TV presenter Ranvir Singh was a child of 9 years old when her father died of a heart attack in his early forties.
So when a health check-up came back with warning signs flashing red just before her 42nd birthday, it was a sobering wake-up call.
As a mum with a son the same age she was when she lost her dad, Ranvir didn’t want to carry on down that same path.
Ranvir, who appears on ITV’s Good Morning Britain alongside Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid, says that was the moment she knew it was time to take control of her health for her son.
Despite being a self-confessed hater of gyms with a long track record of failed get-fit plans, she set aside her ‘gymtimidation’ and came to Ultimate Performance Mayfair.
Over the past 12 months, Ranvir has worked alongside her personal trainer to improve her health, increase her strength and fitness and develop healthy new habits.
While she still might not love exercise, she has experienced the power of weight training for a better mind and body for herself.
Training in the lead up to “Strictly…”
Ranvir has come a long way since she started with Ultimate Performance and is now taking on the challenge of the BBC’s flagship Strictly Come Dancing show.
“You realise that this veneer of health and fitness being this magical destination that only if I could get there, wouldn’t it be amazing if I could be like her or like him.
“You come here and you realise that everyone is just working hard. There are no shortcuts.
“You just have to get through the pain if you want to get to the prize. In a certain sense, that’s the same thing for Strictly, isn’t it?
“I am going up against trained athletes (in Strictly). There is an Olympic gold medal boxer, there is an NFL player. I am not going to be able to compete with that level of lifelong fitness, health and stamina.
“But certainly being here has reminded me and made me realise that pain is temporary and discomfort is temporary and that pain and discomfort is the thing you have to push through to get to the other side and see the success that you envy other people having.”
Finding her motivation
Every fitness journey begins with a single step, and there is always a moment of realisation that things must fundamentally change.
It was no different for Ranvir.
She was on the cusp of turning 42 and had just undergone a full health MOT.
While the results didn’t come as a shock, seeing her health starkly laid out forced her into some serious soul searching about the direction she was heading.
“I had this full health check and it came back with everything I knew -– most of it was green, some of it was yellow, but a few of the vital things were red.
“Cholesterol was in the yellow. My BMI and body fat percentage were in the red.
I already knew that. But I kind of needed to see it in black and white written down.
“There is no going back from that. If you carry on that way there is only one thing – there’s diabetes and early death.
“My dad died of a heart attack, so there’s heart disease on that side of the family. So it was quite a moment really. It was a breakthrough at that point.”
Ranvir says she wasn’t motivated by vanity or aesthetics – her real ‘why’ driving her desire to change was her health, her future and her young son.
She says her trainer, Alastair, quickly identified this the first time they spoke.
“I have always struggled with motivation. I am not vain, so therefore I don’t look in the mirror.
“I think I look terrible, but I don’t really care enough about how I look for that to be the motivator, and I’ve always known that.
“It really was when I came in here that Alastair drilled down into what it was – it really was that my dad died at the age of 42.
“I was about to turn 42 and I was around 9 when my dad died and my son is now 8. The parallels were there.”
Ranvir’s trainer helped her keep this deep motivation front-of-mind throughout her programme, especially when the going got tough.
“He used that as his motivation for me to constantly remind me of who you are doing this for.
“You might not care about yourself, but you have a responsibility. Don’t forget that.
“He knew when I didn’t want to do anymore, he would say that one thing and that would push my buttons and make me finish the reps. It worked.”
The U.P. difference
Ranvir had worked with personal trainers in the past – but nothing stuck.
Either it was a one-size-fits-all approach that didn’t take into account her goals or her lifestyle, or there was no rapport to sustain a productive working relationship.
But Ranvir felt right from the outset that things were different at U.P.
“What makes the biggest difference is the consultation.
“There is that instant thing of ‘I’m going to get under your skin. There’s no time limit, I want to know absolutely everything that made you walk through the door.’
“It was a complete soul-bearing thing. Then once you do that, once it’s not just about your body, once it’s about what’s going on in there (your head) and all the pain and all the insecurities and everything, then your rapport with your personal trainer is so tight that then you kind of hear their voice when you are not here.
“Alastair gave a lot of himself too. He talked about his own mental health too, and mine.
It went way way way beyond any conversation I had had with any personal trainer ever.”
Together, Ranvir and her trainer examined everything – home life, work life, eating habits, sleep routine, holidays – to help put together a holistic programme that would be truly effective.
With Ranvir being a highly successful broadcaster, working on GMB, Loose Women and ITV News, she is on-the-go from the early hours and has little time to think about food or exercise.
So being able to outsource all the thinking and planning around training and nutrition was a huge weight off her shoulders.
“After an hour and a half, he said to me ‘Right. You’ve got so much going on. The thing that is bothering you the most – this weight thing and the thing about your health and your food – I am going to take that off your plate and that’s mine now. I look after that for you. You don’t even have to think about it now.’
“He took total ownership of our journey. I found that very relieving that here was someone going ‘give me that really crappy bit of your life that you find really hard to deal with, and that’s mine. I deal with that crap for you’.
“I found it quite a relief because you carry around the daily anxiety of theweight you’re carrying, the food you’re having -– and food is such a source of anxiety for me and continually has been. It is a lifelong thing.
“I still haven’t cracked it, but to have someone totally understand that, and share with me something of their own journey, really made me realise they understood what I was going through.”
It was the strong relationship and the accountability that kept Ranvir going where in the past she says she would have given up.
Having someone alongside her as a trusted advisor, to monitor her progress inside and outside of the gym, and help her stay consistent made a big difference.
“You get what you pay for. You get total accountability. He was on me day or night. He wouldn’t let up.
“He was hard on me, but always with kindness – because I knew he knew my situation. He wasn’t just being a git and on a power trip.
“He genuinely cared about my outcomes. He genuinely wants me to be better for myself.”
Weights over cardio
Learning to train with weights instead of endless hours doing cardio has been something of an epiphany for Ranvir.
What has surprised her is how effective it can be for women.
“Actually for women, especially as I am getting older – I am 43 – you get osteoporosis and menopause and all those kinds of things, and the more and more I read about it, the weight training and having strength is what will really hold your body together as you age.
“So that has been really interesting to me that often we think of doing a step class or aerobics class, which are great and fun, but actually, as I have learned, it is the weight training that is the most effective way of maintaining body fat loss and maintaining strength and bone health – and all of those things hold you together.
“It’s been an education to me really because I never really thought weight training for a woman was the thing. It’s quite a masculine pastime and certainly anything I had ever thought of.
“But now I can see it’s the only thing really long-term is good for you, especially as a woman.
Ranvir admits she will never be a ‘gym bunny’ who loves exercise and the gym. But she knows that the benefits of proper training and nutrition for health and longevity are paramount.
“I don’t know if I will ever be somebody who actually enjoys exercise. But you have to do things you don’t enjoy anyway sometimes, because it’s the right thing to do.
“The fact that I’m here suggests that I’m over my hurdle of thinking I have to enjoy everything.
“You can’t enjoy everything – and that can’t be the only common denominator of whether exercise is good for you.”
Sustainable training, at last
After years of trying new workouts, classes and diets, Ranvir has found something she can actually sustain. This has been a revelation for her.
“My normal mindset around exercise is after the first thrill of the first four weeks of thinking ‘this is it! I’m on my journey. This is the one!’
“I’ve done that probably 150 times in my adult life, where I’ve thought ‘new PT, new class at the gym, I’m going to start running’ – whatever it is. Try, try, try.
“Then after the first few weeks, the novelty wears off and I start bringing in all my normal excuses – ‘I’m too tired, I haven’t got time, it’s boring, I’ll leave it today but I’ll go tomorrow’ – and tomorrow never comes.
“Here it is the longest I’ve ever sustained an exercise routine in the same place or with the same people, ever. So that in itself obviously reflects that something is happening up here.”
What is different about the Ultimate Performance approach is the results are tangible and quantifiable – whether that’s in terms of weight lost, body fat dropped, or health markers improved.
Ranvir could see the results of all her hard work in black and white.
“So they do your body fat percentage here and that came down last year with Alastair and then Mike at the end of the year.
“Actually my body did change. I’ve never looked or felt better than I did up until the end of last year.”
Her trainer Alastair flew out to work at Ultimate Performance’s new gym in Mumbai, and she began the learning process with her new trainer, Mike.
Then Christmas came, Ranvir went away and before long the world was plunged into the coronavirus crisis which brought a raft of challenges.
But she was determined not to use this as an excuse to fall back into her old lifestyle and back to ‘square one’.
“I found the transition quite hard. I found the motivation a little different.
“But I think the fact that I did some Zoom lessons at home with Mike – that was really important to me and I really enjoyed doing them from home.
“Then coming back here (to U.P. Mayfair) was perhaps a sign that if I had wanted to use that big long break as an excuse to let myself off the hook and go back to the way I was a year ago, before I’d walked through the doors here, then this was the perfect excuse to do it.
“But there’s something about the efficiency of being here that still makes me want to keep coming back – even though I’ve gone back a few steps in my weight and whatever.
“It has drawn me back in because I know it works.”
From U.P. transformation to ballroom dancing
Strictly Come Dancing has given her a new goal and focus after a tough 2020.
Working with U.P. over the last 12 months to improve her strength and fitness has given her a really strong foundation that will serve her well on Strictly.
What has perhaps been the best preparation for Strictly is the upgraded mindset the training has given Ranvir.
“I had never heard the phrase ‘train to failure’ before.
“It was a kind of blow-your-mind concept – I was like ‘surely I am meant to finish the exercise?’
“He was like ‘when you can’t do anymore, that’s when I know I’ve pushed you enough today.’
“That idea of ‘training to failure’ has been quite a revelation to me – that you stop when you can’t go anymore. That is sort of a brilliant motto really for me.”
Ranvir used to find the gym an intimidating place – she says she never felt good enough.
But she has well and truly smashed through this fear. This new-found confidence will surely translate onto the Strictly dancefloor.
“I definitely feel it’s been an education being here. It has allowed me to think I can do it as opposed to the constant fear of failure.
“I used to be afraid. It used to make me feel physically sick when I was going towards the gym or walking up to one.
“My fear factor has almost diminished. I’m not afraid anymore.”
Strength or resistance training challenges your groupes musculaires with a stronger-than-usual counterforce, such as pushing against a wall or lifting a dumbbell or pulling on a resistance band. Using progressively heavier weights or increasing resistance makes muscles stronger. This kind of exercise increases force mass, tones groupes musculaires, and strengthens bones. It also helps you maintain the strength you need for everyday activities — lifting groceries, climbing stairs, rising from a peau, or rushing for the bus.
The current national guidelines for physical activity recommend strengthening exercises for all major force groups ( legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms ) at least twice a week. One set — usually 8 to 12 repetitions of the same movement — per séance is effective, though some evidence suggests that two to three sets may be better. Your groupes musculaires need at least 48 hours to recover between strength training séances.
Warm up and cool down for five to 10 minutes. Walking is a fine way to warm up; stretching is an extra way to cool down.
Focus on form, not weight. Align your body correctly and move smoothly through each exercise. Poor form can prompt injuries and slow gains. When learning a strength training routine, many experts suggest starting with no weight, or very light weight. Concentrate on slow, smooth lifts and equally controlled descents while isolating a force group.
Pay attention to your breathing during your workouts. Exhale as you work against resistance by lifting, pushing, or pulling; inhale as you release.
Keep challenging groupes musculaires by slowly increasing weight or resistance. The right weight for you differs depending on the exercise. Choose a weight that tires the targeted muscle or muscles by the last two repetitions while still allowing you to maintain good form. If you can’t do the last two reps, choose a lighter weight. When it feels too easy to complete add weight ( roughly 1 to 2 pounds for arms, 2 to 5 pounds for legs ), or add another set of repetitions to your workout ( up to three sets ). If you add weight, remember that you should be able to do all the repetitions with good form and the targeted muscles should feel tired by the last two.
Stick with your routine — sérieux all the major groupes de muscles of your body two or three times a week is ideal. You can choose to do one full-body strength workout two or three times a week, or you may break your strength workout into upper- and lower-body components. In that case, be sure you perform each component two or three times a week.
Give zones musculaires time off. Strength training causes tiny tears in muscle tissue. These tears aren’t harmful, but they are important : muscles grow stronger as the tears knit up. Always give your muscles at least 48 hours to recover before your next strength training séance.