In the past few months I’ve been lucky enough to work with Tim and Jacko on their seminars in London and Ireland, and I can now say I’m proud to be part of the School of Calisthenics team. It’s been a long and interesting journey to get to this point in my career and I feel it’s only right to share my story and thoroughly introduce myself.
Growing up, I’ve always loved the outdoors. You’d always find me climbing trees, dancing or kicking a football about. Although I loved to move, I never took anything I did seriously, I just wanted to play – looking back now, not much has changed.
Throughout junior school I always tried different activities like trampolining, canoeing and athletics, but nothing seemed to get me hooked. As I got older I started to avoid sports all together. If only my school teachers could see me now, they’d be in for a shock.
I always wanted to move more, but my relationship with food wasn’t great, which evidently made me feel worse about myself and so I succumbed to my laziness. This, along with the difficulties I was having with body dysmorphia made participating in sports that little be harder. I was intimidated by those around me who seemed to be so much fitter and better adapted to a healthier lifestyle.
Things needed to change. After I finished school I decided to leap outside my comfort zone with no real idea of direction. I landed in a performing arts course at a local college which, looking back, was one of the best decisions I could have made. Yes, I was out of my comfort zone, yes, I was terrified, but I was loving every second of it because I’d finally found my creative streak through physical theatre, contemporary dance and choreography.
Once my course had finished, I needed to go travelling and see the world. It was travelling that, at the age of 18, I discovered Yoga, Snowboarding and Surfing – I was instantly hooked. The playfulness, the adrenaline; it was everything I was searching for. Yoga became a consistent part of my life, while the snow and surf offered new opportunities to work seasons and consequently, became some of the best years of my life. My passion for photography grew and I was lucky enough to work as a photographer for a company in New Zealand, which followed me back home to the UK.
However, after a few years of not having a set routine, my lifestyle wasn’t particularly healthy. I was determined to kick some bad habits, one of which was smoking and create a positive change, so I started to run. That first shift helped me to finally muster up the courage to join a gym, something that I was always terrified about. At this point I’d continued with my love of Yoga and dreamt about the idea of one day being able to teach it.
A few years after that first run, my life had completely changed. I made decisions that benefited my new found lifestyle, and as a result, my self acceptance and confidence excelled. I was feeling the effects from the positive changes I’d made, but I needed to go further. I wanted to use my experiences and newly established passion to help others do the same. I took the plunge, and studied to become a qualified personal trainer.
Once qualified, I started running boot camps and taught 1:1 sessions from my garage. My very first PT client introduced me to the world of CrossFit, which then lead me towards my next journey. I trained and qualified as a Crossfit Level 1 and 2 coach. During this time I also completed my 200hr Yoga teacher training with ‘Yoga Haven’ which was a dream come true. I eventually opened my own gym with a friend, diving into the rewarding, yet challenging world a Crossfit community offers.
At the start, I mostly taught Yoga to the Crossfitters who attended our classes. We eventually extended the business and built our own small studio adjacent to the Box in which I still teach, offering Yoga to the wider community.
Throughout my journey, I developed a huge passion for movement, but not the kind that chased numbers, and left you on the floor catching your breath. I became intrigued with how my clients moved and wanted to help them build better awareness within their bodies and achieve a solid level of control in their movement. I’d come from a background of gaining incredible flexibility from dance and yoga, but I lacked strength through my range of motion, which consequently, amounted to a whole host of injuries. These injuries resulted in long lengths of time away from training over the years. However, I discovered the more I learnt through my own practices and mistakes, the more I could identify and steer my clients in the right direction. Throughout my experiences, I noticed a great deal of people in the fitness industry have very limited or inefficient range of motion, something I wanted to change. The most exciting part of my job is helping my clients feel, see and understand the importance of their movement, because movement is life. The better you move with greater control, the more versatile you become which sets the foundations to achieve your impossible.
Earlier in my journey, when my own training began, my first big goal was to achieve a strict pull-up. It took me a whole year to finally accomplish what I worked week in, week out on. Consistency was key. It was frustratingly hard, and at times I remember thinking I wasn’t ever going to get my chin over that damn bar. I remember feeling the difficulty and intensity in my shoulders and hands by simply hanging. So that’s where I began. I spent more time hanging to strengthen my grip and shoulders, I moved onto negatives, banded pull-ups and isometric holds. I knew that all these variations would eventually help me reach my goal. I remember the feeling of getting that first pull-up. It was so personal to me because I felt stronger and more powerful in my body than I ever had. I overcame something that I had to work extremely hard for. This feeling was elevating. It drove me towards chasing my next goal, opened new doors and developed a new belief system in myself. If I could achieve that, then I could achieve anything I wanted in my training.
Over time I built a huge amount of respect for strict work. The discipline and patience needed to progress was something I found so rewarding. This love lead me to calisthenics, a direction in which I believe I was destined for, even 12 years ago where it all started – attempting frog/crow balances and landing flat on my face!
There’s a beauty in calisthenics, every bit of progress made, no matter how small, has simply taken hard work and dedication – there are no shortcuts. Within the process, there are many fails and falls, but that hard work is what you learn to love and laugh about.
I went from not being able to do a single strict pull-up, to now doing strict ring muscle ups without any solid training background growing up. I undoubtedly believe that if I can do it, then anyone can. Due to my career choice, you may think I have more time to train than I do. Granted I have the freedom to select which hour I train each day, but that’s it – an hour. I train 4-5 times a week and no more. I do, however, use that time to work on what is relevant to my goals and most importantly, what I find fun and mentally stimulating. I listen to my body and if I need an extra day’s rest, then I take it.
Coaching calisthenics continues to excite me. We all start from somewhere, and when someone is adamant they can’t do a certain movement, I love being able to guide them through the process that will help them achieve their goal. The look of elation when something just ‘clicks’ is so impactful and drives me to continue doing what I love. I’m passionate about coaching and guiding a client, but more often than not, that client is also teaching me. Every person is an individual, with individual needs and individual goals, there is no one programme or method that fits all – and I love discovering what works for those individuals.
I want to inspire more people to move in a way that makes them feel good. You don’t need to view exercise as a punishment, but rather a tool to see what your body is capable of. When I first started training, body image was a goal for me. However, the intensity and hardship I put my body through was a lot, only to find I still wasn’t satisfied. You need to enjoy what you do, otherwise what’s the point? In these last 8 years, I’ve had a lot of ups and downs while I searched for where I fit in this industry, however, finding calisthenics taught me to love what I do, play more and appreciate my body for what it can do rather than how it looks.
There are three main complimenting components to my training; Calisthenics, Yoga and Metabolic Conditioning. Calisthenics strengthens my Yoga practice, while Yoga gives me a greater awareness during my calisthenics training, as well as creating a supple body. Metabolic conditioning is what gets my heart going and keeps me fit. It allows me to run up and down stairs, climb mountains if I wish and conditions my ability within surfing and snowboarding. I could recommend these three elements of training, but wholeheartedly recommend you discover what works for you, and most importantly, what you enjoy. If you take pleasure in what you do, then it’ll be sustainable and consistent – and you’d be amazed what consistency and hard work can do.
Enjoy the process – I know I do.