Fat to fit: Find the right coach to reach your goals

Our writer explains why a good personal trainer is the key to achieving fitness targets

Hannes Loubser, the coach who has been guiding Kevin Hackett through the Lower Back Fix programme
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Fat to fit. The name of this weekly column, some well-meaning friends and colleagues have told me, seems a bit harsh, perhaps even insulting. But that title was my doing, and there was a good reason behind it. I wanted to do all I could to avoid going from fat to fit to fat– something I knew I'd end up doing if I took my eye off the ball for any length of time. How many people join a gym in the new year, go a few times to half-heartedly work out and then simply stop? For me, seeing those three words every week was supposed to be a goad, a constant reminder that I need to put in more work if I want positive results.

And it’s working, too. After a solid six weeks of my Lower Back Fix programme with Dubai’s Iconic Fitness, I’ve seen hard results in the form of data and a definite improvement in the fit of my clothes. My stamina has increased beyond all recognition, my strength has increased and so has the circumference of my thighs and biceps. The ultimate goals, though, remain to decrease my waist ­measurement and eliminate the back pain that’s been a constant factor in my life for the past few years.

Exercise and me, as I have said before, have always been complete strangers. And one of the things I wanted to achieve with this programme was an ability to actually enjoy physical exertion, perhaps even to look forward to getting a sweat on in the gym. As Iconic’s boss, Andy Harper, promised I would, I’ve begun to at least hate it less – and a lot of that is down to the evolving ­relationship with my coach, Hannes Loubser.

Think about it. For a stranger to see you, maybe three or four hours every week, on a one-to-one basis and to guide you through physically punishing routines with the aim of improving your health and extending your life expectancy – that’s a fairly intimate relationship. These people see you at your worst, they help you get up after a fall, both figuratively and literally. They prod you, measure you and weigh you. My coach knows far more about my body than even my wife does. I can’t fob off Loubser by claiming to weigh three kilos less than his scales are showing.

It’s not exactly a friendship in the traditional sense – we don’t hang out with each other or send each other selfies – but as I train, we talk and discover certain shared interests. We’re both into classic cars, we both like electronic music and we both enjoy travelling and experiencing new cultures. And being able to converse about such things takes much of the pain away from the exercise routines, some of which are downright sadistic. But, as the saying goes, no pain, no gain.

There's never a session where I'm doing the exact same routine as before, and I'm constantly getting to use muscles that I didn't know existed. Having to walk the entire length of the gym half a dozen times, with my torso low and my legs stretched out like I'm John Cleese in the Ministry of Silly Walks sketch on Monty Python, renders me almost unable to walk for two days afterwards. But with each task, Loubser explains in layman's terms exactly what the benefit is to me completing them. The muscle groups that need strengthening to help take away some of the strain from my lower back are plentiful and, slowly but surely, they're all getting some attention.

In the past week, two things have threatened to blight my progress, however. First, I badly injured my left shin by walking into our coffee table after turning out the lights – it’s a mess and the sight has my fellow gym-goers retching when they catch sight of it. And, coincidentally, my sciatica has returned, albeit not as seriously as in previous bouts. Both of these mean I have to tone down the intensity of my workouts because the pain is simply off the charts.

Instead of being put on light duties, however, I’m just given tasks that work out different parts of my body. For Loubser, there’s no let-up and, slightly begrudgingly, I admit to myself that it’s probably for the best if I’m to avoid going from fat to fit to fat.


Read more of Kevin's columns:

Results after a month of hurt

Staying the course when one is sick

Sorting out the diet one week at a time

Getting started with the first workout

Facing the hard truths

From fat to fit: Sedentary with sciatica, it’s time for a fitness fix