Client of the Month

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Covid-19 Pandemic

Is globalisation to blame?



Keen runner Jackie is the April 2020 client of the month in unprecedented times. A period of history that will always be remembered.

The warnings have been present in recent years of a possible catastrophic global pandemic. We had scares with SARS, MERS, Ebola and Swine Flu. Yet, the world initially chose to ignore Covid-19 cases in Wuhan causing a global lockdown. There are over 332000 recorded deaths (May 22) which continues to rise resulting in the economies of the world in free fall.


Here in the UK, the public were allowed to exercise outside once a day. Many people started walking, some cycling and others running. For those that already exercised daily, this was a new challenge away from the routine of gyms and exercise classes. For others, it’s a chance to start exercising whilst enjoying the sunny spring weather.

Jackie runs most days and attends exercise classes including body pump workouts. Because the gyms closed, Jackie contacted me for online workouts to maintain and gain strength.

running training

Jackie clocking up miles during lockdown

Strength is vital to runners. Weight training addresses muscle imbalances and helps to prevent unnecessary injuries. Lifting increases mobilisation, builds lean muscle mass, promotes tendon and ligament strength, protects key joints such as the ankles, knees and hips and helps to maintain correct running technique. Therefore, lifting helps you run faster.

Why wouldn’t you lift weights if you were a runner!




I asked Jackie why she decided to go online with her training.

“I realised lockdown had kind of thrown my 2020 goals out of the window. So now I’ve put my ‘run 50 miles in a day’ goal in writing, I’d better get to it”. That’s some goal! Jackie also said “a life goal is to stay as fit as possible for as long as possible and to burn lots of calories so I never need to worry about eating seconds”.

I know exactly what she means!

Ensuring the right amount of calories and correct percentage of macronutrients will improve a runners performance.

A 60 minute run burns between 400-800 calories depending on your sex, size and intensity of run. This equates to a bottle of wine or 100 grams of chocolate. Food for thought!

recording workouts

always record workouts to monitor progression

So with Jackie’s goal and fitness history to hand, I designed a series of programmes with compound lifts, core exercises and varied the sessions to keep workouts challenging and interesting. Recording the reps and weights lifted of each workout helped Jackie to focus when revisiting the same session a few weeks later.





“I like the simplicity of running: the ability to go anywhere, on/off road, new/old routes. But I don’t like getting tired or walking up hills, so I try to combine running with other fitness activities. Lifting weights is rewarding and less hard on the lungs”.

And I agree with Jackie. Lifting weights is vital to a balanced training programme.

You can alternate your days of training between cardio and strength. This way, you are maximising your recovery from each workout and preventing overuse injury, tiredness and burnout.

In addition, the weights will ‘mix it up’ because your programme will be fresh, interesting and promote longevity.

And there is an added bonus to lifting weights. Body composition because increased muscle speeds up the body’s metabolism enabling more calories to be burnt during rest periods. Put simply, you will be burning more calories sitting down then you would if you had less muscle because muscle burns calories, even at rest.


Why online training?

Imagine if this pandemic had been 30 years ago. No access to computers, internet, social media or up-to-date news. How would many of us have coped!

‘Deep emotional traumas in societies overwhelmed by large-scale human disasters like global pandemic diseases, natural disasters, man-made tragedies, war conflicts, social crisis etc., can cause massive stress-related disorders’ (Cosic, Popovic, Sarlija & Kesedzic: ‘Impact of Human Disasters & Covid-19 Pandemic on Mental Health: Potential of Digital Psychiatry’. Psychiatria Danubina 2020; Vol 32 No 1 pp25-31 

I know I would have struggled. Having access to other people outside of your household helps my mental health. After all, we are social animals.

And online training is a means of gaining information, knowledge, support, expertise and social interaction.

Plus it’s a great time management tool. Jackie fits her online workouts around her employment where she currently works from home. Her commitment to scheduling workouts up to a week in advance helps her balance leisure and work time. Another key reason for Jackie winning the April 2020 client of the month. She’s organised and above all, focussed.

Our weekly Zoom sessions have been great for feedback on the training programme. In addition, Jackie has increased strength even though gyms are closed. And she has learnt how to improve her training, stay motivated, keep focussed, update her lifting skills and enjoy the social interaction of the workouts

By embracing online training and working hard during the sessions, Jackie sees attainment of her goal moving closer.

“My 2020 goal is to run 50 miles in a day (and for it not to hurt too much). Now we’re over the peak, I’m figuring out how to achieve it by September”. 

In conclusion, Jackie will achieve her goal. She has been dedicated and committed to every online session and running workout. These are the ingredients required to be the April 2020 client of the month.

Well done Jackie. Keep up the lifting, running, yoga and cycling. By September, you will need a new goal.






Beth, March 2020 client of the month enjoying the TRX pre covid-19


Well, what a challenging month and it is difficult to award March 2020 client of the month with all that is going on.

A pandemic hits the world. As I write this, nearly 50000 people have lost their lives to Coronavirus with over 1 million people currently infected.

Gyms and other public places throughout the UK are closed. It all sounds like the subject of a horror movie.

However, through adversity and with determination, Beth has shown strong commitment to retrieve her previous fitness levels and embark on a home online programme.


Beth being creative with a rucksack and 
some books during a lockdown online session

There has never been a stranger time in my life. The situation we find ourselves in is bleak but there is a glimmer of hope that China’s infection rate is slowing down.

However, it looks like we are in for the long haul of needing to practice social distancing and by staying at home and trying to ensure that we keep ourselves fit and healthy.


Here in the UK, gyms closed from midnight on the 21st March. In addition, the UK government closed access to all public places from 23rd March.

Allowances were made for outside exercise in the form of walking, running or cycling.

Since then, a number of my clients have started training online and this has proven successful to maintain and improve fitness levels.

It has allowed me to be imaginative with exercise prescription such as using bags loaded with books, potatoes and in the case of one my clients, bottles of beer!

In addition, my clients are realising that the best piece of fitness equipment is bodyweight. How many people can do 10 good push-ups? If you can, try with a rucksack full of books strapped to your back.

Beth has embraced the challenge. As a result, she is continuing to improve in strength, fitness and body composition. All the despite no access to a gym and with no specific fitness equipment.

Beth can also download the programme before the scheduled session to prepare household items for workout use.

The wonders of modern technology has allowed us to have live communication during the sessions, as if we were in the gym together.

The live video link free apps enables me to correct technique and tempo to ensure that good practice is applied and preventing possible injury.

Plus, Beth has the added bonus of logging into her account and repeating the programme.

This is the way forward to keep fit in the coming months. The lockdown could carry on into May and June and some aspects of it may still be in place in September and beyond.


Food has not always been easy to find as some people stock-piled unnecessarily.

Supermarkets are taking measures to ensure social-distancing is adhered to and online shopping is not always possible unless you are classified as a vulnerable person. So, the emphasis when shopping must be just the essentials such as fruit, vegetables, fish and meat.

With this in mind, Beth’s diet has improved. This has had a big impact on her body composition and as a result, her health.

By eating a diet loaded with healthy nutrients, Beth is supporting her immune system. With the extra exercise and quality sleep, she is doing all she can to stay fit and healthy during the coronavirus pandemic.


We live in hope that in the coming weeks we will be free of Covid-19. But the chances are that for most of 2020, it will be around, interrupting our freedom of movement and therefore fitness options.

There is a slim chance that public places and gyms may be re-opened by the Autumn.

With that in mind, it is imperative that we all keep fit and healthy to give our immune system every chance to stave off this virus.

Beth has taken this on board and is definitely into a routine of fitness and healthy eating which she has structured around her working day.

And don’t forget those all important 8 hours of sleep every night.


You’ll be amazed at what exercises you can do. Using household items and bodyweight is enough. Go outside and exercise by walking, running, cycling and ensuring you are getting a good dose of vitamin D.

The next few clients of the month will be online clients who are adapting ways and methods to maintain and build fitness, health and ultimately help flatten the curve of infections during this pandemic.

Stay fit and healthy. Stay home. Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly for 20 seconds.

Together, we can do our little bit for the NHS by keeping out of hospital.

Look after yourselves and a thumbs up to Beth who is leading by example.








Heidi (yellow) racing in Paris

On February 7th at the State Pierre de Coubertin in Paris, Heidi, the February 2020 client of the month, lined up alongside some great athletes including the favourite, Margit Haahr Hansen from Denmark.

Heidi stormed out of the blocks and hit the front. She held that lead until the last 100m where Hansen pushed through and finished in an outstanding time of 1 minute 36.8 seconds for 500 metres. Incredible when you think these athletes are over 50!

Heidi from Minerva Bath Rowing Club finished in a time of 1 minute 37.5 seconds and collected a well deserved silver medal. She was ahead of Malin Faraasen from Sweden who came third with a strong 1 minute 38.9 seconds.


silver medal for Heidi

In early November, Heidi contacted Tony Larkman Personal Training to help  her peak for the 500m sprints at the World Indoor Rowing Championships in February.

Heidi has some pedigree. She is currently the British record holder for 1000m for the 50-59 age group with an impressive 3 minutes 32.8 seconds, the British record holder for 100m (17.7 seconds) plus the minute British record with a distance of 321 metres.

Heidi was also the 2018 British Champion over 500m but didn’t compete in 2019, focussing her efforts on the Worlds in February.


Heidi is fairly new to the sport of rowing.

She initially became involved in the sport when a personal trainer commented on her good technique on the Concept 2 indoor rower (see GB Rowings article on Heidi).

Since then, Heidi has been training on the water (as well as breaking indoor rowing records) and is currently aiming for a win at the Henley Masters Regatta in July. She also has one eye on the World Masters Rowing Championships in Linz. Austria in September.

I advised Heidi that development on 2 areas was required to improve her physiology and therefore, row faster.

Strength and endurance.

Heidi has power and speed but lacked a high maximum load. Plus she was fading in the second half of the race. (Everyone does on a 500m sprint, but it is the rate that Heidi was fading that had to be addressed).

She embarked on a compound weight training programme lifting twice a week and monitoring each workout. The improvements were noticeable after the first week.

From November to early March 2020, the February client of the month doubled the weight she lifts for the deadlift.

And the bench press and rows were up by a third.

The one area that is improving at a slower rate is the press above the head  due to an old shoulder injury. However, through correct exercise prescription and patience, the strength and range of movement is steadily increasing.


Heidi on the right training with Ching

Endurance (aerobic fitness or steady state) training is not something you associate with sprinters.

But the 500m indoor rowing race does rely heavily on the body flushing out lactic acid from the body. The better your aerobic (fitness) conditioning, the quicker the body clears and utilises lactate and the faster you can go.

It is also an area that many individuals fail to develop when signing up to a personal training programme.

So we added some long distance low intensity sessions into the programme which Heidi reluctantly agreed too (these workouts aren’t her favourites).

As a result, we tested her over 500m in January and she achieved a personal best.

A combination of her natural ability, weight training and aerobic training enabled Heidi to hold those high octane splits for longer.


Having achieved an outstanding performance at the Worlds, Heidi is currently training at Minerva Bath Rowing Club on the water.

Once the regatta season is over and after a well-earned break, Heidi will be back on the indoor rower (ergo) and aiming to win gold at the World Indoor Rowing Championships in February 2021.

Heidi’s commitment to success in achieving her goal by winning that silver medal plus her approach to training has motivated those around her to achieve their own goals. Even the trainers at Stanza Fitness have been impressed!

And not to mention, Heidi is a thoroughly nice person.

Congratulations Heidi on a well-earned world silver medal, a real French baguette and February 2020 client of the month!

The Bath medallists at the World Indoor Rowing Champs





Tobias (left) at the Brits


Just before the British Rowing Indoor Championships in early December, Tobias contacted me. He needed help to improve his 2k time on the indoor rower for the European Indoors in January and the Worlds in February. After spending many years rowing competitively and coaching, I have developed personalised fail proof fitness personal training rowing programmes to maximise peoples potentials on the indoor rower.

Read on to find out how Tobias improved his times and became the January 2020 client of the month.


There are many fitness rowing personal training programmes that work. Different intensities and volume loads are constantly debated in the rowing world.

How many sessions a week should you train?

At what intensities?

Should you lift weights?

How about cross-training?

Etc etc.

However, I am a firm believer in longevity and avoiding mental and physical burn-out. Hence my approach in a periodised training programme. Each phase of training focuses on different aspects of athletic development.

A polarised training programme is at the core of my personalised programmes to maximise endurance, strength, lactate tolerance and V02max. All too often, people start off enthusiastically and end up burnt out months before the ‘big race’.

The polarised training programme carefully develops an athlete throughout the year ensuring recovery periods are implemented. This allows high quality intense workouts to be completed.

Measuring blood lactates during exercise is the gold standard when identifying training zones. But unless you have a very deep pocket to afford laboratory testing, heart rate training can be an excellent cheap alternative.

So, with heart rate monitor purchased and a personalised race programme, Tobias was set to go.


Tobias went to the Brits following his own training programme and performed well in a time of 6 minutes 19.4 seconds in the 30-39 heavyweight age category placing him 9th.

The new training programme kicked in immediately after the Brits and Tobias settled into a strict polarised training programme. The key was to keep within the designated heart rate zones for each session.

This was difficult for Tobias as some of the sessions were very easy. However, he persevered and held faith that the programme would deliver.

Keeping your heart rate in the correct zone is the most difficult concept to understand when embarking on a new polarised programme.

Each session should have a focus. For example, are you training endurance, lactate tolerance or V02max. If you understand the focus of the session, the training regime becomes easier to follow.


In January, after 5 weeks on the programme, Tobias raced at the Europeans.

In a competitive field, Tobias recorded a time of 6 minutes 15.7 seconds, almost 4 seconds quicker than the Brits.

This earned him a podium finish with a well-earned bronze medal. This cemented Tobias’s belief that the polarised programme was working.

Having raced well, Tobias now focussed on the Worlds in 3 weeks.

Tobias (right) at the Euros


After winning a silver medal at the German Nationals (1000m) in a pre-worlds warm-up race in a time of 2 minutes 58.9 seconds, Tobias started tapering.

With a race plan in hand and racing in a very competitive field, Tobias recorded a season best of 6 minutes 13.7 seconds, A further improvement of 2 seconds from the Europeans and 5.7 seconds quicker than the Brits, finishing 9th overall in the 30-39 heavyweight category.

An amazing improvement in just 8 weeks. Imagine how fast he could have gone if the polarised programme started in March 2019!

Tobias’s determination, dedication, mental strength and intelligence has enabled him to make big gains in a small amount of time.

With further polarised training, Tobias will be able to go faster, win more medals and achieve a personal best by breaking the 6 minutes 10 seconds barrier.

Well done Tobias.

Watch this space!

British Rowing Indoor Rowing Championship Results 2019 - London
European Indoor Rowing Championship Results 2020 - Czech Republic
World Indoor Rowing Championship Results 2020 - Paris





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