Matt Roberts

Matt Roberts

The personal trainer offers his goal setting tips. If they're good enough for the rich and famous...

Matt's top goal setting tips

  • Define a goal and stick to it.
  • Think about why you haven't achieved your goal in the past. Break down those barriers, a few at a time.
  • Write down your goals, or visualise what it will feel like when you achieve them.
  • Recognise potential pitfalls.

Raise Your Game: What kind of people do you train?

Matt Roberts: I train a real mix of people, everyone from beginners to international athletes and actors, film stars, pop people, models and so on... I'm fortunate to look after a lot of people who are well-known, a lot that aren't.

People like Naomi Campbell, John Galliano, Mel C from the Spice Girls and various professional footballers from Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace. It's always fascinating to see how they approach their fitness and their lifestyle in different ways. For people who are sports people, it's quite easy making them become aware of a greater long-term pattern to follow.

There aren't a lot of peaks and troughs to their routine, it's all about progression towards an end goal. With actors and with models, there are really short-term goals to aim for and, inevitably if someone's getting ready for a film role that starts in two months time, well that's their goal, there's no moving that goal so it's very much a short-term quick fix approach.

RYG: What's it like training famous people?


Matthew Roberts


Personal trainer


  • Author of eight best-selling fitness books
  • Started the world's biggest personal training company (1995)

MR: I've never been overwhelmed by people who are well-known. My father was a footballer so I grew up around famous people and it was quite normal. I think that helps because there's no great distraction from what you're doing.

That said there are people who we work with who I'm slightly excited about, people like Sting. I was a massive Police fan as a kid, so seeing Sting was obviously terrific. Those situations do come now and again where you get slightly excited about various people but, at the end of the day, you need to focus on the service you provide.

RYG: Do the great and the famous ever feel any inadequacies like the rest of us feel about their shape?

MR: The interesting thing with people who are well-known is that they are the same as everybody else and if anything, there is a heightened sense of anxiety about how they look because of course they are on film day-in, day-out - that's their profession, their livelihood.

They're just a human body, they have to be good at what they do, so yes, they have the same concerns about different shape bottoms and the wrong size shoulders and so on.

What they do have is a great capacity to define a goal and stick to it, because for them it's their work and their living. If you turn up for the Oscars and you're overweight, well you're overweight, you can't move the Oscars. You're going to be the size that you are and be photographed for everyone to see. I think that is where the celebrities have the additional motivation - it's pressure.

A regular person on the street needs to take a leaf out of that book and apply it to their lifestyle to make them focus much more on their workout. Think about the over-riding goal and the downside of not achieving your goal.

People often give themselves rewards for doing well, but don't have a penalty for doing badly and, quite frankly, you need penalties as much as you need rewards otherwise where is the motivation?

RYG: How do you begin the inspiring process?

MR: One of the most important things that I do with a client is to go through all the reasons why they have not achieved their goal in the past.

There's probably 15, 18, 20 reasons - I hate exercise, I like eating chocolate, I love alcohol and so on. We write all of those down and pick out the three easiest of those barriers, those problems like not having enough water every day, not having enough fruit and vegetables and not exercising at all.

Then we're going to make you exercise three times this week, drink a litre and a half of water each day, eat three portions of vegetables per day and that's all we're changing.

Keep smoking, keep drinking, do everything else you have been doing in the same way and then next week we add three more in and then three more and so on. We do it in very short bite-sized chunks, rather than all at once.

The 'all in one' approach works for some people but doesn't for others and that is why, if they start a programme in January, they fall off by the end of January.

Doing it in small chunks instead means you have more consistency and more ability to motivate that person because success does breed success. So one week you feel successful and you feel great and you feel you can do the next week and then next week. That's where, as a trainer, you've got to be able to tune into that psychology, and that is how I motivate people.

RYG: Do you use written goals, written targets?

MR: Everyone gets a written target as part of the initial consultation. For some people it's very distinctively written down and displayed somewhere obvious to them as a real goal to go for. But often, rather than having a written goal, we might use visualization. We might take an idea or an individual and we try to imagine how you would look at your very best.

Maybe you think of yourself as somebody who's got a shape similar to your natural shape. Can you get to that shape by changing your weight, your body sanctions and so on?

RYG: How do you work on encouraging the positive? What kind of things do you say?

MR: Stage one: recognise that they have started their workout programme to make a positive change. Otherwise what's the point of being there?

It's important we understand where they think they can get to and where I think they can get to, so we have a very good clear real goal to shoot for. Once we have got that there's a positive mentality of where they are heading towards. Encouraging them to achieve certain short-term goals of course creates positivity.

Recognising possible downfalls and pitfalls without having the negative goals is important too because it creates reality. It's important people really take possession of what their goal is. There's no point in me taking over what they are doing. I can give them a guide and help them to work out what the plan will be. You have to feel empowered to control your own lifestyle and your own future, otherwise you are just a puppet.

It's important to encourage them to be part of the decision making process, encourage them to find the right lifestyle changes under guidance and that they take control of that.

I think handing someone the responsibility with knowledge means they feel very positive about the changes they can make to their programme - in this case their own body. But you can cross that over into any other skill. If you empower anybody in the workplace, in a school setting, to take decisions based on good knowledge and good planning, then you can actually become very successful.

Unless you try you're never going to know what you're able to do.

Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson

11 times Paralympic gold medallist

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