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Muddy meets Jenni Rivett – PT to the stars

Want to get fit without leaving your front room? Jenni Rivett is the one-woman powerhouse behind the 'Train like a Woman' programme. Feted by celebs, and drawing Zoomers from around the globe every week for her workouts, we had to find out more.

She’s the workout queen behind the vice-like thighs of many a celeb and the PT who trained Princess Diana for seven years. Now an international fitness and nutrition consultant, we joined Cheltenham-based Jenni Rivett for some crunches (all for you reader) to chat favourite haunts, fitness and royalty.

Plus … read on for a set of exclusive exercises to do at home and the chance for two lucky readers to WIN three months of Zoom classes.

Hello Jenni … tell us a bit about you?

I teach fitness classes, do private training, nutrition and wellness consulting. My late Mum released the first ever exercise LP in SA in the seventies called “Come Slim with Me”! so it’s in my genes I guess. I travelled the world studying health and fitness and ended up in the UK at an exclusive club called ‘Bodys’ in Chelsea.

Being a naive South African I never realised how many famous faces were coming and going. I became the studio co-ordinator and trained many of them without realising who they were. Personal training became very popular in the early nineties and my work took off. Since then I’ve published two books and done three fitness DVDs.

You’ve trained with some stellar names …

Yes, over the years I have trained Elizabeth Hurley (back in the day), Shakira Caine, Imran Khan, Jeffrey Archer, Lorraine Kelly and Princess Diana too.

Jenni trained Liz Hurley. Credit: You Magazine

We’d love to hear some funny stories …

The first time I went to train Shakira Caine at her home, I had no idea who she was and asked her if she had ever been to America! “Yes, we used to live on Rodeo Drive” was her reply. So embarrassing!

Jeffrey Archer was an interesting experience too. One morning Sebastian Coe and William Hague arrived to train in the gym in his apartment block. He asked me to go and stretch with William Hague – neither William nor myself were hugely excited about this idea, but I did it to please the boss- it turned out to be a really awkward few minutes!

You’re known as being the personal trainer to Princess Diana. What was that like?

I worked with Princess Diana for seven years until her untimely death in 1997. I received a phone call from Kensington Palace one afternoon asking if I could go and meet HRH (you can just imagine how exciting that was for me). She told me she had heard about me at three dinner parties and she needed to try my training.

She was incredibly focused with her training and never missed a session. We used to train at The Harbour Club, or at Kensington Place if she had time pressures. William and Harry would often come in on our sessions at Kensington Palace and she would tell them off when they started to annoy her!

Jenni with Princess Diana in Vail, 1994

We went on a skiing trip to Vail at the end of 1994 and had such a great time together. She was relaxed and always willing to muck in and help wash the dishes after meals. She gave me her most famous Virgin Active Sweatshirt which I had auctioned off last year (after 22 years) to raise money for a Malawian family. Richard Branson even bid for the shirt.

She taught me so much about humility and I miss her dearly. It took me four years to realise that I was supposed to curtsey! One day whilst walking in Kensington Gardens I noticed one of her best friends (who I also used to train) curtsying to her. I asked the friend why and she was horrified I had not adhered to the protocol. The next time I saw the Princess I mentioned I owed her four years of curtsying. She laughed and said “Oh Jenni it’s one of the things I love about you. You’re South African, and had no idea, please don’t ever curtsey to me!”.

She had a wonderfully wicked sense of humour. Another time, I was crossing the road into Hyde Park one day with one of my clients, heavily pregnant and being pulled by her eager dog. Next thing I saw these arms frantically waving at me out of the window with a hysterical laugh that could only be that of Princess Diana’s. She said it was one of the funniest sights she had ever seen.

She loved stretching and was very flexible. One day she insisted in one of our gym sessions she wanted to go and stretch. I tried to explain we still had to get through our workout, but she insisted and I reluctantly followed her, then I realised why. There on the stretching mats were none other than Hugh Grant and Simon Le Bon! 

Why do you call Gloucestershire home these days?

I live on Cleeve Hill in Cheltenham in 50 acres of heavenly green pastures. My partner Andrew brought me here. I’ve lived in some pretty special places in the UK such as Cambridge and Norfolk, but none come close to the Cotswolds. It’s the rolling hills, forests and adorable Cotswold stone buildings. I love it here.

Hanging out in Cheltenham

You’re from Durban in South Africa originally, what was it like growing up there?

I grew up with five siblings, so it was always busy. We spent weekends water skiing and running around barefoot. It was great fun and most of the time happy. Growing up in SA has given me such an appreciation and enjoyment of life. We had a very privileged life growing up there. Being the eldest daughter in a large family forced me into taking charge and often taking on a maternal role and looking after others. I guess that’s where my passion for helping women comes from. I’m also a creative being and always looking for new and challenging projects.

Durban’s Golden MIle

I try to spend three to four months a year in Cape Town and Durban. My daughter Kirsti, 27, lives in Cape Town. It’s a fairly easy flight to SA as it is overnight and almost on the same time zone. I do miss the lifestyle and weather a lot, but I love the balance between the diversity of the UK and SA, so it works really well for me.

Jenni splits her time between Glos and Cape Town

You say you can fast-track us to a fit, firm and toned body. Is it achievable for everyone?

There is so much confusion and conflicting advice out there. I’m a very practical trainer and I love to help people understand the reasons behind the exercises. My goal is to eradicate the confusion and fast track them by saving them from making the same mistakes I made in the early days of becoming a trainer.

My work is aimed mostly at women, and without being disrespectful, almost 90% of women I train do not have good exercise form, which is the key to looking and feeling fit and healthy. And yes, you absolutely can change your body in a few months with correct technique. The messages I receive from women all over the world are testimony to this.

What is the science behind Train Like a Woman?

My vision came from having worked with thousands of women from all walks of life. It’s a time efficient workout that covers, cardio, strength, flexibility and mobility training. Most people do not have hours to train in a gym. Secondly, we are women, we want to look like women and therefore we should train like women. No disrespect to men trainers, but they do not understand that women want to work those ‘mummy bits’ and not have bulging biceps and big thighs.

Men do not tend to teach women how to work their pelvic floor muscles. Although my workouts cover the entire body I tend to place more emphasis on the backs of the arms, posture, the lower body and those beautiful core muscles around the waistline. I workout with light/medium weights, resistance bands and a kettlebell.

I research everything I do and back it up with the incredible results achieved. Lockdown has been extremely good for my business and I’m incredibly humbled and blessed to have so many women worldwide following me. My SprinTone8 HIIT programme is so well researched and according to the very credible research, will burn more fat off your body in 11 minutes than running on a treadmill for two hours!

What should we be eating around the programme? Especially if we’re a bit free and easy with the wine and tiramisu on a Friday night!

I do not advocate diets but encourage my clients to eat a healthy, balanced diet 80% of the time, and to allow the other 20% to have the wine and tiramisu. It’s so important to me that women do not focus on feeling guilty about eating, and this is a BIG part of my programme. When you allow an indulgence to turn into a downward spiral, the guilt sets in, and motivation becomes low. Very often women end up spending most of the year going on the “Monday diet”.

I encourage them to press the “Delete” button when they go off track and to pretend it never happened and continue to exercise and eat well. This mindset really does work. When you tell yourself you can’t have something, you want it! Right? So much of this body issue stuff starts in the mind. When you follow this advice, you’ll eventually become an intuitive eater. When you do eat junk, you’ll feel the difference and not want to do it that often.

We should be eating good quality protein at most meals, healthy fats and a moderate amount of low GI carbohydrates. No more than 2 coffee or tea per day and at least 2 litres of water every day. This is basically an anti-inflammatory diet that will keep your hormones balanced and blood sugar levels in check.

Tell us about your Zoom classes then?

I’ve been very fortunate and blessed to have been in a position to help so many women discover how to work their bodies through Zoom training. Many women had been afraid or intimidated to go to gyms prior to lockdown and Zoom training has helped them overcome their fears and given them confidence, as they can work out in the comfort of their own home.

I run them three times a week, and they last an hour. If you miss one you can always catch up later with a link too. We have people from all walks of life, from all over the world tuning in, I call them my Jenergy Tribe.

What are they really good for?

A big part of my programme has been joint mobility training. I teach women how to age-proof their joints and ultimately improve their quality of movement. We spent most of our life sitting at a desk, standing and walking, basically our bodies are in flexion with very little extension. When you work your joints you are literally washing them, getting rid of waste matter, forcing the synovial fluid through and lubricating them. It’s been life changing.

Where would we find you hanging out when you’re not working?

I adore walking all over the Cotswolds and feel like I’m on a movie set here. My favourite hangouts are No. 131 in Cheltenham, Daylesford, Dormy House Hotel and Spa, The Kings Arms, Prestbur, Ellenborough Park Hotel and walking around Montpelier with my partner.

The streets of Montpellier in Cheltenham

Quick-fire round

Fave app or podcast of the moment? WE Well-being – hosted by Sophie Trudeau and also – Becoming Wise.

Dream leisure wear & trainers for a training sesh Sweaty Betty and my White Nike Renew trainers.

Name three people you’d most like to train with?George Clooney, Michelle Obama, David Walliams

Your guilty pleasure? Coffee and croissants and occasionally coffee and walnut cake.

Describe yourself in 3 words? Fun, confident, caring

I’ve always wanted to … Play the piano and climb Mt Kilimanjaro

Pet peeves … Arrogant and pretentious people. People who think I don’t eat and exercise all day!

If you had one last meal? Ten avocados, seriously.

Best gift you’ve ever received? My daughter Kirsti

Three things in your handbag? Hand cream, lip balm and my Spri resistance band.

Jenni’s 4 Essential Exercises – a set of exclusive exercises to do at home …

1. Squats

Great for building strength through the lower body. Stand with feet a little further than shoulder distance apart, toes slightly pointed outwards. Keeping your weight into your heels lift and lower your body with control, really squeezing your glutes on the way up. Do not allow your shoulders to drop forwards. Do 2 sets of 15 reps.riceps Dips: Love these as they really work and you can do them anywhere. Sit on the edge of your bath or a chair. Place your hands next to your side and lift and lower your bodyweight, bending at the elbows and not allowing the shoulders to shrug up. Do 2/3 sets of 10 reps.

2. Posture

It’s so important to have a straight and strong upper back. You will immediately look slimmer with good posture. Standing, bring your arms out to the side and simply squeeze your shoulder blades together as strongly as you can. Imagine holding a marble between your shoulder blades. Do this often – even several times a day.  Or do 2 sets of 15 reps daily. 

3. Modified push ups

Great for a woman’s body as they are easier and safer than full push-ups, but the results are great and they also work the shoulders;  time efficient for the upper body.  Come down onto your knees and place your hands just off your mat. Lower your buttocks and pick your feet up off the floor slightly. Without arching your back,  lift and lower your bodyweight through your arms. The elbows go slightly behind as you lower into the push ups. Do 2 sets of 10 reps slowly.

4. Alternate shoulder and leg lift

This is one of the best ab exercises I know. Place your hands behind your head, relax your elbows slightly inwards. Keeping your left leg slightly bent, lift it a few inches off the floor.. Lift your head and shoulders off the floor and rotate your upper body slightly towards the left side. Now lift and lower your upper body slightly across towards your left leg. Do 10 reps on the left side and 10 reps on the right side. Repeat. Draw your abs towards your backbone and do not allow your tummy to pop out.

*** WIN ***
We have THREE months of Zoom ‘Train Like a Woman’ sessions to GIVEAWAY to TWO lucky readers. Just click here to enter now – good luck!

For more information on Jenni’s method of training or to book onto a Zoom lesson go to www.jennirivett.com.

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