New Year - New Personal Trainer! Meet Chris O’Donnell (not the actor!)

Chris O'Donnell in the YMCA Club

Did you pile on the pounds over Christmas or maybe you fancy some new fitness goals for 2020? Whatever your health and wellbeing aspirations this year, why not invest in a Personal Trainer? We meet the Club’s newest PT, Chris O’Donnell…

Father of two, 47 year-old Chris from Westminster, has a PhD in Environmental Science, but has always loved the gym. He qualified as a PT last April with YMCAfit after deciding his career in oceanography simply wasn’t compatible with family life.

Why didn’t oceanography work for you in the end?

I used to do a lot of scientific research, but the problem is it takes you away from home. There’s no oceanographic research centres in central London, so I was working in places like the west coast of Scotland, Great Yarmouth, Southampton and Plymouth. I’ve even worked off the East Coast of Africa and Antarctica. It’s an ‘away from home’ job. When I worked in Scotland, I was coming home once every three weeks. I was having to take Mondays and Fridays off just to make the weekends worthwhile. I just got fed up with it.

Why retrain as PT?

I’ve done lots of things in my life. I lived in Malta for two years and worked as a full time scuba diving instructor. I’ve lectured in Marine Physics at the University of Highlands and Islands in Scotland and I’ve even raced motorbikes! I’ve been a member of various kickboxing schools and also taught a bit of self-defence too.

I thought for months about what I wanted to do. I’m right in central London and I’ve always loved and lived in the gym. I thought: ‘Why don’t I retrain and set up my own business as a PT?’ As soon as I qualified in April last year, I started working at the YMCA Club as a casual staff member teaching Circuits, TRX, Abs classes, Octane and Boxing. I nagged Hamit for a job for six months until he said yes!

You’re also a volunteer at the YMCA Club?

Yes, I’ve been a volunteer for around six years. From 2013, I used to take my son to the YMCA’s Saturday Club. Instead of reading a newspaper for three hours on a Saturday morning, I offered to volunteer and it went from there. Until recently, I also regularly volunteered at the kids’ football twice a week.

Why work at the YMCA Club?

I wanted to work here because there are a lot of things about this gym that are very unique. I’ve always felt part of this place because of the volunteering and my kids. I see young adults around the gym now that I helped as teenagers a few years ago. Over the last few years, I’ve also made a lot of friends in this gym who I really like. There’s a real sense of family.

What’s your training style?

My preferred method is full-on, high intensity fitness training - that’s the way I train myself. I have a good solid grounding in kickboxing, which is good because lots of people appreciate the benefits of this sport because it’s super high intensity. A 20 minute kickboxing work out can be better than a one hour circuit training class.

It’s also about training the mind and body together. A lot of people fail to achieve their goals because they think it’s just about pumping iron and going down the gym. I’ll help you become more focussed and resilient.

How important is the relationship between a PT and their client?

It’s a very intimate relationship in the sense that I’d know your age, your weight, your habits and probably your problems, as clients tend to let off steam with their PTs. There’s a special bond. If you’re a ‘people’ person and you like forming relationships, it’s a brilliant job to have.

I have to build a rapport with my clients so that I can gain their respect and trust. Once I have their trust, I can take them outside of their comfort zone. I push them to try things they haven’t done before.

As a PT, what’s your biggest challenge?

Not everyone has the time to train five days a week for an hour, so as a PT, my training needs to be smart and efficient.

Why do I need a PT?

What’s more important than being fit and healthy? You can’t put a price on a healthy pair of lungs and a healthy heart! It’s also about your wellbeing and how you feel. Once you appreciate that, then having a PT becomes worthwhile.

Why should people hire you as a PT in 2020?

I will optimise your fitness training. With me you’ll be more motivated and focussed. I’ll give you a structured programme, where I will monitor your progress in a metrical way.

According to my InBody tests, since April last year, I’ve gained 4 or 5 kilos of muscle and lost 4 or 5 kilos of fat. That’s proof that my training works - I am my own guinea pig! If I can train myself to do that, then I can train you too. A programme that works for me is also going to work on someone else.

My methods have a proven track record. My success rate is high and I bring a fresh approach. You will leave every session with a sense of accomplishment. I will take you to a new level!

Free consultation and taster sessions in January

If you like the sound of Chris, why not take advantage of his free, no obligation 45 minute consultation followed by his free 15 minute taster session?

The consultation is a conversation about your fitness goals (eg. weight loss, building muscle, improving your boxing technique or achieving better cardio vascular fitness, etc), what you’re doing already, how much time you realistically have for a PT and what exercises you like and dislike. The taster session will consist of a demo by Chris, which you will copy. Chris will watch you to ensure that your form is safe and correct.

If you decide to hire Chris, he’ll create a bespoke programme just for you!
You can contact Chris on 07939 060 899 or

Claire.Gilderson | 10 January 2020