Testimonial – Shel

I first started PT with Dave in September or October 2016 with a goal to run faster, more specifically I wanted to drop a few pounds and be able to run a really fast 5K with my dog. I wouldn’t say that I was a greatly experienced runner prior to this, I’d run a couple of half marathons and a few 10k runs and no spectacular times to shout about. In fact, I’d only really taken up running just over a year prior to this.

So, my journey began and little did Dave know what he’d agreed to take on (insert evil laugh) – the first couple of months were really focused on nutrition and hydration, improving my strength and working on my weak areas. I won’t lie it was hard, I complained a lot, I got told off a lot for not drinking enough water – but that’s what I needed and somehow Dave knew that, I guess he’d got to understand me and knew just when he had to play the parent/teacher role and when he needed to be the coach or counsellor.

We worked through food diaries quite regularly as that was something I really struggled to get right and wrap my head around when I first started and in stepped Dave as coach here. I can’t imagine it was easy for him as I’m vegetarian and was really funny about eating and drink certain types of food – but with a lot of patience and quite a few ideas from Dave, I got my head round it and I started to see the difference. I shifted a few pounds and the running started to improve a little – so the intensity of the training got harder, I complained some more, and Dave learned to listen and ignore me and kept telling me to follow the plan.

Had the plan worked? Well it all came down to race day in December 2016 – I stood on the start line with my boy and off we shot, I’d forgotten to start my watch (typical!!) so I had no idea how fast I was going – but we ran, and I gave it everything I had. I had to wait till the end of the day to find out how fast or slow we had been. We’d completed the race in under 25 mins, it had worked!! I’d never run that fast before and I was over the moon – was this going to be the start of some fantastic canicross times for the rest of the season? I think so…

Somehow my brain had worked out that I was now invincible, and I could do anything – so why not sign up to run up Mount Snowdon!! I can’t remember when I exactly told Dave that I’d signed up to Man v Mountain, but I do remember the conversation – I’d turned up for a PT session and at the start of it I stated – “I might have done something silly, I’ve signed up for Man v Mountain, it’s in September 2017 and I guess I’ll need to train for it”. Well his face was a picture – but ever the professional (I guess to some extent he probably didn’t want to tell me that he thought I was crazy as I’d never run more than 15 miles in my lifetime and now I was going to run 24 miles and up a massive hill!!) Dave simply agreed that we best get training for it then.

Dave worked up a new plan and training continued, the prowler became my frenemy in the gym, all my sessions were based on working to emulate going up a hill, because let’s face it Lincolnshire’s flat and the only hills I was going to get was when I was able to head to the Derbyshire Dales for a training run. Coaching didn’t just start and end in a PT session, it was almost a daily thing now – I had questions almost daily about food and training and Dave was on hand to answer them or tell me to stop being so stupid because I already knew the answer. I had training days that were a complete disaster and, in some cases, consecutive training days that were a disaster and I would go into mini-melt down mode and question my ability to do this race – that’s when I needed “counsellor” Dave and that’s exactly what I got. He was on hand to celebrate the successes as well and trust me there were a lot of those too. Like clock work I’d get a message every Sunday to ask how my long run went, what went well and what didn’t go so well – it was a Sunday for goodness sake – didn’t the man want a break from this madness!!

PT sessions weren’t always about high intensity work and working really hard, Dave was able to gauge the days I was tired or had injuries and my body just ached, and on those days, it was about remedial work and I’d quite often get to put the world to right. PT sessions were always fun and I have to say I looked forward to them, which is one of the reasons why I probably stuck to the plan so well. It wasn’t like you were about to walk into a military bootcamp and someone was going to spend an hour making you work so hard you were sick at the end of it. It was specifically tailored to my ability on that particular day.

Summer came and went pretty quickly and I was finally on my way to Wales – this was it, 24 miles up and down a mountain – there were points in the race where everything hurt and I didn’t want to ever see another hill ever again. There were points I absolutely loved (all the down hill running, the finish line and of course the food en-route) – my frenemy the prowler, who I complained about on a weekly basis, had just become my best friend as I hiked up the last few miles of Snowdon and made my way up the steps of the vertical kilometre – maybe, just maybe Dave knew what he was doing when he made me push the blasted thing up and down the gym floor every week, and it wasn’t just to shut me up for a while (it was the only time at the gym I didn’t have the energy to talk!!). I can proudly say I finished that race, it was at the time one of the hardest things I’d done and I enjoyed most moments of that race – I got back to our cottage we were renting that week and in true Dave style a message was waiting for me on my phone to see how I’d gotten on and celebrate my success – I wouldn’t have expected anything less by this point. Oh, and some advice of course on making sure I ate and drank enough food over the next couple of days and a reminder to stretch as well.

Back home to Lincoln after this epic race and what next? I thought I’d start focusing on canicross again as it was the start of the season and I’d said to Dave “no more long-distance races – they’re just not for me”. So, of we set to work on speed and unfortunately, I injured my self at the first race of the season, I wasn’t able to run let alone walk properly. Just my luck as well, a week after I’d injured myself I got a letter through the post from the organisers of the London Marathon to say I was successful in gaining my ballot entry to the London Marathon and I was racing in April. Hmmm…

I’m pretty sure the very first message I sent when I saw the letter was to Dave (not even my mum or dad) – and I’m quite sure it went something along the lines of – you know I said I didn’t want to run another long distance, well…”attached picture of my letter”…Oh and I might have forgotten to mention I entered the ballot for the Marathon earlier in the year – surprise!?!

If only I could have been a fly on the wall of that office that day when I sent that message through – I can only imagine the reaction – of course that was quickly followed by a message from me saying I can’t even walk how am I going to do this!!

Here we went again – new plan was set, and we worked on other aspects for 2 months till my foot was better and I was able to run again. It was back to following the plan, more of me complaining, more of Dave checking up on me and more of changing the plan to suit my needs, compensating for injuries (and I had a lot of those this time round), even more mini-melt downs, moments of lose in confidence of my ability and of course celebrating successes. Did I finish that marathon – absolutely, how? Well I can only put it down to following the plan – because it was the hottest London Marathon recorded and I struggled for a large part of it because I just don’t do heat – but somehow my brain and body just knew what to do.

Without fail there was a message waiting for me when I got home to say congratulations and reminding me to eat and drink properly.
I decided to take a short break and not focus on a specific training goal after the marathon – I knew I needed the break. So while I might not be going to PT sessions at the moment, the coaching still hasn’t stopped, Dave still takes an interest in what race I’ve signed up for next and what I’m doing to train for it, he doesn’t have to take an interest – but I think that’s what makes him a good coach, he’s happy to share his knowledge to make me a better, fitter version of myself. Oh, and he’ll still listen to me complain.

Looking back at my journey so far the words marathon and running up a mountain were never things I had dreamed of accomplishing in a million years, in fact they weren’t even on my radar – but somehow they became goals for me and I was lucky enough to have a coach who didn’t tell me I was crazy, but helped me achieve what seemed like the impossible. Reading back what I’ve written, I have to say I do feel sorry for Dave, because he really didn’t know what he’d signed up for with me and boy do I complain a lot (something I clearly need to work on) – but he got to know me and the way I work, he knew when to be coach, counsellor and parent and he made it fun along the way. I’d like to think I made a good friend along the way too.

This definitely isn’t the end of my training journey – I’m sure I’ll come up with another hair brain idea soon and Dave will be getting a message from me saying…so I’ve kind of signed up to something…


‘Well meaning’ – is it acceptable?

Is ‘well meaning” good enough?

‘It’s ok, they meant well…..’

This is a topic that has raged in my head for a while.

The first time I heard someone really address the question of ‘is “well meaning” good enough?’ directly was in the beginning fo 2018 whilst completing my MNU nutritional certification – Martin was address the topic in a video on social media.

Its gnawed away in my head on & off for a while, and whilst I was watching a bit of Sunday brunch yesterday the topic was brought to the front of my mind once again.

The guy who played Ken Barlow was being interviewed…

They were discussing the release of his new book, and although I can’t quite remember the reason why, he started going on about how bad sugar and carbs are.  How they were the reason that we are getting fatter.

Now whilst his intentions are 100% well meaning, that type of talk is dangerous.

The facts are that it’s not sugar or carbohydrates that are the cause of the nation becoming fatter, increases in obesity and related conditions/diseases. It’s the excess calories that’s the problem, not a set food type/group.  You could also add in how, as a nation, we are becoming less active, as well as the social elements like losing connection with food and where it comes from and how to cook etc. 

On the MNU course, Martin has a phrase for these type of people….the ones who mean well, but don’t really have a clue. I’m not going to repeat the comment that was used word for word – I can’t remember it specifically, but this ‘well meaning’ scenario  seems to be popping up more and more.

People with no education making bold statements about a topic and being incorrect.  This is the same principle as people saying/advertising that they are X specialist coach, run a program…and they aren’t.  Using technical and fancy words to make themselves sound amazing.  Recently I’ve worked with a number of people who have been to such set ups – buying into a product – with the same end result – injury.  Our sessions have all started with addressing all the issues/injuries (with the support of Hannah@Restore) that have picked up, with the end results NOT being what was written on the tin.

It frustrates me massively …..

Massively massively….

Before putting pen to paper I even discussed this topic with some of my colleges as I was questioning my motives…was I simply being a dick about it all? It was only when I hear someone else discuss it, and present that standpoint that I realised that I wasn’t being a dick.

I can accept that I’ve been in this industry a long time, have gained a huge amount of knowledge and experience, and that I have high standards…plus I defiantly know I went through that stage as a PT when ‘I was right’ and ‘everyone else was wrong’. My position now far clearer – using the principles of training, nutrition and lifestyle management to help people become a better version of themselves. If the end result wasn’t scaremongering, adding to people’s already poor relationship with food, people being injured and being ripped off then it wouldn’t annoy me as much, but unfortunately these things happen and that is something I detest immensley.

I’m pretty good at NOT making statements about topics I know nothing about….I refer to specialists, or go find them. I will go as far as ‘it’s fucked!’ when something isn’t working/broke, but then I leave it to someone in the know to expand on the specifics.

When giving out advice, I am always clear on the words I choose, and more often than not seek peoples clarity before our conversation is over.  Likewise, when coaching, I use my knowledge and experience to react to what’s actually happening in front of me at that specific time.  I also  (as much as possible) look to get the individual involved in some of the thought processes, helping them make their own conclusions based on the facts presented.

So whilst people may accept that ‘it’s ok, they meant well!’, when it comes to people’s health and wellbeing I don’t accept that as a reason.  We have to hold ourselves AND others accountable and take ownership of the services we deliver.  As coaches we have to develop a strong underpinning subject knowledge base and apply principles to our coaching.  This process NEVER stops. Whilst I cant hold everyone else accountable, I can hold myself accountable to standards, and the immediate coaches around me.  We ask each other for help, refer to each other, and discuss clients to get the best possible outcome.

At Custom Fitness,all the coaches/therapist talk to each other.  Like I outlined above.  Its one of the many things that I feel makes us completely unique – and its something that I’m personally proud of.  If you know me – then you’ll realise what a big statement that is!

If you have any questions comments please stick them in the comments section below, OR ping me .


Food with Gemma…Super Green Pasta

Super Green Pasta.

This pasta sauce is SO green, there’s no way it’s not healthy!


Serves 3

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • large handful of fresh basil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • Tbsp Nutritional Yeast (add this if you’re vegan or lacking in B12), if not, a type of grated hard cheese would probably make a good substitute.
  • 6 asparagus spears
  • 6 medium mushrooms
  • 1 onion
  • 1 cup peas
  • 75g pasta per person
  • Pine nuts to serve (optional)


  1. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, chop and sautee the mushrooms and onion until softene (5 mins).
  3. Add the asparagus to the onions and mushrooms.
  4. Scoop the flesh from the avocado and add to a blender (I used my smoothie maker!), add the basil, garlic, nutritional yeast/cheese and season generously.
  5. Add a ladle full of the pasta water to the blender and blitz. If the sauce needs loosening, add more of the pasta water.
  6. Add the sauce to the sauteed veg and stir in over a low heat.
  7. Drain the pasta and stir into the veg and sauce mix.
  8. To serve, add a few pine nuts to the hope and some more cheese/nutritional yeast if you want.

Lets talk Nutrition

Lets talk nutrition…..

Its one of the more common things we get quizzed about when people join.


Well the training element when you’re a CF member is pretty straight forward.

WE do a lot of the hard work for you….

the planing

the progression/regression

the adaptations

you just have to turn up 3-5 time a week and get on with it

and considering EVERY session is coached

and you’re not left to dick about 

thats that part done.

The harder bit – because there is SOOOOO much conflicting stuff out there is nutrition


Nutrition is like TRAINING in that there are PRINCIPLES

apply them to you….

add some consistency 

and BOOM!!!! 

you get a result!


If you want to lose weight – you need to be in a calorie deficit …… PERIOD

HOW you hit that deficit is up to you…

If you want to gain weight then its the opposite – you need to be in calorie surplus …. PERIOD



million dollar question is now coming up……

What is it about nutrition do YOU struggle with????



Food time with Gemma – Carrot Cake Porridge

Honestly, you could make anything Carrot Cake flavoured and I would eat it. But this is one of my favourites!! Perfect breakfast.


  • 30g oats
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled
  • Dried cinnamon
  • Dried ginger
  • Dried nutmeg
  • Small handful of raisins.
  • 3 chopped walnuts.
  • 50ml milk (I use almond, but which ever you prefer)
  • Honey/Maple Syrup (Optional)


  1. Grate the carrot.
  2. In a sauce pan combine the oats, carrot raisins, a sprinkle of cinnamon, ginger and a pinch of nutmeg, milk and enough water to cover the oats.
  3. Simmer on a low heat until it reaches your desired consistency.
  4. Serve topped with the chopped walnuts and a drizzle of honey/maple syrup if you like your porridge sweeter.

Feel free to add up with more toppings if you like!!

The porridge in the picture also has grated courgette in! You can’t taste it at all and it’s a great way to help you get your 5 a day!


Food time with Gemma – Spring Pea Soup with Roasted Radishes

After a hectic few weeks and lots of indulgent food, I decided I needed something light and green for my dinner to make up for it and get me back on the straight and narrow! Also, once you’ve roasted radishes, you will never go back!!


  • 200g radishes, quartered
  • 1 ltr vegetable stock
  • 1 bunch spring onions, chopped
  • 600g frozen peas
  • 150g spinach
  • Swirl of creme fraiche (optional)


  1. Put the radishes in an oven tray and roast for 15 mins at 180c, turning half way through.
  2. In a large saucepan, sauté the spring onion for 5-10 mins, reserving a small handful for garnishing.
  3. Add the stock to the saucepan and bring to the boil.
  4. Add the peas, spinach and season generously.
  5. Simmer for 5 mins.
  6. Remove from the heat and blend with a stick blender.
  7. Serve with a swirl of creme fraiche on top and come crusty bread.

Serves 4


Food time with Gemma….Carrot Cake Flapjacks!

These are a treat, but they do have carrot in so they’re practically one of our 5-a-day!


  • 145g unsalted butter (I used Vitalite to make these vegan friendly)
  • 1 heaped tbsp golden syrup
  • 85g light muscovado sugar
  • 1 pinch of sea salt
  • 1 large carrot – washed and grated
  • 50g walnuts – chopped
  • 50g raisins
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 pinch of nutmeg


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius
  2. Melt the butter in a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water.
  3. Add the golden syrup and sugar to the melted butter and combine.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients.
  5. Press into a lined tin.
  6. Bake for 15 mins or until set and golden.
  7. Allow to cool and cut into 12 slices.

Food time with Gemma…..Shakshuka

Eat this meal straight from the pan, with crusty bread for dipping!! I like grilling some asparagus spears for dipping too!!!

For this recipe you will need a deep frying pan that can go under the grill.

If your frying pan has a plastic or rubber handle, wrap it in tin foil and just make sure it’s sticking out of the grill, not underneath it. (Make sure you use an oven glove when removing the pan from the grill!)

Serves 2-3


  • 1 Red Onion, diced
  • 1 Garlic Clove, crushed
  • 1 Red Pepper, chopped
  • 5 Mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 x 400g Tins of Chopped Tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp Tomato Puree
  • 1/2 tsp Chilli Powder
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1tsp Paprika
  • 5-6 Eggs
  • 120g feta
  • Parsley to garnish (not essential)


  1. Heat a small amount of oil/Frylight in a deep frying pan and sauté the onion and garlic for about 5 mins.
  2. Add the pepper and the mushrooms and cook until softened.
  3. Add the spices and cook for 30 seconds.
  4. Stir in the tomato puree and cook for another 30 seconds.
  5. Add the tinned tomatoes, season and simmer for 10 mins until the sauce starts to thicken up.
  6. Create 5-6 wells in the mixture (dependant on how many eggs you are using) and crack an egg into each one.
  7. Crumble over the feta.
  8. Cook for a few minutes on the hob and then transfer to the grill to cook the eggs to your liking.
  9. Garnish with parsley and serve!!

Food with Gemma……Pizza time!!!

Cheats Pizza!

This is a really easy meal which you can customise any way you want!! Sometimes the simplest meals are the best!  

These really need to be eaten with a knife and fork rather than be picked up in slices, especially if you pile on as many toppings as I do!


Serves 2

For the pizza sauce:

  • 1 x Tin Chopped Tomatoes
  • 1 x Red Onion, diced
  • 1 x Garlic Clove, minced
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • Splash of Red Wine Vinegar
  • Splash of Worcester Sauce
  • 1 tsp dried oregano

2 x tortilla wraps

  • 60g of your favourite cheese
  • Fresh Basil

Toppings – You can use anything and EVERYTHING you like!

Always pre-roast or sautée your toppings as the completed pizza doesn’t spend much time in the oven as not to burn the tortilla wrap.


  • Shredded Chicken
  • Mushrooms
  • Sweetcorn
  • Peppers
  • Lean Ham
  • Lean Bacon
  • Red Onion
  • Chorizo Slices
  • Onion Chutney
  • Olives
  • Pineapple (Because it DOES belong on pizza!) 


  1. In a saucepan, soften the red onion and the garlic.
  2. Add the dried oregano, salt and pepper, tomato puree and cook for 1 min.
  3. Add the tinned tomatoes, red wine vinegar and the Worcester sauce.
  4. Let this simmer for at least 10-15 minutes until reduced to a thick pizza sauce. You don’t want it too watery!
  5. Meanwhile, prepare your toppings! I like sautéed peppers, mushrooms with sweetcorn, onion chutney and black olives but it’s completely up to you what you add.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius and then put your tortilla wraps on their own trays and bake in the over for about 7 mins. You want them to start to crisp up but not get too brown.
  7. Remove the wraps from the oven, then divide the pizza sauce across the two bases, spreading to the edges, leaving about 2cm round the sides.
  8. Add your desired toppings and half of the cheese on each pizza.
  9. Bake for another 10-15 mins, making sure that the edges don’t burn.
  10. Top with fresh basil and serve!

Food with Gemma….Sun’s out, Salad’s out!

This week Gemma has knocked up some simple, quick and yummy food thats great for when the sun is shining.

Sun’s out ☀️☀️☀️….guns out…actually it’s salad time!

Roasted butternut squash, kale and feta cheese salad 😋


Serves 1 


  • 150g butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 1 small red onion, finely diced
  • 1 large handful of kale, stems removed and torn
  • 7-10 small (plum) tomatoes, cut in half
  • 40g feta cheese, crumbled
  • 50g pomegranate seeds
  • Salt and pepper


  • 3tbsp olive oil
  • 1tbsp cider vingar
  • 1 garlic clove, freshly crushed
  • Salt and pepper


1. Roast the butternut squash cubes in a little oil, salt and pepper at 180 degrees celsius for 20-30 minute, turning half way through.
2. In a pan heat a little oil, add the red onion, kale and tomatoes. Cook for about 5 minutes.
3. Combine all of the dressing ingredients and set aside.
4. Once everything is cooked, put the sautéed veg on a plate and add the roasted butternut squash.
5. Crumble over the feta and sprinkle over the pomegranate seeds.
6. Drizzle over the dressing and enjoy!!