Charlotte Ord: Personal Trainer
Charlotte Ord is the very personification of what we women do best: successful multi-tasking.
Somehow she has found the time to establish herself as a nationally acclaimed Personal Trainer (winning the title Personal Trainer of the Year 2010); as the trainer and motivator on ITV1’s hit show, The Biggest Loser; as the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach to the England Lacrosse Squad – and all whilst running a thriving Surrey based fitness club, The Charlotte Ord Academy. She even finds time to regularly contribute to many of the UK’s leading fitness magazines, including Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Women’s Fitness.
If you’ve hit that point in the day where you’re feeling tired and sluggish, then read on to find inspiration and boundless energy from the indomitable Charlotte Ord…
My Little Black Book: Charlotte, we know you best as the glamorous personal trainer from ITV1’s weight loss series, The Biggest Loser, but what some of our readers may not know is that you’re also a business owner, with a gym and personal training business in Surrey, the Charlotte Ord Academy. Which came first, the gym or the TV show?
Charlotte Ord: I opened my gym in 2010, so that came a year before I was cast on the show.
MyLBB: Gosh, how did you manage running the business while you were busy filming?
CO: It was a real whirlwind! I was literally auditioned about 3 weeks before we started filming, so by the time I knew I’d been cast we only had two weeks to ensure that everything was in hand whilst I was away! Luckily my business is run on systems and I have the most amazing team of coaches, so it ran like clockwork whilst I was away for two months.
MyLBB: What difference did the show make to your life and to your business?
CO: The show was the most incredible experience and has given me some awesome opportunities, but the one I really value most is that I now have a bigger platform from which to help spread the message of health and fitness and really help people all over the world. There are a lot of people suffering with poor health and low self-esteem due to unrealistic cultural ideals and misguided information on what constitutes a healthy exercise and diet routine. It’s my mission to really help ease that suffering and promote health at every size. Being a trainer on The Biggest Loser didn’t have a huge impact on membership figures at the gym because that’s obviously only accessible to people who live locally. However, it has opened up opportunities to do other media work and I really enjoy that variety.
MyLBB: Do any of the show’s contestants still keep in touch with you about their weight loss maintenance/progress?
CO: Yes, I’m in touch with pretty much all of the contestants, which is really cool. It was a life-changing and emotional experience for all of us in one way or another and I think that develops close bonds. Once the show was over it didn’t mean that my job as their coach was finished or that I stopped caring about how they were getting on; I think they know that whenever they need me I’ll still be there for them.
MyLBB: Despite seeming to achieve some incredible results, the show has its fair share of critics. How do you eel about those who disapprove of it and similar shows?
CO: I totally understand why some people don’t like the format of the show but, at the end of the day, it has to be dramatic and controversial in order to make television that people will actually watch. The up side of that, whether you agree with the format or not, is that it does change and even save people’s lives and it inspires millions of people.
MyLBB: Do you have a preference between your TV work and your personal training and business management work?
CO: Great question! I’m one of those people who likes to have lots of balls in the air and lots of variety in my life, so I couldn’t say that I enjoy doing one thing more than another. I really love the whole experience of being on a TV set and feel very comfortable in front of camera, but I also find coaching extremely rewarding and I feel quite privileged to be part of people’s journeys because sometimes they are quite tough and quite emotional. I also find it rewarding to develop the business behind the scenes, not only to give our members the best experience we can and ensure everything runs smoothly, but also to help my staff become everything that they want to become. I think as an employer it’s important to look after your team and remember that they have hopes and dreams too.
MyLBB: And how did you get into personal training as a career?
CO: I got into personal training in my early twenties when I realised that riding horses for a career probably wasn’t the most financially secure pathway I could have chosen, and nor did it allow me to have any sort of life outside of horses! I’ve always loved sport and teaching and did a degree in psychology, so it really seemed like a natural progression for me after that.
MyLBB: How easy is it to be a woman in a sector that still appears from the outside to be pretty male dominated? Do you face any particular challenges or are any obstacles equal for men and women in the sports world in your experience?
CO: I hear a lot of women in the industry talking about this but I have to say it’s never been my experience and, if anything, I’ve always seen being a girl a distinct advantage. It helped me stand out from the crowd because when I went on strength and conditioning courses I was usually the only girl there. I loved being able to keep up with the guys and hold my own, and I guess when I did that I won their respect and word gets around. Nowadays I think being a strong girl with a determined mindset in the fitness industry is a lot more common than it was then, but you still have to be willing to earn your stripes. It’s the same in any industry and I think it ultimately just depends on which way you want to look at it.
MyLBB: Have you found the last few years tough in the economic climate, or do you think that the constant messages about obesity and the importance of fitness has resulted in people placing a greater value on training, whatever their financial circumstances?
CO: I think the recession has affected most small personal training businesses because, at the end of the day, it is a luxury item and people can find cheaper alternatives. That said, I started my fitness club right at the beginning of the economic downturn and managed to build it up successfully despite that, so the demand is out there. I think if you offer an outstanding service and help to solve people’s biggest problems, you’ll always be ok.
MyLBB: Do you think we allow ourselves enough time for fitness around our busy working lives?
CO: I think this is a difficult question to answer because some women prioritise their fitness and some women don’t. Sometimes I think women don’t have much choice and hold down such stressful jobs that trying to squeeze in a hardcore workout on top of everything else in their week will probably do them more harm than good anyway. What I do think is important is that people make time to look after themselves, whether that be through good nutrition, more exercise, more relaxation time, whatever they need to really nourish themselves. Exercise is essential to an all round healthy lifestyle but like anything it can become just another stressor if applied out of balance in relation to everything else in your life.
MyLBB: And how about you? How do you keep yourself fit?
CO: I do a combination of weight lifting, running and hot yoga. If I have a specific goal my training will be tailored towards that, but otherwise I just do what I most enjoy doing at the time and always make sure I maintain my core strength and stability to help keep injuries at bay.
MyLBB: We see you in the press and on various fitness TV programmes a fair bit. Does this keep you away from the business a lot?
CO: It really depends, but quite often my TV work tends to be one or two day projects so I still manage to work on my business 5 or 6 days a week.
MyLBB: Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs looking to start up in the fitness world?
CO: My motto right from the start has been, ‘It’s never crowded along the extra mile.’ Remember that and keep your clients’ results as your number one priority, track everything you do (particularly your finances!) and never stop learning.
MyLBB: Brilliant advice! Do you have any expansion plans for the business?
CO: Excitingly, yes! It’s looking like Charlotte Ord Academy number 2 is just around the corner in the most amazing of locations. I’m just in the process of discussing leases at the moment, so it will hopefully be confirmed in the next few weeks. I’m also in the process of developing my first app which I’m so excited about. It’s called ‘Health Wins’ and is designed to help teenagers and adults develop healthy lifestyle habits which aren’t focused on weight and calorie counting, which I believe has actually contributed to the obesity epidemic we now face and certainly a lot of unhappiness around food and body image. The app is designed to turn that around and help people look good, feel good and be happy. It should be ready to launch in January.
MyLBB: Sounds extremely exciting – we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for that app! So will we be seeing you on our screens again anytime soon in another prime time series like The Biggest Loser?
CO: At the moment there aren’t any big productions in the pipeline, but I’d love to do something like that again if the opportunity came up!
MyLBB: Finally, Charlotte, what are your three biggest tips for keeping fit and healthy, so that we can focus on running the world, rather than running ourselves into the ground?
CO: My top tips are as follows:
1) Remember that health isn’t about being a specific size, it’s about functioning optimally and feeling great at a shape and weight that is best for you.
2) Exercise should be fun, not a punishment for eating.
3) Take time out to nourish yourself, both nutritionally but also with adequate rest, creativity and things that restore your energy. It will keep your passion for your work alive and help prevent you getting overly tired and losing productivity. Plus, life should never be all about work.
Great advice to end an extremely motivating chat with a hugely inspiring woman. Let’s hope it galvanises us all into some positive action!