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The Portfolio

The Fitness Gurus To Follow Now

Swipe right for the Insta-savvy men to get you into shape

One of the biggest influences on how an individual behaves is something called “social proof”. What that means, in a roundabout way, is we are influenced by what we see others doing or not doing. Although it’s often said that you’re the average of the five people you associate with the most, research suggests that the effect is far more wide-ranging than that. And also, to some extent, subliminal. So, if your friend gets puts on a few pounds, you’re 57 per cent more likely to bulk up. And if a friend of your friend gets fat, your obesity odds still go up by 20 per cent – even if you don’t know them.

But forget the scary figures – you don’t need to be a behavioural psychologist to grasp that we’re highly susceptible to the examples of our environment, good and bad. However, unfriending your buddies who are looking a little too cuddly post-Christmas is, well, not something we would recommend. Instead, we would politely suggest that you follow the online accounts of some fitness influencers, and thereby take advantage of a bit of “social media proof”. To help you get in shape for the year ahead, and get some practical advice along the way, we tracked down the most influential fitness gurus to follow on Instagram.

Mr James Yates

A model and the author of A Scrapbook Of Conditioning Workouts, Mr James Yates, 27, turned over a new leaf in his training after years of heavy lifting left him stacked, but also stiff, sore and sluggish. When his agent asked him to slim down to fit into his clothes, he discovered the joy of lung-busting bodyweight workouts, as have his audience and model peers. While he mostly trains shortly and sharply, he did wake up one morning to run an unofficial personal marathon: “While it was the most painful experience of my life, and easily the toughest mental challenge I’ve faced, it was hands down the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.” Fair enough.

Can you give us an example workout from your book?

A favourite of mine that I do very often, especially when travelling with no access to a gym, is a simple decreasing pyramid of chest-to-floor burpees, squats and press-ups. You might start by doing 15 reps of each exercise, then 14, 13 and so on, down to one, with little or no rest between sets, trying to complete it as quickly as possible. It sounds fairly straightforward, but you’ll be gasping for air in no time. If I start at 20 reps, it takes me just over 20 minutes, and in that time, I’ve burned over 400 calories and shot my heart rate up, often pushing it over 90 per cent of max.

What are your health and fitness resolutions?

I love really pushing myself, but I need to get better at knowing when to rest, increasing flexibility and movement. My aim for this year is to spend more time doing things like yoga, stretching and foam-rolling.

What’s your morning routine?

First things first, I chug a big glass of water. I spend 10 minutes meditating a few times a week and then have a coffee – always black. I don’t eat breakfast, as I intermittently fast, so I only have coffee and water until about 2.00pm. Where work allows, I try to train early: a short but intense workout at home or an aerobic workout, either a class or a run. I struggle to lift early, so I tend to leave that until later. But I try to move as much as possible in the morning, even if it means going for a quick walk while listening to a podcast.

What questions are you most often asked on social media?

I get asked mostly about diet and intermittent fasting. I realise for a lot of people it probably isn’t suitable, but for me, I’ve found it the most effective way of staying in shape and feeling “light”. I eat in a window roughly between 2.00pm and 10.00pm; my meals are high-protein and a good balance of fats and carbohydrates, with most of my carbs coming later in the day. But I’m reluctant to give nutritional “advice” via social media, as I think diet is so specific to the individual. I get a lot of very strange requests. I once got asked if someone could pay me to stand on their back for an hour. Not sure about that...

Mr Mark Ross

Mr Mark Ross, 29, learnt how to optimise the body while studying at university in the US on a soccer scholarship. He then went on to play professionally for the New Orleans Jesters. Over the decade that followed, he combined his knowledge of athletic training and bodybuilding to great effect – his personal training clients’ before-and-after pictures soon started going viral. As well as posting clear, easy-to-follow coaching on social media and his own fitness app, he kicks classes into gear at the Manchester outpost of cult high-intensity studio Barry’s Bootcamp, which opened in November 2018.

What’s the secret of your clients’ body transformations?

Three things. First, getting your mindset right: people say they want to lose weight, but until you flick that switch in their head by telling them that there’s a photoshoot in 12 weeks, it’ll just be a half-arsed effort. If you commit, you succeed. Second, keep things simple, so you can have a good relationship with your partner, sleep well and socialise, which keeps adherence levels consistently high throughout. Third, get your calories under control, be active daily (walking or moving) and lift weights three to four times per week. That alone will take you further than you’d think.

What are your health and fitness resolutions?

Strength and mobility levels can always be, and should be pushed, plus they go hand in hand. So, more yoga will be on the cards for me in 2019.

Which health and fitness trend is a big, fat waste of time?

I disagree with any diet that makes you cut out a certain food group. Similarly, any workout that promotes better results in less time. I’m also not a fan of celebrity-endorsed products that you “need” to take in order to lose weight. It puzzles me how people think that you can consume something that then creates a calorie deficit.

What’s your morning routine?

I’d love to say I’m one of those people that spends an hour giving gratitude, stretching and breathing slowly, but the truth is I’m teaching at Barry’s at 6.00am and all that concerns me is that the class is on fire and I give them my everything. My go-to wake-up drink is a cold shake of greens powder and creatine with a multivitamin containing vitamin D3 and Omega-3. An hour later, I’ll aim to get my protein porridge in to fuel me for the day.

What questions are you most often asked on social media?

Common ones are, “What can I eat?” and, “How should I train?” I want people to know what I know, which is why I try to post value every day. A few followers have asked for pictures of my feet. I’m a footballer, so they’re not the best looking! I kindly thank them and delete the message.

Mr James Stirling

Founder of London Fitness Guy and a personal trainer at exclusive gym KXU in the southwest of the city, Mr James Stirling, 28, previously worked for Fulham Football Club’s charitable foundation, helping young footballers from troubled backgrounds swerve drugs, crime and gang violence. An ambassador for FitBit and contributor to various magazines, he’s also a fellow of the Winston Churchill Foundation, which offers grants for the study of subjects that are of benefit to the UK, publishing a research paper on sports participation in Scandinavia (Europe’s most active nations).

You were PT for The X Factor in 2016. What was that like?

It was an amazing and really unique opportunity, and my first high-profile job in fitness. There were some brilliant characters (and talents) in the show that year [Mr Matt Terry won] that made training sessions hilarious. We’d do Hiit and cardio to improve their fitness for the live shows, as they’d often be bouncing around the stage.

What are your health and fitness resolutions for 2019?

I recently started CrossFit and I love it. It’s taught me a lot about my body and highlighted some improvements I need to make. I want to increase my flexibility and mobility, so more yoga is high on my list. I also launched my LFG Workout app that provides accessible bodyweight workouts, so a big goal for me is to help as many people as I can to achieve their goals.

What tips do you have for keeping resolutions?

I think the most common mistake people make is diving into everything all at once. It hits 1 January and we typically empty the cupboards of anything unhealthy then attempt to hit the gym five days a week. Setting realistic goals is important; they should challenge you but also be achievable. Making small dietary changes and completing three sessions a week will give the majority a good base from which to start their 2019 journey.

What do people get wrong about diets?

If you’re looking to lose weight, you have to create a calorie deficit [consuming less than you expend] and some foods contain a shocking number of calories. It’s important to ensure variety in what you eat and maintain a healthy relationship with food without becoming obsessed by numbers, but it’s also important to recognise what’s in it.

What’s your morning routine?

To be honest, I don’t really follow a specific routine. But I usually train bright and early at 6.30am, so I always make sure I have a good breakfast.

What questions are you most often asked on social media?

The main ones are how to get abs or build muscle. I set up my Instagram to help others, so I love to answer questions I receive. I honestly don’t get that many “weird” questions as such, but I vaguely remember one about my feet...

Mr Gareth James Taylor

Running, cycling, boxing, snowboarding, wakeboarding, golf, squash. Just listing the sports that 25-year-old model Mr Gareth James Taylor does is exhausting enough, never mind exercising “pretty much every day”. He comes from a family of professional athletes and thanks his parents for imbuing him with a strong work ethic by making him run track four times a week in junior school: “You can imagine my reaction to being told that Sports Day would become uncompetitive”. His latest athletic enthusiasm is CrossFit which, like a true convert, he’s evangelical about.

How did you get into CrossFit and why do you love it so much?

Everyone needs to at least try CrossFit. My friend Mr Matt Rodwell [a model, Nike trainer and surfer] got me started a few years ago. It’s addictive. I thought I knew a lot about training until I started that, but dear me, I was bad. The best thing about it is that you are constantly learning something new. Motivation to conquer goals is constant due to the sheer amount of skills involved. Also, the people involved tend to be pretty great, too.

What are your health and fitness resolutions?

My main fitness goal for 2019 is to complete a triathlon. I cycled 130 miles in a day last summer with my 60-year-old dad – he dragged me over the finish line – and it’s had me itching to complete longer events. Trying to convince my mates to cycle with me now is a tough one. I want to do a full Ironman before I’m 30. And to finally get down to a single-figure handicap at golf. I guess one of my main goals is to learn to be happy in my own body. Modelling has had a huge impact on how I see myself due to the constant pressure of being in ridiculously good shape. It’s important to be happy as well as healthy.

What’s your morning routine?

It involves trying to delay breakfast, which really helps you avoid overeating throughout the day. I wake up and drink a pint of water, have a coffee an hour later, then I eat about two hours after waking up. Total five per cent yogurt (if you haven’t tried it, you can thank me later) topped with blueberries (good for your skin) and granola. I usually train in the evening, but if I’m training in the morning then I’ll have a few medjool dates and an Americano before, followed by an omelette after. Thinking about eating at least 20g of protein in every meal is a good way to a stable diet.

What questions are you most often asked on social media?

They’re mainly just about training, after I post a video of me trying to look OK at CrossFit. But being on the cover of magazines has led to some interesting requests. “Can I have your used gym kit?” probably tops the pile.

Mr Luke Worthington

As a schoolboy, Mr Luke Worthington, now 39, competed nationally in athletics and rugby league, going on to play for London Broncos before switching teams (and codes) to the capital’s Harlequins. (He was also part of a team that set an indoor-rowing world record over 11 days.) Injury prompted him to “get a proper job”. He became a Nike trainer who now helps the likes of footballer Mr Mesut Özil and Victoria’s Secret models. His speciality is postural restoration: less balancing books on your head, more diaphragmatic breathing, “movement hygiene” and daily maintenance exercises.

Your website talks about “the connection and correlation between movement, neurology, psychology and emotional wellbeing”. What do you mean?

I’m a firm believer in the principle that we’re, as human beings, made up of a group of interconnected systems. If we make a change or intervention in one, there will be an effect or output in others. Changing the way our bodies move will have a direct impact on how we think and feel, and vice versa. Interventions in psychology will affect how our bodies feel, and how they move. We shouldn’t attempt to train one system without respecting the others.

What can we do to improve our postures?

Posture is not as straightforward as an individual position, it’s more the body’s ability to cope with different positions and movements. There’s an expression: “The best posture is always the next one”. So as much as you can sit too much, you can also stand, run, cycle and even do yoga too much. Our bodies thrive on varying movements; relying on a few patterns for our daily activities is what leads to excessive wear and tear. It can also increase stress levels.

What’s your morning routine?

It’s determined by my dog, who expects his morning walk and breakfast at 7.00am! Starting my day with a 15-minute brisk stroll outside makes me feel awake – and gives me sometime to myself (and the dog) before getting drawn into messages, emails, social media and the working day. This little portion of time is invaluable. My breakfast is, boringly, always the same: four scrambled free-range eggs over two slices of sourdough toast with half an avocado and a Nespresso. A high-protein breakfast is a must. It may take a little longer to prepare, but it keeps you fuller for longer and saves you reaching for the snacks at 11.00am.

What questions are you most often asked on social media?

Most revolve around what training the Victoria’s Secret Angels do. The truth is they were all supreme before they went anywhere near the gym. But the part that surprises many people is that we work on squats, deadlifts, presses and pulls, the same as with a Premier League footballer or Hollywood action star. Lifting weights does not make you bulky. It makes you strong.