Meet the people who are helping hundreds of people to get fit in a winter lockdown

IT’S cold, it’s wet, it’s winter, and you’ve eaten far too much during lockdown, for the third time running.

By Kimberley Barber
Tuesday, 16th February 2021, 4:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 16th February 2021, 5:27 pm

Gyms are shut, fitness classes cancelled, and motivation is out the window.

Scales across the country are groaning. As are the people standing on them.

So how exactly do you find that inner spark and get up off the sofa and back into a fitness regime?

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Jo Perkins at Five Heads Recreation Ground, Waterlooville

Luckily there are scores of personal trainers across the area eagerly waiting for your call.

The pandemic has changed the way we all look at health. And many of these personal trainers are capitalising on our need for a different approach with their businesses.

We take a look at a few of the people who are making a living from helping us get fit, lose weight and feel better.

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Jo Perkins


WHEN lockdown hit, Jo Perkins took her business online and she hasn’t looked back.

Jo, from Waterlooville, runs BALM, a body and lifestyle management business that sees her offer support as a health and wellness coach and not just as a class instructor, working on Zoom and private Facebook groups.

Ex professional dancer Jo, who has been working in fitness for 20 years, said that the changes have seen her membership numbers increase as more people turn their attention to their health.

Chris Wright, who is a personal trainer, is hosting one of the PT with Prepped days, offering a training session and insights into nutrition and health advice.

She said: ‘Providing a full package was key to the success of the group. The day lockdown was announced I set up ‘Jo Perkins online studio’ Facebook group which has nearly 500 members for free workouts and mini mindfulness sessions. For me it was about mental wellness as much as physical strength.

‘I was working as fitness manager in a gym previously to lockdown but felt this was the right time to make a huge change in my business.

‘I’ve created packages in strength training for women called Leanlife and Liftlean, back care courses and now a weekly membership of short strength-based exercise sessions online with additional masterclasses from pilates to HIIT training.

‘Personal training online has worked brilliantly with existing and new clients, making me a better coach.

Melissa Day, who is a personal trainer and fitness blogger, is holding one of the PT with Prepped days, offering a free personal training group session.

‘There’s no travel time to a gym, no childcare required, you can work out at home when it suits you.

‘Many of my clients have tried sessions they would never have dreamt of booking into but now take those classes every week.

‘There is now a real community feel in the group. Many people feel this group has supported them through the last 11 months for their mind and body.’

Jo said she hopes to be able to start live pilates classes in Petersfield and Clanfield as soon as lockdown restrictions ease, and a HIIT/strength based workout synced to music called Strong in Clanfield.

Michael Newman

Michael Newman

GETTING fit is more than just working out.

According to fitness coach Michael Newman. it’s about a complete change of behaviour.

Michael, 37, from Cowplain, said that small changes, along with a better diet, exercise, support and friendship, is the best combination for better health, physically and mentally.

He set up his online business Michael Newman Coaching in 2019, before anybody had heard of Covid-19.

However since the pandemic, Michael has seen his membership grow and his business thrive – as more people switch on to online fitness programmes as a way to keep fit despite restrictions.

He said: ‘I got into online coaching as I felt like there was something missing from traditional classes. I realised that people need a lot more support outside of their exercise than what they were getting with gyms or fitness classes

‘I had been in fitness for 17 years and you get to a point where you can’t continue. It is long hours, early mornings and late nights, I was looking for something different and I could see there were people really struggling with certain aspects of their life.

‘So I set this up, it is much more supportive than someone telling you to do 20 press-ups. They need someone that’s there for them and that helps them. I didn’t know a pandemic was coming. I was lucky to be ahead of the curve.

‘Exercise and nutrition is really important for mental health - and I have created a community of guys that can talk about things. I want it to be a safe space where people can open up.’

Michael said his main clientele is busy, middle-aged professional men, who want a way of getting fit without insisting they give up their favourite food and drink.

He says: 'I don't see clients in the gym, I coach my clients to develop positive habits, improve their relationship with food, I coach my clients to make better choices on food and drink. It's a lot deeper than just exercise.'


PERSONAL trainers are offering free online workouts through a company that specialises in nutritional pre-prepared meals.

Waterlooville-based Prepped has started its PT with Prepped campaign, which will sees personal trainers take over its Instagram page every Wednesday, hosting a live workout, as well as answering questions about health and wellbeing and offering free advice.

George Purnell, who founded Prepped in 2020, set it up as he felt people could use a healthy distraction from the stress of lockdown.

He said: ‘The winter months are hard enough for a lot of people without being in lockdown, so understandably a lot of people are struggling.

‘For many, exercising is a way to release endorphins and feel good. It has become some people’s coping mechanism.

‘With gyms closed and a lot of online home workout regimes now being paid-for, we thought we’d start something to give people home workouts and expert advice on health and wellbeing for free.

‘We also felt it was important to help promote local personal trainers and fitness instructors as most of them are now unable to work in the traditional sense.’

The workouts will come in many different forms, from high-intensity interval training, to shorter workouts for beginners, to yoga and Pilates and more.

Some of the personal trainers hosting takeover days include Portsmouth-based Chris Wright and Melissa Day.

Evolve Fitness

IT’S a family affair over at Evolve Fitness.

When the pandemic hit last year, Oakley Cheung found herself back at home in Hilsea and joining in with mum Victoria’s fitness classes.

Victoria, a fitness instructor, had turned her attention to online classes in order to keep her clients fit and healthy, and the business started from there.

Oakley quickly came on board, offering classes, as did dad Nathan, an engineer by day, and the trio have built up an online community around a busy timetable of online group exercise classes.

Oakley, 22, said: ‘What makes us unique is that we are a family-run business.

‘We are a family of fitness instructors, with both myself and my dad teaching classes.

‘Between us, we offer all types of exercise, from cardio, HIIT training and dance to strength classes and yoga.

‘We have a growing following, and we have built a real community. We do regular socials, last year we did a secret Santa where my youngest brother delivered gifts to all our members, and we offer check-ins on all of our members that are experiencing loneliness because of lockdown.

‘I might be biased, but this is so much more than other fitness communities and commercial gyms.

‘We are trying to branch out further so more people are able to benefit from both a physical and mental health boost, which is of paramount importance during these times.’

The business has taken off and mum Victoria, 44, has even been nominated for an inspirational Woman of Portsmouth award.

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The Cheung family run their fitness business, Evolve Fitness from their garage. Pictured is: Oakley Cheung shows of one of her yoga poses. Picture: Keith Woodland (300120-16)