In the second of a three-part series, Bay of Plenty Times reporters face a six-week challenge to transform their diet and fitness using different methods. This week, Annemarie Quill writes about her experience with personal training at The Gym, Tauranga.

Why Personal Training?

Personal training sounds "oh so celeb" but trainer Danny Grey of Ignite Personal Training has a wide range of clients, from women wanting to get back in shape, to school kids, to people wanting to lose a significant amount of weight, to others who simply want to tone up.

He also trains people preparing for competitions and works with people suffering from emotional issues such as stress and depression - he is a firm believer that a fit body means a fit mind.

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Some people approach a trainer when they are not getting the results on their own. Others like me may need the extra motivation. Although gym staff can provide you with training programmes it is easy to shirk when you are not accountable.

My membership at The Gym started out with a hiss and a roar in summer but when winter set in, it was easy to snuggle back under the duvet instead of leaping up for the 6.30am pump class. But no more, as I will meet Danny at 6am for the next six weeks.

Where do I sign up?

Danny operates out of The Gym Tauranga where you can work one on one with him. Together with The Gym's owner, Lindsay Chan, Danny has developed group fitness programmes including boxing and High Performance Arena training. He also runs groups outside the gym such as boot camp and enters teams in The Gym's warrior runs - luckily he has not yet got me along to one of these.

How much does it cost?

Gym membership is from $14.95 a week, which includes most Les Mills classes and unlimited 24-hour access. Personal Training is around $60 an hour but can be less depending on frequency.

I have been to all sorts of gyms in my time and I really like the atmosphere at The Gym, as it is genuinely friendly and there are people of all different levels of fitness. I never got that feeling of awkwardness one can sometimes feel in a gym. You can come and go as you please, or really get stuck into the social side of things.

Week 1 & 2

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In the first session, Danny finds out my fitness level through questions and tests, as well as taking measurements. It is nerve-wracking as I have not done any serious fitness training for several years.

Okay, since before I had children, which is 11 years. The advantage of a personal trainer is that he can tailor a programme not just to fitness level, but also the type of person you are and your lifestyle. Danny quickly cottoned on to my fear that this would be a gruelling ride, so planned the programme accordingly - otherwise I think I would have bolted.

As well as the one-hour-a-week training, Danny recommends two group fitness classes and two to three low-to-moderate intensity 30-minute cardio sessions, which can be done in the gym or outside.

For this level of activity he calculates my calorie intake should be 1800 calories (7564Kj).
You get to go over diet in detail with a personal trainer. Danny says that 80 per cent of the results you get are through diet. I think my diet is not so bad but in talking it over we see pitfalls - because of the hours I work I often eat late at night and skip breakfast.

Initially, Danny recommends I make the following changes:
- Have breakfast within 60-90 minutes of waking, along with omega-3 fish oil.
- Reduce/remove processed foods (especially foods high in sugar).
- Ensure each meal (including snacks) has a source of protein. (Lean meats, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds, cottage cheese, yoghurt, milk).
- Increase water intake.
- Stop drinking diet coke and limit alcohol.

In the first week I email Danny a food diary of what I actually ate and he can note anything that may inhibit weight loss - or contain hidden sugars, such as my daily banana.

The good news is that this is a manageable and pretty easy diet to follow. I do cheat and have some wholegrain bread and the odd glass of wine, but Danny points out it is a lifestyle change that you need to be able to stick to so the odd slip is not a disaster.

I really enjoy the classes at the gym. Body Pump is a 60-minute barbell class that promises fast results of shaping, toning and strengthening. It uses all major muscle groups.

Danny says many women fear weights as they worry about adding bulk but says two to three pump classes a week will induce weight loss and lean muscle conditioning. It is hard work but fun - you can tailor the weights to suit, and the music and class camaraderie mean you get a 60-minute workout that is fun.

Bodybalance class is an hour of yoga, tai chi and Pilates with stretches, moves and poses. This is good to do after a training session or to wind down. As I lie on the mat relaxing I can't believe I am in a gym. I love it.

Week 3 & 4

But it is not all deep breathing and salutations. In week three we get down to serious training in our PT sessions, and it is tough. Danny uses methods he has developed in the High Performance Arena (HPA) classes.

Not for the faint-hearted, a clue to the intensity of this type of training is the sick bucket in the corner. The idea of this type of training is that short bursts of very intense aerobic and strength activity are more effective at building fitness levels and fat burning than doing something more leisurely for a longer period.

It is a throwback to the old school gym, with kettle bells, ropes, boxes to step on, and Lindsay teaching his class animal movements; it reminds me a bit of school PE. But this is grown up. Over the next weeks Danny devises timed circuits to increase strength and muscle functionality, while taking into account areas of weakness.

The exercises push you hard and one session I leave totally shattered. Danny tailors the intensity to what he thinks clients can handle and also of course level of fitness and lifestyle.

We also work on the TRX ropes - a system designed for navy seals which consists of a series of hanging ropes on which you do suspension exercises to develop core strength and flexibility.

By the fifth week I am begging to just do some mat work.

The good thing about having a trainer is they can motivate you to keep going - and if the HPA classes are something you feel like giving a go, it is good to have a dry run on some of the exercises so you are not a total newbie in the classes. Not that that would matter - there is much camaraderie and encouragement within the group - even if they all seem a little bit crazy. I found some doing 100 burpees one morning "just because we can".

Week 5 & 6

I am already starting to see changes - my clothes are looser. One week I rearranged Danny several times - it is frustrating to be so time poor but when we do finally meet up I feel guilty. That sealed my decision to keep on with the one-on-one training after the six weeks are up, it is the only way I can commit to staying fit. It is also useful to have someone to ask questions and make sure you are doing the moves right.

At $60 an hour, it is a financial commitment but then I will not be spending that on wine or chocolate, plus it is a valuable investment in my future health. As well as the obvious physical benefits, I feel much better, I have more energy with the kids, my mood is improved and my skin and eyes look brighter.

For my final measurements, the scales do not show a huge loss, but I have dropped a dress size and am thrilled with the results.

Email:danny@ignitepersonal training.co.nz Danny: ph 022 083 1478. The Gym, 107 First Ave, Tauranga; info@thegym.co.nz; ph (07) 578 3605.