Rich (December 2017)

END PRODUCT: 12 weeks of hard training that were far from straightforward

IT’S not every day you get to work with a former secret agent. Jokes aside, Mr. Brosnan-lookalike, Rich Evans, signed up for the Amazing 12 Chichester on a specific mission: to beat the fat loss conundrum.

Irrespective of anything else he achieved on the program over what was, in fact, nearly 13 weeks training at Core Results, his definition of success or failure would rest on one thing only, fat loss.

As a personal trainer and avid skier, he kept himself active and fit. As a vegan of many years, Rich took care as to what he put into his body. As someone who would frequently joke about himself being a “freak” in reference to what typically worked on others had no effect on him, Rich had tried everything.

Comprehensive DNA profiling revealed the extent of the challenge. His report indicated: “a severe potential for poor fat release”. This means “a tendency to put on weight via abdominal fat” and “a susceptibility to carry more weight and a struggle to lose weight easily with exercise.”

So it certainly sounded like the odds were stacked against Rich from the get-go. He’s not the type to do things half-heartedly, though. Rich is all-in. There are few people I’ve met as organised, thorough, diligent and structured as Rich. I knew he would be totally committed.

And so, several years after first hearing about the Amazing 12, he decided to go for it.

“I had tried all sorts and been told by nutritionists and others that what I
was eating was good [80 per cent whole foods, organic with some
processed foods at weekends],” said Rich.

“I had done different levels of exercise over the years – mainly bodyweight but some weights and other cardio work as well, but not shifted body fat.”

But if the task wasn’t already a testing one, Rich had more to contend with that was totally unexpected and beyond anyone’s control.

At the end of week two his mother passed away and then at the end of week nine he injured his left knee badly: a classic wear-and-tear injury. Subsequent scans revealed the cartilage had worn away.

Rich, who turned 49 during the program, limped out of the gym that day, disheartened having put so much into the training and thinking it was over. He was in pain, unable to bend his leg.

Effective and immediate treatment, a positive attitude and determination got Rich back in the game quickly. However, the consequences of the injury meant I’d lost my two strength-building big guns: the back squat and deadlift. Also, equipment like the prowler, a great conditioner, was out, too. Rich would continue, but training his upper body only.

Rich also had to stop a crawling program I had him on which, interestingly, elevated his heart rate more than anything else. Up until week nine, it was worth noting, too, how his average and peak heartrate during crawling started to decrease even though the challenge I set him each week was, on paper, harder.

Because of his mother’s funeral arrangements and taking the time to be with family as well as a few other previous commitments that meant he would be away for a short time, Rich opted to add on an extra week to the program. This decision was taken before the knee injury.

BEFORE: Rich wasn’t in bad shape and certainly had a broad back
AFTER: Definitely leaner and more muscular

However, it meant four weeks of mostly upper body training and it was around this time, coincidentally or not, that I noticed the weight beginning to come off him.

Usually, when you see someone more or less every day, it’s hard to spot the changes. But with Rich it was apparent and Stacey Satta, his occasional training partner, noticed it, too. Still, Rich’s scales were telling a slightly different story and he wasn’t fully buying into the success. 

The passing of his mother was obviously a difficult time and coincided with when Rich struggled most, around weeks five-seven.

“Mum died at the end of week two and we had the funeral during week four. My mind was, for obvious reasons, elsewhere,” admitted Rich.

Until then, though, Rich, being as meticulous as he is, had taken notes from when he started the program.

At the end of week one he wrote, “I’ve had the of the worst nights sleep I can remember for months – I feel battered and am today [Saturday] feeling tired after not sleeping well last night.

“But I am pleased to be doing the A12 and with two days off am, in a
strange way, looking forward to training again on Monday.”

Rich’s sleep patterns soon returned to normal, but he also had difficulty with the nutrition side of things. Being someone who weighed and measured his food with precision, changing to a different system that was less than surgically precise in terms of calculations was difficult for him. But he went along with it.

“I was so used to eating low carb and not much [in total] and was being told to eat much more, and more carbs,” he explained.

“But my body doesn’t like them [carbs] – I know that through trial and error. I feel sluggish and am wanting more food than I have done for ages. Is this the training or the carbs that my body isn’t used to?” he wrote in his diary.

After the first week, Rich had put on 2lbs. “It’s nothing,” he wrote. “It’s a snapshot. I need longer to see a trend and most of that is muscle, but that bloody fat % is the same! Grrrrr….

“Trust the system. Trust Claude. I do, but I have a small nagging doubt
in my mind will it work with me?  I hope so – I’m investing lots of
money, time and effort in this after all.”

So you can see where Rich was coming from. In week six his weight reached a peak of 12st 8lbs. His muscle mass was highest in week five. It was in week five that Rich felt most tired and found it tough, at one point being unable to comprehend how, if things didn’t improve, he would make it to the finish.

In week six he had a particularly frustrating session trying to find his technique with the deadlift and by week seven he was back to being tired and exhausted.

But then I sensed he was turning a corner – until his knee ‘went’ in week nine and we had to consider how to best proceed.

OVERHEAD PRESSING: the toughest part of the training for Rich

A solution was found and, again, Rich turned up and gave it all he had. In week 10, he took off a few days to ‘celebrate’ his birthday and it probably came at a good time as he was nursing his leg and the rest most likely did some good because from week 11 until the finish Rich was sailing.

I think you can tell clearly from the photos, even if the numbers on the scales aren’t significantly different, that Rich leaned out, especially around the waist, and packed on size to his arms, shoulders and chest.

His overall weight went from 12st 4lbs 6oz at the beginning to 11st 12lbs 2oz (a drop of around half a stone). His body fat percentage began at 22.7 and fell to 20.9. His muscle mass started at 9.0.8, peaked in week five at 9.5.6, fell to its lowest in week 12 at 8.13.2 and finished at 9.0.2.

It’s fairly typical, though, if you are carrying extra body fat to have to get leaner first before you can build muscle. All the numbers, however, point towards Rich moving in the right direction except for the reduction in muscle mass. We had many conversations about this and, not being a big eater, Rich probably didn’t consume enough calories to retain and build further muscle, although the priority was always fat loss. Getting that balance right was the tricky part. 

PERCEPTION: Even though he looks leaner, Rich doesn’t ‘feel’ lean

“I really hoped that this [the A12] would shift the body fat and I’d look leaner,” he said.

“I have never been what you’d call body-confident, so was hoping that at last I’d shed the fat, look and feel leaner and with that be less self-conscious of my lack of leanness. Maybe that should be my self-perceived lack of being in shape, as I’m probably not as bad as I think!”

Rich, though, went into the program with the understanding that – based on past experience, testing and DNA reports – his body would not respond to the training in the same way as thousands of others who’ve been through the Amazing 12.

But he was hoping it wouldn’t be the case and maybe what this proves, in Rich’s case and at least for now, is that any loss of body fat is not influenced by training and diet alone. There’s maybe a missing factor – something not working as it should – and to get the results he wants will take longer than it would for the average person.

If 12 weeks of training on the Amazing 12 and eating well failed to reduce his fat levels massively (other factors like sleep and stress didn’t seem poor), I firmly believe no amount of training with any other system over the same time period would have provided better results.

“Now I know I wasn’t deluding myself, living a lie and making excuses that I struggled to lose body fat,” he said.

“Whilst I desperately wanted it to work – to get to the end with all the
exercise and eating according to an incredible plan that has been
carefully worked out and gets incredible results – to find that it didn’t
work for me maybe proved that I don’t react like normal people.”

There wasn’t a shred of doubt he became much stronger. Here a some examples. In week 10, I had him try some pull-ups and he managed a few and then, quickly, hit a wall and couldn’t lift himself at all.

In the final week, Rich was able to do 45 bodweight chin-ups in 15 minutes. A week after the program, he completed a chin-up from a dead-hang position with 14kgs attached!

I started him with 15kgs doing the Military Press, the exercise he found the hardest. I recall how tough he found it when the weight got to 19kgs (week two), 22kgs (week three) and 27kgs (week six), yet at the finish he was pumping out reps using 41kgs!

Similarly, doing incline dumbbell bench presses, he went from completing a set of 15 reps with a 17.5kg in week five to 19 reps with 20kg in week 10.

Across the board, Rich increased his strength, as did the quality of his movement. Even Rich could see and feel the changes happening – but not significantly enough.

COMMITTED: Rich’s attitude to training and nutrition couldn’t be faulted

“I’m delighted with my strength and fitness levels,” he said, admitting he’s never been this strong in his life.

“I knew I would get stronger – having read blogs from Claude’s and other A12 trainers.  All the results from the A12 show this that really was
a given and, yes, would be good,” said Rich.

“I’ve never been keen on weights, so haven’t really done them.
This was going to be a good challenge – I’d get stronger, which as I get
older is important. That was going to be a postive.

“And I believe that doing something you aren’t ‘good at’ is always a
good thing as it challenges you and can only improve you.”

I found that Rich’s technique on most movements was spotless and, consequently, he grew in strength. I kept adding weight and Rich continued meeting my targets.

And a week following the program, I had Rich back in the squat rack with a weight on his back doing reps not only without any discomfort to his knee, but with better technique than I’ve seen from him before!

He completed every session he turned up for (missing six of a possible 63 for the reasons I explained earlier), the only exception being one afternoon when, suddenly, he had to take off because he’d remembered he’d left something cooking on the stove. Rich was relieved to find his house hadn’t burned down, but the sweet potatoes were beyond saving – unless you like them looking and tasting like charcoal!

He can be excused for that. Fact is, he gave it everything. I can’t deny that. Rich carried himself with integrity, which I respect greatly.

“I struggle to understand why anyone can’t commit to this or why it would be difficult,” he said. “Yes, it takes time out of your day, but it is so structured and we always find time to do what we want to.”

Rich, though, would probably admit he’s hard on himself. “I hoped that with the strength improvements my self-confidence would return –
most people wouldn’t think that I lack this but we all have a mask –
a different mask for different people,” he said.

“Working part-time as a PT, I want to look the part as well as act it. Whilst most of my clients seem to think I am fit -and I probably am compared with them and almost certainly am compared with your average male in his late 40s – I don’t want to compare myself to this.

“I look at people at least 10 or 20 years younger than me and see no reason why I can’t be that fit, lean and in shape?

“Who am I kidding? Being completely honest, most of this is
personal! I clearly have ‘issues’, but then don’t we all? We do…..don’t
we…….?”

Ultimately, he was disappointed. I’m not used to hearing that. But I gave my best and Rich gave his best, albeit under at times trying circumstances. We knew from the beginning that, with Rich’s knee history, he wouldn’t be able to do the Amazing 12 exactly as prescribed. And from week 10 it was a more modified version because of the injury. But I constructed the program in the best way possible given the limitations.

You, the reader, may look at Rich’s results and see what he achieved and disagree with his evaluation. But I respect his honesty.

“Yes, I know I have changed shape and am stronger than I probably
ever have been [fitness is relative – sport specific so I am not
going to say fitter] and should really focus on the positives.

“Whilst I have changed shape and know that it is not all about the numbers, I do not feel lean.”

Asked what he’d say to someone contemplating the program, Rich replied: “Do it. It gets results. It’s an incredible program and, yes, it can be a challenge,but it really is easy to do – turn up, do what Claude tells you to and go home. Get results! What’s not to like?

“Stronger, healthier, fitter – where else can you get results like this? Why
wouldn’t you?”

He added: “The best thing about the program is the support Claude gives you. He is always there to answer questions [and I had a lot!] whether by email, text, WhatsApp or phone – you never feel alone through the whole program.”

 

Stacey (December 2017)

DEFYING ALL LOGIC: Stacey achieved amazing results in spite of the many hurdles in her way Photos: Sue Saunders Photography

IF you look at Stacey Satta and haven’t read one of my blogs during the 12 weeks of her training on the Amazing 12 Chichester, you could be forgiven for thinking everything went precisely to plan. But nothing could be further from the truth. 

Stacey, now one of only four people to have completed the Amazing 12 Chichester twice, is quite a remarkable woman and you’ll find out why.

Her reason for doing it a second time was simple: to build upon the massive achievements she made during her first 12 weeks.

“I knew I’d get results,” she explained of her decision.

LEANER AND STRONGER: more than happy with her results

You can see from her impressive photos that she was successful. But the striking images do not tell the background story.

As was the case with her first Amazing 12 that ended in April, Stacey completed the program on little sleep, which for most people simply would not have been manageable.

But that wasn’t the full extent of what she had to contend with. In fact, I’d say this most recent Amazing 12 was tougher than the first (which wasn’t easy) even though when she started in September, Stacey was in better shape and condition.

“It was a little different [second time] because I knew what to expect,” said Stacey. “I found that it [the 12 weeks] went much quicker, but it was more challenging. I was struggling with sleep and the weights were getting heavier.”

TURNING BACK THE CLOCK: Stacey’s now as light as she was in her teenage days

Stacey also had an injury to contend with. As early as week two, she started having issues with the rotator cuff on her right shoulder and by week five I not only had to remove bench-pressing all together, but had to practically redesign her shoulder program.

Yet, despite not having done bench press from before the halfway mark of the program, by the end her shoulder issues had practically cleared up (I partly put it down to rest and lots of Turkish Get-ups) and when I retested her bench press a week after she had finished the A12, Stacey managed to lift more (50kg for one rep) than ever before!

That’s not an isolated strength improvement. Her back squat went from a 77.5kg struggle (in April) to a technically spot-on 95kg – at 54kg bodyweight!

WRITING ON THE LEGGINGS: as determined as she is strong

Her deadlift went from 87.5kg to 92.5kg, although during the program her working weight peaked at 80kg for reps and sets compared with 72.5kg in the spring.

I still think Stacey could have topped that deadlift weight, but it’s an exercise where, if her mind isn’t right, she falls to bits.

I tried getting Stacey to lift without telling her how much was on the bar (so she wouldn’t psyche herself out), but she couldn’t resist taking a peak. And that was that.

But she admitted: “I learned that I can do most things if I can get into the right mindset.”

TOP GUNS: she worked hard for those muscles

In fact, she made improvements across the board. For example, doing the Military Press she finished in April getting 27 reps with 30kg whereas second time round she hit 40 reps with 32kg in the same time period.

Doing chin-ups, in April she managed 38 bodyweight in a set time, whereas most recently Stacey nailed 49 in the same time frame with an additional 1kg attached and looked as fresh as a daisy when she was finished!

“The most satisfying part was seeing my body getting leaner while also feeling stronger and lifting weights I didn’t think it would be possible for me to lift – EVER!” she said.

In terms of body composition, her weight loss went like this: first Amazing 12 – 10st 2lbs to 8st 10lbs; second Amazing 12 – 9st 2 1/4lbs to 8st 6 1/2lbs, which is the lightest she has been since her teenage days. But this mother is now 38 and I bet she has more muscle and can lift plenty more than she could back then.

Stacey’s main obsession was with lowering her body fat and after dropping from 26% to 21% in April, she came into the second Amazing 12 at 23.6% and by the end was exactly 20%

In essence, she dropped weight, lost fat and gained in strength, muscle and fitness all in spite of her continual struggle to sleep and more. 

Miraculously, she missed only six of the 60 training sessions (one more than on the first Amazing 12). In eight sessions she did attend I had to amend the workouts or cut them short because Stacey was simply too exhausted to take on the added stress of any hard training.

Had she been well rested after every session, attended all the workouts and been able to test herself fully (she always gave 100 per cent), I shudder to imagine what she would have accomplished.

“My lack of sleep was the most challenging part,” she admitted. “It affected my rest and recovery. I missed a few sessions because of it and couldn’t always perform as well as I would have liked.”

There wasn’t a single week when she didn’t come in for at least one training session feeling either run down or shattered. Usually, Stacey still looks remarkable on a few hours sleep, but I started to get concerned when she turned up on a few occasions barely able to keep her eyes open.

“The hardest part was around weeks eight and nine when the diet and training, for some reason, became really challenging,” she recalled. “I had to really dig deep and stay focused.”

That Stacey was so determined to keep going proves she was never short of commitment. She never found that to be a problem except on the days when she felt so depleted. I can count on one hand maybe the amount of training sessions at Core Results gym we had when she was full of beans and operating on all cylinders.

If anything, I’d say the final four weeks were probably the worst (in terms of exhaustion) and those are the critical stages when, generally, the most ground is made.

Somehow, though, she came through it and was delighted with the outcome.

“It was remarkable given everything I went through and I feel I achieved more than I thought I would,” she said. “I’m very happy with the results.”

Obviously, it was far from an easy ride for Stacey. She had a lot to contend with.

“Dedication and commitment are the keys to success on the program,” she said. “If you’re up for a challenge, want to look great and feel great, just go for it,” she said. “You won’t regret it.”

Just make sure you’ve got your sleeping sorted first!

If you want to become an Amazing 12 Chichester graduate like Stacey or find out more about the program, contact Claude@intelligentstrength.co.uk. We are taking applications for the next round in 2018. 

 

 

 

Jemma (August 2017)

THE PAY OFF: Jemma’s new body after her hard work (Photos: Sue Saunders Photography)

EVERYONE has a story – a past, a life of experiences. Some are worth telling and some not. 

What you may not know about Jemma – and would not from simply looking at her photos – is that as a teenager, she was, quite literally, all skin and bones, down to 5 1/2st (77lbs) and losing a battle with anorexia.

If you had suggested back then that at close to 30 she’d complete a three-month program that included lifting weights five days a week, eating healthily and dramatically ramping up her fitness levels, it would have seemed unfathomable.

What it shows, though, is that no matter how grim things are, there’s usually a way out and a way to move forwards.

Jemma admits that anorexia nearly took her life. She was hospitalised. It caused a lot of misery and suffering. But she survived.

However, Jemma’s relationship with her bodyweight has been a rollercoaster ride. When she was anorexic (for five years between the ages of 12 and 17), she said her skin was grey and her hair falling out. She doesn’t know how she didn’t die.

When you take that as the starting point, she’s done incredibly well to get to where she is now.

Overcoming anorexia didn’t mean the fight with body image had ended. Before starting the Amazing 12, Jemma was still unhappy with her appearance. She’d gained weight. None of her dresses fitted. Looking at her reflection, she was frequently reduced to tears. It’s a scenario that, sadly, many people can identify with.

This time when she saw herself as too heavy, she was closer to 13st (182lbs) than 5st. Jemma admitted it was down to poor lifestyle choices. She held herself accountable. 

“I was lazy,” she said of her mindset before the program. “I used to cry every night looking at myself. I wasn’t happy with how I’d become. But I just didn’t do anything about it. I was drinking a lot, eating take-aways, not doing much exercise.

“Now [after completing the Amazing 12] I know what it takes. I feel so much better. I don’t miss drinking [alcohol]. Whenever I eat bad food, I feel terrible.”

NO GOING BACK: Jemma’s determined to maintain a healthier lifestyle (Photo: Sue Saunders Photography)

Jemma had reached the point where her desire to change was greater than her desire to stay the same. She chose to take action. She made changes. She signed up for the Amazing 12 Chichester almost without hesitation.

Often it takes a lot of bravery to embrace change. There’s a lot of fear involved.

In many cases we, as humans, would prefer to remain unhappy rather than face uncertainty.

Jemma didn’t know the intricate details of what she was signing up for, but she’d seen the results, had read on this website about what the program could do and how previous graduates had coped. Then she decided to take that leap.

If fact, I can’t recall anyone I’ve guided and coached through the program who has been more enthusiastic from beginning to end. She simply didn’t want it to finish. 

That’s not to say it was smooth sailing by any means. It was tough for Jemma. She complained – a lot!

But, as I have written in previous blogs, the limiting factor for Jemma was her thinking and not her strength or technique or fitness levels. I could always see her potential and knew, with her level of willingness, anything was possible.

We worked on it during every session. It’s a process. I tried to remind her that EVERY training session and EVERY day presented an opportunity for change and improvement. That’s the reality for us all.

In 12 weeks I got the best out of her that I could. Through consistency and commitment and application, she lost 32lbs in weight! But the transformation was even greater than that number might suggest, as she clearly developed muscle while also shedding fat.

TOP GUN: Now Jemma has biceps, but not just for show (Photos: Sue Saunders Photography)

She can undoubtedly go on from here to becoming stronger and fitter. Jemma’s already said she wants to do the program again next year, before she gets married.

Her transformation is not just about how her body looks. It is also about what her body can now do, how she feels in herself, her approach to nutrition and the increased self-belief she has cultivated. 

“I feel so much happier,” she said. “Even people at work have commented how I’m back to my old self. There’s no way I’m going back [to being overweight].

ACHIEVEMENT: getting the results she was after (Photos: Sue Saunders Photography)

“I did the Amazing 12 to lose weight, tone up and change my lifestyle. I wanted to better my knowledge and learn how to lift weights correctly.

“It’s made me much more confident about my body. I’ve even had my legs out without tights on! This was a no-no before. And it’s given me the confidence to know what I’m doing in the gym is correct.”

Jemma is so much more empowered. I’ve seen her blossom in the past 12 weeks, not just in physique and fitness, but also in stature and confidence.

This girl showed tremendous discipline. She missed only one of the 60 training sessions and still hasn’t completely forgiven herself even though she couldn’t do much about it.

“I was very dedicated and had great support in my home life which made it easier for me,” said Jemma. “I was worried having a full-time job and the travel and also getting another puppy would get to me. But it was doable and the time has flown by. It was well worth the hard work.

“I was so down and depressed before. But this [the Amazing 12] turned me around. I’ve learned so much. Claude has been the best coach and so supportive.”

There were times I had Jemma do some training by herself in addition to the gym sessions with me – which is all part of the program – and I don’t suspect that she skipped any of it.

FEEL-GOOD FACTOR: discovering how training can be a fantastic mood-enhancer (Photo: Sue Saunders Photography)

Sometimes she was tired and aching, but she still got it done. Often I’d get a text message in the morning telling me how great she felt for doing so.

There were numerous occasions, too, when Jemma came to the gym feeling stressed or worn out or sore or not on her game and practically every time, though, she’d leave feeling much more upbeat and revitalised.

“It’s amazing how that happens,” she’d say repeatedly.

In terms of following and sticking to the eating plan, Jemma found it tricky in the beginning, but had it figured out most of the time.  

“It did seem a bit daunting at first,” she admitted. “But once I got into it I wasn’t having to prep hardly as much and it was simple. I mostly enjoyed it. I didn’t feel hungry at all and having a cheat day made it even easier. I’ll be sticking to a similar way of eating going forwards.”

Jemma’s mindset throughout was ‘I have invested too much into this to let myself down’.

Because she applied herself completely and had total trust in me and the program, the Amazing 12 really worked well for her. The weight kept dropping off and her strength and fitness increased. 

Especially during the last few weeks, I could see her shape changing. By the end, she not only looked like an athlete, she was stronger  – physically and mentally – as well.

TECHNIQUE: creating the arch for a strong bench press

“No-one is going to accuse me of being Photoshopped,” she said. “I’ve worked bloody hard.”

Week after week and session after session, almost without fail, Jemma would repeat, “I just can’t believe…” and would follow those words with “how much stronger I am” or “how much fitter I’ve become” or “how much weight I have lost”.

To say she felt proud and those around her were proud of her also, is a massive understatement. And she deserves every morsel of praise for her efforts.

It’s not as if she lives around the corner from the Core Results gym either. Jemma travelled each day from Waterlooville, near Portsmouth. Most days we’d finish training around 9pm.

PULLING HER WEIGHT: in terms of devotion if not kilos

Jemma may have been impatient at times – actually, most of the time – but she embodied the other factors I consider crucial for progress with any training program: commitment and consistency.

At first she was desperately self-conscious of her movement and worried about how she was doing. After all, she was fairly new to the type of training on the Amazing 12. She’d compare herself to others and be concerned that she was slowing everyone down. She’d fret over never being good enough or that 12 weeks wouldn’t be long enough for her to make the necessary changes to her technique.

Gradually, as she changed and learned and improved, those worries began to disintegrate as easily as some of the excess weight she was carrying in the beginning.

HOT OFF THE PRESS: Jemma’s shaping up on the final day

Her fitness levels altered quite dramatically. Where she struggled during short workouts at the beginning of the program, by week 12 she was going for much longer and with heavier weights and at a higher intensity without compromising her form.

“I feel ABSOLUTELY AMAZING,” she said after she’d finished. “I can’t describe my happiness in how I look and feel.

“Even my fitness has literally rocketed and I can run without stopping and aching. I feel so much stronger and energetic.

“Confidence-wise, I’m even pushing through reps when it gets tougher instead of thinking I can’t do it.”

I recall how, when she started with me and we had a training session before the program to assess her strength levels and how she moved, Jemma told me how she felt she had no upper body strength.

LOOKOUT: keeping a watchful eye on Jemma’s form

Here are some examples of how much progress she made. I started her with 7.5k for the Military/overhead Press and she finished with 26k for reps. For the bench press, she began with 15k and wound up lifting, for reps, 40k. Her back squat needed so much work that I had her begin with a 20k bar with the aim of getting her to squat more deeply and she ended up doing 77.5k quite comfortably (meaning she could do more) for two reps and impressive technique. Her deadlift, for multiple reps, went from 30k to 75k. There are many more examples I could give. On all of those lifts, she has the capacity to continue improving.

Jemma’s determined to keep going. She knows she has to stay on top of the way she eats. She knows how easy it is to start consuming take-aways regularly again and see all the hard work disappear.

There has to be a balance. There is no escaping the fact that to stay in shape and healthy requires paying greater attention to what you eat and how much of it your consume. Like it or hate it, that’s just the way it is.

GIRL OF STEEL: Jemma discovered her inner and outer strength (photo: Sue Saunders Photography)

Jemma’s come to recognise through this experience how much cleaner food, a dedication to training, following a progressive program and keeping a more positive mindset can be transformative.

“There’s nothing I’d change about the Amazing 12,” she told me. “Everything was spot-on and I felt really looked after and well informed throughout.”

To those contemplating doing the program, she said this: “Do it. You won’t regret it. It was the best experience ever. Loved it. I was so chuffed with my transformation.

“If you want to be physically and mentally stronger as well as improve your lifestyle and fitness, this will help you. But you have to be fully committed and willing to learn.”

*If you’re in need of or desire a transformation, want to learn how to train smartly and effectively, would like to challenge yourself to get stronger and fitter, require guidance with food and nutrition and are inspired by Jemma’s results, get in touch at Claude@intelligentstrength.co.uk. The next Amazing 12 Chichester begins on September 18. Don’t delay. Places are limited and results are achieved only by taking action.

Reg (July 2017)

JUST BEGINNING: the first stage of Reg’s transformation (Photos: Sue Saunders Photography)

TO make a significant and lasting change, you have to be a willing participant in the process. If you need to lose weight or body fat or have a desire to get fitter or want to overcome some form of addiction, no-one else can do the work for you.

Screaming at and pestering and forcing someone to change doesn’t work. At least not in the long term.

So when Reg first came to see me, it was with the full understanding of what he was taking on. His wife had bumped into Stacey Satta shortly after she’d completed the Amazing 12. They’d previously worked together and chatted about Stacey’s experience. Stacey passed on my details. Reg’s wife and I then began a conversation.

It was clear from the beginning this wasn’t going to be a typical Amazing 12 transformation. Reg, at 6ft 1in, is a big man. Lifestyle had directly contributed to him piling on the pounds. He had reached a whopping 25st.

EARLY DAYS: Reg working hard

Drinking and eating the wrong stuff had taken its toll. As a dentist of 24 years, Reg admitted he didn’t move a great deal during his working day. He was consuming two litres of Pepsi Max daily, drinking wine, eating large portions of food. Combine that with a lack of movement and, before you know it, your body changes shape and composition and begins to strain under the increased load.

Reg had a problem with his heel and, periodically, his knees. He had to miss a few sessions early on because of the pain, but Reg could feel how the addition of movement, training, healthier eating and drinking water to his daily routine was making him feel much better. From 40 training sessions, Reg missed five. 

He admitted before starting: “The image I had of myself was not the true me. At home we don’t have any mirrors. They are only from the neck upwards.”

Basically, Reg thought he was slimmer than he actually was.

But one day Reg was out shopping, saw a full-length reflection of himself and was shocked. “I know I am overweight,” he conceded.

PROGRESSING: every session he gets better

When we first talked, I made it clear this was going to be a long-term project. Although Reg wanted to sign up for the eight-week program, I knew he’d need more. So did Reg.

But he had a family holiday planned and we went into the eight-week program with the mindset of it being just the beginning of a grander transformation. This was the first phase.

Reg, 49 and the father of three children, was unhappy with his physical appearance. Moving was difficult. Breathing was even challenging at times. Going up steps was taxing. Yet he was up for the job.

DETERMINED: Reg has the drive to succeed

Reversing years of neglect doesn’t happen in a few weeks, though. You take it a day at a time. Slowly, you replace unhealthy practices with healthier ones. It took a lot of courage for Reg to enter a gym from scratch, expose the truth of his condition and even take off his shirt to be photographed.

It shows, though, how committed Reg was. As someone who comes from a family five generations deep in the medical profession, he knew his health had to improve. “Getting fit [again] will allow me to do more things,” he said.

Reg hadn’t even returned to his native Ghana for years – decades –  because of his weight! The last time he saw his mother, Reg weighed 17st. “She was so aghast when she saw a picture of me recently,” he said.

When he came to England in 1990, Reg weighed about 13-14st. He was 18st when he got married in 1997.

REPETITION: perfect practice makes perfect

Prior to the Amazing 12 (8), Reg hadn’t trained for three years. He played golf regularly – and to a good standard – but hadn’t done any other kind of exercise.

He wanted to lose weight, get fitter and gain leaner muscle mass. But there were obviously concerns.

Would he be able to stick to the diet, find the time to train each day, be consistent in his training, be fit enough, handle training with other people?

BENCHING: Reg on the final day of the program

We did a week of training before we officially started. I wanted to show Reg the movements and see how well he could move his body.

Reg trained mostly evenings – at a time when he’d usually be reaching for food – although several times we started early in the morning; whatever was needed to get the job done.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: Reg’s grip is wider than recommended, but as he loses weight his form will get better

Reg was obviously strong and powerful. But he was panting hard from any kind of prolonged exercise of a slightly higher intensity. He’d bide his time going from one movement to another, doing what he could to manufacture extra recovery. 

Steadily, though, we progressed. Reg was always in good spirits and great company for those he trained alongside. You couldn’t meet a more likeable man. He tried hard, always.

HIS NEMESIS: Reg’s love and hate affair with crawling

I got him doing things he hadn’t done since he was probably a baby – like crawling. This he found harder than anything else – and it was only the warm-up!

The first time we tried, I had him crawl forwards about six feet and then backwards. He just about made it forwards and couldn’t reverse at all!

Fast forward eight weeks and Reg progressed to a 30m crawl without stopping. The look of amazement on his face was priceless. He made it back about a quarter of the way before needing to stop.

He lost about 2st in weight overall, but most of it fell off his lower body which is why the comparison photos don’t look dramatically different. His trousers were all hanging loose. His legs no longer fill his jeans.

But this eight-week stint wasn’t so much about a transformation of body shape. Reg’s transformation was more about what you CANNOT see in the photos. It was about starting a man on a journey to get himself healthier, stronger, fitter and leaner.

POWERHOUSE: lots of raw strength in this man (Photo: Sue Saunders Photography)

Body fat will disappear over time – with commitment and consistency to training, diet and improved lifestyle. The loss of two stone from the body of a 25st man is less noticeable than on an individual half his weight or less.

But beneath the cloak of excess fat is a strong body waiting to come out. If Reg keeps going, as he says he will, his full transformation will be revealed.

SKY IS THE LIMIT: Reg keeps working towards his goal

The greatest pride I have from watching and training Reg is in how he now moves so much easier, how he recovers from prolonged bouts of more intense exercise far better and the weights that he found to be a struggle to move about four weeks into the program are significantly lighter than what he was lifting relatively effortlessly at the finish.

In the first weeks, he had trouble bench-pressing 32.5kg for multiple reps, yet finished with nearly 70kg, which was nowhere near his limit. He also had difficulty strictly shoulder-pressing 15kg for reps in the beginning, yet increased his working weight to nearly 40kg in two months.

THE PROWLER: Reg starts to move with more bounce

Fitness-wise, I had him push the prowler up and down the gym 10 times as fast he could at week 1 and then again in week 7. His time dropped from 4 mins 32 seconds to 2 mins 51 seconds and, if I’m honest, there was more in the tank. A week later he even started jogging with it!

Those are just a few examples, but Reg’s transformation was, for me, a dramatic and inspiring one for more reasons than I have already stated.

This is a story of a man with the odds stacked against him. A man who could very easily look at the task before him and be overwhelmed by the enormity of the mission, but instead chose to take it on with the mindset of ‘I’ll get it done no matter how long it takes’ and ‘I have to do this because the alternative is much worse’.  

Reg’s attitude was excellent, his spirit strong, his laugh infectious, his commitment first class and, with us both being sports nuts and Liverpool FC supporters, his company super-enjoyable.

The intention now is for Reg to resume the program in September, this time for 10 weeks, but he will have the experience of knowing the movements, recognising his abilities, understanding the diet and his body will be better conditioned.

If you are seeking results, need guidance on lifting, training and nutrition and ready to make the commitment to make that happen, send a message to Claude@intelligentstrength.co.uk for further details on the Amazing 12. The next wave begins on September 18. Places will be limited. 

 

Catriona (July 2017)

THE EVIDENCE: eight weeks of graft and dedication (Photos: Sue Saunders Photography)

AS a doctor of more than 20 years, Catriona knows how the body works. She understands the importance of health. She came to me in the spring after plucking up the courage to finally sample the world of weight training.

Until then, the Scottish 50-year-old mother of two had preferred to do cardio as her chosen form of exercise – and lots of it.

Weight-lifting and weight-training seemed too intimidating. Going to a gym was a scary proposition, as was having personal training sessions.

Catriona, being someone who likes to be good at what she’s doing, knew she’d be out of her comfort zone using weights and wrestling with frustrating periods trying to learn new techniques.

She’d heard about the Amazing 12 several years ago through her husband, who I used to coach. It took her that long to decide the time was right for a change.

Catriona admitted to me she was unsure of her abilities to do the movements in the program. We were, effectively, starting from scratch.

“I avoid doing the things I can’t do,” she had told me. “I don’t want to look stupid.”

But the tipping point came when she noticed how some people who do nothing but cardio – as she was doing – took on a scrawny and skin-and-bones look, which didn’t appeal to her.

RAISING THE BAR: Catriona achieved a physique in eight weeks that years of cardio could not

So she set out to become stronger and acquire some muscles. I’m talking and about lean muscle, not big, bulky muscles.

Catriona was, admittedly, already in impressive shape. Her aim was to put on weight rather than to lose it. She wanted to become fitter and stronger. I remember looking at her when she had her ‘before’ photos taken and thinking how Catriona already had a terrific figure and what the Amazing 12 (or 8 in her case) could do for her.

“I’d like to improve my core and upper body,” she had told me. “I’d like to have some muscles and be more toned.”

It was important, too, that she didn’t get injured.

Other concerns were how she’d feel having to avoid a glass of wine or two each night with a meal. The longest she’d go without was about two-three days. It was something she enjoyed.

However, Catriona was genuinely amazed by how she had no craving at all for wine during her eight weeks on the program and, even when it was over, she didn’t feel the urge for a drink.

PRACTICE AND MORE PRACTICE: Every session is an opportunity to improve

Just as importantly, perhaps, Catriona has started to look at her training differently. She’s realised the importance of lifting weights and not overcooking the cardio.

“I wanted to incorporate weights into my regular exercise regime but had never used them before and needed the confidence to do it,” she said.

Understanding that Catriona was a beginner, I handled her carefully. As she said, confidence is what she needed. Push too hard, too soon and confidence can get irreversibly damaged.

EYE OF THE TIGER: committed to getting the best results possible

That’s not to say we didn’t have some testing moments. There were many of them. But Catriona was great to work with. She understood all I was explaining. More importantly, she acted upon my advice. She didn’t complain hardly at all.

“I feel empowered as I have challenged myself to do something new and achieved it,” she said.

As you can see from the photos, Catriona achieved some outstanding results. There was a clear bounce in her step.

Not long after finishing her transformation, Catriona went to the gym in Cardiff, where she used to live. “So many people said I had changed,” she said. “I’m really happy with myself.”

PERFECTIONIST: Catriona doesn’t like to ‘fail’ at anything

I recall her saying during the final training session just before the photo shoot, “It’s unbelievable. It does make your abs look better. I’ve never had abs in my life.”

To get those results just meant following the program. Truth be told, Catriona admitted to me several times how she sneaked in extra cardio sessions when I told her not to – some habits are hard to break and temptations more difficult to avoid than others.

From a dietary perspective, though, Catriona said she had no difficulties. She told me one day, “It’s simple. You just follow the instructions.”

For some this is easier than for others. While Catriona admits she has difficulty following her own advice, she at least took mine.

“The diet reduced my weight and also body fat,” she said. “It was relatively easy for me.”

POSITIVE: Catriona realised how important a part your mindset plays

The hard bits were some of the lifts. In fact, in her first session back after the shoot, Catriona had, by her reckoning, a wobbly session, especially with deadlifts. It nearly reduced her to tears. This had more to do with feeling like she had failed than hurting herself.

Weight-training can challenge us in unexpected ways. And that’s not a bad thing.

Catriona sent me a message a few days later, admitting: “Sometimes it takes an overwhelming breakdown to have an undeniable breakthrough!”

I try to cultivate a positive mindset and Catriona took that on board, difficult as it was at times. For example, she explained: “Told to do 10 reps but only manage 7 – at the beginning of the course I would think I’d failed if I didn’t complete the 10. Now I think, fantastic, 7 is better than 2! I try to think of the positives.”

EARLY DAYS: Pushing the prowler

In previous posts I’ve highlighted some of the progress Catriona has made, like taking her time for a challenge pushing the Prowler on week 1 from 3:30 to 2:50 on week 7. For a short time trial that requires all-out effort, that’s a massive improvement.

I remember when Catriona came to see me at Core Results Gym prior to starting. We went through some of the program and she could barely squat to any depth. I had to contemplate alternatives, but instead stuck with the back squat and, steadily, she made great improvement, finishing after eight weeks at 80% bodyweight for high reps and with much-improved form.

LEAN MACHINE: Catriona discovered the benefits of lifting weights and acquiring stronger muscles

Similarly, Catriona’s bench press went from 17.5kg to 28kg, her deadlift from 40kg (using blocks) to 65kg for reps and, using a lat pulldown machine, she went from 17.5kg to being able to do a controlled chin-up, something she’d never done previously and without us ever attempting one during the program.

I couldn’t have hoped for a more committed individual. Typically, this and nutrition are the toughest challenges on the program, but commitment was never a factor with Catriona.

She was in practically every day, punctual and smiling and ready for action. She skipped a few sessions, but for reasons that were unavoidable and never because she didn’t fancy training.

HAPPY CUSTOMER: Catriona described the experience as ‘fantastic’

For her the final week was the toughest. “The weights were heavier and the diet stricter,” she said. “But I still enjoyed it.”

In terms of satisfaction, Catriona summed it up like this: “Amazing, fantastic, unbelievable!”

She added: “I think the whole experience was excellent. If you’re thinking of doing it, just do it.”

If you’re ready to take Catriona’s advice, have commitment and want to know more about the next wave of the Amazing 12 Chichester, starting September 18, drop me a line at Claude@intelligentstrength.co.uk

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. 

 

Kari (June 2016)

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THE day after completing the Amazing 12, Karien Gladman took part in the World War Run in Dorking. She was a little apprehensive beforehand as during the Amazing 12 we hadn’t done a lot of the type of endurance work she had been used to. Kari therefore wasn’t entirely sure how her fitness would hold up.

I got a message from her. “Excellent race,” she said. “Loved the mud as always. I was so strong doing obstacles. Successfully completed several I would not have attempted before. Great feeling!”

Obviously, it wasn’t as bad as anticipated and further proof what the Amazing 12 can do for fitness as well as strength and physique and so many other aspects of our being.

But I wasn’t really surprised. What I noticed about Kari more than the strength gains and physical changes was the rise in her confidence. Here was a South African mother (of a grown-up son who recently graduated from university with a masters degree) in her mid-forties who was unsure of herself in the gym and, in particular, around weights. She’d tried CrossFit, but always favoured the workouts and movements that suited her strengths – mainly cardio.

Kari was described as a ‘plodder’. Now, though, she is anything but. Over the course of three months, I watched her blossom under the barbell. And this lady has real staying power!

“This experience has made a bigger impact on my life than I thought it would,” she said.

Kari considered it a survival-type experience as it was all so new and there was the diet to adhere to.

“The last week, especially, felt that way” she said. “The Amazing 12 worked me in many ways…discipline, determination, limited calories, spurring your team members on. And, and, and…I now realise it [the Amazing 12] was not just about the fitness.”

Kari got the results she was looking for and worked hard for it. “Thank you so much for this experience,” she said.

“I look exactly the way I want to look. My body is toned, my shoulders are not too big.”

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Kari had her moments of uncertainty and a few days when she was off-colour, but, generally, her consistency was her strong point.

“Although there were times when I wondered how this would work out for me, I knew I had to believe in you and the program and ride it out,” she said. “I am so much stronger now. I am believing in myself and my abilities so much more.”

And yet Kari has the potential to go much further. I took her as far as I could within 12 weeks – and the photos show clearly how she got leaner and more muscular – but, especially in the areas of strength, I feel we only scratched the surface.

“This has opened an Aladdin’s cave for me,” she said. “I love feeling strong. I am walking with my head held high.”

Kari seldom, if ever, complained. She’s the type of person you give instructions to and she tries her best, always attempting to maintain a calm exterior. And, as a coach, all I can ever ask for is that my students offer their best effort. She missed in total three days (because of work commitments) – two in week 4, one in week 9 – but was always devastated to have to do so.

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I remember one particular session when Kari suddenly realised – for the first time – that she actually had muscles. Tall and slender, Kari was smitten with her biceps. But I was seeing changes in her physique, strength, movement and performance throughout.

I recall how at the start she was finding it difficult to military press for reps with 12.5kgs (27.5lbs), yet by the end she was working with 27kgs (59.4lbs). Similarly, her bench press working weight went from 12.5kgs (27.5lbs) to 33kgs (72.6lbs). Kari’s back squat for multiple reps more than doubled – from 17k (37.5lbs) to 36k (79.2lbs). Best of all was her deadlift. We started with unbroken reps using 30k (66lbs) and finished at 72.5k (159.5lbs)!

Kari was a pleasure to work with and get to know. The above numbers underline her progress and successes. The photos illustrate all Kari’s hard work and what happens when effort, improved eating and intelligent training are all combined. Now she can feel immensely proud of her achievement, enjoy her new body, put it to use and, armed with more confidence, set about attacking the many other challenges on her bucket list.

How did she enjoy the program? “Loved it,” she said. “Loved it!”

Now she’s considering doing a six-week version of the program – usually reserved for those who have already done 12 – in the New Year.

*Do you want results like Kari’s and/or to transform your fitness, strength and physique? I’m looking for a few more committed individuals for the next wave, beginning on September 5 at Core Results Gym. Places are limited. If you would like to know more about the Amazing 12 Chichester program, please contact me at Claude@Intelligentstrength.co.uk. 

Sue (June 2016)

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I REMEMBER clearly earlier this year returning from the gym having watched 43-year-old mum-of-two Sue Saunders work on her corrective exercises in her bid to return from shoulder surgery (May 2015). I said to my wife, “I can’t see Sue being ready [in time for the Amazing 12]”.

That was my judgement based on what I had seen to that point. The start of the Amazing 12 was only weeks away. But then something happened: Sue made miraculous progress. The shoulder loosened up and felt much better. Kudos to the team at Core Results for that. And, all of a sudden, Sue went from being a ‘No way’ to a ‘she’s ready’.

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It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for her. Sue’s worked with me on the Amazing 12 as my photographer since I started. She had seen all my previous graduates. I’d also worked with Sue as a coach, so there was already a strong element of trust both ways.

Sue had talked about the Amazing 12 with her father shortly before he passed away. This gave the challenge added significance. Naturally, she was concerned about the shoulder flaring up or not being up to the task. She had other concerns also: finding the time; devoting fewer hours to her photographic business; the impact on family life; coping with the sense of guilt from focusing on herself; not wanting to let anyone down.

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Her husband told her to go for it. Her two children were supportive from the get-go. We scheduled some time in the gym for me to take her through some movements to test out her body and there didn’t seem any problems. I gave her the green light. Sue then made the decision to proceed.

She didn’t know precisely what she was letting herself in for, but knew she wanted to do it. I reassured her that the intention was – and always is – to enable her to become stronger, fitter and in better shape without causing injury. This program is adaptable.

As you can see from the photos, Sue did staggeringly well. Look at the photos and realise the difference in weight lost between the start and finish was only 3lbs, yet the transformation and increase in strength was impressive.

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It wasn’t smooth sailing – and something like this seldom is. However, Sue missed only one day of training and she was gutted about that. She really wanted to be ever-present.

This was an adventure and all adventures, almost by definition, are lined with uncertainty, moments of joy and times when you have to dig incredibly deep and feel close to the edge of your comfort zone. Sue had several of those moments. The key is to keep going – and she did. There was never any question of that. Hopefully, I can coax her to explain in her own words in due course how the experience felt and what she gained from it.

There were some specific goals she had which were overcome. For example, her previous best deadlift (for one rep) was 82.5kg, yet by week 7 Sue was knocking out reps with 80kgs. By the finish, she had nailed 92.5kgs for multiple reps without putting down the bar.

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Five days after her photo shoot I got her back in the gym and we did some strength-testing (above). She managed a single-rep deadlift of 102.5kgs (225.5lbs)!

To say Sue became stronger is an understatement. I remember the first day I ever trained her shoulders (going back a few years) and her grimacing as she pressed overhead a 7.5kgs bar with 1.25kg plates dangling on either side. To show how far she has come, by the end of the A12 she was shoulder-pressing for reps and sets with 16kgs dumbbells in each hand – and with more comfort than she is even aware of.

I watched her display tremendous grit to better her squatting with a weight that had left her stumped the first time we tried it. Her fitness levels soared as well. I recall Sue saying one day how amazed she was by the speed with which she was able to recover from day to day without ever feeling sore.

In the strength-test session, Sue hit 60kgs (bodyweight) for one rep on her bench press and did a chin-up from a dead-hang (arms straight) with 14kgs attached. As a fitness test, I had her do a 10-length challenge with an empty prowler after five weeks of training. She recorded a time of 2mins 45 secs. When we retested at the end of the program, her time was down to 2mins 27 secs for the same distance. Clear improvement!

I can’t deny Sue was challenging to coach, but I mean that in the nicest possible way. Sue undoubtedly helped me to grow as a person and coach. She asked questions every day. That’s just how she is – wanting and needing to comprehend the hows and whys for everything. She kept me on my toes. In return, I enjoyed encouraging her to challenge her perceived limits and prevail.

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Initially, strength was her focus in order to regain the confidence to use her body as she could pre-injury, but then her attention switched to body shape and wanting to get an elusive six-pack, drop body fat, feel confident and lean enough in her body to wear shorts again and achieve a physique that reflected how hard an effort she had made.

I had to keep reassuring her that the program will deliver if you stick with it. It’s only normal when you haven’t been somewhere to ask or wonder what is around the next corner. Then we hit the final week – the peaking stage – where preparation is everything. Sue continued to display great strength. She knocked out 45 quality chin-ups in fairly short time in one particular session and told me on a scale of 1-10 for difficulty (with 10 being tremendously hard) that it felt like only a 5 or 6!

Sue’s an extraordinary and multi-skilled lady. She juggles a lot of balls. She’s a perfectionist. She also confesses to not liking change. But she’s also very funny, determined, committed and delivered results which exemplify what the Amazing 12 is all about.

I’m proud of her and grateful to have had the opportunity to work with her to write this chapter in her life. I hope enough of my philosophy has rubbed off on Sue to help her recognise this as the beginning and not the end and that with the right mindset and patience she has the potential to continue taking on and conquering any challenges she dares to set for herself.

*Want to be the next candidate for the Amazing 12 Chichester? I am taking applications for the wave beginning September 4 at Core Results, Chichester. Contact me at Claude@Intelligentstrength.co.uk