Take charge of your muscle-building mission by treating your better-body aspirations just like you would your own business, says Nick Mitchell, CEO of the world’s only global personal training gym business, Ultimate Performance
By Joe Warner, Editorial Director, IronLifeMag.com
What’s building your best-ever body got in common with building a global business from scratch? More than you think, if you believe the words of Nick Mitchell, a one-time amateur bodybuilder who gave up a lucrative career in the City to launch Ultimate Performance, the world’s first global PT gym business.
Unlike many personal trainers who enter the industry fresh out of school or college, Mitchell had a very successful business career before he threw it all in to turn his life-long passion into his day-to-day business. He had previously been a lawyer, an investment banker and a corporate headhunter, and then set up his own head-hunting company, which he eventually sold to focus his business – and life – on helping people to get into the shape of their lives.
He opened his first Ultimate Performance personal training gym in the City of London in 2009 after cutting his teeth as a PT in the East End’s legendary bodybuilding gym MuscleWorks.
In the following years he has become one of the most successful personal trainers on the planet and his business has been transformed into a global enterprise with state-of-the-art gyms in LA, Sydney, Marbella, Amsterdam, Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai to name but a few, with plans in the pipeline to open dozens more across the globe.
As a former bodybuilder, Nick applied the same principles to building a successful business as his did to building a bigger, stronger and leaner body. Indeed, he believes that the two objectives have many things in common, including the need for laser-sharp focus, a never-quit mentality and the willingness to work harder than anyone else. That, he believes, is what made UP achieve its unique position as the world’s first global personal training gym brand.
And now, thanks to his life lessons, he’s going to reveal the seven rules you need to follow to torch fat, build lean muscle mass, and transform your physique into the one you’ve always wanted.
“The lessons I’ve learnt over almost a decade in the fitness industry can help you build a better body, because there’s myriad parallels between building a successful business and building a better body,” he says. “Both scenarios are painful, time-consuming, effort-zapping, and at times soul-destroying, fraught with setbacks, disappointments and mis-steps, but ultimately achievable – and hugely satisfying – if you set your heart and mind on it.”
Focus on the here and now
IronLife: Why do you place so much emphasis in focusing on the here and now?
Nick Mitchell: Many people say you need a big-picture view of your ultimate objective, but I’m not so sure. You need to have an overarching idea of what you want to achieve, but too many people are so focused on the destination that they don’t enjoy the journey. I started off wanting to open my own gym and then expand from there. If I had begun with a plan for 10 gyms in five years it would have driven me crazy. But now I have opened more than 10 gyms, getting to 25 or even 100 is a far more realistic objective. What I am saying is that it’s really important to focus on your next step, and your second, and possibly even your third, but your 100th step doesn’t need to be at the forefront of your mind every single day. Focus on getting the first step sorted – be it nailing your training programme or diet plan – and progress from there. The big picture is good for motivation, but it’s the accumulation of all the little steps that will actually get you there.
Hard graft comes first
IL: You always say that there’s “no substitute for graft”. What exactly do you mean by that?
NM: I’ve been asked a lot about the secrets of my success. It’s not down to being smarter than anyone else. I’ve always been as smart, or not, as I am now and there have been times when I’ve been far from successful. But my periods of success have combined with when I am working harder than I ever thought possible. Because there is absolutely no substitute for hard work. It’s tough, it’s exhausting, but if you want it badly enough then it won’t happen until you spend every possible waking moment pushing forwards to where you want to get to. You also need to accept that luck plays a part. I genuinely believe that anyone can build a reasonable physique and run a profitable business. But to break through to the higher echelons then luck always plays a part. Ride the wave when you can, and accept that there are just some things you can’t control when it deserts you. Learning not to worry about all those elements you have no influence over is a crucial step because once you do you’ll stop worrying about them and instead focus on what you can control.
Sacrifices must be made
IL: Do you need to make sacrifices or can you have it all?
NM: Sorry, there is no ideal work-life balance. Not if you want true success. People hark on about striking the right ratio between time spent on your ambition – be it career or physique – and time spent ‘off-duty’, socialising and doing all the things that ‘normal’ people do. But it doesn’t exist. If you want to excel at anything then this ideal balance goes out the window, because true balance doesn’t lead to greatness. I’ve never met anyone who has successfully overachieved who had a balanced life. You think an Olympic athlete or Richard Branson lives a 50-50 life? No, they decide what they want and make sacrifices every single day to focus on that goal. If you want the ultimate physique possible then you need to do the same. That said, it comes to a point where too much sacrifice is counter-productive. I believe that some balance is crucially important for a happy and content life. If you have sacrificed all of your relationships to achieve your dream, what’s the point if there’s no-one there to celebrate with you at the end of the road?
Face your fears
IL: Do you think that too many people never achieve their goals because they are held back by fear?
NM: Getting out of your comfort zone is fast becoming a bit of a cliche, but like all cliches they have a root of truth in them. Except being successful isn’t about poking your head outside your comfort bubble. It’s about having your back up against the wall and your balls on the line. Nothing will motivate you more or drive you to success knowing that you are entirely consumed by the fear of failure. I was 34 and felt that I had achieved nothing and was consumed by a fear of failing to fulfill my potential. That’s what motivated me to launch UP. That’s why I strongly advise anyone serious about wanting an amazing physique to enter a show or contest. If the thought of you standing on stage in tiny pants with nowhere to hide doesn’t make you stick to your diet or wake up at 5am for a cardio session then nothing will.
Confront the obstacles
IL: How should you deal with obstacles?
NM: The road to success is littered with obstacles, many of which you could never possibly envisage and so plan for, right? Wrong. That’s BS. You think you’re the first person to want to build the best physique possible? Or build an international business out of nothing? The path you are treading has been worn thin by the thousands of people who have travelled it already. They have made all the mistakes and taken all the wrong turns. The more you can be aware of the potential pitfalls, the easier they are to avoid. So you can prepare for almost every single possible situation you will encounter. Learn from those who have been there, those who have done it and those who have failed. Read. Ask questions and, most importantly, listen to their answers, especially when it’s the last thing you want to hear.
Learn to be objective
IL: How important is self awareness?
NM: Being objective is of paramount importance. It’s also incredibly difficult because if you’re trying to improve your physique or start a new business it’s a huge personal investment of your time, effort and energy. You can get caught up in the moment all the time and you can never see the woods for the trees. The sooner you can be truly honest with yourself, and critically appraise how well your training or diet or budget or operation is working, the sooner your results will soar.
Not every task is glamorous or rewarding
IL: Is it possible to avoid the things that you hate doing?
NM: There are many aspects to my job that I absolutely loathe. Wading through paperwork, dealing with banks, dealing with trainers when standards slip, the list goes on. The same is true for certain exercises in the gym: I hate doing them but I know I have to do them. You can’t spend all the time doing the best bits of your job or just the lifts you like. Certain things have to be done, no matter how boring and tough they are. You are only ever as strong as your weakest link, so just get your head down and get it done.
Finally, if you’re an aspiring personal trainer, we asked Mitchell a question that often seems to be of paramount importance for many younger PTs.
IL: Your Ultimate Performance gyms have hosted a wide array of well known faces, from British sports stars such as James Haskell, Mike Tindall and Anthony Joshua, bodybuilding and strength world luminaries like Dorian Yates, Ben Pakulski, Charles Poliquin and Christian Thibaudeau, through to actors such as Cath Tyldesely, Gemma Atkinson, James D’Arcy, and Olivia Coleman. Is it important to be seen as a celebrity trainer?
NM: My first dabble with “celebrity training” was a brief stint with Peter Andre for an aborted Men’s Health cover project. Despite losing body fat Peter couldn’t hack his clothes getting tighter as he thought it might make him look fatter on TV. That experience underlined my suspicion that those who get hooked on being seen as “celebrity trainers” are really missing the big picture.
People think because somebody personal trains one celebrity they must be doing very well or know what they are doing. This is often not the case, and they just end being a slave to celebrities running around after them. It doesn’t make sense to drop an entire client base for one or two celebrities.
The way that any trainer should work with a celebrity, unless we’re talking megastars such as Madonna who can make your career (Tracy Anderson), is to remember that they are just as important as any other client. They have to keep their appointments and they should treat you as a trusted adviser, not a gym babysitter or personal servant.
We work a number of the cast of Coronation Street who have brutal schedules, so our added value is much more than getting them in shape: it’s keeping them healthy and able to operate at a consistently high level. We have guys like James D’Arcy (Dunkirk, Marvel’s Agent Carter) who keep it low key and work with us so that they have great control over their bodies depending upon the part that they are playing. James is very disciplined when he wants to be, that’s the ideal celebrity client! The worst so-called celebrity client is pretty much always the reality TV person. I had a positive experience working with Made in Chelsea‘s Oliver Proudlock for a book project, but the rest that we’ve seen have been awful – a mix of disrespectful, lazy and in one case a cheat who did a runner on his fees. The final point is that I’d pretty much always steer clear of someone whose claim to fame is being a celebrity trainer. It cheapens what is a serious, life affirming profession when done at its best.
For more on Nick Mitchell and Ultimate Performance click here.