Get the Body You've Always Wanted

Get the Body You've Always Wanted

When it comes to personal trainers a one-size-fits-all approach is plain wrongheadedness. You need to find somebody who understands your strengths and weaknesses, someone who knows when you need to be pushed and when to hand you the water bottle, and most of all you need somebody who can help you achieve the body shape you really want. For many of London’s most style conscious and successful, that trainer is Christina Howells – a woman whose collection of press clippings speaks volumes about her ability to do all of the above.

Working from Mark Anthony’s Notting Hill fitness HQ, Christina’s work space looks much like any other swanky West London gym on the surface, but it’s the way she uses the equipment which puts her in a league of her own. At the start of her career she trained mainly male clients (including Ralph Fiennes) but since then has developed techniques to sculpt the perfect slim but strong female physique, with results which have earned her a reputation as the British equivalent of Tracy Anderson (Gwyneth Paltrow’s trainer and business partner for those not in the know).

My first hour long session starts with 20 minutes of rebounding (AKA trampolining) which incorporates twists and angular leg lifts to target the bum and thigh region while encouraging lymphatic drainage. It’s so much fun I almost forget we’re exercising, and even when the cardio portion of the session is over and we move onto leg lifts in sets of 30 reps, Christina’s chatty demeanour is a welcome distraction from the burn.

During our chats I learn that there aren’t many disciplines that Christina isn’t qualified in. Yoga, Pilates, ballet, nutrition – you name it she’s studied it, which makes her approach all encompassing. You won’t be doing weighted squats and lunges under her watch, which can cause one of her most frequently heard complaints – "lots of women say that their old training routine gave them bulky calves, and now they can’t get into their favourite boots" she tells me. It’s not about pumping iron and sweating until you feel faint; it’s about controlled movements with lots of reps that target those stubborn areas.

My second session begins on the treadmill, but we’re not running - that would be far too normal / dull for a session with Christina - we’re skipping and jumping and galloping, or "dancing" to use Christina’s word – and it beats the hell out of jogging. Sure, pedestrians walking by the open window directly in front of our machines are giving us funny looks, but I’m enjoying the choreography so much that I just don’t care. Next it’s lunge walking (which I’ve tried at my own gym since) and more leg lifts, before we head upstairs for some core work.

Core is my strongest area so we go to town on the exercises – my favourite of which works the inner thighs too and can be recreated at home like this:

1. Fold two small towels and stick one under each foot.
2. Assume a plank position, distributing weight between your forearms and the tips of your toes.
3. Move your legs apart and then back together again, using your core strength to keep your body stable and straight, for as many reps as you can stand.

I was sorry to stop after the two sessions Christina and I agreed upon for this review. She knows an incredible amount about health and fitness, and constantly adds to that knowledge base (she’s currently studying for a degree in nutrition). Everybody could benefit from even one session under Christina’s tutelage, and if you can afford more it’ll be a very wise investment indeed – I was aching in places I didn’t even know I had muscles!

Christina Howells’ top five tips for getting a fit, slim and healthy body:

1. Ditch the diet and don’t over exercise - extreme calorie restriction is detrimental to weight loss due to the impact it has on metabolism.
2. Choose fitness activities that you enjoy - your workouts should enhance your life rather than become another stressor. If you dread doing it then I guarantee it won’t have the desired effect.

3. Aim to simply be more active all day long. Walking as much as possible is a great way to burn up calories without even noticing.

4. Consider fitting yoga into your weekly schedule. It’ll get you out of your own head for an hour and allow you to focus entirely on the body. You’ll leave feeling calm and in control, and won’t be inclined to reach for that tub of ice cream in the freezer.

5. AVOID SUGAR! Watch out for refined sugars which can be hiding in so-called ‘healthy foods’ - high fructose corn syrup found in breakfast cereals is a perfect example of this. Artificial sweeteners are also terrible. Every time you drink a Diet Coke the sweet taste triggers an expectation of energy in your body, and when that isn’t delivered it actually makes you even hungrier and more likely to reach for a quick fix.

To book a session or for more information email Christina at [email protected] or visit