Client of the Month

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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








I’m pleased to announce cycling enthusiast Nick, December 2019 personal training client of the month after 3 months of strength training to correct anterior pelvic tilt.

Nick has had back issues which is a common theme among many cyclists and anyone who sits down for long periods each day.

Nick was diagnosed with Anterior Pelvic Tilt (APT). This was causing him back pain during training rides and was negatively impacting everyday life.

APT is a change in posture that happens when the front of the pelvis rotates forward and the back of the pelvis rises. As a result, the shape of the spine is altered.

Nick contacted me in October to discuss how to help him improve his posture, increase strength and enjoy pain-free cycling again.

APT is often caused by shortening of the hip flexors (iliopsoas) which are found connecting the top of the thigh bone (femur) to the ilium. These group of muscles act to lift the knee and bring the thigh towards the abdomen.

In addition, the hip extensors lengthen and become weak. The primary hip extensors are the gluteus maximus and the hamstrings.

Strong glutes are essential for pelvic alignment. Strong hamstrings help you to run, walk and jump and assist the glutes. However, as the quads and hip flexors are the prominent muscles used in cycling, the body becomes unbalanced. A strength and conditioning programme is essential to keep the body correctly aligned.

Nick’s first training session took place in mid October. The programme focussed on the glutes, hamstrings and lower back. This coincided with a plan to increase flexibility in the hip flexors and quadriceps plus improve posture and mobility in the thoracic region of the back.


Nick possesses a high level of cardiovascular fitness from many years of cycling around Bath and Somerset plus previously rowing in London. The plan was for Nick to continue his fitness regime on the bike and to concentrate solely on the weight training in the gym through personal training sessions.


Nick started his personal training strength sessions at Stanza Fitness in Bath by initially using his bodyweight as resistance.

Exercises included bodyweight squats. At first, Nick struggled to perform a squat without excessive lumbar flexion (over flexing from the hips) due to tightness in the hip flexors. A common issue with anterior pelvic tilt.

The programme also included core exercises such as planks, lunges to strengthen glutes and hamstrings, side lunges for abductor (inner thigh) strength, bridges to target glutes, press-ups and supine rows for upper body strength.

These exercises were designed to strengthen weak areas and promote mobility. This is a prerequisite for resistance weight lifting, the natural progression from bodyweight exercises.


Compound weight training is described as exercises that work multiple groups at the same time.

After a couple of weeks, Nick progressed to compound lifts where we added weight plates to movements such as squatting, pressing, pulling and lunging. Nick’s strength increased weekly during each personal training session and his posture improved.

The anterior pelvic tilt which was causing him daily pain was no longer noticeable.

The big 5 lifts introduced were barbell back squats, trapbar deadlift, barbell bench press, dumbbell rows and dumbbell push press. The exercises, sets and reps frequently changed to encourage progression.

In addition to the weekly personal training session, Nick managed to add in an extra weight session in his local gym.

A good progression to the personal training programme was barbell hip thrusts which is a great exercise to develop glutes and hamstrings. This exercise supports back squats, deadlifts and any form of plyometrics or sprinting. In addition, it strengthens the lower back and together with back extensions, these exercises help to prevent injury and encourage good posture.

An added progression to the personal training programme is incline and decline dumbbell and barbell bench press. Flat barbell bench press concentrates on one area of the chest. By adding incline and decline movements, we targeted different parts of the chest (pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, serrates anterior and subclavius) and strengthened the shoulder joint.

Olympic lifts will shortly be added to the personal training sessions as Nick develops his technique. The clean and press is a great compound movement recruiting many parts of the body and developing functional fitness levels.

In addition, parallel dips will be added to develop upper body strength. Initially, resistance bands will be used to assist the movement.

A big goal for Nick is to be able to perform pull-ups. Pull-ups are one of the best ways to develop back strength and improve functional fitness levels. They will also improve grip strength which is vital to a full range of compound lifts.


The core is directly involved in producing power through the movement and the pelvic floor muscles are also strengthened with compound lifts.

Crunches are not a great exercise for a cyclist.

Crunches performed badly involve spinal flexion which is rounding of the lower back to allow you to bend forward at the waist. This movement exaggerates issues related to sitting and cycling.

In addition, crunches can contribute to herniated discs. This is due to repeated flexion of the spine which can cause compression of your spinal discs, causing them to bulge and press on nerves. Rapid compression and decompression degenerates the fibrous outer walls of your discs, causing them to herniate over time.

As a result, Nick is focussing on planks, side planks, wood chops, core presses and back extensions.


Foam rolling works by acting as a self-myofascial (SMR) release on the targeted muscles by eliminating adhesions in the muscles and connective tissue. In addition, foam rolling increases blood flow to the muscles and creates better mobility and reduces inflammation. Unlike static stretching, foam rolling can be added to the workout as a warm-up, cool-down or included into a recovery day.

Essentially, foam rolling allows the muscles to increase their range of motion by reducing the fascial resistance that will inhibit the movement, For example, by foam rolling the quadriceps, Nick’s hips will have a better range of motion. This will help him to perform some of the compound movements producing greater results from the workout.


Nick’s improvements have been achieved with speed. His thoracic posture is better. The APT has been corrected and he continues to improve his strength.

So what next……..

Good posture, a strong core, better flexibility, improved mobility and greater strength. This will enable Nick to continue cycling faster and pain-free up the big hills around Bath. And by enjoying pain-free cycling, his fitness levels will increase as training frequency improves.

Nick is now at a stage where he can focus on a particular goal or race in mind. This will involve periodising his fitness and strength programme to have a strong performance at an event.

Nick will be enjoying some skiing this winter in the Alps. Knee and BOSU exercises to increase balance and proprioception are to be programmed in for the next few weeks. As well as targeting knee strength and stability, exercises have been created to increase ankle support and calf strength.

Nick has focussed on strengthening the body to enable him to continue cycling and enjoying life. He is an inspiration to many with his tenacity, dedication and drive. I’ve no doubt he will continue to improve on the bike, in the gym and on piste.

Well done Nick and enjoy the après-ski.








Mel & Ching, 2 lightweight rowers from Minerva Bath Rowing Club contacted me in September to help with them with personal training and fitness. A plan to increase strength, prevent injuries and row faster was created.

Rowing is a sport with which I have a long history. Awareness of the potential injuries from ignoring a good strength and conditioning phase within a programme is an area that a good personal trainer will resolve. This is to ensure top fitness levels are achieved.

Sports like rowing are fantastic to participate in. However, like most repetitive sports, issues with over-worked muscles can inhibit mobility, cause injury and resulting in poor performances. Injury causes low fitness levels resulting in poor rowing performances.

So, after having had a chat with Mel and Ching about their goals, a strength and conditioning fitness programme was planned.

The plan will enable Mel and Ching to train with greater mobility, flexibility and stability. This will improve technique and increase boat speed (not to mention the aesthetic benefits from lifting).

After all, hiring a good personal trainer will promote good health, well-being, fitness, strength and confidence.



Mel and Ching’s goal is to peak in July. With that in mind, I counted back block periods of rowing and fitness training to periodise aspects of strength and conditioning within the personal training programme.

The first phase is focussed on hypertrophy.

For the past 10 weeks, Mel and Ching have been lifting to increase muscle mass and endurance fitness.

Weight management is an important factor for lightweight rowers. They have to be on weight for races. So diet is crucial for anyone involved in lightweight rowing.

However, care has to be taken that fitness and recovery levels are not affected by poor nutrition.

By eliminating high sugar foods and following a healthy manageable eating plan, weight management is controlled during the hypertrophy phase thus promoting strength and fitness.

Also, the extra hours of aerobic fitness training help to manage weight (a refocus on eating habits is advised when the weighing scales have been unkind!)

In the new year, Mel and Ching will transfer into a phase of strength and then into power training as they move closer to the goal.

The weight lifting has been designed alongside the rowing training to support aerobic and anaerobic fitness phases of the programme.


I have asked Mel and Ching to focus on diet with the concentration of macronutrients on protein to enable physiological adaptations and recovery.

Organic foods such as wild fish, beef, pork, poultry and game have been introduced into the diet.

Dairy alternatives such as coconut yoghurt have been included containing excellent sources of probiotics.

In addition, prebiotic foods have been included to encourage good gut microbiome.

Carbohydrates are focussed on rice, gluten free porridge and vegetables. No wheat foods.

Vegetables contain high levels of nitrates which play an important role in muscle efficiency and regulating blood pressure.

The nitric oxide from vegetables and fruits regulates vasodilation, relaxing blood vessels and improving blood flow, which allows more oxygen to reach the muscles.

Arugula and beetroot juice are excellent sources of healthy nitrates. Rhubarb and green leafy vegetables also have high nitrate content levels.

Healthy fats are prioritised with the emphasis being placed on consuming Omega 3 fats found in fish, flax seeds, chia seeds, eggs, walnuts and avocados.

Omega 3 fatty acids are used to lower blood pressure, slow down the development of plaque in the arteries, help fight depression, improve eye and brain health and lower triglycerides.

In addition, Omega 3 fatty acids raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation in the body, reduce metabolic syndrome, reduce risks of autoimmune diseases and may prevent some cancers.

Omega 3 fatty acids may also reduce fat in the liver, improve bone and joint health, improve sleep and can alleviate menstrual pain.


Mel and Ching are both  incredibly focussed people. And they are mentally strong and very competitive. Interestingly enough, this doesn’t make my job any easier.

When training any athlete, recovery is vital. The majority of athletes train too hard. They often ignore pains, illnesses and injuries and exercise through pain and sickness, much to the detriment of their health.

The body needs to return to homeostasis before you exercise again. I am not a believer in over-reaching training as this sits too closely to over-training resulting in chronic fatigue illnesses which can last weeks, months and sometimes years.

However, with Mel and Ching, they are focussed on smart training after years of hard intense workouts. We have a couple of tools to monitor whether they are ready to train hard again. Namely, resting heart rate and heart rate variability.

Ching, who has a lack of movement in her shoulder due to an accident resulting in an operation has increased her range of movement in the area. In addition, she has increased her strength in all the lifts including bench press which she was originally unable to perform.

Mel has improved her strength in all lifts. Notably, lifting her body weight on the deadlift and lifting over half her bodyweight on the bench press.

Both Mel and Ching’s physiques are changing with the development of core, glutes, hamstrings and mobility in the hips and shoulders.

As a result, their rowing techniques have improved and an additional increase in stroke power on the rowing machine.

And they’ve only really just started on this journey!


After Christmas, there will be a couple of weeks of continued lifting in the hypertrophy phase before the programme moves from hypertrophy to strength training.

Also, there will be an increase in rowing fitness and personal training sessions to ensure goals are being achieved.

Unfortunately, Mel and Ching are unable to train together for the next 2 months but are continuing the programme and training separately. They will be regularly communicating with each other and comparing results.

Mel and Ching’s programme will be changed to rowing specific endurance training after Christmas.

This will develop their aerobic engine for rowing. From this, an emphasis will be to develop a higher anaerobic threshold and VO2max which will help them increase their speed for the summer races.

For now though, coaching the rowers and seeing the positive results has led me to champion them both as the November clients of the month.

Well done Mel and Ching and we are all looking forward to watching you win a bag of medals in the summer.



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