As Gemma Atkinson swirled around the Strictly dancefloor last year, millions of viewers admired the Hollyoaks star’s lean frame and toned limbs.
For one guy, tuning in at home, it was a particular source of pride.
Steve Chambers first met the 33-year-old actress last summer, when she came into the gym where he works, looking for some expertise.
“She’d been working out on her own in the gym for a while,” says personal trainer Steve, who is originally from Doncaster.
“Then at the beginning of the summer she signed up for one of our 12 week transformations, ahead of her stint on Strictly. I began working with her three or four times a weeks and the change in her during that time was incredible to see.”
As well as her training sessions at Ultimate Performance Fitness Manchester, Gemma also tightened up her diet with Steve’s help, to shed 13lbs in weight and 4.6 per cent body fat, taking her down to a lean 11.4 per cent body fat by August.
“We were about eight weeks into the transformation when she told me about Strictly and, a couple of weeks after she finished, she was on the show. It was fantastic, when the cameras showed her in training with Aljaž, seeing her wearing her UP-branded leggings!”
When it came to Gemma’s transformation diet, Steve said he kept things simple, setting just a few key rules for Gemma to follow to get the results she wanted.
“We focused on eating real food – so healthy sources of lean protein, good fats, lots of green vegetables and a moderate amount of healthy carbohydrates.
“Getting quality food into your body and eliminating processed junk and refined carbohydrates can help you take huge steps towards your body transformation goals – improving everything from your focus at work, and your performance in the gym, to your body’s hormonal environment and the quality of your sleep, skin, nails and hair.
“Gemma ensured that she ate a breakfast high in protein and healthy fats to stabilise her blood sugar, control her appetite and give her the slow-releasing energy she needed in the morning. Carbohydrates were mainly kept until the last meal of the day. Contrary to the old myth that you ‘shouldn’t eat carbs after 3pm,’ we get the best results with clients who reserve their carb intake until the evening.
“Gemma lost quite a bit of bodyfat and bodyweight during her transformation, considering she was in good shape to begin with. If ever her schedule meant we had to skip a session, she’d always make up for it, hopping on her bike at home to pack some cardio in. She’s a really hard worker.”
Steve has been working at Ultimate Performance since 2015 and has been a personal trainer for eight years.
“I love what I do,” adds the 27-year-old, who still regularly trains Gemma.
“I’ve always been interested in sports and fitness. Working as a personal trainer is so satisfying. - for somebody to come in and drop weight and hit their goals, it’s terrific seeing their confidence grow and the way they feel about themselves change.
“There’s this misconception that you have to be fit to work with a personal trainer, but generally it’s the people who aren’t in the best shape, or those that need to improve, that are the ones who will benefit from time with a personal trainer.
“I work regularly with about 15 clients a week and they’re all completely different people, of different ages, with different jobs.”
And Steve practices what he preaches, training at the gym around four times a week, and keeping an eye on his calorie intake, balancing his proteins, fats and carbs.
“I don’t eat a set number of meals a day,” he says.
“Contrary to popular belief, there’s no need to be that restrictive - sometime I eat five meals, other days I eat two, depending on my schedule. We tell our clients the same thing; I have clients that eat seven times a day because that suits them.”
And according to Steve, changing your lifestyle for the better doesn’t have to be all-consuming, there are simple changes you can make today that will make all the difference.
“Write everything down that you eat, that’s one of my top tips,” he says.
“It’s easy to forget things you’ve had and overdo it on calories, so make yourself accountable by keeping track. Second, try to be as active as possible, even at work, taking the stairs and getting up from your desk to walk around periodically. Finally, eat real food as much as possible - grabbing an omelette or some chicken instead of a protein bar, and cooking fresh rather than buying processed.
“Once you get going, it’s amazing to see how people’s goals change. I have clients that come to me looking to simply drop weight and tone up, and six months later they’re feeling better than they’ve ever felt, and I’m training them for marathons and Ironmans.”