Creativity and motivation are the keys… to successful training sessions, and motivation certainly comes from being creative, I’ve been working out for 35 years and never once been bored with it.
Try new ways of working out and change things up regularly, one of the biggest problems I see is that people do the same thing session after session, that’s a sure way to get frustrated and bored, as of course improvement and gains are very slow in coming, if at all.
You don’t need a gym
You can always workout! just get creative! Here`s a free copy of a short book I wrote recently, hopefully to inspire people to workout while the gyms are still closed. This is how I started without any equipment or gyms. All I had was a creative mind. Hope you enjoy it.
Now sure, it’s a big inconvenience not being able to get to your gym for whatever reason, or maybe you don’t have a gym membership, or even own a set of weights.
If this describes you, don`t worry, you don’t have to let this stop you from getting your daily workout in. It`s time to get creative, and you`ll be very surprised just how creative you can get without a gym or even owning a set of weights. I should know as I did it myself.
Back in 1980, at the age of 16, there was a time when we had life without gyms, they simply didn’t exist, certainly no fancy gyms like we have nowadays, not in the small town where I lived anyway.
At this time, I probably weighed all of 130lb wet through! Painfully thin, and it was time to do something about it, but what could I do with no weights and no gym? Thankfully though, I was blessed with a creative mind.
So, this is my story of how I got into working out without a real weight set or gym, and more to the point just how creative I became in order to get my workouts in.
The moral of this story is; If you want to workout bad enough, you`ll find a way, and not let anything stop you! You might find it hard to believe, but the fact is your mind is stronger than your muscles-put it to use and get creative! Creativity and motivation are the keys.
Curling with bricks
My earliest recollection of working out would be when I quickly discovered items around the house and back yard that I could use for lifting.
Curling was the first exercise, with the use of two old bricks I retrieved from our back yard, well, actually from my dad`s small garden, I figured he wouldn’t miss two of them! I kept these under my bed and would curl endlessly day after day. No sets or reps, just as many as I could possibly do!
My limit to start with was 20, then I quickly progressed to doing 100 curls. I was impressed! 100 was my goal and I would try this every chance I got, 5-6 times daily, it was a competition, sometimes I did it and sometimes I didn’t, but I never gave up, or got discouraged or bored.
After a few months my parents and friends actually noticed my arms had completely changed shape! To say I was delighted would be the understatement of history! It was working, and now to take my workouts to the next level.
Shrugs with watering cans
Looking around the back yard and garage I found two old plastic watering cans, no idea what use they might be, but I just had a feeling I could use them for something.
I heated up the poker in the fire and did some homemade welding to seal a few holes in them, this was how we dealt with punctured soccer balls back then in England, we didn’t have the money to go out and buy a new one (that would have to wait for a birthday or Christmas present) we repaired the old one till it was unrepairable!
So, I had two instant home-made waterproof dumbbells with handles! I filled them up with water and taped over the opening on top. Now, what to do with them?
Shrugging and upright rowing that’s what! Neither of them weighed exactly the same but alternating them seemed to solve that issue.
Now I’m really getting into this and looking to see what else I can do to extend and improve my workouts.
A homemade lat pulldown contraption
Even before I knew what a lat-machine was, I came up with an idea of constructing something in my dad’s garage, which consisted of something that would resemble a pull up bar, that was already bolted to the wall that my dad used to hang various things off.
I looked around the garage and found a very strong looking metal bucket and an equally strong looking thick rope along with a 5-foot-long steel bar, which we combined together to resemble a lat machine.
So, the rope hung over the pull up looking bar that was already bolted to the garage wall, one end of the rope was the 5-foot-long steel bar, and the other end we had the metal bucket. Wrapped several rags either side of the middle of the pull up looking bar so the rope could slide central and not across the bar. You get the picture, right?
Now, everything was in place apart from one important item, no weights for the bucket.
So, time to get the wheelbarrow out for quick a trip down the back yard. I filled it up with large rocks and pushed it back up to the garage, a workout in itself let me tell you.
The next items I called upon was the use of a weighing scale and hammer and chisel, basic things you`d have in the house and garage or shed really. I set about making the rocks as close to 10 lb. each as I could get, I wasn’t exactly a sculpturer, but with a little careful chiseling it worked just fine. So now I had several 10 lb. weights to place in the bucket in the form of rocks.
Now let me tell you, trying to control that rope and bucket wasn’t easy, the bucket would swing wildly, and after a few near misses, eventually I got it down and had some seriously tough workouts, and can honestly say my back muscles have never been that sore ever since! Of course, at the time I had no idea just how much I was using stabilizing muscles to perform this exercise.
All I can say is when I finally joined a gym years later, when one actually opened, this particular exercise was so easy for me on a nice smooth real lat-pulldown machine, I could comfortably use the entire stack much to the shock of many in the gym. Still to this day, this is my favorite exercise.
One armed rows with a coal scuttle
First of all, let me explain exactly what a coal scuttle is, in England back in the day most houses had a coal fire, and an outside coal shed, basically a very small brick building that coal was kept in. A coal scuttle was the utensil to carry the coal from there into the house to the fireplace.
The coal scuttle itself we had, was around 3 ft long and held a good amount of coal, at a guess I’d say 30 lb. or so. Never actually thought to weigh this, but this made an ideal tool to use for one arm rows, much the same as if you were using a dumbbell.
I would carefully bend over with one leg in front of the other with knees bent, and hand placed on knee for support. I’m sure you can picture this if you’ve done this on a bench. As the coalscuttle had a long handle it was perfect for this exercise.
I would perform 20 reps one side, then switch sides and pretty much do this for 30 minutes straight. Remember, I had no idea what I was doing, other than enjoying my homemade workouts. All I wanted to do was workout and was happily doing just that.
working out in the kitchen with cans of baked beans!
As England was quite cold at times, actually most of the time, I preferred to workout indoors in the kitchen. We had kitchen chairs that were comfortable with a straight padded back.
Ideal for shoulder presses, my choice of dumbbells this time was to be a couple of large cans of baked beans, no idea what they weighed, not much, but when you’re doing sets of 20 reps for 30 minutes they really do feel heavy very quickly.
In the same fashion I would perform bench presses by laying on the floor on a cushion pushing the cans of baked beans. I would alternate this with push-ups, a very effective combination.
For triceps I would do hammer curls with old plastic milk jugs full of water, combined with push-ups with hands spaced close together.
Biceps, I would curl basically anything I could find, the heavier the better. My mindset was, If I could hold it, I could curl it! One day it would be something that resembled a bar, other days something that resembled dumbbells.
As for legs, I would squat for an hour at a time every other day, just free standing with no additional weights, combined with calves. When I stood up from my squat, I would then do my calf raise.
Abs I would do every day as a cool down, on the kitchen floor for around 10 minutes after each workout.
As for cardio I would `speed walk` daily to the town center and back without fail, (around 6 miles round trip) whether it was raining or snowing. My mind set was so strong, nothing would stop me, and I mean nothing!
My first set of weights
After working out in this fashion for a year, I felt it was time to take it to the next level.
One typically cold and rainy night, I was just flicking through the only three TV channels we had, namely BBC1, BBC2 & ITV hoping to find something entertaining when a documentary called `Pumping Iron` came on.
Not knowing anything about this I decided it may be worth watching, so I settled down and was completely shocked by the size of these monsters filling my small TV screen, after about 15 minutes I realized these were real people and not some camera or computer enhanced figures. Right from that moment I knew I was destined to become a `Gym Rat` for life!
Immediately after the show ended, I called my friend who had also been watching equally impressed. “Did you see the size of that guy? and what about that Arnold character with the weird last name?” we both agreed on a time and set off the next morning to a sports store in the local town center to purchase a cheap weight set of plastic sand filled weights, well they seemed good at the time!
In our eagerness we hadn`t considered how we were to get them home. Since neither of us could drive at that time we had to walk the 3 miles home carrying a 100lb. weights set! After a few very hard & long hours we finally got them home by which time we were both so tired and sore we didn`t start working out for another week! And that`s how it all began with real weights.
So, six months later and I’m still training like crazy, seven days a week sometimes twice a day. Constantly waking up the next morning unable to move because I’m so sore through over training No-Pain-No-Gain, right?
I’m quite proud of the fact that I’m able to get rid of the soreness each day just in time to hit the weights again. No thought to any kind of diet, eating everything in sight and drinking lots of beer at the weekends, dressed in muscle shirts everywhere I go showing off those tiny biceps to anyone who is crazy enough to look! Many girls were impressed, so that gave me all the motivation I needed to carry on as I was doing.
Of course I’m not making any gains and have no idea why, but by now I’m totally obsessed with the weights, like a drug I must have my fix of iron, yes I have progressed from the plastic sand filled ones to real iron weights and no, I didn’t walk home 3 miles with these, I ordered them from a catalog along with a lightweight bench.
I’m working out in the kitchen now which has turned into my gym with dad spotting me on a 150lb. bench press, this is getting hard work as dad isn’t sure he can lift this, come to think of it I’m not sure I can either! Now this really isn’t an ideal situation to have to carry all the equipment from a closet, set up the bench and all the weights which is a workout in itself. Work out, then put them all back again in the closet afterwards, and all the time we are keeping mom out of her kitchen.
This goes on for a further two years with very little gains to show for my efforts, and then I finally see the light, I really need to join a gym. By this time several have opened up in the area.
A real gym at last!
This is great, a real gym with real bodybuilders working out there. In fact, it’s an old Doctor`s surgery that someone has turned into a gym with very old equipment, some of which is homemade. The gym has no name and comes complete with a hole in the roof above the leg press machine.
Now winter in England is no joke as its freezing and always seems to be snowing on leg day. Each time I emerge from the leg press in a light covering of snow. I love this place, it has real character and I’m still working out almost every day with of course no gains to show for my pains, plenty of pains at this point though.
One day I get lucky and meet the owner, a real genuinely great guy who informs me I’m over training and need to cut back to three sessions a week if I really want to develop muscle and strength, and also pay attention to my diet. I never considered I was doing too much and being a `gym addict` now I’m worrying about what I will do on my four days off. But I take his word for it and do as he said, and like magic I start developing muscles without the previous pain, now I’m experiencing a nice soreness that isn’t as severe as before.
I’m getting to train with lots of experienced people now all offering great advice, and I’m in the best shape since I started and start to realize the mistakes I made in the beginning. Two years later the owner moved to another part of town and opened a fantastic gym! This place has much more modern equipment, bigger building, a name and no holes in the roof and still going strong today.
On my four days off I’m studying about various aspects of everything associated to the gym, correct form, nutrition, cardio etc. By this time, it`s four years since I first started working out. I have a great training program, and for the first time I really know what I’m doing in a gym, in fact to the extent that I’m now a certified personal trainer.
So, onto the present day, in 2001 I swapped the cold weather in England for the hot weather in South Texas! After I worked for one of the `Big name` gyms a short time, I have now found the perfect place to work. As an independent trainer I feel I`m more able to work on my own style rather than training like everyone else.
My own gym – The Backyard Gym
In 2018 I opened my own gym called `The Backyard Gym` which saw me move away from just personal training, to also focus on my real passion of self-defense and kickboxing. I have devised my own style of self-defense which I called `Street self-defense` which is a no-nonsense approach martial art, based on evading and escaping an attack, the elaborate moves on the movies look great but will not help you at all if you’re attacked simply because they don’t work, this does!
You don’t have to be Bruce Lee or a black belt to defend yourself. Street self-defense works for anyone-from young kids being bullied at school to the elderly out walking their dog at night-and allows everyone to effectively protect themselves and is proving to be a big success.
Here at the Backyard Gym we are running an ongoing campaign to try and help young kids overcome this terrible issue by giving them the confidence and skills to protect themselves. It`s one thing to know what to do, but, it`s another thing entirely to have the confidence to stand up to a bully and use those skills.
That’s why I believe we have developed the all-around package for kids to successfully be able to do both and live their lives free of bullying.
A final note
This is the final part of my story, the part that has the serious message that I want to get over to anyone who may be thinking of starting out lifting weights. I don`t claim to know everything, but from my own experiences and mistakes I feel that I`m qualified to offer some serious advice.
The first three years or so I pretty much wasted by throwing myself headfirst into this without any serious thought behind what I was doing, it was very much trial and error, mainly error I must admit. All this pain and wasted time could have been avoided if I could have had the help of a good trainer to start me out on the correct path. But as I said, at that time that wasn’t an option as there were none in that area.
But then again, looking back now some twenty plus years ago I`m glad to have made these mistakes because it really makes me aware of how a client is feeling when first coming to me for help, and I`m very happy to guide them away from that kind of start I made. I know firsthand the `No-Pain-No-Gain` attitude can be a very dangerous guide to follow and certainly know what it feels like following this style of training.
So, that was the story of how I went from working out at home, with and without weights, from how I went from going to a real gym to actually owning my own gym, and how I went from having no idea what I was doing to becoming a very successful certified personal trainer, and more to the point, just how creative I became in order to get my workouts in.
Like I said when you want something bad enough, nothing will stop you from doing it.
Now, I’m not saying follow what I did, as I admit back then I had no idea what I was doing, but hopefully this will give you a few ideas to carry on working out at home, whether your gyms are closed, or you have yet to join a gym. With a little creativity you can still do a whole-body workout at home.
All this might sound primitive, but when you have no gyms or weights, it works! So, instead of worrying and complaining and being depressed about having no gyms to go to at present, get creative! You`ll be surprised at what you can come up with in your own home.
So basically, if you come to me as a client you will be getting well over twenty years’ experience and I will be more than happy to give you value for money and really help you to the best of my ability to help you bring the best out of yourself, without over doing it, and to reach your fitness goals, but to first start you out on the correct path.
Well I hope you enjoyed reading this story as much as I enjoyed telling it, I know a lot of it sounds amusing, but it also carries a very important message about safety and starting off in the correct manner, and being creative.
Remember. Creativity and motivation are the keys… to successful training sessions, and motivation certainly comes from being creative. Just do it!