The truth is I’ve been training since I could walk. My dad is a tennis coach, my mum a sprinter and my grandad was a great marathon runner. So sport and basic calisthenics have been part of my life (and family) for as long as I can remember. But I started to really embrace strength and conditioning properly at age 14. This is because I was playing water polo for the Great Britain junior squad at the time when I got a call up for the senior squad.
Now for those who don’t know water polo is quite a physical, aggressive sport. Whilst I was a strong and physically capable 14 year old, playing at senior level was a whole other level. I don’t mind admitting I basically got bullied in the pool during my first year at senior level by guys much stronger and bigger than myself. I remember one match in particular it was against the Maltese national side and I took an absolute beating off this bear-like man with a giant beard and vice-like grip. We got into a fight and he held me under the water for what seemed like an eternity. At the point of passing out I couldn’t do anything other than take a bite out of his calf (not proud of it but equally didn’t want to end up on the bottom of the pool). It was at this point my coach and I realised I needed to refine my training if I was to have any longevity in the sport.
Long story short we did. I studied sports science at Loughborough University’s School of Sport and Exercise Science. And years later I was 3 (lean, functional) stone heavier and no longer having to ‘bite’ my way out of fights with guys much bigger than myself.
All of them (is my short answer). Honestly I think this is the only way to learn sometimes. Albert Einstein once said, “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” And he was so right. I think this is especially true for training and nutrition since both are so specific and individual to each person. For instance a ‘pet hate’ of mine is these diets that are broadcast to millions as the perfect diet. This simply isn’t true. A one-size-fits-all diet is a diet that fits no one.
One nutrition plan cannot optimally cater for everyone’s needs? There are far too many variables and genetic differences to take into account. Height, weight, medical history, ancestry and physical activity are just some of the easier ones to determine. Throw the relatively new field of research they call, “nutrigenomics” into the mix — the study of how our genes interact with our nutrition — and consider that can of worms opened. The reality is every person processes and assimilates nutrients differently.
We must learn to empower ourselves and learn for ourselves and if that means making mistakes so be it. I love philosophy and so always draw inspiration from it for my training and nutrition too. In terms of self-experimentation the great Chinese philosopher Confucius said, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” In summary, don’t be afraid of making mistakes because it’s how you learn.
The key to being consistent is to be adaptive. Boredom and plateaus can easily set in, it’s part of life. But if you constantly adapt your training you’ll consistently improve. So learn to subject your body to a whole range of stimuli. Use less weight, more weight, less rest, different ranges of motion, band resistance to mimic the strength curve of the muscles, German volume training, eccentric emphasis and so much more. There’s thousands of possibilities, you are literally only limited by your imagination.
I’ve a really weird and eclectic taste in music. I can listen to everything from Jay Z and DMX when hitting the weights to Jack Johnson and old school Motown when doing some stretching conditioning.
I usually think that if I drop that weight and don’t give it 100% then I know deep down (when in bed that night) that I could have done more and that’s a horrible feeling. I love the saying, “Wake up with determination, got to bed with satisfaction” and if you could have done more in the gym you won’t be doing the latter.
Well, I’m a fitness and nutrition writer and so I take great pride in my work. I think the written word is so powerful and so every article I publish I do with the intention of trying to positively impact people in some way (no matter how small). I know that sounds like a ‘Miss World’ speech, but it’s true. Then inside the gym I love the fact that I can do a 30km obstacle course in a respectable time, but the following week go into a gym and throw up a 180kg bench press, then the next week hangout with the gymnasts and bust out some weighted ring muscle ups.
Good question and personally I remain lean all year round. Mainly because I think it should be a lifestyle and not some seasonal venture that people adopt when the summer time comes round.
I’m so sporadic with my choice of cardio. It will constantly change depending on what I’m doing that month. So sometimes I will be training for an obstacle race so there will be an emphasis on running to improve my V02 max, running biomechanics, muscular endurance…etc. But when I’m not training specifically for anything I really will just swim, bike, climb or even (randomly) I’ll join in my little brothers capoeira class.
If I can be honest this changes every week and every day. This is because I’m lucky enough to be the Co-Founder of the UK’s second largest online sports nutrition brand. We won the National Business Awards last year which was amazing but it also means I often work 18 hour days. For this reason sticking to a plan would actually be impossible for me. So I’ve learnt to be completely adaptive with my training and nutrition. For instance one day (if I have time) I will throw some Olympic lifts around with plenty of rest between sets working hard on biomechanics, mobility and kinetic chain of energy during the lifts. If I have no equipment I’ll find a tree and throw some gymnastic rings over it and work on some time under tension, gymnastic conditioning. Then if I do have the luxury of a gym I’ll probably go old school and do some German volume training, 5x5 or even some isolation work (maybe even throw in some Kaatsu/occlusion training which is a form of blood restriction conditioning invented in Japan in the 1970’s).
It’s at this point I usually receive a blank look from people who don’t understand my completely adaptive training protocol. But I usually respond with an awesome quote from a hero of mine, the American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles a few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods.” Basically if you understand “principles” (laws of adaptation, physiology and physics) you can make your own “methods”.
Again these completely change depending on my training. I think too many people consider nutrition and training in isolation, but you need to have a holistic view on the two. If one changes the other one must change too. So based on my completely adaptive training routine I’ll also change my nutrition to correspond to.
Without doubt my hero has to be Bruce Lee. Just because of his commitment to pushing the boundaries off the human body. I love his quote, “If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” It summed him up as a person and he was an absolute pioneer of physical excellence who paved for people like me and other’s in the fitness industry.
Equally, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Mainly because before him bodybuilding was seen as this incredibly niche, specialist sport that existed behind closed doors in these gyms inhabited by iron-lifting monsters. With complete determination he crossed barriers, broke prejudices and like Bruce Lee blazed a trail for many who followed him. He too was an absolute pioneer of human physical excellence.
Finally (not an athlete) but one of my academic heroes was Dr Yuri Verkhoshansky (one of the greatest Strength and Conditioning coaches to ever live). He began his career in the 1950’s as a track and field coach for many of the renowned soviet teams and it was him who practically created plyometric training with his “depth jump”. This later evolved into ballistic training and other forms of conditioning but again (like Bruce Lee and Schwarzenegger) it was Verkhoshansky who broke the mould and made things possible for future generations.
I’m very lucky since I’m one of the Co-Founders of the UK’s second largest online sports nutrition brand. At the risk of sounding big headed we’ve pioneered many industry firsts in sports nutrition like creating bespoke recovery formulas for professional athletes based on their individual biological indices. So to fuel my own training I’m constantly in the laboratory with the sports scientists trialling new pre-workouts, proteins, recovery formulas and everything else I can find. I’m basically like a human guinea pig and fuelled by this insatiable curiosity to understand how the human body works I’m forever changing my supplement routine. One small point on this though is supplements like omega 3, vitamin d and creatine have always formed supplement ‘staples’ for me. Yes there’s some exciting new research into the area of probiotics, plant extracts and more. But those three in particular are backed by so much research and should feature in everyone’s diets (especially in Vitamin d3 in Britain with the lack of sunlight during the winter and omega 3 with the lack of EPA and DHA in western diets).
Date of birth: 13th October, 1985 (29)