Gymbox x Steel Warriors: Meet Juan

7th April

We might not be able to have IRL classes back in our clubs just yet, but we’re not going to let that stop you from getting your sweat on. We’ve teamed with Steel Warriors to offer the community free Calisthenics sessions at their outdoor gyms in Finsbury Park, Ruskin Park & Langdon Park. Steel Warriors are using steel to build lives, not destroy them by melting down knives taken from the streets and recycling them into outdoor community gyms. Our blogger Kat caught up with Juan, the community manager from the amazing charity to find out more…

Could you tell us a bit more about the work Steel Warriors does?

The main concept behind the charity is that we take the knives that are confiscated and taken off the streets - so that’s from the MET police and other amnesty organisations - and we recycle the steel and melt it to build outdoor gyms.

We also run two social projects around the gyms. One is the Community Project, where we deliver three calisthenic sessions three times a week for anyone and everyone in the community. We put on these sessions at specific times in the afternoon, normally after school hours, and anyone can turn up and join in.

The main focus of the Community project is to provide health and fitness services for anyone and everyone in the community, but with a focus on those who might not have the financial means to afford traditional gym memberships or personal trainers, which tends to be a lot of young people.

But it doesn’t stop with the outdoor gyms and community projects does it? Can you tell me a bit more about your Youth Intervention Project?

As you will imagine, we’re taking knives off the street so we also want to be doing our part to do something about knife crime. Our approach to that is the Youth Intervention Project, an eight week programme which teaches young people how to achieve seemingly impossible goals.

The way this works is we get them to choose an exercise that they believe is impossible for them to do - for example, a muscle up - and then we encourage them to go for this goal.

Two programmes make up the Youth Intervention Project. One of them is a Street Workout Programme, which provides all of the progressions and all the steps you need to follow to get to your goal exercise. This programme is based on three pillars: mobility, strength and skills, which are the foundations of calisthenics.

Running concurrently to the Street Workout Programme is the Mentality Programme. This is a mindset programme centred around key principles which will help young people understand what they need to do to apply their mind and reach their goal. It takes eight workshops to deliver the mentality programme, with each workshop focusing on one key principle. We explore it, discuss it and look at how it applies to day to day life. Then the guys will walk away with something to do which will help them further develop the concept so they can apply it to their own life.

What’s the main objective of the Youth Intervention Project?

The main objective behind the programme is that once they’ve achieved their fitness goal, we’re in a position to say to them “if you now take the same process you’ve just applied to achieving your goal, that’s the formula to succeed in any other area of your life.”

...That’s what we find is the best way to really and truly tackle knife crime. Most young people who end up getting involved with crime do it because they’re trying to improve their quality of life one way or the other. That’s why we’ve gone for this approach because we’ve found that once they’ve achieved their fitness goal, it empowers them to think “I can go on to get the things I want in life without the need for crime.”

What’s your day-to-day work like as Community Manager?

I do outreach and engage with the community, but I also look at partnerships. This involves working with gatekeepers and organisations who have access to young people, like youth offending services and people referral units. We also work with schools, youth centres and other youth organisations.

I also look to create opportunities for young people. One thing I found after delivering this Youth Intervention Programme is that young people are really enthused, they’re really motivated and upbeat - they want to tackle something with that newfound spirit and new mindset. At first, we hadn’t looked for what their next step could be, so a lot of my effort recently has been in looking for these next opportunities. Then, once they’ve completed the programme and they’re at that point where they’re ready to take something on, I can signpost them or present them with an opportunity.

We’ve actually got some exciting events on prime time TV coming up which will be a great opportunity for local young athletes!

What does success look like for you at Steel Warriors?

For me, success is building a platform that provides opportunities for young people. Everything I’m doing, everything I work towards, is to create and build a platform that really and truly allows young people to succeed.

My ultimate vision is that Steel Warriors becomes a talent pool for the sports industry to tap into. Calisthenics blends in gymnastics and parkour with traditional bodyweight training, so it’s the perfect foundation to build on to develop physical ability - you can transfer those skills to any sport! Even young people who don’t see sports or fitness as a career path, at least they can take away the physical and mental training we give them and transfer that to other areas of their life.

It would be amazing to have a Steel Warriors gym in every city and roll out the programme across the whole of the UK!

What are some ways that calisthenics training has helped you that people wouldn’t necessarily expect?

I would say the number one thing is it’s given me purpose and kept me mentally healthy.

Throughout this lockdown, I’ve been focusing on getting a front lever, and because I’ve got that one focus, even on days that aren’t great I’m like “you know what, it’s okay. I’m still progressing in this area of my life.”

A lot of projects I was looking forward to this year have all of a sudden been postponed and it’s quite easy to get disheartened. Having my own fitness goals has helped me keep positive and move forward

You’re about to start a workout but you’re needing a mental boost. What song do you put on to hype yourself up?

You got me with this one -you know what, I’m a geek! I listen to audiobooks when I train! [laughs] I try to be quite conscious and I find that a lot of the lyrics in music can subconsciously do things to your mind!

I actually listen to motivational speeches too. There’s one which I think is by either Elliott Hulse or Inky Johnson...it’s one of those motivational speeches where you just feel like tearing your shirt off and going into beast mode [laughs]. It gets you hyped!

More often than not though, I listen to audiobooks. I try to use the time productively, train my mind and my body.

You can follow Steel Warriors on Instagram. Tickets to our collab classes are available on Eventbrite or you can make a donation directly to Steel Warriors. Find our blogger Kat on Instagram here.

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