would, with the money to go to charity.


Sue has been solid and consistent, though still juggles her training around work, raising two children and family life.

Kari has been flying high. “I’m excited to find those unexplored depths of my lifting potential,” she said. “Thank you for helping me perfect my lifting technique and making me believe in myself more.”

Put it this way: at the end of the week, when she should be more tired, I had Kari do exactly the same workout as the one which made her say “pathetic”. Her performance, however, had improved DRAMATICALLY by making just a few tiny tweaks.

And Sue tested out her pull-up at home one night (and take into consideration she hadn’t tried one in a long time – well before we started the program). Although she’d managed a pull-up in the past, it was always a struggle. However, Sue told me this week it came easily, so easily it surprised her.

The best of this program is yet to come.