By Nick Pelling

After a 55th birthday you would probably think the pressure to have the body beautiful eases off a bit. Surely we can all just relax into our wrinkles and laugh at joggers from inside the pub. But no, the David Lloyd Leisure group want the oldies not just to stay fit but actually to become personal fitness trainers. They announced earlier this month that, as well as recruiting hundreds of fresh fitness trainers to help and support their members “as they get their lives back on track after the pandemic”, they have pledged to engage a trainer aged 55 or over in every one of their clubs by the end of 2022.

Personal fitness training at David Lloyd
PICTURE: Charlotte Bennett

The leisure corporation have long been putting themselves forward as offering healthy ‘lifestyle choices’ for the ‘whole family’; they now seem to be looking forward to a new breed of gym grannies scaring the life out of the fatty generation. Or, to put it their way, they are encouraging a more “age-diverse environment” in their gyms “so that everyone feels at ease whatever their age or fitness level”.

It is hard to know whether there will be a rush of bright old things to the new fitness front line. But the David Lloyd group are incredibly successful: they have over 99 clubs around the country and 15 more in Europe. They will have done their market research, and may well have spotted a new trend and indeed a new possible slogan: the end of oldness.

Breakfast TV

Historically, the rise of the personal trainer can be tracked back to the 1980s, coinciding with the arrival of breakfast TV. The relentless appetite for schedule filling gave rise to new gurus such as Diana Moran, otherwise known as the Green Goddess. Now, people like Joe Wicks seem to offer far more than mere fitness, more of a fantasy friendship. 

PICTURE: Charlotte Bennett

Local personal trainer, Zak Horsley, confirms that the pandemic has increased his client base. There are obvious reasons for this: with people trapped at home, following a programme of exercise is a way of not only getting fit but also of staying sane. But, as Zak says there is no such thing as a quick fix: people have to get over the boredom barrier of repetitive exercise. As a self-employed businessman, Zak is very much aware that unlike big corporations he must do more than just ‘sell the dream,’ he must get to know his customers well and even be sufficiently honest to offer occasional reality checks: a balancing act at which he is brilliant. His shrewd philosophy seems to be that each individual, of whatever age, needs a sharply personalised programme. 

It seems likely that the post-pandemic era will see a continuing growth of the fitness business. As the David Lloyd advertising material says, people will be looking on to get back on track and maybe even lose the couch potato waistline. However, it remains a riddle that the wellness industry is booming at the same time as concerns about obesity swell.  

People like Joe Wicks seem to offer far more than mere fitness, more of a fantasy friendship

It would obviously be churlish to sneer at the idea of aged trainers. Ageing is in itself changing. But doubters may argue that the tentacles of narcissism are spreading to all parts of the body. We certainly live in the age of the ‘selfie’, when all celebrities have perfect white teeth and reality TV has promoted more cosmetic unreality than almost anything else. And yet, it is surely a worthy aim to seek a healthy life and even aspire to the body beautiful. Personally, I remain sceptical that we can all exercise time itself away, but who knows?  Perhaps, as Zak implies, the key thing is to remember that different people need different dreams.

For Zak Horsley’s personal training service, offered in Hastings, Battle and Bexhill, see zakhorsley.co.uk. The nearest David Lloyd fitness centre is  at Hampden park, Eastbourne. 


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