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SUCCESS: Jo dropped 8kg, the weight of the kettlebell she’s holding (Photo: Sue Saunders Photography)

DURING the final week of the Amazing 12 Chichester, Jo Walsh celebrated her wedding anniversary and Ben Brundle had a birthday. Both came to train at the gym on those respective days.

It’s not that they put the training first. They put themselves first. That’s what getting fit, strong and healthy is all about. 

While it may sound selfish – and a lot of people have a hard time reconciling that – the reality is that it’s incredibly selfless.

A stronger, healthier, more vibrant and confident you helps everyone you come into contact with.

However, it wasn’t always straightforward for Jo and Ben. Each struggled through the Amazing 12 in their own way. For Jo it was commitment and diet and Ben understanding what to eat and when and taking responsibility for that.

But there are many positives to take from their experience. Firstly, both made it to the finish. Not everyone does that. Jo became stronger and fitter. There can be absolutely no doubt about that. She was even showing me her biceps on the penultimate day, saying “I can actually say I now have muscles”.

For example, I had her do an endurance test on the prowler which the fastest girl at Core Results could complete in just under 2 minutes.

In week one, at which point Jo hadn’t done any exercise for about 18 months, it took her 4 minutes 49 to complete. Jo was shattered. The same test, at week 11, took her 2 minutes 50 and though she was tired at the finish, Jo wasn’t as wrecked as the first time she did it.

MULTI-TASKING: Jo’s a good lifter and determined when she puts her mind to it

During the weeks when Jo was fully committed, the changes to her physically were extremely noticeable. But then she’d lose her way again, her commitment would wane and whatever gains she made would recede.

But it’s those weeks when she had her head together and was focused, organised and driven that Jo should savour. Because that’s where the promise is. That’s where the formula for success existed. That’s where there was more than a glimmer of hope. Had she completed the 12 weeks the way she did those weeks this would be a vastly different story.

CHANGES: Jo clearly firmed up despite struggling with the diet    (Photo: Sue Saunders Photography)

“I’m most pleased about how much stronger I am,” she said. “I can say I faithfully followed the program to week 7, but, as you know, I struggled afterwards.

“Thank you for your support. I didn’t put in 100 per cent, so I don’t hope for 100 per cent results. But I am glad I did the program.”

Jo has fought with depression for about a decade. “I think my depression would have been worse without it [the Amazing 12]. Some days the gym was the only thing I (literally) got out of bed for.”

She found getting out of bed early to go for runs the toughest part. Jo’s not a morning person. She said she did it (running) for four weeks and then stopped.

PROMISE: Enough progress was made in the weeks Jo followed the program rigidly to see what the future could hold      (Photo: Sue Saunders Photography)

So, considering she didn’t run for eight weeks or follow the nutritional plan for the last five and attended 80% of the gym sessions, losing 8kgs (17.5lbs) was an achievement and more than halfway towards what was her overall weight-loss goal.

She weighed 15st 8lbs at the start and finished at 14st 5lbs. Her body fat went from 46% to 42% and muscle mass from 29.5% to 32%.

It’s clear to see, because lean muscle is a fat-burner, that the more muscle you have the less fat your body holds on to. Nothing builds muscle better than lifting weights.

“I don’t plan on stopping,” said Jo after the photo shoot. And she hasn’t. She’s been in for a few weight-lifting sessions with me, has been doing some yoga and running sprints uphill in a group organised by my wife, Jamie, who also did the Amazing 12 Chichester.

Jo’s always had solid lifting ability. She’s strong in the bench press and much better than I recall her being at shoulder pressing. I saw muscles on Jo I hadn’t recognised before.

She can be so determined when she wants to be. By her own admission, she’s an “all-or-nothing” person.

But that can change. I’m a firm believer that anything can change. ANYTHING! But you have to want it and work at it. Not for a moment or weeks or months. But until you make it happen.

When she used to belong to a weight-lifting group around 2015, Jo’s best shoulder press for one rep was 30k, but on the Amazing 12 she got to 32k for reps. Similarly, her best bench press for three reps used to be 46k and Jo reached 49k on the Amazing 12 for repetitions, a number that would undoubtedly have been much higher had she not missed as many gym sessions as she did.

Jo has aspirations to one day complete a chin-up or pull-up. Of course, it can be done. But the same rules about commitment, consistency and patience apply.

I hope Jo takes from her experience the successes she had so she can build on them as well as a healthy view of where she faltered so she can work towards overcoming those challenges the next time they appear.

The great thing about Jo is that while she had many ‘falls’ doing this program, she kept getting up. And that she’s continued since the Amazing 12 was completed shows she has the spirit to eventually succeed.

CAMERA HAPPY: Ben’s at home in his jeans (Photos: Sue Saunders Photography)

For Ben, whose devotion to the training side of the program was first class (he came to 95% of the sessions), the obstacle was diet and sleep.

Had been able to nail down the eating he’d have had stunning results. I’m in no doubt about that. By the time he had wrapped his head around it, most of the program had elapsed.

It made it more difficult that Ben got up each day early for work and sometimes didn’t hit the pillow until late. Towards the end he was working double shifts – day and night – which is madness. But he has a baby on the way and needed the money.

BACK TO THE FUTURE: You can see how Ben lost body fat and packed on some muscle (Photos: Sue Saunders Photography)

Probably no-one made as much progress in terms of strength gains than Ben, who was a raw beginner (no previous lifting experience).

I remember the week before the Amazing 12 started, when I gave Ben a few training sessions to show him the movements. He struggled with 8kg dumbbells on the incline bench press and I had to drop him to 6kg. By the end of the Amazing 12 he was doing multiple repetitions of the same movement with 25kg! That’s an improvement of more than 400%!

HARD WORKER: Ben never faltered in the gym

Ben did pick up a chest injury around week 7 that he felt was going to derail his chances of finishing the program. It affected his mojo, for sure. It took Ben over a week to get back into his stride. We had to taper off the weights to protect the injury and build him back up.

Again, I recall before the A12 how he struggled to shoulder press with 12kg for reps, yet finished the program knocking out repetitions with 47.5kg!

He couldn’t squat without his heels coming off the floor or deadlift with a flat back, yet learned those movements really well over the weeks and grew in strength. He was deadlifting 85kg for reps with ease. He has so much more potential.

Fitness-wise, when he first did the prowler test it took him 2 minutes 45 seconds. He gave everything he had and was shattered. Ben eventually got his best down to 1 minute 44 seconds by week 11 – not too far off some of the fittest guys at Core Results.

Ben was a pleasure to train. He was usually first to turn up at the gym. He helped put away the weights and get them out. He didn’t grumble. He learned techniques quickly.

POTENTIAL: Ben’s strength progress was immense     (Photos: Sue Saunders Photography)

However, in the process of losing body fat, recovery, sleep and nutrition is critical.

I’ve said this before but will repeat it again: results on the Amazing 12 can only be achieved by the individual.

To do that, you have to show up, follow the instructions and do the work.

As Phil Earley, one of my Amazing 12 coaching colleagues in Newcastle, has said, “This is the Amazing 12, not the Miraculous 12!”

What Ben’s experience has confirmed to me is that no matter how hard you train, you won’t get the results YOU DESERVE without following a healthy eating protocol and getting sufficient and quality sleep each day.  

Lifestyle gets in the way of results. For Ben and Jo, that was often the case. But they now know where to focus their attention the most.

The next Amazing 12 starts on May 8 (8-week version). The next Amazing 12 will be in September. If you want to be a part of either wave, send an email to Claude@intelligentstrength.co.uk. You need to be committed. Then the results will follow. 

Adriano (April 2017)

The transformation (photos: Sue Saunders Photography)

I ONCE (back in 2015) questioned whether Adriano Satta had the commitment to do the Amazing 12 Chichester. He has now successfully graduated twice!

He made me eat my words two years ago when, to test him out, I asked him to turn up every day for a week to show me he could do it. Of course, he did. 

Now he’s one of the most committed clients I’ve worked with. I’m not sure if it’s becoming a dad or husband (his wife Stacey also just did the Amazing 12) that has made the difference. But over the 12 weeks he attended almost 92% of the gym training sessions and the few he missed were only because he had to travel to Africa for work for nearly a week during the third week.

Because of his busy schedule, we had to shuffle training sessions several times to make it work. Adriano runs his own business and travels to London several times each week. More than once he got stuck in London during the tube strikes. But he would try to find any way he could to get to the gym in time. 

Sometimes we rearranged training sessions for the early morning so he didn’t have to miss out. It was always at Adriano’s request.

MAKING PROGRESS: that’s what the program is about

Tired or worn out or ready for action, Adriano, a former Italian paratrooper in his younger days (19), came in and gave it his all. He was dedicated to getting the best results.

It’s fair to say his first transformation saw him get leaner. But this time round he became stronger and packed on more muscle, which was his aim.

SIDE VIEW: Adriano beefed up through the chest, back and shoulder   (Photo: Sue Saunders Photography)

Being of a small build, gaining muscle had always been difficult. Had he not missed that one week, his progress would have been even greater. Adriano, 40, visibly bulked up his chest, back and shoulders. He dropped body fat and weight, too, going from 68kg to 65kg.

He took nearly a week off after the Amazing 12 and then I retested his strength levels. He had never previously deadlifted more than 95kg, but safely did 115kg!

His back squat went from 80kg (for one rep) to 90kg (for two) and with good form. He did a solid strict shoulder press with 73% of his bodyweight.

Like several others on the program, Adriano came into it unable to do a single chin-up, despite having managed to do them on the Amazing 12 in 2015.

NEW FRONTIERS: Adriano doing chin-ups with a weight attached

By week 11 this time he was knocking out chin-ups again without difficulty and during our strength session managed one with 14kg attached, something he’d never achieved previously.

“I’m very happy with my results,” he said.

Conditioning, though, is an area he wants to concentrate more on as he feels this is his weakness. Adriano has aspirations to do an Ironman triathlon within the next few years.

On the prowler test during the Amazing 12 he struggled for 3 minutes 5 seconds in week 1, but got his best time down to 2 minutes 11 seconds. That’s a significant difference for a short challenge.

Across the board, Adriano made progress. He matched or exceeded what he achieved first time in every movement. For the initial weeks during his first Amazing 12 we had to concentrate a lot on honing the techniques and making sure his form was not compromised, but this time around he executed nearly everything with far greater skill.

I can remember him struggling to press 8kg dumbbells on one movement in 2015, but he was capable of working with 18kg this time. 

NOT JUST FOR SHOW: Adriano is stronger, fitter and a much better mover   (Photos: Sue Saunders Photography)

Adriano’s ability to refine his movement has improved immeasurably. We still joke about how out of sorts he was with practically every lift and technique when we first started working together.

The first Amazing 12 experience was different in other ways, too. “It was more a challenge with myself in 2015,” explained Adriano.

“I had never trained with that type of intensity. It was more about learning to go through pain and to commit to something outside my comfort zone. I was counting the days last time.”

On this occasion, though, Adriano says he didn’t once think about the finish.

“It was more about the journey,” he said. “I just enjoyed being more in control of the movements and my body. I was more aware of what I was doing in terms of exercising and working out.”

COMPARISON: Adriano today compared with how he looked when he finished the Amazing 12 first time (Photos: Sue Saunders Photography)

Adriano had a much better comprehension of why we train and what we eat. He now understands it to the point that his focus is on continuing to develop. He has set himself new goals.  

The Amazing 12 is more than about just training for the sake of getting stronger, fitter, leaner and more muscular. It’s an education in strength and conditioning and understanding nutrition.

Maybe Adriano didn’t fully grasp that in 2015. But there was definitely a shift in attitude this time.

“This time the Amazing 12 is the beginning of the journey. Last time it was the end.”

You, too, can have results like Adriano’s. But it takes commitment and discipline. If you think you can stick to the training, follow a healthy nutritional program and are interested either in my eight-week version of the Amazing 12, starting on May 8, or a 12-week wave in September, send an email to Claude@intelligentstrength.co.uk

Jamie (April 2017)

Photos: Sue Saunders Photography

MANY women steer clear of lifting weights for fear of getting bulging muscles or becoming bulky, all of which, for many reasons, is incredibly difficult to achieve.

I like to think after her second journey through the Amazing 12, my wife, Jamie Abrams, personifies both strength and femininity.

She went into the program in pretty decent shape, which makes it more challenging to create change. She follows a good eating protocol as a vegan of more than 15 years. She doesn’t drink, smoke or consume junk food. In the 12 years I have known her, Jamie hasn’t ever even taken medication. As a yoga teacher of 17 years, she lives the life on and off the mat.

For Jamie, who has had two natural childbirths and is aged 37, this experience wasn’t about getting a shredded six-pack. This was also about adding strength and stability to her already flexible body. Jamie is living proof of how to effectively combine yoga with weight-lifting. As you will read, she more than achieved that.

Photo: Sue Saunders Photography

I can’t offer any details regarding body fat or weight loss. We don’t have a set of scales in the house and never have done. Jamie has always gone by how she feels.

“Physically, I was in good shape. I felt fine about my body,” she said. “I knew I had lost some strength since the last Amazing 12. I wasn’t super-unhappy, physically. I just felt mentally and emotionally challenged in my working stratosphere. I wanted to use the physical training to rebuild myself mentally.”

Jamie had recently gone through some big life changes and wanted to work on herself from the outside in.

Photos: Sue Saunders Photography

“In the yoga world, if you go too far in one direction, like have too much flexibility and no strength, you can get injured. I now have a good balance between strength, mobility and flexibility.

“I’m stronger now than I have ever been. I’m not just hanging out in my ligaments and joints.

“My musculature can support deeper movements and positions because I’ve built strength in my end range of motion.

“In yoga there is a lot of pushing, but no pulling movements. The A12 helped add some balance to my system. I got really strong in the pull, because I can now do chin-ups.”

BALANCE: between strength and being feminine. Photo: Sue Saunders Photography

“I wanted to get a stronger body and create a stronger sense of self,” she explained.

“I’d done the Amazing 12 before and knew it gets results. That’s why I decided to do it again. It’s given me a strong body, for sure. By building a strong foundation, it has helped me to become mentally and emotionally stronger.

“In 2015, I was at a different point in my life, both family and work-wise. I can’t compare the two experiences.”

The two experiences were quite different, however, particularly from a coaching perspective. Working with your partner or spouse isn’t for everyone. There are many personal trainers who simply refuse to. I’ve been warned against it. There’s clearly a dynamic shift that takes place and it’s simply better for some relationships to not take on that test.

In the past I’ll admit I’ve found it challenging coaching my wife. But this time round it was a relative breeze. I can’t pin down why exactly. Maybe it’s because she knew the ropes and just got on with it. But it was certainly a different – and smoother – experience.

PAUSE: floating the kettlebell during the swing

That’s not to say Jamie didn’t put in the same kind of effort. She most certainly did. I’m very proud of her effort and devotion to following the program. She worked really hard, attending 95% of the gym sessions, only missing a few days because she had to help teach yoga in Lithuania.

“I learned from this experience that my husband can train me,” she said. “A lot of people can’t train with their spouses. He’s patient, focused and meets the person where they are. I felt safe because I knew the programming was intelligent and Claude wouldn’t give me anything I couldn’t do.

“I knew if you showed up consistently that you would get the gains. For the Amazing 12, having a coach is massively important. I don’t know how to do programming and make strength gains. I’d be shooting in the dark [on my own].”

As I said already, she went into this in pretty good shape. She’d had periods of inactivity following the first Amazing 12, but was training reasonably consistently at Core Results prior to the program.

The gym world is very different to her life on the mat. My wife’s like Roger Federer. She’s consistent and steady. Like the great Swiss tennis master, her expression doesn’t change a great deal, even when things get tough.

You watch Federer play tennis and he’s never gasping for breath. His hair isn’t out of place. There’s often a joke about Jamie when she trains that she keeps a yoga face. She’s also a big Federer admirer. 

MULTI-TASKING: stretching between sets

There’s a part of Jamie’s personality that doesn’t allow her to go pedal-to-the-metal. It can be a real asset at times. She doesn’t push when it becomes uncomfortable and, on the Amazing 12, that works almost perfectly.

Jamie doesn’t think of herself as especially fit, but I don’t agree: I see her as someone who paces herself well. She didn’t slacken off during any of the sessions. Her prowler test run went from 3 minutes 31 seconds in the first week to 2 minutes 45 by week 11. And, given that the prowler is a piece of equipment she’d been used to working with fairly consistently, making progress was always going to be slightly harder than for someone trying it the first time.

Photo: Sue Saunders Photography

When I first started working out with her (about 10 years ago), she’d get grumpy if I directed her near to the zone of uncomfortability. I saw that face a good few times over the 12 weeks.

Once or twice she’s threatened me with divorce papers and tried dropping kettlebells on my toes (she claims otherwise).

STEADY: keeping the pace with slam balls

But it was worth it. She looked genuinely pleased with herself when, at week 12, she banged out 33 chin-ups in 15 minutes having not been able to do one at the start. Then, three days later, she got 41!

Strength-wise, she became much stronger than two years ago on her first Amazing 12.

Here are some examples: her working weight for the bench press in 2015 was 33.5kg compared with 45kg this time; on shoulder press she went from 28.5kg in 2015 to 35kg; her deadlift improved from 68.5kg for reps to 77.5kg and back squat from 45kg to 56kg, again for multiple reps.

LEGS DAY: Back squatting in her funky leggings

Even better is that with all those movements, her form was significantly better. Improved technique, greater results. That’s what this type of program, when combined with a nutritious diet, is all about.

POST-WORKOUT: downing her shake

Jamie had to eat differently to the others on the program. While the nutrition side of things felt challenging in 2015, Jamie found it pretty plain sailing this time.

“I was switched on, food-wise,” she said. “I felt like I ate cleaner than before. It reinforced the fact that I am a healthy person. I barely had sore muscles. I wasn’t sick at all even though we trained through the winter season. It shows I’m in good health. The program highlights consistency, which is common sense.”

I’ve seen a level of commitment from Jamie that I haven’t seen before. Since completing the program, she’s been training three times each week under my guidance and set up a small, local sprinting group.

To those contemplating doing the Amazing 12, Jamie said: “What are you waiting for? If you want changes then you have to change what you are doing. If you want lasting changes this might be the program for you.

MOTIVATED: Jamie has risen to a new level

“The Amazing 12 is about changing habits around how you train, eat, how often you train and learning about how to have the energy to get through the day and not feel tired.

“People see the pictures and think it’s purely about aesthetics, but for me it’s primarily a strength and conditioning program.”

Want to achieve results  in strength, fitness and body composition? Feel you can follow a training and dietary program for eight or 12 weeks? Want to learn how to lift properly and safely while under supervision? Want to achieve physical changes you’ve not seen or experienced before? Then send me an email – Claude@intelligentstrength.co.uk – for information on the next Amazing 12 Chichester wave. An eight-week course starts on May 8. The next 12-week wave begins in September. 

Stacey (April 2017)

Photos by Sue Saunders photography

IT’S a minor miracle Stacey Satta finished the Amazing 12 Chichester program or managed to attend 92% of the gym sessions or did the extra training I prescribed her or got the incredible results that she did. 

For years, Stacey, 37, has got by on minimal amounts of sleep. I’m talking literally a few hours here and there.

Somehow she looks fantastic for it.

Also, eight months ago she became a mum and her sleeping got worse. Prior to giving birth (by C-section) she hadn’t done any training for months. By her own admission, she basically sat around eating what she liked and put on weight, took it easy and that became her life pattern.

So when she decided to do the Amazing 12, I had to be sure she was ready – that her body was ready, that her mind was ready.

The sleep was always going to be an issue. Stacey worries a lot. And as sleep is a vital component in helping the body recover and grow and allowing the brain to replenish, I couldn’t be certain how Stacey would fare day after day for three months.

Sleep also is a massive cog in the wheel that drives fat loss. That Stacey was able to go from 10st 2lbs (before the program started) down to 8st 10lbs at the end is a grand success. She hadn’t been under 9st since her teenage days!

Even better was how she went from 26% body fat at week four to 21% at the finish. I’d confidently say that with a better sleeping protocol her results would have been even more spectacular.

A few snippets of Stacey’s training journey

She did the Amazing 12 with her husband Adriano. They would work out separately at Core Results Gym. Only once – in the final week – did they co-train.

So while one looked after baby Leo, the other would go to the gym. Then they’d hand him over. That’s pretty much how it worked.

Instead of saying, “we can’t do it with a young baby,” Stacey and Adriano found a way. They really wanted to do this. 

I’ve trained the pair of them on and off for several years. Stacey used to get a lot of migraines (still does) and that would make her miss training. This was another concern. But her attendance and commitment was first class. More often than not when she came in looking spaced out from a lack of sleep and said ‘I’m not feeling great today’, I’d just tell her to do her best, but inside I was always thinking ‘Stacey seems to perform better whenever she says that’.

Stacey must also be one of the few people I’ve ever coached who can maintain a great grin even when she’s up against it. I’ll take that any day.

She didn’t just transform the way she looked physically, but just as importantly – if not more so – Stacey grew stronger and fitter.

Less than a year on since her wedding day

She sent me a photo of herself pregnant on her wedding day last year so I could compare it with how she now looks. It’s extraordinary.

When I think back to the first week of training it seems almost laughable. She was struggling to move 15kg for reps on her bench press, but eventually reached 40kg for multiples, which was more than her previous 3-rep maximum.

Similarly, when I had her shoulder press with 8.5kg, she found it hard and I recall the moment when, flabbergasted, she said “I’m really shocked at how weak I have become”.

But the Amazing 12 did wonders for her shoulder strength and at the end she was pressing 30kg for multiple repetitions, again better than her previous 3-rep best.

Stacey’s always had an excellent squat and though it was also challenging to begin with, her body grew stronger. In the final week I had her warming up with a back squat weight equal to her previous best for three reps. She put the bar back in the rack and said, “I felt I could have done more.”

Stacey worked hard for those muscles (photo: Sue Saunders Photography)

In terms of conditioning, Stacey’s first effort with the prowler, which is one implement I used to measure conditioning improvement, was an agonising 4 minutes 8 seconds. Stacey was able to bring that down to 2 minutes 30 seconds and, in the future, wants to go below two minutes which I have no doubt she can.

And then there were the chin-ups, which she’d never been able to do, not even in her CrossFit days two years ago. But in the final week I asked her to go for it. She gave me an unsure glance and then pulled herself over – not once, but, over 15 minutes, nearly 40 times!

“I was totally amazed,” said Stacey. “I could hardly believe my own strength!”

When I think back to before Christmas, when I sat down to talk to Stacey about doing the program, her priority then was to regain her fitness. “I’m not as bothered about my appearance,” she said. “It’s a bonus if I look good at the end.”

Photo: Sue Saunders Photography

Also, Stacey had never previously stuck to a clean-eating diet. She loves chocolate cakes, biscuits and sugary stuff. That was her biggest concern going into the A12. But the results speak for themselves.

“You’ve been amazing, Claude,” she said in appreciation, which is nice. “We couldn’t have got to where we have without your support and guidance.”

But, as I’ve said before, though, I can guide, but the participant still has to do the work. Stacey followed instructions, came to train and stuck to the eating plan. She’s now going to join my ladies lifting classes on a Sunday morning and continue training with me so we can continue to build on her progress.

If you want results like Stacey’s and to be a part of my next or a future Amazing 12 Chichester, send me an email to Claude@intelligentstrength.co.uk. My next wave, over eight weeks, begins on May 8. I’m going to do another, over 12 weeks, in September. 


Week 12: Box clever – be the architect, not the spectator

Nearly done…but what’s next for Stacey and Jamie?

BOXING used to be my sport. I spent years – decades, in fact – around boxers and observing them. I saw the very best and the worst.

Most boxers train sometimes up to 12 weeks or more to be in the best possible condition. Then, when their contest is over, some don’t go near a gym until their next fight is scheduled, while the smart ones – and the ones who tend to have the longest shelf life – tick over, keep their weight down and are always in a place from which it doesn’t require drastic work to be ready for action.

Life’s the same. Many of us visit the gym or exercise in bursts. We apply ourselves only for special occasions. Our weight and body fat fluctuates and, consequently, our health stumbles along.

Resting between sets, Stacey and Adriano

But who wouldn’t want to function at their best and feel and look good all the time? The benefits are boundless. But it takes effort, consistency and application.

That’s what is required to complete the Amazing 12 in its entirety. The final week of the Amazing 12 is a bit like the countdown to a big fight, culminating in a workout and a photoshoot just like a boxer has to be ready for the weigh-in and then the contest.

There are more parallels between the life of a boxer and an Amazing 12 graduate. After the Amazing 12 do you switch off until it’s necessary to go into a gym or exercise again? Or do you continue training – to be ready for life and all that it throws at you – and maintain or improve the physique you have created?

I know which I would choose. I know which I did pick after I completed my first Amazing 12 more than two years ago. And, to be honest, it doesn’t require much work to remain in shape – but you need to be disciplined (make the right choices) and consistent (turn up to put in the work).

Picking up the pace, Ben and Stacey in the final week

Food and diet plays an essential part, of course. Ponder this, because it is true: every molecule of food we consume has an impact on our genetic expression – meaning it affects the way our genes perform.

I’ve made choices that support a healthy body. That’s always been my priority.

Why? Because health matters – not only to me, but to my wife, my children, my clients, my world, my aspirations, my desires, my bank balance, my friends, my enjoyment of life…

Why would I not choose health over pain, discomfort, sluggishness, premature ageing, limitation, low self-esteem, unhappiness?

No walk in the park: getting into shape and being healthy requires more than just exercise

I’m thankful I made that choice many years ago. I don’t feel as if I’ve missed out on anything. Quite the contrary. Being healthy and able has allowed me to take advantage of the opportunities that have come my way.

I remember as a child loving sweets and chocolates and spooning sugar straight out of the sugar bowl and drinking Coca Cola and eating hamburgers and Pizza from fast food restaurants and loads of biscuits and fish and chips. But somewhere along the road I made a choice – an informed choice.

I’m trying to push home the point that there’s nothing that sets me apart except the choices I have made. Those choices have a massive impact on the outcome of our lives.

We can either be the architect in our lives or a spectator. You choose.

COMMITMENT: Jamie and Stacey showing up for more curls

The five people I’ve put through the Amazing 12 Chichester the past 12 weeks now have an important decision to make: build upon what they have created and developed or revert to a perhaps more convenient, less disciplined lifestyle.

But I know that what comes with the former choice is more growth, a greater assurance of well-being, the freedom that is having better odds at being able to function every day with energy, strength and confidence.

The world of convenience has its place, but largely it is responsible for enticing many, many people in the opposite direction to where they would rather be.

With the A12 over, there is going to be a shift in accountability. It’s going to be easy to slip into the old patterns of eating and living that are so problematic in our world today.

PROGRESS: Just 12 weeks ago Ben had no idea how to squat properly

I’m hoping they have learned and experienced enough about themselves, the importance of choices and planning ahead to be able to shape a lifestyle that involves an effective and healthy balance of movement, training and eating.

Ben says he’s determined to continue training, that he’s going to sign up at a gym and workout with a friend three days a week. He’s more aware about food intake to know what’s healthier and what is not. The challenge is to make the right choices and do it consistently.

From just one week eating exactly as I told him, he has noticed a difference. Over the 12 weeks, he’s realised which foods don’t sit well with him and which ones do. He’s learned to drink more water daily and that he doesn’t need sugar in his tea and coffee.

STRONGER: Adriano’s done better than he did two years ago

For Adriano, Stacey and Jo, we’ve all discussed a training plan moving forwards. They all have more in the locker and are keen to progress.

And for Jamie – my wife and second time around the Amazing 12 – she succeeded in her goal to get stronger, fitter and leaner.

She comes from the US, where a life of fast food, type-2 diabetes and meds is now becoming the norm. Jamie is living proof that it doesn’t have to be.

AT LAST: the elusive chin-up is finally conquered…many times over

A vegan, mum of two and yoga teacher, she’s the only one doing the program on a plant-based diet.

Yet her strength has increased quite dramatically. This week Jamie, as well as Ben and Stacey, hit a goal of getting her first chin-up. None of them could do one before we started. All of them were able to do multiple chin-ups and with reasonable ease, too.

NEXT UP: Stacey nails her chin-ups, too

That’s just one example of the strength improvements accomplished in the past 12 weeks. I’ll go into more detail in future blogs.

But it underlines that this program is not just about ‘the look’. Even Jo, who found it hard to change her diet, achieved tremendous strength and fitness results.

I will then be planning ahead how to help some of them continue to improve through personal training sessions. And I shall be focusing on my next wave, which will be over EIGHT WEEKS and starting in May. It is hard work and requires devotion and commitment, but the rewards are exceptional for those who stick to it. The most challenging paths are always the ones which teach and improve us the most.

Do you want results? Are you prepared to challenge yourself to get them? Are you ready to make a commitment? Contact me at Claude@intelligentstrength.co.uk for more information and details or any questions you may have. 


Week 11: Why the end is only the beginning

Reaching new levels of strength, Adriano and Ben

THE greatest changes in appearance and increases in strength on the Amazing 12 program come towards the end. But here’s the catch: you need the first 10 or so weeks under your belt in order to maximise and trigger those benefits.

Everyone nowadays seems to want to take shortcuts. We want to gain in five minutes what normally requires much longer.

But many things are worth waiting for. Why? Because otherwise we miss out on the process and it’s in the process that we learn and grow the most.

Jo pushing that prowler and herself

When I look at the Amazing 12 program, I don’t just see the difference between the starting photo and the end one. That’s just the cherry on the cake – a visual display of hard work and dedication. It’s the cover on the book, so to speak. But the words on the pages tell the true story.

Having nearly guided my Amazing 12 Chichester crew through their journey at Core Results Gym, I see how they’ve grown stronger or overcome different challenges or learned from their failings or developed a different mindset or understood the importance of eating and sleeping well or noticed that it takes more than just training to reach optimal health or realised how vital it is to move well or they feel a sense of pride in having lasted the course or improved their technique in one or multiple lifting/movement skills or have proved to themselves they are stronger and more determined than they thought possible. I could go on and on. 

The real you: Ben has so much untapped strength and fitness

It’s not just a program to enhance appearances. Amazing 12 boss Paul McIlroy says it best. “If you’re looking into the mirror and who’s looking back is someone not in shape, with low self-esteem and weak, then that is NOT the real you.

“The real truth is that the transformation took place a long time before the Amazing 12 – and took years to achieve by eating tons of junk food and being doggedly determined to move as little as possible. So what you see in the mirror is NOT you.

“What the Amazing 12 program does is transform that person back into the virile human being they were in the first place!”

That’s why my motivation and desire as a coach is to instill in my clients and those who read about my work the importance of leading a healthy life and what that actually entails.

Fully extended, Stacey slamming the ball

I understand that there is genuine confusion as to what ‘healthy’ really is amidst the mass of conflicting information and advice and that the average person’s comprehension of nutrition and movement and the negatives of their lifestyle choices is as limited as their motivation to change even when awareness is increased.

The Amazing 12 is about building confidence (for self-esteem), muscles (to make us leaner and protect our joints and heart), endurance (for resilience and usefulness), discipline (to take on the jobs we have to do even if we don’t want to), knowledge (so we are equipped to continue when it’s over and make informed choices in order to improve our healthstyle) and emphasising commitment (the turning up no matter what).

The Amazing 12 Chichester is now coming into the final week, the time where the emphasis is on reaching a peak. And the challenge now is to be focused and pay attention to the little details I have given them in order to achieve the best possible results.

In the zone: Jo’s almost meditative approach to battle ropes

They have worked hard and should want to see and feel the full extent of their efforts. There’s no crash-dieting involved or use of synthetic products or dehydration.

From Day One the priority has always been to eat as cleanly as possible, drink lots of water, exercise intelligently and sleep abundantly.

Even though a few of them haven’t followed the program exactly or have struggled with sleep or have missed too many sessions to say they’ve done the Amazing 12 as prescribed, week 12 is worth experiencing. With the exception of Adriano, who graduated in 2015, none of them has been through it before.

Squat queen: Stacey getting good depth

But that’s what life should be about: new experiences. It teaches us new things about ourselves. Getting to know ourselves and evolving is, for me at least, part of life’s fascination and joy and purpose.

Some new experiences are greater than others. Some of my group dislike any change. So I purposely move things around – for example, I try not to do back squats in the same place each week or set equipment up exactly the same way or use the same bars for lifting. And I’ve encouraged them to try new foods and ways of eating and strategies for continuing with a healthy diet and challenged them to break patterns of thinking and behaviours/habits that don’t serve them well.

Recovered: Ben showing no signs of being restricted by injury

The Amazing 12 changes throughout, but often in too subtle a way for it to become a concern.

However, what they can do now is vastly different from what they could do when they started in January. They’ve taken micro steps. It’s one reason why the Amazing 12 works so well. It encourages you to allow yourself to become stronger, because while strength is a skill – and therefore must be practiced and honed – ultimately it comes down to whether the body feels a given task is too great a threat or not. Confidence is key and confidence can be destroyed by being overly ambitious or impatient.

When I look back through my records of what Stacey, Ben, Jo and Adriano have achieved, it’s quite astounding.

Jo knows she’s become much stronger – in spite of skipping sessions and falling off the wagon with the diet for several weeks. So has Ben, who was set back through injury briefly, and Adriano, who has already surpassed what he achieved two years ago. And Stacey, who at the beginning said she was “shocked” by how much strength she had lost after becoming a mum, is now doing for reps more than what used to be her maximum when she was in full training.

Making steady progress deadlifting

However, irrespective of the physical successes and changes, it’s going to be easy after the Amazing 12 has finished to slip back into making the choices and living the lifestyle that prompted the need for change in the first place.

There will be a sense of now-it’s-over-and-I-can-do-whatever-I-want. But I can’t stress enough the importance of resisting those urges, for obvious reasons.

Lifestyle matters – GREATLY.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about it because it is such an critical factor in how healthily we evolve and perform and how we look and, most importantly, our susceptibility to disease and illness which dramatically impacts our quality of life.

Getting harder: it’s more challenging in week 11, but everyone is fitter

Some of us may be at a genetic disadvantage but Dr. Sara Gottfried, who I’ve written about previously and has studied over 2,500 research papers on our genes, says that “90 per cent of the time” our illnesses and sicknesses and demise is caused by poor lifestyle choices.

If that isn’t a clear warning to take more seriously how you choose to live and take care of yourself I don’t know what is.

It means we’re mostly not genetically predisposed to certain illnesses or being overweight. We have the power, through choice, to determine what path we take.

And, in my opinion, a massive and integral part of any plan to stay well should include exercise/movement and resistance training in addition to resting and eating healthily.

So if you’re interested in my next Amazing 12 wave (over eight weeks, starting in May) or want to learn to lift and join one of my ladies weight-lifting groups on a Sunday morning or are interested in an upcoming course on using kettlebells or would like personal training sessions, send a message to Claude@intelligentstrength.co.uk

Week 10: Are you giving away your greatest power?

Jo and Stacey on the bench press, one spotting and one lifting

YOU spend years in the gym and don’t get results. You ask yourself why and reach a conclusion: exercise doesn’t work.

You go on a diet, fail to lose weight and determine that diets aren’t effective.

Or you take up weight-lifting, pull a muscle and decide that weight-lifting causes injuries.

Those are real life situations and common reactions. But there’s some missing data. How many people regularly visit the gym and don’t actually follow or stick to a progressive resistance program?

Or how many people go on diets, but either adopt a diet that is fundamentally flawed (in the long term) or cheat on the details?

Pressed for time, Adriano working hard to make the most of the final weeks

And when it comes to getting injured lifting weights, how many of us have failed to listen to instructions or ‘switched off’ at that all-important moment? To then say weight-lifting is dangerous is as illogical as a parent who hurts their back picking up their children saying they will never lift their children again.

In each of these real examples – and there are thousands more – I’m highlighting how we, as people, outsource responsibility for our mishaps or lack of success. I’m as guilty of it as anyone else. 

There is an often uncomfortable truth we are trying to avoid: we are where we are largely because of choices WE have made.

Unleashing strength through deadlifts

The day when we start to reverse this trend is when we take ownership of the problem. It means to admit the only way to achieve lasting results is to recognise fully we are the ones in charge.

One of the greatest powers we have as human beings is knowing we can change things and that we have choice, because in the absence of choice we have hopelessness. The moment we blame others or circumstances we relinquish our power.

An artistic (10 and 5-year-old) impression of transformation

If you keep blaming and looking outwards instead of inwards, you are developing a practice – the practice of becoming better at blaming and squandering your powers.

“The body becomes what you teach it.”

Simply put, if you don’t own the problem, you can’t change the problem.

Who is in control when you pick up your phone at bedtime and start scrolling through messages or social media? Does the phone control you?

Who buys the food that goes into your fridge and cupboards that, when consumed, cause your health issues?

Taking a walk, farmer’s carry-style

The Amazing 12 is a unique program that offers the opportunity for change and, as you will know if you have been following my blogs, food and sleep should play an integral part of any healthy physical transformation.

You have to follow the program. That’s not a catch. It’s a requirement for it to work.

A reason people come to me or have personal training is because they want/need to be held accountable. They pay me to take them through the program, show and instruct them how to perform the movements, organise what weights to lift, how long to recover, watch their form etc.

Paying for my services and having me pull the strings helps motivate them to turn up when they don’t feel like it and do the exercise even if they dislike it.

So here we are, 10 weeks into the Amazing 12 Chichester at the Core Results Gym. The ‘end’ is in sight and some will be satisfied and some will not. 

Whether the group are content or not at the end largely comes down to three things: mindset, expectations and honesty.

Are they a glass-is-half-empty or half-full type of person? How honest are they with themselves about what they have put into the program? How realistic were their expectations?

Adriano putting everything into the heavy battle ropes

Irrespective of the results, here’s the truth as I see it: this is just the beginning. Here’s another truth: what they do next and how successful they are going to be moving forwards is ALL down to them. We need to own that reality.

Stacey told me, “I don’t think I’d have got back into shape had I not done this [the Amazing 12].” She’s lost over a stone in weight and returned to her pre-pregnancy bodyweight.

I’d like to think, however, that Stacey is also much better equipped and informed now than when she started.

Still, Stacey feels disappointed whenever her scale weight hasn’t budged even if her strength and fitness has increased, which raises the question of what means of testing we are attached to for determining how well we are doing. Again, this is something we need to take ownership of by understanding it is a choice. 

Finishing the week strongly with the prowler and kettlebells

Jo’s admitted she hasn’t been following the diet for weeks and that she’s really been struggling at times. But she was committed this week and, when she puts the work in and eats correctly, I’ve noticed big changes.

I can’t fault Adriano for commitment. Some days he gets stranded in London coming back from work yet busts a gut to make it to the gym on time. Occasionally, we’ve had to reschedule his sessions and started super-early.

The bottom line is he’s made his training a priority. If we can do the same with sleep and diet we have the winning ticket!

Ben, who is almost back to full fitness after a recent injury, has been working practically two jobs in recent weeks and after training in the evening has had to then do a night shift. Therefore his sleep has been massively disrupted and, as I’ve written about previously, it’s through quality sleep that the body does its restorative work, growth and majority of fat-burning. That’s a biological process that can’t be short-circuited.

At least Ben’s been following more rigidly the diet I gave him last week and has noticed almost immediately the difference (and I’ve seen it) which has made him – and me – wonder just what his results would have been had he nailed it from the beginning.

However, what these past 10 weeks has taught me (and I’m always learning from the people I coach) is that motivation only goes so far for some and that over the longer duration you need to have a plan for when the wheels come off.

Plans are systems or frameworks that help keep you on track with your goals. “Fail to plan, plan to fail” is how the saying goes.

Upping the stakes, Adriano, Ben and Jo going through a conditioning workout

Plans don’t magically appear. You have to create them. You have to foresee where you have gone wrong previously and determine what is necessary or helpful to avoid that bump if it comes up again.

If you don’t plan, you’ll wind up repeating the same actions and you know what Albert Einstein said about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome?

Stacey showing her deep back squat

So the big lesson for this week is to recognise you – and no-one else – are in charge. Stop blaming anyone or anything. Take command. Make a plan. Stick with it. If you don’t like it, know that you can change it. 

It requires discipline and discipline can be learned and practiced. As Aristotle once wrote, “Through discipline we find freedom.”

My next wave – an eight-week version – starts on May 8. If you’d like to be considered and think you have what it takes to commit to training, following a healthy nutritional plan, want to dramatically improve your strength and fitness, change your physical composition and learn how to lift and train efficiently and effectively, contact me at Claude@intelligentstrength.co.uk

Week 9: Adversity is our teacher

Sometimes – but not always – an all-out effort is required

HOW many times have you wanted to try something but decided not to because you are afraid to fail?

The nine-week mark of the Amazing 12 Chichester is the point at which I notice most drop-outs on this transformation program occur (although it is a very small percentage). I can’t really imagine why you’d go this far and not finish, but one reason is the fear of failing.

Sometimes that fear of failure can be a tremendous motivator, but often it can also provide crippling pressure.

But let me say this – failure is a state of mind. And in the right state of mind, failure does not exist.

Stacey continues to surprise herself

That my group of four training at the Core Results Gym have advanced to the three-quarter mark in tact speaks volumes for their sticking power and physical resilience. 

I must admit one or two have wavered at various times. The Amazing 12 asks searching questions. But they can all be proud for getting this far. They should recognise in themselves the fortitude that’s required to be this dedicated.

Untapped potential, Ben just needs to sort out his diet

Ben has had a few shaky days and Jo’s faced her demons. But they have come through the other side. They are still in contention. They are still working hard and giving everything I ask of them when in the gym.

This week was a tough one and has left them all flat out a few times. But, from my experience, these are the weeks when the greatest changes happen.

Ben showing his hand speed on the battle ropes

Now, with only three weeks to go, it’s about buckling down and maximising what can be achieved. Tunnel vision is needed.

It’s much easier to hold that focus for three weeks instead of 12. But those who are able to stay organised, disciplined and mentally strong for the full three months get the best results. It’s a simple fact.

As I’ve said before, you get from the Amazing 12 what you put in. The magic is in the detail. Progress, like change, is so incremental the participant sometimes doesn’t notice. Often they will say they don’t feel as if they have changed much, but when they get to the finish they are blown away by the results. It’s easy to forget how they were at the starting point.

Even if visually there isn’t much to shout about, I can assure them all that the gains in strength and physical performance are already quite staggering and that’s what is worth reflecting on.

Ben may be rueing the fact he’s not got his head around the diet and Jo’s been brilliant when she’s been consistent, but overall has missed a lot of sessions.

Jo’s a good lifter who just needs to be consistent

Then, just when she was on a roll this week, Jo dropped her purse getting out of her car and pulled a muscle in her back, causing her to miss one session and move a little uneasily in the others. The positive outcome is that Jo didn’t allow it to set her back. Similarly, Ben, after his chest injury, appears to be where he was before he suffered the freak damage a few weeks ago.

I’ve written out a diet plan for Ben for the final three weeks which, if he follows it to the letter, may help him shed some excess pounds that haven’t yet come off. There’s no question he’s become stronger and fitter and everyone has noticed. For someone who hasn’t ever been in a gym or taken much care of himself, Ben’s displayed impressive potential.

“I’m quite shocked, really, at what I’ve been able to do,” he said on reflection.

The Amazing 12 experience has shown him that when it comes to getting into shape, the diet has to be addressed first and foremost. That’s his weakest link.

Highlighting areas that need attention the most is also what the Amazing 12 is about. It’s easy for us to stick to what we are good at, because it makes us feel good and we’re not intimidated by it. But to neglect what we don’t find so easy not only can cause physical imbalances, but also be the result of us being fearful of not looking or being good at something.

If Ben – or any of the others – gets to the end of 12 weeks and isn’t in great shape it doesn’t mean he has failed, however.

As martial arts supremo Bruce Lee used to say, “Defeat [or failure] is an education”.

Pushing hard, Stacey can still smile her way through it

When we falter or fall or fail or struggle, we have a choice – to be upset and resigned OR take from it important information to enable us to become stronger, wiser and better. It’s YOUR decision. You have to listen to the experience and by that I mean open your mind to what you have learned about yourself. The information is valuable only if we use it and are completely honest with ourselves.

That’s why the ‘don’t be afraid to fail’ mantra is so important. We need to progress without an ego. Fear keeps us from moving forwards, from doing, from challenging ourselves.

It’s in the adversity that we make the most progress. It’s in the process of practicing over and over with sufficient resistance and without harsh judgement that the body adapts and develops and becomes resilient and refined.

That’s not to say I push my group to their limitations. The idea is to challenge them in a safe way – to lift their confidence and to empower them, physically and mentally, to see what they are capable of.

Digging deeper on squat day

I can’t recall precisely the number of times Stacey has said to me “I don’t feel very strong today” and then had an outstanding session. She did it to me again at the start of this week when she turned up with a stuffy nose and having had little sleep after her son kept her awake all night and I then revealed to her after she had finished that she was lifting comfortably a weight she had struggled with on the previous session.

Adriano, her husband, has been consistent also. The experience of having done it before (2015) has held him in good stead. He’s much more in command of the diet and understands the process of the training. All being well, I’m hoping to take him further than he was able to go two years ago.

Working on his form, Adriano has had a shift in focus

What’s particularly satisfying about Adriano is how he has shifted his attention to why training needs to be a continual process and quality of movement trumps work capacity.

Ben’s much newer to the business of training and was a little gung-ho in the beginning, eager to see what he could do, but has learned this lesson through the injury he sustained.

So the message from this week is to soldier on and understand, as the saying goes, “we either win or we learn”. The only way to lose, I suppose, is to fail to learn anything. 

The process of strength and fitness training, done correctly and with the right mindset, should promote health, confidence and physical ability. That’s why I’m passionate about what I do. If you want to experience the Amazing 12, but in a shorter version – over eight weeks – send me a message. I am taking applications for a two-month journey beginning in May. Contact me at Claude@intelligentstrength.co.uk 

Week 8: What’s your driving force?

Goggins running through Death Valley to cover 135 miles. Photo by Mass Communications Specialist Seaman Brandon Rogers

MAYBE you have never heard of David Goggins, but he has an incredible story.

He may seem like a superhuman, because he’s the only man ever in United States armed service history to complete training for the Navy Seals, Army Ranger school and Air Force tactical air controller. If that were not enough, he set about taking on the challenge of completing the 10 toughest endurance events known to man, often placing highly. And if that’s not impressive enough, he set a world record in 2013 for the most pull-ups (4,030) in 24 hours.

Doesn’t sound like an ordinary man, does he?

But he built himself up from practically nothing. Consider this. Goggins was abused as a child, obese, a self-confessed coward with no self-esteem, subjected to racism, full of insecurity, has a hole in his heart, suffers from sickle-cell anemia, is scared of heights and deep water and hates running!

So how on earth did he do it?

His answer is plain and simple: he wanted it badly enough.

Usually, when I have people sign up for the Amazing 12 Chichester, it’s because they want change or to discover how far they can go. They are like Goggins. The desire is strong. There’s a driving force.

But can they – Jo, Stacey, Adriano and Ben – stay the course? Can they keep the driving force alive with only four weeks to go? The Amazing 12 will challenge them. It’s not just the training, but also the discipline, commitment and change to their normal routines.

Some of my current group have had to answer and deal with searching questions. This week in particular was tough for Ben and Jo.

Ben is all smiles here, but it’s been a frustrating week

Jo missed most of the week and Ben has been nursing an injury that has left him feeling frustrated. But he admits, “it was a wake-up call.” He understands better now the need for good technique and breathing.

It is all a part of the journey as far as I am concerned. The value of any experience is what you want to take from it.

And if you adhere to Goggins’ philosophy, “failure is information on how to succeed”. There is no downside – as long as you keep going and learning.  

What really separates Goggins from most others, though, is his mindset. While many of us don’t pay attention to how we think, Goggins has trained himself to think his way out of any sticky situation that comes his way. And anyone can do it.

Stacey staying strong during her back squat routine

Where many will say “I quit”, Goggins says “I’m not stopping”. Where some say “this hurts”, he says “it’s making me stronger”.  

Goggins converted himself – over many years – from that shy, meek, overweight, frightened boy into a man of steel who now proclaims with confidence that there is nothing he cannot achieve.

I believe most of us would like a piece of that, but how many of us want it badly enough? And where Goggins says we need to focus our energy (and I’ve touched on this in previous blogs) is in our thinking.

“We change everything in our lives from our cars to our underwear to our shoes to what we decide to eat,” he says. “But the one thing many of us never change is our thinking.”

Therein lies the secret. Really, it’s no secret. It’s common sense. But it doesn’t happen by accident. It took Goggins years of failure and setbacks and trying and persevering. He is not afraid to fail and never gives up!

The more you focus, the more you benefit

When people think of training in the gym, though, they often think of just lifting weights and doing exercises. Some turn up and merely go through the motions, as though they just want to get it done and then move on with life.

They are not getting the full package. They don’t realise how training allows for so much more. We’re not just training movement patterns or developing strength or increasing mobility and stability or working our cardiovascular system. Every training session and challenging situation affords the opportunity to work on our thinking and breathing as well. You just need to think of it as practice.

Deadlift day is not just about picking up a weight, but also practicing the technique

You have probably heard the expression “practice makes perfect”, which is not really spot-on in my opinion, because if you practice something poorly, it is unlikely you will become perfect.

A better version is “perfect practice makes perfect”, which shifts the onus of practicing to doing it properly, mindfully and with patience instead of just doing it for the sake of it or with our focus elsewhere.  

Perfection may not even be attainable in most circumstances, especially when it comes to movement and weight-lifting, because there’s always something that can be improved upon. This is what makes it challenging and enjoyable, yet also frustrating. Perfection is the distant – and perhaps impossible – goal that keeps us going.

But the only way to make progress is to put the time in. Show up (see week 3 blog). Make the effort. Keep going – no matter what.

Ben’s new to training, so was entitled to question one evening why the training was “repetitive”.

The answer is that good, purposeful and beneficial training is repetitive. It has to be. You don’t get good at something by doing it only once.

Adriano’s squat has improved in leaps and bounds from when he first did the Amazing 12

It’s all about the practice and I express this daily to my two young children – probably much to their dismay – in the hope they, too, get the message one day.

To create change, we have to do movements over and over to hardwire the patterns until it becomes easier and our bodies adapt faster and better. Initially, it may be difficult. But don’t give up.

When my children achieve something they had earlier said was impossible or too hard, I try to make them see how the magic of practice and perseverance made the difference.

They are growing in a world where everyone seems so impatient for results. Because of this, we struggle more with the art of practice.

So much is available to us at the click of a button and life is generally more comfortable that I suspect we’ve lost the ability to be ‘up’ for the fight when success doesn’t arrive easily.

One of my favourite boxers, former world middleweight champion Marvin Hagler, once famously said: “It’s hard to get up to run at 5am when you wear silk pyjamas.”

Quality of movement should always reign supreme

It was when I started to look at training more as practice than exercise or a workout (ie changed my thinking) that I saw changes, both physically and mentally. That’s when training stopped being about how gassed or fatigued I could get and shifted towards quality of movement.

When it comes to longevity, well-being, injury prevention and quality of life, how well I move wins every time.

I also stopped seeing training as a short-term fix and took a long-term and lifelong approach, because, as I’ve touched upon in previous weeks, the older we get the greater we need to consider how we move and live and what we eat in order to apply the brakes to the process of ageing and deterioration.

The Amazing 12 lasts only for three months, but I can only take my A12 Chichester group as far as they allow me to. I do my bit and turn up every day (unless, like next week, when I have to attend a funeral). But my students must still put in all the leg work. This is why I’ve never offered a guarantee on this program, even though I know it works.

I supervise and guide the training and manage the process of the Amazing 12. But I can’t know for certain if my candidates are doing EVERYTHING I ask them to do when not in the gym.

It again comes down to what Goggins says – wanting it badly enough. Develop a strong mindset. Surround yourself with positivity. 

Focus on what motivates you, not what demotivates you.

Is it better to focus on how tough it is or what’s to be gained from completing the task?

Here’s a simple example of that: each week I put my group through a short but intense workout (they know what it is). Some dread it (demotivating), while others may instead choose to think of the benefits of doing it (motivating).

Master your thoughts and your world will change. Isn’t that worth working hard for? The Amazing 12 gives you an opportunity every day to practice it.

Think you have what it takes to complete the Amazing 12? Do you have that driving force to achieve your goals and transform yourself through intelligent training and eating? Contact me at Claude@intelligentstrength.co.uk

Week 7: Hormones, fat loss and cholesterol

Deadlift day and girls looking strong

I’VE heard it said by women hundreds of times in relation to lifting weights that they don’t want to get “too bulky” or “develop big muscles”.

In my week 2 blog update I went into some detail about the importance – for women and men – of having muscles.

And when you consider that from the age of 30, when testosterone levels begin to drop, most of us will find it more difficult to retain muscle mass (on average we lose about 10% every 10 years as we age) and the importance of lifting weights as part of our lifestyle becomes even more critical.

The fact is – no matter what you’ve been led to believe – that for women to become “too bulky” or “develop big muscles” is incredibly difficult and, in many cases, impossible unless they take growth hormone or are genetically advantaged.

Resistance training, for men and women, is essential for healthy muscles and bones

Why that is so comes down to one hormone in particular, testosterone. This hormone not only determines, pre-birth, whether we are female or male (we all start out as females, hence the nipples), but it’s the hormone which boosts metabolism and keeps us leaner.

Adult males have about seven-eight times as much testosterone as adult females. It’s a steroid hormone that in men is naturally secreted from the testicles and in women the ovaries. A small quantity comes from the adrenal glands.

The many functions of testosterone

Ben, one of my crew on the Amazing 12 Chichester program out of Core Results Gym, asked me the other week what testosterone does and so I’ve put together a chart (above) highlighting its many functions.

I’ve also created a second diagram (below) which shows what can cause our testosterone levels to fall, what are the possible consequences of low testosterone and the many natural ways in which we can increase testosterone.

What causes low testosterone and ways to boost it

I wouldn’t recommend taking testosterone (steroid) supplements unless medically advised to do so. It can cause health complications and a list of side-effects. Testosterone is one of many hormones in our bodies and these hormones – estrogen, insulin, cortisol, leptin, testosterone, thyroid and growth hormone – all work together.

If one set of hormones is unbalanced it will affect all the others.

Take even more seriously that everything – from how we perform physically, our moods, our strength, our thinking, our health, our digestion – comes from optimal, balanced hormonal function.

So if you think hormones don’t matter, think again. They are in charge!

For those of us who overeat or have weight and excessive body fat issues, it is not because we can’t stop ourselves eating, but more a case of the hormones which regulate that decision-making being out of balance.

As doctor Mark Hyman says, “Our hormones have been hijacked by Big Food – the giant food corporations.”

Hormone expert Sara Gottfried, a doctor and author who overcame her own weight issues and is an expert on the subject, adds, “hormones dictate what your body does with food.”

So if you can’t get leaner or crave sugar or lack sleep or have fluctuating moods or often feel overwhelmed, the chances are that your hormones are out of whack.

Stacey has a sweet tooth and for years has struggled with sleep

Extra belly fat can be an indication that one or more of hormones is out of balance. These hormones regulate our metabolism. When the metabolism is broken, our bodies go into fat-storage mode as the food we eat is stored instead of used for energy.

Sleep plays an important role here, too, because when we sleep well it influences positively the hormones which control our appetites and increase metabolism. No hormone is more adversely affected by poor sleep than testosterone.

Another reason for lowered testosterone is the massive exposure in today’s world to estrogenic compounds. Many of these comes from plastics and pesticides and chemicals found in our food sources (particularly meat and non-fermented, genetically modified soya), the water we drink and pollution.

The trouble with meat that isn’t from grass-fed animals or animals consuming a natural diet is that the toxins in their diets enter ours. Our livers don’t know what to do with these toxins and put it aside as fat.

Pressing ahead…Adriano’s on a mission

The more abdominal fat we have the faster we are likely to age and the greater we are at risk of heart disease and diabetes. Tummy fat can indicate that we have either high estrogen or low testosterone or low DHEA (adrenal gland hormone) or high insulin or high cortisol (the stress-induced hormone).

Estrogen dominance makes overweight women store more fat instead of burning it. It does this because our microbiome, the collective DNA of the microbes living in our gut, begins to extract energy for storage instead of fuel.

Also, the higher our insulin levels, the more fat we store and the more inflammation in our body.

Cooking and then consuming industrial seed oils, for example, is incredibly inflammatory. What this means in relation to testosterone is that we end up producing more of what are called aromatase enzymes that in men cause testosterone to be upgraded to estrogen and the opposite in women. 

What’s also interesting is that testosterone is produced from cholesterol, which is manufactured naturally in the body but also derived from eating healthy fats (like coconut oil, avocados, unheated olive oil, ghee, nuts and seeds etc. As said already, avoid vegetable oils like soy, canola, safflower, cottonseed and corn).

The real enemy is inflammation although there is still mass contention in the science and nutrition world on the subject of what causes it.

Interesting story in this week’s edition

For example, the cover story on this week’s New Scientist magazine is all about cholesterol and whether the war on cholesterol has been in vain.

The article talks about how for “30 years, cholesterol-reducing statins have become some of the most widely prescribed drugs” after the connection between cholesterol and heart disease became widely accepted in 1984.

However, one independent Danish researcher claims, “the cholesterol campaign is the greatest medical scandal in modern time.”

What’s clear is IF cholesterol is associated with heart disease, it’s not the sole contributor. Half of all heart attacks and strokes occur amongst apparently healthy people with normal or low levels of ‘bad’ low-density lipoprotein cholesterol.”

Studies have also shown that the side effects of taking statins have caused patients to become more sedentary and adopt less healthy diets, mainly because, thinking they are cured, they become complacent.

Adriano slam-dunking his way to fitness

Complacency can, of course, affect us all. It’s the beginning of the slippery slope.

There is no way around it. Mistreat or neglect your body and, eventually, it will hit you back.

Practice makes perfect…Adriano is hyper-extending here, whereas Jo’s form is solid

Adriano is determined to not allow that to happen when he finishes the Amazing 12 this time (he did it first in 2015). He’s driven towards staying fit so he can keep up with his young son. So we’ve been devising a plan for a continued training and nutritional program after the A12 has finished.

Ben, too, is eager not to see his hard work go to waste. He has aspirations to take up boxing. But Ben’s biggest challenge is getting to grips with eating and diet. So far he’s struggled with the A12 guidelines and preparing food as it is not something he has ever had to do.

A lack of understanding of what foods do, where they come from and what to do with them is at the root of why we make poor food choices.

This week has been Ben’s toughest by far. He’s felt tired and that’s most likely down to (a) not eating enough and (b) not eating enough of the right foods. Ben also struggles with sleep.

Don’t try this at home…Ben showing his strength

Unquestionably, he’s getting stronger, but not eating according to the A12 guidelines will not only limit the effectiveness of the program and losing fat, but he’ll end up burning muscle, too, and his recovery between sessions will suffer.

“I’m just not feeling it,” he said earlier this week. “I feel weak.”

As off-colour as he felt, Ben still performed well. The reality is that the Amazing 12 program doesn’t get easier as it goes on, but you get stronger. That’s how most good training programs work.

To cap his week, Ben ended up pulling a muscle in his chest, which I am hoping is not serious. I prescribed rest until it was assessed. He missed his first session and was gutted.

Jo working hard and holding her form

Jo, too, had an up-and-down week. At the end of week six, however, she had lost 11lbs in weight, 4% body fat and told me she could fit into a pair of jeans she hadn’t been able to wear in ages.

Stacey had lost another 3lbs and was only 2lbs short of having lost a stone from the start of the program. “I’m one happy lady,” she told me.

To stay happy and healthy, we need to be like our hormones and work together on all fronts and not just those we prefer. It means, for starters, consuming the right foods and in the right proportions and quantities, moving our bodies often, doing some form of resistance training and drinking lots of clean water.


The Amazing 12 Chichester offers more than just a training program to enable you to uncover your true self and physical potential. It’s a journey of learning not only what you are made of, but also about the importance of progressive resistance training and a healthy lifestyle. The next Amazing 12 Chichester wave will be in April/May. Want to know more or book your place, contact me at Claude@Intelligentstrength.co.uk