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Vary Your Exercise Activities To Protect Your Joints And Have More Fun As You Get Older
By Steve Agyei
Fit@Fifty Hitting a Capoeira pose on the rocks in Ibiza
Fit@Fifty Hitting a Capoeira pose on the rocks in Ibiza
Good Morning,

It's time for this week's Monday Motivational Beyond Lifestyle Secrets Newsletter

"Variety's the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavour."
- William Cowper
I have always used and lived by the saying “Variety is the spice of life,” but only learnt the second half “that gives it all its flavour” when I looked up whom it was by for this article.

William Cowper lived from November 26th 1731 until his death on the 25th April 1800. He was an English poet and hymnodist. One of the most popular poets of his time, Cowper changed the direction of 18th century nature poetry by writing of everyday life and scenes of the English countryside. In many ways, he was one of the forerunners of Romantic poetry. Samuel Taylor Coleridge called him "the best modern poet", whilst William Wordsworth particularly admired his poem Yardley-Oak. Another one of his familiar quotes is “God moves in a mysterious way.”.

My blood is made up of a variety of countries and cultures. My Brazilian mother Sheila Macdonald was born in Rio de Janeiro, of a Scottish father Hector Macdonald and a London born mother Inez Elena, who spent her childhood floating between England and South America, whereas my West African father is Ghanaian through and through.

My childhood was spent in leafy Hassocks, West Sussex until we moved to Famagusta in Cyprus when I was six, where I attended the International School before we bid a hasty retreat back to England as the Turks invaded in 1972 when I was seven. I spent the rest of my childhood growing up in Hassocks until I attended a sports course in Chichester, passing my A-Levels in English Language, Literature and Human Biology. Then at the age of seventeen I lived in Calella, Spain working in a nightclub as a body popping dancer. I then came back to England to go to Roehampton University for a year, and at the age of nineteen I went to ballet school in Covent Garden and also attended the Duke Ellington School of Performing Arts in Washington DC.

When I graduated from the Urdang Academy of Ballet and Performing Arts I toured Germany with Vienna Festival Ballet, performing in Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. I then lived in Japan for a year arriving as a dancer with Dead or Alive, staying on to work as a model and teacher of street dance before returning once again with Starlight Express. After a couple of years back in England working in the West End I spent the next decade touring the world modelling and doing pop tours visiting a wide array of countries including Africa, America, Australia, Barbados, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Dominican Republic, Dubai, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Monaco, Romania, Russia, Senegal, South Africa, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey and spending the last couple of years based in Amsterdam.

Trying to remember the countries I had worked in whilst a dancer to compile this list was quite difficult. It brought back so many wonderful memories and made me realise how blessed I have been to travel the world experiencing so many different countries, cultures and cuisines, doing something I love, sharing the experiences with my best friends, travelling first class, staying in Five star hotels and eating in the finest restaurants. Thank you Universe.

"Variety is important when it comes to exercise. I don't do anything that bores me to tears."
- Alanis Morissette
I have also always believed that variety is the spice of training, which helps alleviate boredom, making training fun, providing great all round fitness and producing a well balanced physique. With this in mind I pride myself on being one of the world’s most versatile trainers. Upon retiring as a professional dancer, I moved into choreography, back to Sussex and started playing football and cricket again, qualifying as a personal trainer and football coach, obtaining a UEFA ‘B’ License.

I began working a lot with football teams both amateur and professional, adults and youth, boys and girls, including Ian Wright’s Soccer Schools, Chelsea, Brighton and Hove Albion, Feyenoord, AC and Inter Milan.

I focused heavily on speed, power and flexibility. I went on sports specific weight training courses and qualified in SAQ, which is speed, agility and quickness. A form of training using speed footwork drills, through ladders, over hurdles, plyometrics and interesting resistance equipment like parachutes and the viper belt.

Plyometrics, also known as "jump training" or "plyos", are exercises in which muscles exert maximum force in short intervals of time, with the goal of increasing both speed and power. This training focuses on learning to move from a muscle extension to a contraction in a rapid or "explosive" manner, such as in specialised repeated jumping. Plyometrics are primarily used by athletes, especially martial artists and high jumpers, to improve performance, and are used in the fitness field to a much lesser degree.

When I started working as a personal trainer at Holmes Place’s flagship gym in Triton Square near Regent’s park, I felt like I was back to my dance training days I was obsessed with learning about training, building muscles, gaining speed and improving football skills. I was like a sponge again, picking up off all the fabulous trainers around me and reading every training magazine and coaching manual I could get my hands on. I was also observing the girl dancers, swimwear and lingerie models during rehearsals, looking at how they toned their bodies - their butts, abs and arms - and got rid of any wobbly bits when they had shows coming up. The catwalk is an unforgiving place in a bikini or lingerie, with the bright lights and an audience of envious females dying to spot a piece of cellulite on the models. The girls had to be serious about what they were doing, it was their livelihood, so I would watch the strange exercises they would do whilst the boys were rehearsing their sections or doing press ups in breaks, note them down mentally and refine them on myself and my clients when I got back in the gym.

A lot of the guys at the gym wanted to get bigger and more muscular, so I adapted the single body part training of bodybuilding regimes. I studied and practiced from the likes of Ronny Coleman in Flex magazine and gave my workouts names like Adj’s Arms and Adj’s Abs, because my male clients all wanted a hard earned six-pack.

Ronny Coleman is an American professional bodybuilder who holds eight straight wins as Mr. Olympia and is widely regarded as the greatest bodybuilder of all time. Alongside his eight Mr. Olympia wins as a professional bodybuilder, he holds the record for most wins as an IFBB professional with 26.

Whilst at the gym I was lucky enough to work and train with Jimmy Mcdonnell, universally known in boxing circles as Jimmy Mac. He was the 1982 ABA lightweight champion and later Commonwealth silver medal winner. As a professional he was european champion and fought five world champions, defeating three of them. He fought twice for the world title, losing in epic battles to Brian Mitchell and Azumah Nelson who is widely thought of as the best ever African boxer at any weight. Jim also conquered British favourite Barry McGuigan.

After retiring from boxing Jim continued to have great success as a trainer and is probably one of the best trainers in the world today, famously masterminding Danny Williams’ victory over Mike Tyson. Jim used to get me to work on the speed and strength of his fighters, including Danny who so famously knocked out Mike Tyson.

I absolutely loved this because boxing was one of my main passions as a child, from waking up in the middle of the night to watch Muhammad Ali and continuing into my teens as I followed Sugar Ray Leonard and his dazzling exploits in the golden Welterweight/Middleweight era against Thomas ‘Hitman’ Hearns, Roberto Duran and ‘Marvelous’ Marvin Hagler. Then through to my brief but unbeaten amateur career just before I began ballet.

Jimmy used to put my good friend Dave Cooper, a heavyweight kickboxer and at the time my boss as general manager of Holmes Place, Regents Place and I through unbelievably grueling sessions where I could hardly breathe let alone walk and then get us to spar against each other or some of the pro’s from his stable. Dave Cooper went on to open the GymBox chain of gyms - in my opinion the best gyms in the country.

Today Jim looks after Olympic Gold medalist James DeGale, who is the European Super Middleweight Champion. The 29-year-old Londoner will get his first shot at a world title against Andre Dirrell, for the vacant IBF super-middleweight title, shown live on Sky TV from the Agganis Arena in Boston on May 23. DeGale is hoping to make history by becoming the first British Olympic gold medal winner to win a world title.

When I finally stopped playing competitive football and cricket at the age of thirty-six I needed to do something as a hobby and to focus my own training on so I took up Capoeira. Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art that combines dance and music with kicks, sweeps and acrobatic moves. The descendants of African slaves combined with Brazilian native influences created it in the 16th century. When the slaves escaped from their captors they were soon being recaptured and killed by the capitães-do-mato, colonial agents armed and mounted in charge of finding escapees, as they were unarmed and unable to defend themselves.

Knowing they would not be allowed to train and practice a martial art by their masters, they made up Capoeira, which looked like a dance to their owners. As per usual I threw myself into it completely training everyday day for four years. Having spent so many years as a professional dancer the work ethos of training at a discipline everyday was ingrained in me.

After I turned forty, I began to find I was beginning to get more and more injuries and they were taking much longer to heal. The physio’s kept telling me I had to stop pounding my body and take up more relaxing body-forgiving forms of exercise like yoga and pilates. I would like to say I chose to take their advice, but I didn’t. I literally stumbled into yoga, when I was feeling down during the break up of a relationship. I did one class with Lara Baumann in November 2006, who at the end of the class gave out leaflets for a yoga retreat she was running in Goa at Christmas, I didn’t fancy being on my own at Christmas after the break up of my twelve year relationship, so I decided to go to the retreat right then on the spur of the moment and by the end of the retreat I had signed up to do a year’s teacher training course and now I practice yoga religiously everyday. Around this time I also began attending Ten Pilates, which is a dynamic form of pilates using a reformer machine.

It was also around this time that I first met and began training with Olympic legend Daley Thompson. I still remember clearly my first meeting with Daley on a Saturday Morning at Battersea Athletics Track. In awe I introduced myself, quick as a flash the response was “Hi I’m Daley, I’m awesome”. He is.

For my age I consider myself in pretty good physical condition. Daley’s physical condition is ridiculous and his positive aura shines through and rubs off. Thompson is the best trainer, motivator and inspirer I have ever seen. Daley is the only person who has managed to get maximum effort out of me with so little effort on his part. Whether by witty comment, word of encouragement or just a look. But always with a smile. Daley makes you dig deep, push yourself to knock another second off your time, or do one more rep.

Daley is the man early on Saturday morning I go to whenever possible, to keep myself in shape and motivated. Because he was a decathlete and had to train for ten different events and discipline, his training is very varied and I always leave his sessions buzzing, exhausted, barely able to walk or cycle home, but always smiling. Of all the things I am looking forward to the most when I return to London at the end of this month after four years living in Scotland to start working in Daley’s new gym in Putney called Daley Fitness, which is finally opening on May 11th it is those gruelling Saturday morning sessions in Battersea with Daley and the gang. I must be mad.

As with dancing I have been very fortunate in my training and yoga career to have the opportunity to travel the world and study and teach in America, Australia, France, Hong Kong, Ibiza and India, with some amazing teachers and students, learning so much from the different approaches to life and exercise the different cultures have.

My own philosophy and my own training is based on a combination of my own experiences and what I have learned from all these different cultures and styles of training and exercise.

To show I practice what I preach, I thought I would share a typical day’s exercise in my life.

After my early morning ten-minute meditation, I begin with between an hour and an hour and a half of yoga.

Later in the morning I will take a 2 hour walk with my dogs Zeus and Zorro before lunch.

In the afternoon I will do 20-30 minutes of skipping, shadow boxing, callisthenics, plyometrics and ab exercises.

Calisthenics are a form of exercise that consists of a variety of exercises, often-rhythmical movements, generally without using equipment or apparatus. They are intended to increase body strength, body fitness and flexibility with movements such as bending, jumping, swinging, twisting or kicking, using only one's body weight for resistance. They are usually conducted in concert with stretches. When performed vigorously and with variety, Calisthenics can benefit both muscular and cardiovascular fitness, in addition to improving psychomotor skills such as balance, agility and coordination.

The word calisthenics comes from the ancient Greek words kálos (κάλος), which means "beauty", and sthénos (σθένος), meaning "strength". It is the art of using one's body weight and qualities of inertia as a means to develop one's physique.

Standard exercises include: press–ups, squats, lunges, pull–ups, dips, star jumps, squat thrusts, mountain climbers, burpees, sit–ups and planks.

At the moment I am working on my foundation strength to progress to the more extreme calithenetic exercises.

I do 3x3 minutes skipping with 1 minute shadow boxing inspired by watching Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao's training for their up and coming super fight in Las Vegas, which I am so excited about and can't wait to watch.

Before beginning a calithentic and plyometric circuit consisting of:
Calisthenetic and Plyometric Circuit

10x Handstand press-ups against the wall
10x squat jumps up onto a wall
20x Dips with each arm on a chair and feet balanced on a wall
10x One legged squats onto a chair with each leg
1 minute plank
1 minute side plank on both sides
1 minute shadow boxing
I complete 3 rounds of this circuit

The 3 extreme calisthenics exercises I am working towards are:

1. Muscle Ups – a combination of a pull up to the chest on a bar, the momentum carrying you up above the bar where you finish the move with a straight bar tricep dip to end up with straight arms on top of the bar to complete one repetition.

2. Dragon Fly – Lying flat on a bench holding on to the end, lift the body up onto the shoulders almost like a shoulder stand then keeping the whole body and legs straight lower the body in a straight line down towards the bench finishing off a few inches above the bench, but in a completely straight line to complete one repetition.

3. Human Flag – Standing by a pole with your bottom hand push the pole and then with your hand pull the pole and then kick your legs up to form a straight line with your body, arms and legs, horizontally above the ground and hold.

For the record at the moment of writing I cannot do one repetition of the above three extreme calisthenic exercises, but these are part of my three 90 day fitness goals.

Later on, around the 6pm mark I will do a 15-minute single body part weight session:

Single Body Part Weight Sessions

Monday - Chest
Tuesday - Back
Wednesday - Shoulders
Thursday - Biceps
Friday - Triceps
I do the leg exercises the physio has given me to protect my left knee by strengthening the muscles around it, everyday in the 1 minute rest periods between each exercise of my upper body part workout.

After a relaxing bath and dinner, I do some ballet barre exercises and stretches whilst watching the television and then I am ready to fall into bed for a good night's sleep.

Obviously this is a lot of exercise in a day, both time and energy wise, but training is my job and life and I am working on all the programs for the Fit@Fifty app Daley and I are developing and I use my own body to experiment on, testing what works and what doesn't, before refining my program’s further on my clients, real people with real time restraints like yourselves, when I get back in the gym.

I will never give someone an exercise or program that I have not tried and tested on my self first, so I know it is safe, I know it gets results and know what it feels like when you are doing it.

"The finest souls are those that have the most variety and suppleness."
- Michel De Montaigne
Doing some ab exercises in the South of France
Doing some ab exercises in the South of France
7 Day Action Plan

1. Do a yoga class or at least a sun salutation every day Click Here to see how
2. Do a class or type of exercise you have never done before
3. Go for a walk everyday
4. Do Bruce Lee's stretches everyday Click Here to see how
5. Let me know how you get on or on our Facebook page.
Breathe, Believe and Achieve

Be Happy, Healthy and Wise

Keep on Winning, Smiling and Living The Dream

Keep on Winning, Smiling and Living The Dream


Beyond Lifestyle Secrets - Steve Agyei

Steve Agyei,
Editor - Beyond Lifestyle Secrets
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