‘Time, Effort, Discipline & Consistency’ – An In Depth Interview with Mike Thurston

Ever wondered what it’s like to be a fitness model, physique competitor and a business man? Ahead of his second stage show in London this coming weekend, The WBFF Fitness & Fashion Spectacular, I caught up with good friend Mike Thurston about all things health & fitness.

Mike’s been a good friend since the University days and since then he has gone from strength to strength in pursuing a successful career in the Fitness industry. We have remained in close contact, even if the majority of the time it’s me hassling him about my macro splits or how to get better abs. I’ve always admired his passion for fitness, as well as his work ethic in the gym and life. Not only is Mike in ridiculous shape, but he is one of the most humble blokes I know. Mike also understands discipline. Last year, he co-founded his personal training company Aurora Athletic, and despite putting his business and clients first 99% of the time, his personal focus is never compromised. Most people find it challenging balancing their work and social life, let alone staying in shape and trying to run your own business, but somehow Mike stays on top of it all. Having worked with Mike, alongside his business partner Kyle on various elements of my own fitness goals last year, its safe to say that these guys are a force to be reckoned with and are some of the better, more knowledgeable and honest guys within the industry!

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When it comes to health & fitness, Mike believes in simplicity. This ‘less is more’ approach is certainly reflected in the Aurora brand, and the emphasis they place on the importance of balance. It was great to chat to Mike and get an insight into his daily life. However, Mike is also just an everyday working individual like the rest of us, and illustrates perfectly how one can maintain balance and lead a healthy & sustainable lifestyle, no matter how many other commitments they have

AA: Hey brother! Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat. How’s training going for your next show? Tell me a little more about it…

MT: It’s going well! The training side of things have been going great. Over the past month or so I’ve increased my training frequency and intensity. Instead of training for pleasure, it’s now for a real purpose. Shit gets serious! On most days I’m training twice a day, focusing on my weaker body parts such as my legs and back. I love training and I always will, regardless of whether I’m training for a competition or not. The big struggle has been the nutrition side of things. I’m a big fan of food. I like to be flexible with what I eat, and when I do eat, I eat big. Obviously when it comes to cutting and comp prep you have to be more selective with what you eat, along with the quantities and timing. During the week it’s been ok, as I’ve got a good routine going on, it’s the weekends which are the biggest challenges. The last 3 weeks have been a real struggle, but the discipline has definitely paid off.

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AA: This is the second time you’ll be stepping on stage, are you more excited this time and are you doing anything differently to prepare for it?

MT: I’m a lot more relaxed about the whole thing. Last year I had no idea what to expect, so it was almost like stepping into the unknown. This year I know what is required, I’ve learnt from my previous mistakes and I’m enjoying the process a whole lot more than I did last year. One of the biggest setbacks last year was my stage presence – in other words, how I carried myself on stage along with my posing. I’d never experienced anything like that before, so I was kind of taken back by the whole experience. Now I’ll embrace it, know what to expect, and play up to the crowd.

This time round I’ve also increased training volume along with keeping calories higher. I cut my calories far too drastically last year and over did the cardio, which resulted in me losing a fair bit of muscle mass. Not to mention I had no energy and was miserable for 3-4 weeks prior to the show. Last year I was also moved up from fitness model to muscle, so that threw me off a bit. This year I know for sure I’ll be heading into the muscle model category, so my goal is to maintain as much muscle mass as possible, as opposed to being the leanest guy on the stage. It’s not about how lean you are, it’s your overall look, aesthetic appearance and stage presence.

There’s always work to be done. It’s like a never-ending project. Even when you achieve your dream physique maintaining it is like looking after a new-born baby, it needs constant attention and looking after.

AA: It goes without saying that genetically you are pretty gifted, but you also have an insane work ethic. What motivates you every day to keep going and aspiring to be better

MT: I get asked this question a number of times and each time I have to pause and think about it. I guess whatever it is that motivates me is the same thing that made me pick up a dumbbell in the first place when I was 17 years old. I’m still not quite sure why I do it, I just do. When I’m in the gym I completely zone out. It’s like meditation for me. You can completely remove yourself from the outside world, all it’s stresses and problems, leaving you with your music, the iron and you. I look at myself and visualise the physique I aspire to have. I constantly scan my body and critique it, always looking to improve, setting new goals and smashing them. I guess the strange thing is that you’re rarely satisfied. I don’t think I’ve ever sat back and thought, ‘my work here is done’. There’s always work to be done. It’s like a never-ending project. Even when you achieve your dream physique maintaining it is like looking after a new-born baby, it needs constant attention and looking after.

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I also like the fact that it’s one of those things in life which you have complete and total control over. You decide how much intensity you want to put into the workout, no one else can tell you what you can and can’t do, and there’s no room for excuses. You’re accountable for everything than goes on between you and the iron.

AA: You are pretty meticulous with your training and nutritional programming, but supplementation nowadays plays a crucial part in the progress of an athlete as well as their recovery. What supplements do you currently use?

MT: I’ll always prioritise unprocessed, earth grown foods over supplements. But yes supplements do play a crucial role to take things to the highest level. My supplement list includes: ZMA (Zinc & Magnesium), Vitamin D3, Omega 3 Fish Oils, BCAA (powder), creatine monohydrate and intra workout carb supplements. Unfortunately most protein shakes don’t agree with me any more, which was confirmed by a food intolerance test I did late last year. I’ve experimented with a number of different whey alternatives, but none really had a big impact. I think i’m much happier now having an extra plate of food as opposed to a shake which I down in one go. That being said I do miss the taste of them. If you chose a brand with the right flavour and texture, it’s like having a milkshake post-workout.

One of the most beneficial supplements I’ve found in recent times is the intra workout carbs. As I’m on lower calories/lower carbs, my energy levels aren’t as high as usual. The training sessions need to be just as intense, if not more intense than ever, so the intra workout carbs give me that extra push, ensuring that I can give 100% in each session. I’m a big fan of Vitargo CRX by Scitec at the moment. That stuff is really helping me through my workouts.

You can still go out, have a drink, eat your favourite foods and enjoy life, whilst still being fit, healthy and having the body you aspire to have

AA: Knowing you from the Uni days, you definitely weren’t one to shy away from the fun. As an everyday athlete, how did you manage to stay consistent with your training and diet amongst the boozy lifestyle?

MT: Well I’ll tell you one thing, there’s not a chance I’d be able to live the student life and train like I used to do! It’s either a combination of age, or living a permanent healthy lifestyle, but my hangovers these days are savage! If I went as hard as I did back then the following day would be a complete write off that’s for sure. My body punishes me for a big night on the drink, as if to say ‘thanks for all the crap you put down your throat last night, today I’m going to make you suffer’.

As a student I was still able to somehow train the day after a night out. Yes, my body was in a less than optimal state to burn fat and put on muscle, but a workout was better than no workout in my mind. I managed to stay consistent with the training just because of the sheer drive and satisfaction I got from it. If I didn’t go to the gym it felt like a void needed to be filled. Something it just didn’t feel right. Most people would give training a miss after a night out, or end up missing a number of sessions in a row whereas I’d still go out and get it. There may have been the odd days where I physically couldn’t train due to a hangover, but once that day had passed I was itching to get back into it.

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One of Mikes recent photo shoots

AA: As well as being a fitness model, you’re also a business and Gym owner. How do you cope with fitting your individual training commitments in and around such a hectic business lifestyle, let alone coaching clients? This is an aspect that even a lot of day-to-day workers/fitness warriors struggle with.

MT: You can manage to fit it all in. It’s not easy but it’s possible. One of the biggest problems I’ve had this year is trying to take too much on. Week after week my days have somehow managed to get busier, right up to the point where I’m not getting things done. Every morning I used to sit down and write a list of things that I planned to complete that day, but I never got through them all. One of the things you have to do is to sit down and figure out what it is that you’re spending most of your time on and decide whether to keep spending time on it or stop doing it completely and focus your efforts elsewhere. I found that I spend a lot of my time scrolling through social media, doing unnecessary tasks, messaging girls, and spending time on things which I could simply delegate to someone else.

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I’m gradually planning to make the transition of reducing my 1 on 1 personal training hours. It’s not that I don’t love it, I love training people. The problem is that when you have 5 or more clients in a day, along with your own training, you’re not left with much time to manage and grow your business, along with dedicating enough time to your online clients too. A lot of my days are 12 hours long and when that starts to add up it takes it’s toll.

My advice to people who say they struggle to fit a workout in is to stop making excuses and to make time for it. Yes there are a few individuals who genuinely don’t have much time spare, for example single parents working a full-time job and raising kids, so I do sympathise. Still, there are those single parents out there who are getting their training in, kicking ass and looking great. Like I said before it all comes down to putting a little bit of time aside. Even if it’s 30 minutes a day and done at home, it still counts!

AA: The Aurora Athletic brand is pretty unique. What makes you guys different from just being a ‘personal training’ business?

MT: We like to employ a holistic approach to health and fitness. We practise what we preach, and try to show people how you can be fit, healthy and still live a normal lifestyle. You can still go out, have a drink, eat your favourite foods and enjoy life, whilst still being fit, healthy and having the body you aspire to have. Take me for example. If you don’t know me well you’d probably look at me and think, yea but I bet he has no life. Well, believe me you should see the food that I put away, the places I visit, the enjoyment I get from my job along with the holidays and nights out where I let my hair down. Life is good.

amateurathleteblogmikethurstonNot scared of a cheat meal! From left to right: Mike, Kyle & Brad – The Aurora Team

We aim to teach and educate our clients as much as possible, so that if they decide part and to continue the journey alone, they can feel confident in doing so from everything they have learnt with from us. Many people see the whole health and fitness as a temporary thing, not a permanent one. For example, many people will look to shed a few pounds for a holiday, new years, or whatever the reason might be. The problem is that their approach if often extreme, rushed and almost always temporary. Once that goal has been achieved they sit back and resort to their old habits, inevitably returning to where they were at the start, or worse! I see it all the time, everyone goes through phases like this:

1. Break up from a relationship or look at themselves in the mirror and think damn, I’ve let myself go, I need to get in shape (I need to get laid).

2. They begin to sort out their diet and start hitting the gym. Good habits replace bad ones.

3. After a few weeks/months body composition improves or they achieve their goal.

4. They become content with their achievement (or they find a new partner) and they stop exercising and stray away from their diet. Bad habits replace good ones.

5. They get fat again (or break up with their new partner), look at themselves in the mirror and think damn… (Back to phase 1).

No great physique was built upon cycles such as this. Like I say to everyone, the key is consistency.

AA: There is of course a difference between training for performance and training for looks. Whilst it is your job to look great, you’re also incredibly athletic. How do you find that balance and what advice would you give to someone else when training?

MT: I might be athletic but I’m about as flexible as a plank of wood! That’s definitely something I need to work on. As far as my beliefs go, I believe you should train to look good, to feel good, and to be able to do what a fully functional human being is capable of. An athlete is defined as a person trained to compete in sports or exercises involving physical strength, speed, or endurance. I train myself and my clients to become athletes. It’s all well and good being strong, but if you’re slow, unfit and not agile, and train like pussy, then what are you? I believe everyone should have the ability to do what the human body is designed to do. They should be able to jump, sprint, perform compound movements, press ups, dips, pull ups, hold stationary positions, do these things one after another and have the ability to run long distances if necessary.

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AA: What does fitness mean to you?

There’s the generic definition which states fitness is being in good physical or mental health. I’d agree with that. The term itself can be defined in a number of different ways, but I wouldn’t want to over complicate it.

To me it means being able to physically do anything that I want to do. To eat what I want, when I want and not suffer dire consequences  It means being happy, enjoying and making the most out of life. It means being aware of my current limitations and working to step outside my comfort zone to break through them. It means being feel and contract my muscles. It means looking in the mirror and being completely happy with what stands in front of you.

Frankly, it means being a better, happier, stronger me.

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AA: There are of course a lot of fads within the industry, combined with the fact that people too often look for short-term fixes rather than focusing on creating a lifestyle. So, what is the best advice you would give to someone who is looking to achieve that lifestyle, from a training, nutritional and overall wellbeing perspective?

MT: My advice to people when training is to decide first of all what it is you’re setting out to do. Write down your goals, plan how you’re going to achieve them and go out there and smash it! Don’t set yourself too many goals as you’re more than likely to fail, and be realistic with them. It’s good to dream big but stay in the realms of reality. Track your workouts, your progress and be incredibly aware of how your body reacts to certain foods and exercises. Master the mind muscle connection i.e. learn to engage every single muscle in the body and contract them appropriately during each exercise. Form, tempo, posture, placement of tension, suitable choice of resistance and breathing are all crucially important. If you’re a beginner, read, learn and seriously think about hiring a professional to help coach you at the start. What you learn from a respectable coach might save you years of shitty technique, inefficient workouts and potential injury. Always be searching to learn more, to push yourself beyond what you think you are capable of and don’t listen to what others say you can or can’t achieve. Don’t listen to everything you hear or read. Do your own research and come to your own conclusions. Just because something works for one person doesn’t mean it works for everyone. There is no quick fix, no magic formula which will get you the results you’re after. It takes time, effort, discipline, consistency, along with the use of appropriate approaches to your own individual training and nutrition.

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Talking to Mike certainly motivated me in knowing I can always give more, be better, stay focused and work harder. I hope you enjoyed reading it as I did doing it!

Facebook: Mike Thurston

Twitter: @TheThurstonator

Instagram: Mike Thurston

 

Eat, Sleep, Train, Repeat – A Trip to Unit 27

In terms of health and fitness, Unit-27 in Phuket, Thailand, is like no other place I’ve visited before. For your average person, travelling 6000 miles to just visit a strength and conditioning facility may seem a tad excessive. However, for the ‘excessive’ gym bunny that I am, combining a holiday with some intensive training sounded like the perfect way to kick-start my 2015.

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As I mentioned in my article on goals vs. systems, the idea of visiting Unit-27 dawned on me back in November, and to cut a long story short, within a few weeks my flights, accommodation and training schedule for my week in Phuket was sealed. I wanted to come out here to not only get away for a little bit, but to freshen up my training. From a fitness perspective, it’s always nice to get some inspiration from elsewhere and challenge yourself in different surroundings. And most importantly, what’s not to love about training at a first class facility in the heat, eating quality food every day, and doing it with likeminded people who share the same passion as you? So, come January 3rd I had landed in Phuket, with a day in hand to spare before my first session commenced. Monday morning – Yoga, the calm before the storm.

Situated in Chalong, Unit-27 is one of many fitness facilities located on a street that can only be described as paradise for any fitness enthusiast. A street equipped with gyms, smoothie bars, massage parlours, more gyms, and most of all a culture of people who are all there to do the same thing you are there for: eat, sleep, train, repeat. And then there’s that big sign with number 27, or ‘The Unit’, as it is known as.

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Unit-27 seeks to provide you with a total conditioning solution. Centred around the concept of strength and conditioning, Crossfit, Yoga, a multitude of body fit classes, private sessions, and rehabilitation offerings such as ice baths, and saunas, you could argue it is the complete package. And the custom design of the gym, including graffiti walls and an open plan, outdoor warehouse style atmosphere, allows Unit-27 to instantly separate itself from the rest of the facilities on the street. With so much going on, yet a limited timeframe, I planned out my itinerary way before arriving into Phuket, and focused on three main classes excluding Yoga: Rapid-Fire (a strength and conditioning based session) Morning Glory (a cardio blitz) and Crossfit, something which I am aiming to really focus on this year.

Rapid-Fire

The strength and conditioning element of my training, Rapid-Fire is a class that encompasses the entire development of an athlete. With this class running daily, each day focuses on a different element, such as power, endurance, speed, agility and core work, which are simultaneously applied to your strength training. You name it, we did it, ranging from heavy squats one day, right the way to bodyweight rail climbs, and even Malcolm shuttles. Testing your body in different strength zones, rep ranges and time frames is the best way to complete yourself as a well-rounded athlete. No stone was left unturned. The session was primarily run by Sandor Earl, a former Rugby League player from Australia, and with his immense knowledge of conditioning at an elite level, you could only expect big things with this class. 90 minutes of graft – afternoon naps have never been so well earned!

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Morning Glory

Sometimes the best way to shock your body in the morning is to simply put it through complete hell, and I guess this is exactly what this session did to me. Before you’ve even been given a chance to let the workout sink in, your pacing your way into the warm up and the fun has begun. Morning Glory focuses on pyramid training, and was led by Sarah. It was intense and again was very much a case of mind over matter. This session fitted in nicely with my schedule due to less emphasis on heavy lifting, and more on interval training, giving my lungs a good run for their money.

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Crossfit

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I’ve probably banged on enough about Crossfit by now, but Crossfit Phuket has really given me a taster of what is yet to come if I am going to take this sport seriously this year. Thanks to Evan Tyrell, I ended each day with that feeling you end almost every WOD with, one that is quite indescribable. But… if I were to try and describe it, a feeling where you are in so much pain yet simultaneously left so satisfied upon reflecting back on what you’ve just mentally and physically accomplished. Evan’s knowledge of Crossfit and fitness in general was evident from the off, with everything clearly structured. Each session began with mobility, followed by a strength focus, and then a daily WOD to finish. What’s even better was Evan got stuck into every session, enduring every drop of sweat with us. What I am appreciative of is the fact that so many of my weaknesses were exposed during my time at Crossfit Phuket; Gymnastics, bodyweight and core exercises in particular. However, it has left me with immense motivation to focus on these when I’m back in the UK, as well as raise my overall Crossfit game.

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Whilst this is only a taster of my experience at Unit-27, nothing can do this place justice apart from if you were to live it for yourself. All I can say is, the week went by far too quickly, and I am already salivating at the thought of returning. It’s amazing how in just 6 days you can make some really good friends and feel apart of a whole new family. But on the whole, that’s what fitness does – it does bring together people who have that passion for it. And I think this is becoming much more the case as people are becoming more socially aware of keeping fit and healthy, and joining respective communities wherever they are in the world, be it a gym, bootcamp class in a park, or a fitness retreat.

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Whilst Phuket isn’t exactly next door to home, it was worth every bit of travel and expense, and on the subject, not only is Unit-27 a first class facility, but it is extremely affordable for anyone looking to get a taste of the action. Its signature package, consisting of 12 sessions and 12 complimentary uses of the open gym, free weights and ice bath/sauna is priced at THB 3,500 (£70). Despite being so selective in my training, Unit-27 has so much more to offer, just take a look at their class schedule here.

So, looking to get away and also get your ass kicked at the same? I couldn’t recommend Unit-27 highly enough. One thing’s for sure, when I return, it won’t just be for one week, and I won’t just be doing the three classes on repeat. But until then, I feel I’ve certainly left with the inspiration I was looking for. So, a massive thanks to Rob Hallam and all the trainers for a truly amazing experience – at Unit 27, it isn’t just about fitness, its life!

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Bulking Strategies, with Josh Li

During my years growing up, I was one of many people who had a desire to get bigger. But the ability to put on weight in the correct manner is actually far more complex than just eating as much as possible and chugging down the most calorific mass gainers! It took me a long process of trial and error to eventually discover what works for me, my body, and what my personal thresholds were.

When it comes to bulking and generally adding on size, there is no set formula. You have to be willing to experiment and have the patience to see what works for you, and what doesn’t, and this is exactly what personal trainer and good friend Josh Li said to me, when I asked for some tips.

I had the pleasure of meeting Josh through a mutual friend, and it didn’t take long to register just how much of a unit this lad is. Our common interest in Fitness meant I was quizzing Josh’s brain almost immediately from when we first met. Josh, who is also a semi professional rugby player, is currently working out in Hong Kong as a Personal Trainer for Ultimate Performance, and gives us insight on how to bulk through adding lean muscle mass all year round, in difference to a more traditional approach of ‘getting big at all costs’.

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Josh during his Exeter Uni RFC days

In my opinion, if you are training for a sport, or simply want a well-rounded athletic look, then following Josh’s principles of adding lean muscle mass is a great way to do so, in stark contrast to a more bodybuilding style, where one will vigorously ‘bulk’ and ‘cut’ in order to peak for a show. There is nothing wrong in this method, it is just a matter of preference. However, having functional muscle has always been my desire, and the concept of what Josh outlays below enables me to consistently maintain a good, athletic shape, without the stresses of tight bulking & cutting routines.

One thing is for sure though, and that is, size should never be the focal point. Just because you are ‘massive’ – it doesn’t mean you are going to be in the best shape, or will be able to translate that size out onto the pitch or within your desired sport. However, if you need to add some size for whatever reason, then make sure you do it in a proper, attainable and realistic format. You will need to up your calories and may throw in a couple of additional weights sessions, but educating yourself is important in order to achieve your optimum goals, in around your daily schedule.

Josh has an abundance of knowledge, and is one of the most dedicated people I know when it comes to training and retaining his shape all year round. And the proof is in the pudding! I envisage this being one of many articles he will guest write for me, but in the meantime, if you are looking to bulk, then look no further. Enjoy!

Bulking Strategies, by Josh Li

In my experience, traditional bulking protocols of adding a huge amount of calories to my intake for long stretches of time never did the trick. Most people using this traditional template look to bulk for roughly 6-8 months and then cut for the following 4-6 months. There is a strong case to say that this approach has its flaws, and is in fact counterproductive, leading to diminishing muscle gains and increased fat gains over time.

In theory the primary objective of bulking is to pack on muscle by adding excessive size in the off-season, in order to promote fast growth. Reality tells a different story, and proves this approach is counterintuitive. Firstly when increasing your intake over a long period of time there is a point of diminishing return, where you only benefit from what your body can utilize and what it can absorb. Anything else is extra work for digestive system and anything you can’t utilize will be just stored as fat. Secondly, when you do eventually reach the cutting period and diet down, you are in the cutting phase so long that there will be the loss of muscle that accompanies the fat loss, which nullifies the muscle that you may have gained over the bulking phase. From my experience I prefer to stay in shape and gradually add muscle, as you will not only look good all year round but will make permanent muscle gains over the long term.

Answer – Gain lean mass via Cyclical bulking

In short the cyclical bulking is the combination of mini bulking periods and mini cutting periods. The breakdown goes something like this; bulk for 6 weeks and cut for 2 weeks.

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Josh at the tail end of his 6 weeks 

During my bulking phase I don’t like to put on too much body fat and I’ll ensure it never goes more that 15%. A good way of keeping track of this visually is by maintaining sight of my top four abs. When/if I lose sight of those top four abs I know I’m over doing it, and I would then lower my intake and maybe even increase my cardio. During my 6-week bulking phase and looking to gain, I aim to add 1000 more calories to my diet, but this figure depends on how much body fat I am accumulating and how hard I am training. If I can handle it, I keep going, but if I find I am putting on too much fat I immediately switch to a period of chloric deficit. When I’m in my 2-week cutting phase, I am looking for roughly a 400-600 calorie deficit, as well as doing extra cardio session (normally HIIT) to help shed the fat faster.

Hormonal changes will also occur during this bulking and cutting period. When you pile on calories for shorter period of time you raise your anabolic hormones, and really get your metabolism pumping. This means when you pull back your calories for the cutting phase after 6 weeks of bulking, your metabolism will still be on overdrive so you will be burning extra fat during cutting, via the combo of cutting calories, having your anabolic hormones and metabolism so revved up.

Want lean muscle growth? Start cyclical bulking.

@JoshLi_PT

What did you think of Josh’s article on bulking? Do you agree that this is the best way to add lean muscle mass? Let’s get discussing below!

Featured Image courtesy of www.muscleandfitness.com 

Review: Barry’s Bootcamp. My Experience of ‘the Best Workout in the World

A couple of Sunday’s ago, I visited Barry’s Bootcamp for the first time, and there seems to be something ever so arrogant towards Barry’s Bootcamp labelling themselves as ‘the best workout in the world’. However, that’s why I loved it and I’ll tell you why.

A concept born in America, Barry’s opened in London in early 2013. It promises to deliver ‘the 1000 calorie workout’, fuelled with the finest cardio and strength combinations, and enhanced by the right music, lighting, equipment, and most importantly, some seriously chiseled trainers. Home to many celebrities, fitness fanatics, and with an ever-increasing media presence, It almost sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Another fad commercial workout you say? What possibly separates Barry’s from anything else? Nonsense, I’m not a sheep, I’m the shepherd, I’ll do my own thing. All these things that initially ran through my mind, and were quickly trumped by the 60 minutes of pure ecstasy and hell that was delivered during my time on Euston Road a couple of weeks ago. Best workout in the world? Pretty close, I’ll give them that.

Let’s start from the top.

I was introduced to Barry’s by my sister Annika, another fitness junkie who can run 12.5mph for almost three minutes on the treadmill. A signature hustle at Barry’s, for which everyone strives for. She loves that accolade. Barry’s arrogance? it certainly rubs off. So, having kept the idea of visiting Bootcamp at arm’s length for several months, it came to a point where I could resist no more. A spare weekend free led me committing my time to Annika and the faithful contingent at Barry’s; Sunday afternoon at 1.45pm. Apparently I was in for a treat, as leading trainer Alex Castro, was hosting, who by the way runs 12.5mph for 4 minutes with ease.

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Upon arrival, I walked down a set of narrow stairs to be greeted by an intimate room of energy. In a gym environment, this is important. From the staff to the members, there was energy, and lots of it. Signing in was pain-free, and within five minutes I had my locker assigned, BCAA’s in hand and was stretching off before quickly meeting my sister (who was just in between classes – nutter), and entering the studio. The doors open, the trainer awaits, you shit yourself for a split second and then before you know it, you’re on the treadmills and war has begun. As mentioned before, Barry’s classes focus on cardio and strength combinations. So, half of the herd are on the treadmills to start, with the other half on the ‘floor’ doing weight based movements. There are roughly 3-4 rounds of each.

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Clean & Mean: The Barry’s Studio 

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Whilst I’m pretty fit, short endurance work has never been a strong point. Give me a sprint or a cross country, but that in between can go and do one! So, I knew the treadmill was my nemesis today. I was in for a challenge. And being Annika’s ‘younger brother’ who can clean, bench and squat ‘bare amounts’ so she says (thanks Neeks), Alex wasn’t taking me lightly on his home turf. Whilst fundamental principles and structures are always in place in terms of class format, Barry’s try to make each session different, so you are never comfortable. Today, was rightly the short endurance stuff – pushing me to the limits and really getting the lungs working with extensive lactic acid in the system. Needless to say, there were no half measures on speeds. Being a Sunday, I had also done a full week of training, so was arguably at my most fatigued. However, it was a great way to lose my Barry’s virginity and make the session even more mentally testing.

Alex is a brilliant trainer, with an abundance of energy and knowledge. He also doesn’t take any shit. With a passion for other forms of fitness and strength training, including Crossfit, Alex focuses on the whole body rather than muscle isolation. It’s certainly my preferred outlook, but when you’re in the middle of his class, your legs are like jelly, your muscles on fire and are on the borderline of tears, you’re maybe thinking a bicep curl wouldn’t be so bad right now. The strength rounds therefore consisted largely of compound movements, such as squat to upright row with resistance bands, dumbbell burpees to inverted row, a full round of various abdominal movements, and many more combos.

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Couldn’t resist a quick post-workout selfie, dying inside however!

There is a real family feel to Barry’s which suggests not only customer loyalty, but the personality of the staff and trainers. They may be your drill sergeants whilst you are working flat-out, but the Barry’s trainers are attentive, from little things to even remembering everyone’s name, and generally just having an all round positive mental attitude. The capabilities of the clients range far and wide, from beginners needing such vigorous authority, to personal trainers coming in and getting bossed about for a change. And the most rewarding thing about this place? You genuinely feel like you have achieved something. There are times where hand on heart I step in the gym and sometimes think – allow this! But with Barry’s, you don’t get that chance to even debate. You’re in and you’re in the zone. And if you’re not in the zone, you better get in the zone quick! It’s a real team effort as well as an individual challenge.

The journey back to South-West London would not be complete without some refueling. Whilst I had already packed my post-workout shake, I clearly wasn’t clued up on the Fuel Bar at Barry’s. Opting to preserve my own stash, I went for a Banana & Cinnamon smoothie, topped with whey protein, allowing me to get in some good fast carbs after such an intense workout, alongside with the protein for muscle recovery.

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Overall, I was really impressed with Barry’s. Would I go back? I’m already scheduled in for next weekend, another total body buster by The Castro man himself. Alex is also a personal trainer and I am looking to do some 1-2-1 stuff with him in the future. I urge you to get in touch with Alex if you want a no messing approach to your training, and anticipate results.

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Myself and Alex Castro

At £20 a class, Barry’s isn’t the cheapest workout out there. But if you’re keen to try it and see yourself going back for seconds, thirds, or even fourths, then buy in block and save yourself some dollar.

Barry’s is currently in the middle of what they call ‘Hellweek’. Every now and again, there is a month with five Mondays, in which Barry’s offer you the simplest of challenges; 7 classes in 7 consecutive days. You pick any time you like each day, and it only costs £80, saving you £60 from regularly priced classes. More so, it’s a great incentive to throw yourself into the Bootcamp deep end and put yourself to the test! So have a lookout for the next Hellweek, and get stuck in.

One way or another, you certainly get for what you pay for. And one thing’s for sure – if Barry’s Bootcamp is good enough for David Beckham, it’s good enough for me.

Have you been to Barry’s Bootcamp before and have had an epic experience of your own? Or would you like to know more about what Barry’s has to offer? Post a comment and let’s get discussing below!

* #YourHellWeek Photo taken from Barry’s Bootcamp London.