Are you still dithering about getting fit – even though you promised you really would take it seriously this year? We visit the Personal Health Club in Amsterdam to find out why its personalised training concept gets clients such good results.
‘The personal attention that we give is what we stand for,’ says Ashton Payne, trainer and club manager at the Personal Health Club in the heart of Amsterdam’s Oud Zuid district. Founded in May 1997, the club has a long history of working closely with its members, the majority of which have stayed with the club in excess of 10 years.
The Personal Health Club fills a gap between costly 1:1 personal training and conventional gym membership, offering a concept based on small groups working out with shared personal trainers.
A month’s membership costs €115 and gives you unlimited access to the gym and a huge choice of (extra) classes such as Zumba, B-kick, yoga, boxing, Pump and more. Gym fatigue is unlikely. ‘[Normally] you go to the gym and you do the same thing over and over,’ says Ashton. ‘What they get here is a variety of exercises specific to their goals.’
The club has just 12 members of staff and feels much more welcoming than your typical corporate, inner-city gym. Though new guests from the Hilton hotel next door trickle in from time to time, almost every member is known to the team by name. ‘We don’t want you to just be a member of 1,500 people,’ explains Ashton. ‘We want you to have that personal feeling towards the gym that you go to.’
Each member has an individualised fitness programme. One or two trainers are always on duty and the main gym is limited to 16 members at any one time. Between 10am and 5pm, when the club is quieter, you can often get a trainer to yourself.
Most group lessons are for a maximum of 12 members, while pilates classes are limited to six. ‘It’s unrealistic to want to make sure that everybody is doing something right if you have big classes,’ explains club manager and trainer Nando Chirino.
Feel at home
Clients are of all ages, but most are aged 40+ and appreciate the comfortable, social environment that characterises the club. ‘We just want people to feel like they are at home, that they are not scared to train,’ says Nando, who, like all the trainers, is also used to instructing members in several languages.
‘A lot of people have a fear of the gym and this is what we try to make a difference in. You can be free training with us, you don’t need to be afraid to tell us anything or tell us about any goal that you want to achieve.’
And since the trainers are part and parcel of your gym experience, there’s always someone to guide you or answer your questions. ‘It’s not like when you go to a store and you’re waiting to see who’s going to help you,’ says Nando. ‘We’re always there to help you and everybody tries to train everybody in equal measure.’
Anyone can come into the club and do two trial sessions for free. If they decide to enroll, there’s a thorough intake meeting – including a weigh-in and various computerised body mass calculations – designed to help the trainer get to know you better.
In discussion with their clients, the trainers set realistic, attainable goals with a monthly follow-up and a full personal assessment twice a year. ‘I just love the reward you get from someone coming in and not being able to run five minutes on a tread mill, to doing 15-20 minutes after a couple of months of training,’ says Ashton.
The Personal Health Club takes a holistic view of the client’s well-being. On-site facilities include a physiotherapist, beauty technician and masseur. There is also a Turkish steam bath, a sauna and a bar serving delicious smoothies. Instructors can offer nutritional advice and some clients even keep a food log as part of their training programme.
Ashton is my trainer for the afternoon and is giving me a taster of how they work. As I warm up gently on the cross trainer machine, we talk about my fitness goals: more stamina and better posture. Since he’s put me at ease, I also throw a pancake-flat stomach into the mix. I explain that exercise for me is mostly about boosting my mood and my energy. I tell him about the pilates I do, and the 6k runs I’ve recently taken up.
Ashton is not at all sure I should be doing laps of the Vondelpark without seeking advice first. He is even less impressed when I wobble through a balancing test. You should build up your knee strength, he tells me, and be sure you’ve got the right running form, or the running may do more harm than good.
We arrange a return visit to the gym where he will use a heart monitor to get a better idea of my fitness. We’ll also work on building strength around my knees, specifically the quadriceps and hamstrings, to help with running, and in my back to improve my posture.
Doing exercises incorrectly wastes time and can be bad for your body, Ashton explains. ‘This concept is developed to make sure that you are efficient in the workout that you are getting.’
When I’m on the chest press machine, for example, Ashton notices that one shoulder is compensating for the other. We need to look into why that is, he tells me. As I write this, hunched lopsided over my computer, I have a pretty good idea. I think I’ll follow up my next session with a sauna and soak.
Visit personalhealthclub.nl to find out more about how Ashton and the team can help you meet your fitness goals.
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