Who to know

Like sneaking off to see another hairdresser, meeting a new personal trainer feels a bit like cheating. So it was with a twinge of guilt that I sat in the lobby of the new Bulgari Hotel, waiting to meet James Duigan.

But of course I was a bit excited. We're not just talking any old trainer... we're talking Duigan, here (pronounced Die-gan). The man responsible for the knockout shapes of some of the world's hottest bodies... starting with The Body herself - Elle Macpherson.

James appears. He's taller, more softly Aussie-accented than I imagined and wearing jeans and t-shirt that reads 'Make Love Not Climate Change'. A strong handshake, a twinkly smile and he points to the cover of the magazine I've been flicking through. "I trained her this morning," he says. The 'her' is cover girl Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. I mean, you really couldn't really get a better ad for Duigan's 'Clean and Lean' ethos.

But Duigan isn't about denial. "No one should get to the end of their life and for their greatest achievement to be, 'Well my body fat never went above 11%'.  Life is about having some fun and being kind to yourself. We need to change the conversation; it's not about shame and guilt. Our relationship with food shouldn't be miserable - in fact the fastest way to put on weight right now is to go on a diet. 'Health' has never been so unhealthy." 

James Duigan's fitness training empire began aged 16 after a knee injury put paid to his career as an Aussie Rules footballer. He got into martial arts, boxing, jiu-jitsu and for the last ten years has focused on changing wellness attitudes from his three base camps; his home-town of Sydney, London and LA.  

In London, Duigan has just moved 'house'. The Bodyism headquarters has gone from a slightly shabby mews house in South Kensington to a swanky gym in Knightsbridge in the bowels of The Bulgari Hotel. The wood paneled gym is filled with curious playful looking equipment, " I wanted to have lots of things to pull and push, a bit like a Montessori for adults," he explains. The music is kept low, to encourage a constant conversation between client and trainer. Added bonuses include use of the hotel's 25 metre pool, spa and Duigan's collection of ridiculously good-looking trainers.

All Bodyism newbies undergo an assessment or 'Body Oracle' and then a programme is drawn up that could include the gym, swimming, yoga, or "whatever it takes to get you where you want to be." But Duigan likes to keep it simple to avoid, "Paralysis through analysis". 

It's expensive; training starts at 200 quid a pop. But that doesn't seem to stop the demand. And for those who want a slice of the action without decimating their wallets, Duigan has penned best-selling books and has a range of naturally and ethically sourced supplements. "They're a pain in the a**e to make", says Duigan, "but they allow us to reach people all over the world." 10% of Bodyism profits go to Blue Marine Foundation. And in the next couple of months a new community based 'ecosystem' website is set to be launched.

I like Duigan. Despite his success he appears to be driven by more than just ego or dollar. He was worth the guilt.


Bodyism offered all Vanity Fair A-List members the chance to win one of three 1 hour personal training sessions with Bodyism at The Bulgari Hotel (worth £200 each). Don't miss out on future offers, sign up to the A-List