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The actress and radio presenter on her 12-week transformation at UP Fitness

WE have to admit to a certain amount of cynicism when we first heard about actress and Strictly star Gemma Atkinson's twelve-week body transformation at personal trainers Ultimate Performance.

Because surely this was a lady who was already in very good shape? We'd watched her in Hollyoaks and Emmerdale, and regularly seen her photographed for magazines: in our eyes, she looked great. So what kind of transformation was she looking for, exactly?

It turns out that her reasons for signing up for the UP programme were about much more than physical appearance. And the results she got went far beyond that too.

Here she talks about why she started the programme and the transformative effect it had on her mood, skin, confidence levels and, of course, body shape. 

She also has some excellent advice for people who are interested in starting a programme like this, and tips for those who just want to know the 'secrets' of creating a toned, strong physique like hers.

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Find out more about UP Fitness

Something changes in your mental mindset and you just feel better about yourself. The by-product of that, and the icing on the cake, is that you look better as well.

Up Gemma Atkinson 12Wk Transformation

What shape were you in and what did you want to change?

I’ve always been in what I thought was good shape. Obviously you can always improve. For me, it was more so mentally, I wasn’t feeling great.

I was going through a bit of a crappy time and I felt a bit low and I was plodding along with training – I just wanted to mentally feel strong and feel good again.

So, for me, the gym is like my therapy. I love just coming in for that hour, sweat it out, let your aggression out. I’ve left every session tired, but feeling strong and it’s always been worth it.

What’s the training been like and why is it so effective?

The training is four days a week for between 45 minutes and an hour, then an hour’s cardio on the bike once a week.

It’s the kind of training where, on paper, you think, ‘That’s not very hard. I can do that.’

Sometimes there might only be four or five exercises in the session, but it’s because of the repetition, the overload and the increase in the weights when it comes towards the end – that’s what makes it difficult.

So many people come into the gym and just blast their whole body every single day and wonder why they’re not getting results. Whereas, at UP it's specific muscles on specific days, so you’re always creating that overload and always giving yourself time to recover in between sessions.

It’s so clever. It’s unique, really, the plans they give you, and that’s why it works.

How quickly did your body respond to the diet and training?

It responded quite quickly, actually. Within two weeks.

Mentally I felt great after a week. But the physical changes came after about two weeks.

So you really don’t have to slog it in the gym. People say ‘I’ve not got time’ but you don’t have to have a lot of time really. Just get in, get it done, and get out.

What did it feel like seeing the results of what you were doing in the gym was working?

When you see the results physically, you start to feel a little bit cocky like, ‘Yeah! It’s changing!’

Everything is getting a little bit tighter, your jeans are getting a bit looser. I’m quite straight, naturally, up and down – like Spongebob Squarepants. But I started getting a bit of a waist – an hourglass figure. My bum got bigger.

It’s just little things like my shoulders. If I went out in a top with no sleeves, people would be like ‘Oh gosh! You look like you train!’

Those kind of changes make you feel good and your hard work has paid off.

Gemma Pronated Seated Row Gemma Xyz Sled Pull

Have you had a mindset change since Day 1?

My confidence has definitely improved. I’ve realised I’m mentally tougher than I thought. The little things used to stress me. They say when you train, you release the ‘happy hormone'. You do. I don’t take as much crap from people now.

Something changes in your mental mindset and you just feel better about yourself. The by-product of that, and the icing on the cake, is that you look better as well.

Have you found benefits outside of the gym from your twelve-week programme?

My skin has got a lot better, I’m sleeping a lot better, when my alarm goes off I don’t need the ‘snooze’ button now.

I’ve got more energy throughout the day, more time to get stuff done, I’m more productive, I just don’t feel as sluggish and lethargic now.

My mum said to me, ‘You’re like a different person now. You’re bouncy!’

Have you had a lot of positive feedback from people? And what have family and friends said?

The positive feedback has been amazing. I’ve had so many women who have messaged me and said ‘you’ve inspired me to go to the gym. You’ve inspired me to lift weights’.

It’s such a nice feeling. It does mean a lot – not that I’ve changed someone’s life, but I’ve changed someone’s opinion of the gym.

I’ve changed someone’s opinion on that they can’t do something, that they can’t train, or that they can’t feel good in a bikini.

My niece is 13 and she said to me the other day – ‘I want to join the gym when I leave school!’. I was like oh my gosh! I will take you to the gym! Come with me and I will train with you!’

It’s a great feeling.

What changed with your diet on this twelve-week programme?

I used to snack on dark chocolate and nuts, which is fine. But I used to have two or three of those snacks a day. I didn’t realise how many calories were in stuff. I used to eat a lot of bread and I took that out of my diet and replaced it with oats and sweet potato.

It wasn’t that I was cutting out a food group. People said to me, ‘Did you cut out carbs?’ And I said ‘Oh gosh, no. That would have made me miserable.’

I actually ate a lot of food. But just a lot of good food. I didn’t deprive myself really. After about two or three weeks I stopped craving rubbish foods.

Did you feel different when you changed up your diet?

It was my skin really. I’ve eaten more vegetables in these past twelve weeks than I have in my whole life.

Things like eggs and greens in the morning and a banana and a shake after I’ve trained, just good food. Things that your cells are going to thrive off.

It’s not depriving yourself completely, but not taking the mick out of yourself and undoing all the hard work you’ve put in.

Up Gemma Atkinson 32

What's the secret ingredient to what UP does – how does it get such amazing results?

I think the secret ingredient at UP is that it’s one-to-one. What my trainer Steve does with me, he won’t do the same with a client before me or after me.

It’s completely different. You do feel valued. I’ve been with personal trainers in the past and they do the same thing with every client – so they do the same thing with me as they would a girl who is 5ft 2. And if she ate the same amount of calories I do, it wouldn’t work for her.

It’s like me eating the same amount of calories as a 6ft 2in bloke.

Every diet is tailored to you, your intolerances, what you like and what you don’t like.

I’ve got a bad hip. I’ve had a bad hip for years with Thai boxing so that was taken into account with every single session. That’s the secret ingredient is that they put in time and effort for you and you alone.

You just feel really valued and feel really important.

How important is the relationship with your trainers and the ongoing support?

The relationship is really important. I want a trainer who I can have a laugh with, but will still get the job done and push me.

I don’t want someone who’s a walkover. Mark and Steve don’t let me get away with stuff. There’s been times when I've said ‘I can’t do it’ and they’ve said ‘You can. Come on!’

Then I leave thinking, ‘I knew I could do it all along.’

Can you maintain what you have achieved over these twelve weeks? Have you learned some powerful things that will keep you in shape?

Everything I picked up here, I’m going to continue on my own.

I'm going to come in here and train and I’m still going to bug Mark and Steve on Whatsapp with ‘Can I eat this? Can I eat that?’

But I feel confident enough to come in and train on my own and I feel confident enough to go into a restaurant and know which foods are going to be right for me.

I also feel confident enough to know that I can still have my treats every now and again and not beat myself up about it.

Everyone is human and you have to enjoy your life as well, so that’s what I intend to do.

What have your overall results been from Day 1 to now?

I went from 72kg down to 68.9kg. My body fat was around 15.5% and I got it down to about 11%.

It was massive physical changes in a short amount of time.

Then the mental changes – I’m sleeping better, I’ve got more energy, I feel happier, my skin is a lot better, I feel a lot more confident. I could go on and on and on.

Twelve short weeks and all of the above.

How can other women do what you’ve done?

I think for girls, they just need to not be fearful of the gym. It’s just taking that first step coming in here.

If they came in and did a group training session with us, which we do on Saturday mornings, they could see that no-one is here to judge them.

Once they’ve done that and dipped their toe in the water, they will know how good it can be and how comfortable it is in here. It’s like everyone is mates. When you’re not training, they’re all sat out there having a protein shake together or doing a coffee run.

It’s just a really nice atmosphere. So I would advise any girl to come down here and join in with it and start their journey.

What would you advise people for getting in shape who have never done it before?

For someone who has never done weight training before, my first advice is to get professional advice from a trainer. Don’t just come in and start flinging them around because you don’t want to get injured and then put yourself off even more.

The trainers here are so approachable. You come down, you have an induction, they talk you through what’s what.

Don’t be frightened of it. I would hate my niece to think she couldn’t walk into a gym because there were men there, or big weights, or because she felt she didn’t belong there. It’s a good era now for women. We’re doing a lot of stuff and weight training should be one of them.

How effective is weight training for getting in shape?

Weight training for getting in shape for anyone is incredible.

It’s shaped my body in more ways than you can imagine. Your posture is better, your curves are still there, you’re lean, you look powerful. You look strong. But at the same time you look feminine still.

Can you finally confirm for us that weight training doesn’t make women bulky?

Weight training does not make women look bulky. It’s hard enough for a guy to get bulky naturally weight training. They’ve got a lot more testosterone than us!

You don’t have enough testosterone (as a woman) to get as big as a bodybuilding competitor.

Gemma With Pts 1
Gemma With Pts 2 Compressor 1

Are you impressed with the results you’ve achieved?

Yes, I’m more than impressed. Anything I put on, I feel great in. Dress, jeans, gym gear. I just feel really confident and comfortable.

I’m at the stage where, if no-one likes it, or someone says it’s ‘too much’ or ‘not enough’, then that’s on them.

I feel great. I think I look alright, so that’s all that I’m bothered about really.

Would you recommend UP?

I would highly recommend UP to anyone – male or female – no matter what age you are, or what level you are with training.

Whether you’re in shape or not, you can always get in better shape. Whether you want to meet new friends or get a more social life, you get all of that at UP.

I never thought I’d become mates with Mark and Steve, because they’re my trainers. But they actually are now and it’s cool.

Everyone in here is friendly. You just learn a lot and you’re going to come out a better person.

Looking back to when you started, would you change anything?

The only thing I would change from when I started was that I would have done it a lot sooner.

I’m 32. I would have started years ago if I’d known it was going to be this much fun and I'd feel this good.

Looking at those transformation images, what would you say to people who don’t believe them?

For anyone who says you can’t achieve this transformation in twelve weeks, I would get them to put their money where their mouth is and come down and do it themselves.

I’m proof you can do it. I’m not Photoshopped. And my pictures and videos in the gym haven’t been.

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Find out more about UP Fitness

Up Gemma Atkinson 18