Welcome to a weekly feature on my blog – Ben’s Zone. Written by husband… Ben. A foodie, coffee obsessed, ex-smoking, ex-drinking and Ridgeback loving Dad. Who is also seriously into his fitness. You can find him on the blog (mostly) on Sundays. Enjoy!
Improving my Training with Online Fitness Coach Steve Llewellyn
*AD – gifted
It’s funny what people engage with on Facebook. Sometimes I put something I feel genuinely strongly about and it sinks without a trace, sometimes I put something relatively trivial and people go nuts. This week it was something I thought quite minor, a picture of some wooden rings. I’d bought some wooden gym rings and it created quite the stir, with some curious, some strongly against and others very supportive, but why rings? Calisthenics is the answer.
I’ve been trying to do more strength based exercise for about a year now but with a relatively unsatisfactory amount of success. The reasons to up strength exercises are threefold, firstly, the activities I do require strength as well as cardio fitness (OCR, surfing when I can), secondly, regular strength based exercise is recommended as part of a healthy lifestyle and thirdly, mental health. I’ve long known that exercise is part of maintaining good mental health for me but always stuck with cardio as I am more inclined towards it. The extra pressure of lockdown has demonstrated to me that I need to up my game in strength as well, even though I’m not naturally inclined towards it.
This is where an old friend from school and certified online coach Steve Llewellyn comes in. Steve and I had been chatting on Facebook for some time about how to make a change in my strength based training. I liked the calisthenics approach he advocates, partially because it makes sense to me but more because it can be done at home without going to gyms as I’m not super comfortable in gyms. I also liked the strong focus Steve puts on exercise with regard to mental health his holistic, balanced approach to training. Steve and I discussed what I wanted from my exercise and chose 3 key areas to focus on. I decided I wanted to improve core strength, as a strong core is a foundation on which everything else can be built, leg strength to help with my running and finally arms and shoulders to help with hanging obstacles in OCR where I’ve felt less confident before. Steve offered some help and guidance in exchange for some honest feedback. As I often write about my fitness activities I suggested I share my experience via this blog.
For a long time I’d tried to work on my exercise myself and it was odd at first to ask for professional help but what struck me was that in getting guitar lessons after a long time trying to learn myself I’d done more in a year that I have in all of the rest of the time I’d been playing. So why not apply that logic to exercise. I definitely felt like I was in a rut with what I was doing.
Once we’d agreed on focus areas Steve sent clear demonstrations of the 4 exercises that will form the bedrock of my training. Each exercise has a basic form and then a series of progressions. Each time I master one form I move to the next variation on the exercise. The 4 key exercises are push ups, leg raises, squats and pull ups. The gym rings are for use with my pull up bar for pull up variations as time goes on.
At this point I’m a week in and it’s hard, but I’m enjoying it. The focus is on correct form during the exercise rather than simply doing as many reps as possible and while I thought I was doing some relatively useful work, I clearly was not. Physically I’m quite sore which implies that the new routine is pushing me a good deal harder than my previous one. The physical impact (a lot of muscle soreness) is a clear indication that my previous form was not correct and I was, in fact, not getting very much out of the time and effort I was putting in, so I am glad I got some guidance and a more structured approach.
The progression based exercises and contact with Steve also adds extra interest and a sense of accountability. What I have noticed is that, although my mood was not low before, there has already been a positive impact. I should be wasted right now as I worked US shifts over thanksgiving but woke up at normal time. That level of lack of sleep combined with the energy involved with a young family should leave me pretty shredded but I feel my energy levels are high and my mood is good. I atttribute this to the impact of the training itself and also the lift you get from upping your game in any aspect.
So far I am very pleased with where I am. The exercises are challenging and pushing me hard, which is what I want. I feel like I am focusing on areas that will prove useful to me. Most importantly, this is a routine that has not been difficult to slot into my normal day, so I know it’s something that can be sustained.
If you’re interested in working with Trainer Steve, his Bodyweight Basics course is a course that can be delivered in a fully online setting in 3 defined skill levels, novice, intermediate and advanced. Though he is happy to train anyone, Steve has a specific passion for training with men 40 and upwards who perhaps struggle to find time for exercise and self care with busy lives, families and jobs.
Be sure to come back in January for an update on how the programme is going and some more info on fitness for physical and mental health into 2021.