Even if you’re not quite sure what calisthenics is, you’ll have no doubt seen it in action.
Characterised by bodyweight-only exercises, this training style is popular with gymnasts and those who want to increase strength on their own terms and schedule.
Following the basic planes of human movement, such as pulling and pushing motions, calisthenics has been championed by those who love to build muscle without needing to be tied down to a gym or equipment. It can also be easily adapted to suit both beginners and those already familiar with the concept.
Want to learn more? We caught up with coach and AYBL Athlete, Chloe McDonnell on all things calisthenics.
WHAT IS CALISTHENICS?
Before we get into the nitty gritty, let's first establish the basics.
The term calisthenics comes from the Greek words ‘Kalos’ meaning beauty and ‘Stenos’ meaning strength. Often compared to gymnastics, calisthenics is a form of resistance training that primarily uses your own bodyweight to build strength and size. Think press ups, tricep dips, jump squats and planks to the more advanced moves, like pull ups, hanging leg raises and wall handstands.
HEY CHLOE! HOW DID YOU GET INTO CALISTHENICS?
Even though I was a personal trainer, I was in a bit of a training rut and decided to join a new gym to see if that would help regain my motivation. I saw one of the PTs coaching what I now know to be a back lever, but at the time, I just saw this guy hanging horizontally from a high bar and was really intrigued. I ended up speaking with the trainer and found out that he specialised in calisthenics and, although I had never worked with a PT myself, I decided to hire him in hope of learning something new.
The style of training was so different to anything I had ever seen, but it was also very familiar to me after years of gymnastics, and I was hooked immediately. That was just over a year ago. I worked with my coach for four months, he helped me to really understand how to structure my training and then we started training together for fun.
Calisthenics is much more fun when you have someone to train with and the community is so important in the sport.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE CALISTHENICS EXERCISE?
Definitely the handstand, I like to think it’s my speciality! There’s so many ways you can build on it, and, as a skill, it’s almost limitless. It’s also my favourite skill to teach!
WHAT IS IT ABOUT CALISTHENICS THAT YOU ENJOY THE MOST?
I love that the goals you set yourself are skill based - it’s so rewarding to work towards them. It sometimes doesn’t feel like working out, it feels more like playing.
It also brings me back to my childhood and it’s so motivating to realise my body is still capable of things that I worked hard for for all those years.
HOW DO YOU STRUCTURE YOUR CALISTHENICS WORKOUTS TO ENSURE YOU’RE MAKING PROGRESS?
I like to follow a routine, which means repeating the same skills/movements over and over, perfecting them before moving onto the next progression. It’s quite similar to a regular weight lifting routine - I include a pull day, push day, leg day (gotta keep that peach, peachy 👀) and then skill specific training sessions.
The key to calisthenics is not to rush through the progressions, to rest enough, to always train the basics - these are different for everyone depending on your ability - to be consistent with mobility and flexibility training and to focus on working on two to three skills at a time.
Calisthenics is very tough on the central nervous system, so the most important factor in progressing is listening to your body and not overdoing it, as this can cause injury.
READ MORE: 5 Ways To Make Progress With Your Workouts
HOW HAS CALISTHENICS AFFECTED YOUR OVERALL FITNESS AND HEALTH?
I have gained so much strength since I started training just over a year ago, and this is down to the fact that I enjoy it so much and haven’t lost interest. I have been very consistent in my training, which is half the battle when it comes to working out.
It has positively impacted my mental health and made me realise that getting older doesn’t mean I have to stop playing around upside down! On the downside, I have also been injured quite a bit from overtraining and not listening to my body, which has ended in me being sore in places that I didn’t even realise you could be sore.
Overall, I have never felt better about my fitness and my body has changed without me really focusing on my aesthetics, which has been a really positive change to my fitness journey.
HOW HAS YOUR TRAINING ROUTINE EVOLVED AS YOU’VE PROGRESSED WITH CALISTHENICS?
My routine started off very simple and I was working on building my basic strength in pull ups, push ups, dips and core strength. At first, it’s not very exciting, but you have to build the foundations before moving onto the skills. This is where it was super helpful to have a coach. He would explain to me why we were doing the simple things and their importance, while also helping me to stay motivated.
I started training four times per week, including one push, one pull, one lower body, and my PT session was always more skills focused. I now train four to five times per week and still include the basics, but do two skill sessions, which aren’t super structured, they’re more like playtime. I also now spend a lot more time working on my mobility and stretching, as I have really learned the importance of looking after my joints.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WHO’S JUST STARTING OUT?
It can be overwhelming and confusing to start with. My advice is to pick one or two skills to focus on. For example, you could include pull up drills into your current workout routine, such as banded pull ups, Australian pull ups or even just dead hangs to improve your grip strength and get used to being on the bar. By working on these drills three to four times a week, you will soon start to see progress.
You don’t have to completely overhaul your current style of training, in fact, weightlifting alongside calisthenics is highly effective and it’s what I encourage all of my clients to do.
WHAT EXERCISES WOULD YOU RECOMMEND FOR BEGINNERS?
Focus on the basics - these include: push ups, pulls ups, dips and core strength.
Once you have built up some strength, I would start to work on drills and exercises to prep for handstands, L-sits, elbow lever, back lever and muscle ups. Notice how I said drills to work towards and not just head straight into the skills!
LOOKING TO GIVE CALISTHENICS A GO? TRY THIS WORKOUT PROVIDED BY THE EXPERT HERSELF, CHLOE MAC…
Don’t forget to always warm up properly and stretch at the end of your workouts. Flexibility is key in callisthenics if you plan on progressing.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR THOSE LOOKING TO IMPROVE THEIR SKILLS?
If you’re struggling with a skill, always take it back a regression or two and focus on perfecting those moves. Make sure to video your form and review what you think you could improve on. You can always watch other athletes who inspire you and try to figure out how their form differs from yours.
My final tip is to just stick at it. Skill work can be frustrating - one week you’ll feel like you’ve mastered it, then the next week you may feel like you can’t do it at all. However, if you are consistent you will make progress!
The beauty of callisthenics workouts is their accessibility. All you need is your body and gravity. You can do calisthenics anytime, anywhere, and expect a full-body burn while building functional strength and increasing muscle power. Not to mention one of the biggest benefits of calisthenics is the low risk factor.
So, while a trendy gym and stocked weight room can be nice, it’s not always the answer to building strength.Want to discover more athlete-led workouts? Try this push workout with Lauren Johnson.
Your 5-Minute Mental Health Check Up
Hey there! How are you feeling?
That’s a question we don’t ask ourselves enough.
It’s quite normal for us to schedule an appointment with the dentist or doctor to check our oral and physical health, so why is it less common to check on our mental health?
So many factors are closely related to our mental health, which is why it’s important to address the small changes and approaches we can take to prioritise and care for our mental wellbeing.
That’s why, for Mental Health Awareness Week, we’ve created a quick and easy five-minute mental health check you can do every day, anywhere.
WHAT IS MENTAL HEALTH?
Mental health is how you feel in your mind and your mood. Just like your physical health, it depends on many factors, including your genetics, your environment, your circumstances, what you do to maintain it, and underlying physical or mental health conditions you may suffer from, and how they are treated.
This Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from Monday 15th May to Sunday 21st May, addresses anxiety. Anxiety is an emotion we all experience, but sometimes it can get out of control and cause issues for our mental health.
In a survey of 3,000 adults, 34% said they experienced anxiety.
HOW TO LOOK AFTER YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
Here are just a few things you can ask yourself or do to ensure you’re doing what you can to protect your emotional wellness.
HAVE I DRANK ENOUGH WATER?
Keeping hydrated is key for both your physical and mental health. When you don’t drink enough water and start to become dehydrated, your body triggers warning signals that you’re in a ‘life-threatening’ situation and starts kicking up stress hormones, particularly cortisol. An increase in cortisol is connected to anxiety, depression and mood disorders.
Carry a bottle of water with you to keep your hydration levels topped up. If you’re someone who likes more structure, you can use alarms or trackers to remind you that drinking water is part of your self-care.
HAVE I EATEN THE RIGHT FOODS TO FUEL MY BODY?
Diet and lifestyle can have a profound effect on our mood and research reveals there’s a direct link between what we eat and how we feel.
There are plenty of foods and nutrients that can put a smile on your face and make you feel awesome. When we’re stressed, it’s tempting to reach for comfort foods like pizza and sugary snacks that give us a temporary ‘high’. However, these foods can soon leave you feeling exhausted, jittery or sluggish.
Food high in fibre, as well as fruit, veg, nuts and seeds are more beneficial to your mental health. Discover our very own nutritious mood-boosting recipes here.
DID I GET ENOUGH SLEEP?
Anyone who has struggled with sleep will know what a difference it makes to our bodies, minds and ability to function.
For many people, sleep is often the first thing that suffers when they’re struggling with their mental health. The CDC recommends adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep a day.
If you’re struggling with your sleep, there are a few simple changes you can make, including:
- Establish a bedtime routine;
- Avoid tech and caffeine before you go to sleep;
- Practice meditation/relaxation.
READ MORE: How To Fix Your Sleep Schedule
Humans are hardwired to need time in nature, as we evolved to prefer environments where we had fresh water, sunlight, and nature because those provided us with the resources we needed to survive. But, nowadays, nature doesn’t just allow us to survive, it helps us to thrive.
Spending even small bursts of time outdoors can greatly benefit your mental wellbeing. A 2019 study found that spending just 20 minutes outside significantly lowered stress hormone levels.
MOVE YOUR BODY
Okay, so this one is our thing for sure. Keeping active has so many benefits, mentally and physically - from lifting weights to flowing yoga.
Regular movement throughout the day can boost your mood, reduce stress and refocus your mind.
Partner some fresh air with your movement to elevate the benefits - and kill two birds with one stone.
Explore our guided workouts and fitness tips here.
REACH OUT TO FRIENDS
Human connections actually boost feel-good neurotransmitters in your brain. The key is not how many friends you have, but to surround yourself with those whom you can be your most authentic self.
Be honest with yourself about how much time you need to spend with your friends to feel fulfilled, refreshed and empowered, and then make it happen - even if it’s just a catch-up dinner once a month, it makes a difference.
Meeting new people can be equally beneficial to your mental wellbeing, as studies have shown that connecting with strangers can help us feel happier and more connected with our communities.
WHAT AM I DOING TODAY THAT I CAN LOOK FORWARD TO?
Planning things to look forward to or that you enjoy doing can help us cope with difficult situations by increasing our sense of hope.
Whether it’s something as small as binge-watching your favourite TV series or something more extravagant like a weekend away with friends, factoring in time to do what you love will help you adopt a more positive outlook each day.
A huge part of prioritising your mental wellbeing is learning to understand and manage your feelings.
When we’re upset, we don’t always know why we’re feeling that way. It often helps to acknowledge our feelings without any judgement or telling ourselves we’re ‘weak’ for feeling the way we do.
We all have good days and bad days, and that’s okay. However, by asking ourselves the questions in this article and adopting these simple habits, we can work toward feeling like our best selves once again. Remember, rest is a basic human need.
Inside The New AYBL HQ
A world-class team deserves a world-class home - and after months of hard work, dedication and long days, the time has finally come.
Introducing the new AYBL HQ.
Measuring an impressive 56,000 sq feet, our global home is a place like no other. Featuring modern design throughout and a wealth of creative working spaces, our office is a place where people come to innovate and be their best.
Want to discover more? Join us as we step foot inside our creative hub.
Building on our high standards, our office is a hub of creativity and collaboration. From top to bottom, the stylistic space is kitted out with all the necessary tools and resources to optimise productivity and inspire our talented teams to push boundaries.
Its ultra modern design allows for plenty of natural light, open spaces and greenery to accommodate different work styles and preferences.
As a community-first brand, we wanted to create an environment that would not only enhance creativity and productivity, but a better sense of community and belonging for our people.
1. THOUGHTFUL DESIGN
Designed to maximise natural light, flow and functionality, our new home offers a modern and sleek look that reflects our brand and values.
2. COMFORT THROUGH & THROUGH
On every level, the office is equipped with comfortable furniture, ergonomic workstations and state-of-the-art equipment. There are also spaces for relaxation, where you can unwind, recharge and take time for you.
4. CUTTING-EDGE TECHNOLOGY
When you’re the UK’s fastest-growing company, you need technology that can keep up and deliver. From video conferencing tools and virtual whiteboards to our very own photo studio equipped with high-class cameras, our new HQ is home to the latest technology to support collaboration, communication and productivity.
This place truly has everything. That goes for hot water taps on every floor, too. Brew anyone?
Influential, inspirational and innovative. We had to make sure our team had the space to thrive and build the best ideas.
Designed to accommodate different working styles, our office offers a range of spaces for focused work, collaborative work and socialising, as well as options for remote work and flexible schedules.
AYBL is on an ever-evolving journey to ensure the brand promotes and supports sustainability wherever possible.
With that in mind, we have incorporated a range of eco-friendly features into our office design, including energy-efficient lighting and appliances and recycling programmes.
We understand that there is still plenty of work to be done, but right now, it’s about progress not perfection.
We’re incredibly proud to be working in such an amazing office space that not only supports us to be the best in our field, but supports our health, happiness and the environment. Here, we can work together to pave the way for the boldest and bravest ideas whilst feeling like we’re part of something special.
This is truly where the magic will happen.
How To Start Running
The hardest part of running? Getting out the door.
Running is a great way to get fit and feel better, but sometimes, a lack of motivation - or even know-how - can catch you short.
Starting a new running habit needn’t be difficult - all you need is a good pair of running shoes and the willingness to move a little or a lot, all at your own pace.
To help put you one stride ahead, we’ve pulled together the very best running tips for beginners, so you can get off to a safe start and enjoy hitting the tarmac (or treadmill).
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM OUR BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO RUNNING
THE BENEFITS OF RUNNING
If enjoyment alone isn’t enough to get you increasing your stride, perhaps the proven health benefits of running will?
Running is one of the most effective ways to increase daily activity, cardiovascular fitness and mental health. It also is widely accessible, as you don’t need any fancy equipment, it’s relatively inexpensive and you can do it just about anywhere.
Here are some of the other key health benefits of running:
- Promotes muscle development;
- Can help aid weight loss;
- Helps to relieve stress levels;
- Boosts the release of endorphins, sometimes called a ‘runner’s high’;
- Increases bone strength and joint health;
- Promotes better sleep;
- Increases lung capacity, metabolism and energy levels;
- Reduces cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease.
Whether you’re new to running or getting back to it after a long break, it’s really important to ease yourself in and gradually build up to avoid injury. Here are some top tips to get your started on the right foot.
Now, we’re not saying you need to go out and buy a wardrobe full of expensive new running kit, but what we are saying is that staying equipped for the environment and surface you’ll be running on is non-negotiable.
Start by investing in a suitable pair of running shoes that fit comfortably and offer extra support, cushioning and grip for your runs.
When it comes to the clothing, well, that’s where we step in. Fusing form and functionality, our Pace Collection is designed for practicality - with soft, lightweight and breathable details - so you can run with ease and without distraction.
Take measured steps to keep your body safe and free from injury. Warming-up is an essential part of any workout, especially running. We recommend walking or doing an easy jog for five to 10 minutes before increasing your intensity. You may also benefit from warm-up exercises, such as dynamic stretches.
Be mindful of other safety advice, such as running against the flow of traffic and carrying your mobile with you at all times.
Nothing can get you lost in the moment quite like blasting your beats as you pound the pavement.
We all have our own taste in music, which makes it all the more important to pick a playlist that’ll motivate you to power through, even when times get tough, with the wind against you and the heavens pouring.
If you need a little inspo, we’ve got plenty of tracks to keep you moving. Check out our Spotify here.
OUR TOP SIX RUNNING TIPS FOR BEGINNERS
Now that we’ve established the basics, you’re probably wondering exactly how to start running?
If you’re totally new to running, chances are your motivation levels are pretty high. That being said, it’s as important as ever to pace yourself. This includes your running speed, intensity and training frequency.
Don’t be afraid to start off with a few fast paced walks each week to build up confidence, condition your muscles and create a positive habit you can stick to. Pacing yourself will allow you to continue progressing and reduce your risk of injury.
The likelihood of strains, repetitive stress and foot pain tends to be greater during your first few weeks of running as a beginner, or if you’re returning to running after a long break.
The Run-Walk Method is a great way for new runners to get started, helping to build endurance with less joint stress and is a manageable intensity level.
The method combines running with intervals of walking. Start by alternating one minute intervals of running with one minute of walking, and then gradually try to increase the time spent running. As you become more comfortable, reduce the time spent walking.
Check out our beginner’s running plan further down this page.
Never underestimate the power of rest.
It’s completely natural for your muscles to feel a little sorer than usual, but if you’re experiencing genuine pain or discomfort, it’s crucial you allow it time to rest and recover.
If you’re suffering from sore muscles, more likely than not, it’s DOMS - AKA delayed onset muscle soreness. This is the aching or stiffness you experience as a result of intense training, however, this should subside within 48 hours.
Avoiding exercise altogether can actually prolong DOMS, so consider lower intensity exercise, such as walking, mobility and slow jogging to increase blood flow and relieve your muscle fatigue.
Chances are, you already knew this, but if not, you’ll soon learn that eating well and staying hydrated can significantly influence your runs.
You lose water through sweat, whether cold or hot, so you need to drink before, during, and after your runs. You ideally want to drink 120 ml to 180 ml of water every 20 minutes, but pay attention to your thirst level and drink when you feel thirsty. During longer workouts (90 minutes or more), some of your fluid intake should include a sports drink to replace sodium and other minerals (electrolytes).
In terms of nutrition, it’s best to eat something light and high in carbohydrates but low in fat, protein and fibre. Aim to finish eating 90 to 120 minutes before you start running.
If you’re running for longer than 90 minutes, you’ll need to replace some of the energy you’re burning. A general rule of thumb is to consume 100 calories after an hour and another 100 calories every 45 minutes.
It’s easy to neglect other aspects of your fitness and strength when starting your running journey. Balancing your running sessions with other forms of resistance training and exercise will help to build muscular resilience, reducing your risk of injury and boosting performance.
Repeatedly hitting the road without building strength in the gym can not only lead to injury, but a performance plateau too. Be sure to balance out your training with strength-based exercises to work on muscular endurance, speed, power and potential imbalances - all of which will help with your running in the long run.
Running is a natural movement, but that doesn’t mean you can’t improve aspects of your running form to improve your experience and efficiency.
First things first, keep your posture upright. Keep your head lifted, your back long and tall and shoulders level but relaxed. Maintain a neutral pelvis and ensure you’re not leaning forward or back at your waist.
Likewise, it’s important to monitor your footstrike - this is the way your foot hits the pavement. You might land on your heel, in the middle of your foot, or on your toes or forefoot. It’s recommended that you should try to land in the middle of your foot, and then roll through to the front of your toes. However, if you’re naturally a toe runner (land on your toes) or heel striker, it may be best not to change your stride.
RUNNING PLAN FOR BEGINNERS
Without a clear idea of what you’re trying to achieve, and the steps you need to take to get there, you’re making the challenge much tougher than it needs to be.
That’s why we’ve put together the ultimate running plan for beginners.