Alex Valentine Personal Training

Effective training for smart people


new year

The Dos and Don’ts of the Gym

It’s January, and loads of people are joining the gym to get fitter, leaner, stronger, or generally just to feel better in their own skin. I love this time of year, it’s great to see so much motivation! But I also see a lot of fear. Yes, actual fear! If I had a pound for every time someone told me they are afraid of looking stupid in the gym, I’d probably have enough for a week in Benidorm. At least.

Apart from what exercises and the number of sets and reps to do, people want to know basic things like, where to stand, or can I take weights without asking? Is it OK to use a mat in this area if the gym? What do I do if someone is on the machine I want? If you’re a seasoned gym veteran this might seem easy, but for a new comer, it can be incredibly daunting. Here’s a few gym etiquette rules to keep you on the straight and narrow at the gym and help you on your way to being a gym pro:

  1. Bring a sweat towel. No one wants to use a machine after someone’s sweated all over it.
  2. Put your weights away. If someone is strong enough to lift it, they’re strong enough to put it away

3. If you are resting in between sets and some one wants to share your machine, let them. They will give it back and sharing is caring. Similarly, if someone is using the machine you want, it’s OK to ask them “how many sets have you got left?” (providing they are not mid-lifting the weights….don’t distract them!) Usually the person will say how many sets they have left, and you can either wait around, or ask if it’s OK to share with them? If they say no… that’s rude!

4. Get off the phone. If someone’s  on a machine and they can clearly see someone waiting to use it, there’s nothing more annoying than them just sitting there on their phone. It’s completely acceptable to ask someone how many sets they have left (see above polite asking technique)

5. Bring a water bottle. You will get sweaty, you will need to hydrate!

6. Squats racks are for squats or bench press at busy periods in the gym.

When it is busy in the gym: Do not bicep curl in the squat rack. Do not do pull ups in the squat rack. Do not do shoulder shrugs in the squat rack. It will literally make me want to cry.

7. If you’re not sure of an exercise, ask a member of staff or hire a Personal Trainer for a few sessions. It’s better to do the right exercises with good form than spend a few months doing it wrong and maybe getting injured.

8. This might seem really obvious but….my favourite phrase is D. B. A. D. = don’t be a dick. This is also my rule for life! A lot of people go to the gym to work out stresses from the day, but it’s no excuse to be disrespectful to other gym users or the staff. If someone is a dick, just walk away. Better to stay positive and carry on training the way you want to than to let someone else’s issues ruin your day!

As always if you’ve got any questions about how to train or eat well, or general gym stuff, just drop me a message at 😊

The craziest things I get asked at the gym….

It’s January and every one is in full “New Year New Me” mode, and people are buzzing with lots of questions about the gym. But sometimes they’re afraid to ask!! Simple answer…. don’t be. There is nothing you can say that I haven’t heard before!! Here’s a few examples from the last few years:

-if I eat one meal a day will I look like Arnold Schwarzenegger?

-will eating ginger burn ALL my body fat away?

-if I inject myself with insulin will it make me more ripped? (Quick tip- NO, and it might kill you)

-if I wrap myself in cling film and train really hard, will I sweat out my body fat?

As you can see, there is nothing I haven’t been asked before! Especially when social media like Instagram and YouTube are actively promoting fitness fad diets and crazy fit-tips. A good rule of thumb is, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! As always though if you need any help or advice, please ask me, I’d rather you know and get the right advice to achieve your goals than keep wondering and maybe set yourself back a few months. Email me at for more info 😊

Also this is me when I’m on the treadmill…


“New Day” Resolutions

As the year is drawing to a close, it’s time to look back on all the things you have achieved, or made progress towards achieving. It makes us think about about how far we have come, but also, how far we WANT to go. What do you want to do next year? It gets us on to the subject of New Year’s Resolutions, because inevitably, most people make them. And a lot of people make them about losing weight, or “getting fit”. 

I used to buy into it too, I’d even make a list of all my goals after Christmas, and swear I’d be ready for it in the New Year…. and then New Year would come and go, and I might do a couple of things on the list, but really, by March it’s all fallen by the wayside! So why wait until New Year to make a change? If you have the motivation to do it now, DO IT NOW!!

I say this to a lot of people – don’t wait for the New Year to make a change, all you need is a new day! At this time of year though it is hard to get motivated, but now is the perfect time to start training. Our metabolism slows down in winter, we move less, we eat more…. weight gain is going to happen unless we stay proactive! 

Yes, we all overindulge at Christmas, but we don’t have to let it get out of hand. Offset the mince pies and mulled wine by heading down the gym twice a week, and cutting down on any extra sweet treats that might be creeping in. You’d be surprised how much of a difference these small changes can make!

You will limit the potential for seasonal weight gain, AND head into the party season and New Year carrying a little less timber around. It’ll make you feel better about you, help you look leaner and give you a head start if you DO decide to make some New Years Resolutions! Give it a try 😊

If you have any questions or need any advice on how to get your gym sessions started, or how to limit the Christmas bulge, drop me a message on or 07875465275

Why are pull ups so HARD??

Ok, so you’ve been at the gym a few months now. You’re feeling pretty strong, you’re eating right and you’re working hard. But now you want to try something new. And you see these super buff guys and girls in the gym and on Instagram just knocking out pull ups like they’re nothing. It’s A) pretty impressive, and B) pretty annoying….why can’t I do them?? I feel your frustration!
If you do some research (like you know I love to do!) you’ll be hit with a plethora of different reasons why some people can (or cannot) do pull ups, why males and females are biologically different, that women are weaker, that some people are just “too heavy”, that we don’t need to do pull ups anyway…. this list of pull up articles is literally never ending. I know I’m adding to it with this one, but I’m writing it from a real, first hand perspective, and minus the bullshit.
Why can’t you do pull ups? The simple answer is…. you just don’t train to do them. No body walks into a gym and smashes out 20 pull ups without practising (unless you’re a 15 year old boy, maybe). It’s the same with anything: gymnastics, powerlifting, football, Olympic Lifting, reading, writing…nobody just rocks up and is just able to do these things. They take practice, training, and patience.
The main muscles worked in a pull up are the lats, traps, biceps, rhomboids, and core. Ask yourself: how often do you train those muscles? I mean, REALLY train them? Sure, we all do lat pull downs every now and again, and maybe the odd shoulder shrug, but that isn’t the same as a pull up.  Pull ups take full activation of the muscles of the back, and with our sedentary-sit-down-and-drive-everywhere lifestyles, this just doesn’t happen on a daily basis. Try including bent over rows, upright rows and flexed arm hangs into your training sessions (at least once a week) to really get those muscles activated and ready for performing pull ups.
And make sure you train your core to be strong – pull ups are a lot harder if you’re swinging around like a chimp from a tree. A lot of people find core training boring, but your core is your foundation, and you wouldn’t build a gorgeous mansion on a bed of jelly. I did some serious core training and upper body work to get me to be able to do pull ups, and I’m not gonna lie, it was hard. But one of my biggest motivations was that I kept reading in all these articles how women aren’t meant to do pull ups, that women are not strong enough. Anyone who knows me knows never to tell me I can’t do something, it’s just fuel for the fire! It took time, about 10 weeks, but I got there. I trained the right muscles, I was patient, I worked my core, and it happened. I feel stronger and more in control of my body. And my back looks awesome!
Nobody tells me what my body can and can’t do….except for me.

Calorie Confusion!

It’s the New Year, lots of people are making resolutions, so you decide to tone up a bit, maybe lose some weight, and generally get in shape. And the  bombardment of “New Year, New You” advertising is kind of every where! So you head to the gym, eat healthy, and hope to see some results. But they might not be coming as fast at you’d hoped.

So what’s going on? It’s always good to do a combination of cardio and weights at the gym (always check with your GP before starting a new exercise program!), but are you eating to support your goals? A lot of people check the labels on food to make sure they’re eating low fat, low salt foods, and that they’re sticking to the Government Recommended Daily Allowances of calories, kind of like this:

food label

So these are the top ones that people check; energy (calories), carbs, fat and sodium (salt). But this isn’t the whole story. Along with carbs we need to check the figure below that, because not all carbs are equal. This figure shows how much of these carbs are sugars (yup, regular old sugar that people put in their tea!!). Make sure you check this figure on “low fat” or “healthy option” foods, as they often remove fat and replace it with sugar. This can account for lots of excess calories in our diets, so make sure you check food labels thoroughly.

The one that a lot of people don’t check, is how much protein is in their food. People who attend the gym regularly will need at least 1g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight (people with kidney problems or health issues should consult their GP before changing their diet). So make sure you’re eating enough protein to support your goals….protein isn’t just for body builders!

So, here’s the big one that gets us……

calorie conf image

There are sooooo many articles out there advocating different amounts of calories that will give “optimum weightloss”. The 5/2 diet, the 1200 calories diet, the only having liquids diet, the “take these pills and they’ll make you lose weight” diet…. is it any wonder we’re confused??

Calories confusion

So how do we know how many calories to consume to lose weight, or to put on muscle? It’s easy, we use the Basal Metabolic Rate calculator. To make it even easier, here’s a link to one:

This will work out how many calories you need to eat in a day to maintain your body weight and to survive. Believe it or not, it’s usually a lot lower than the Government RDA! There is also a calculation called the Harris Benedict Formula, which will work out how many extra calories you need to eat depending on your activity levels. If you want to lose weight, create a calorie deficit in your diet of NO MORE than 500 calories, either through diet or exercise, or a combination of the two. Any more than this, and the weight loss might not be sustainable or safe. If you do this every day for a week, you’ll burn 3,500 calories a week, which equals weight loss of 1 pound a week. It’s that easy! You can burn 100 calories in 10 minutes if you go for a 10 minute jog. Just 10 minutes you say? Yes! Happy days 🙂

Also give my article “Weights for Weightloss” a read if you’re interested in toning up, losing weight and getting strong. And as ever, if you have any questions or would like a free consultation with me, feel free to email me on

Not a “New Year, New You” article. Only read if you want to feel better about yourself!

January is by far the crappiest month. All the hype of Christmas is over, it’s back to work, but the bank balance isn’t looking amazing, and neither is the one on the scales. And then there’s all these adverts bombarding people with new magazines and hobbies they can take up (first issue only 99p you know….), how to find a new love interest, and how to lose weight. “New Year, new you!” they all say, and bang on about New Year’s resolutions, how to fight the flab and bust the bulge….it’s enough to make anyone feel like they should be in the gym every night after work.


We’re constantly under the influence of adverts, marketing, and especially social media, all of them telling us how we should act, think and look. It kind of leaves people with an overwhelming sense of not being good enough, not being fit enough, not matching up to how Calvin Klein or Kim Kardashian says we should be.  Well you know what? I don’t think Calvin or Kim have to hold down full time jobs, and they have personal assistants to help them and cleaners to sort out their laundry! I don’t think I’m on my own when I say trying to fit everything in is a struggle.

 kim butt of joke

You’re probably reading this and wondering why I’m going on about society’s problems, when I’m all about getting people fit? While the latter is true, I’m a big believer that getting yourself fitter and healthier should be part of a grander plan, and training in the gym should be done because you have time to do it, not because you feel you have to do it. Most people have the intention of getting fitter/losing weight/getting ripped, but a lot find it difficult to stick to. Why? Because feeling like you have to do something automatically makes it into a chore. Combine that with social pressures, and it’s a recipe for disaster. If you equate training at the gym in the same category as doing the washing up or hoovering, you’re never going to do it!

Except this guy. He loves to hoover.

Here’s a tip: next time you train, make it all about you. It takes a little preparation, but it’s worth it. Download some new music, buy a new CD, that new book you’ve been dying to read but never find the time? Buy it as an audiobook for your MP3 player and pop it in your gym bag. Make sure you have something great to listen to as you lift. Next, leave your phone in your locker! This is your time to sculpt out the body of your dreams, you don’t need any interruptions from work emails or Facebook. This next one takes some practice, but it definitely pays off: try and forget about the people around you. I know, easier said than done! But with your new awesome audio enjoyment on hand, it will be a little easier. People’s biggest fear in the gym is “looking silly”, or people thinking that they don’t know what they’re doing (I know this because I hear it 100 times a day working in the gym!) so rest assured, you are not alone in this fear. But remember, 99% of people in the gym are completely engrossed in their own workouts, so don’t worry about people’s judgment. And lastly, don’t be afraid to try something new or ask for help. The gym staff are there to help you! If you’ve always wanted to try the assisted pull up machine – grab a staff member and get them to show you. If you’re not sure you’re squatting right, ask for a spot. Everyone has the right to enjoy the gym and feel comfortable training there.


If you make your training about your enjoyment and reaching your goals, you’re a heck of a lot more likely to develop a healthy gym routine….and a healthy body. And as always if you’d like any help in the gym or more information, just drop me a line at

bosses don't cancel


Happy New Year! 🙂

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