Training - BEHIND BARS

At Monster Supplements, we are interested to hear about people’s different approaches to training and lifestyles based on their situations; whether it be limited time, finances or space for example. While hopefully none of us will find ourselves in Prison, we were curious to find out the effects of serving a Prison sentence on an individual’s training routine. Many of us will have seen the Bronson film and may have been intrigued by how the notorious prisoner built and developed his physique and strength. While this was an extreme example, the Governor, Staff and Prisoners of HMP Hull have given us an insight into what gym-life within a Prison is actually like- something we are very appreciative of. While many of us may train for health or aesthetic reasons, these may still stand, we also wondered if training was utilised more for focus, development or to just pass the time.

Here is an overview from 31 year old David Brown who is currently serving his last year of a 5 and a half year sentence.

Throughout my life I have always been fit and active, I have trained in Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts from a young age and have competed professionally in both disciplines. I have also had an interest in weight lifting with the intention of improving how my body looks but admit before being sentenced and meeting my training partner, Gaz, I didn’t fully know what I was doing.

I came to Prison towards the end of 2013, however the period leading up to my incarceration was a difficult time for me and training in any capacity had fallen out of my daily and even weekly routine. Likewise, after coming to Prison, for about the first year I didn’t train a great deal at all and being so inactive, feeling quite low and making all the wrong choices when it came to my diet I found myself weighing 15 and a half stone; about a stone and a half more than I’d want.

It was only after receiving visits from family and friends, and listening to their not-so-positive comments about my weight and realising how I looked, that I decided I had to do something about it. It didn’t take too long, only a few months, to lose the weight. It was simply a case of training very hard, mainly circuit work, picking healthier choices off the menu and not ordering chocolate bars and biscuits from the canteen (my ‘Achilles heel’ is that I have a very sweet tooth and I find it very, very hard to turn down a biscuit!).

The food here (at HMP Hull in particular) isn’t that bad; there is a good selection and if you want to eat healthily, it’s not that hard to do. Also, if you do have access to private cash (which myself and Gaz do), you can supplement your diet by buying additional tuna or protein shakes. I personally don’t tend to bother as am seeing gains and improvements on the Prison diet alone, plus the Protein Shakes available to us isn’t of the best quality. Before being in Prison, I tended to use PhD Nutrition products.

On an average day for breakfast I will usually have porridge or depending on how much fruit I’ve managed to get hold of I may have 3 or 4 pieces of fruit. Lunch would normally consist of some form of sandwich (cheese or egg mayo) along with some more fruit and a bowl of soup. My evening meal tends to be a bigger meal; I always try and choose whatever has the highest protein content. A good example would be a chicken leg, a few potatoes (boiled or roasted) and whatever vegetables are available. Snack wise, I try not to, if I do get hungry through the day and I have more fruit available that is generally my first choice, but if I am working on the wing and a biscuit is offered, I have to admit, I rarely say no! I also drink a lot of coffee which I think helps with keeping away any hunger pangs. I think the biggest change in my diet revolves around sugar, just simply sweeteners in my ‘brew’ made a massive difference when I wanted to lose weight and it’s a good habit that I now keep up. Keeping away from sweet things is also that little bit easier in here, if you don’t order it on your canteen or menu choice it’s just simply not there to tempt you.

With the job that Gaz and myself do, we have 6 gym sessions available. Week by week I would say average about 4 or 5 sessions. Sessions are supposed to be around an hour and 15 minutes but with this being Prison that can be shortened for one reason or another. This means that we have to be very efficient with our training, sometimes the sessions can be very busy, so specific kit that’s needed for that particular body part or muscle group may not be available so we need to be quite flexible with our training.

The gym here is pretty well stocked with free weights and lifting machines, it also has all the usual fitness equipment you would find in a gym anywhere. As we only get specific times in the gym with access to the weights we use our sessions specifically for weight training. In these sessions Gaz takes the lead as he has more training knowledge than me. With regards to my fitness, as previously stated I love circuit work. The beauty of this is that you really don’t need much kit or much space. I like to supplement our weight training with 3 or 4 circuits each week, these I will do on the yard during outside exercise periods on the wing, leaving our gym sessions available just for the weights.

As for what I have achieved, I have lost all of the excess weight that I put on in the first part of my sentence, but since teaming up and training with Gaz I have seen massive improvements. I now stand at a little over 14 stone, have toned up massively and probably look the best I have ever in my life. With regards to future training I would like to carry on as I am, hopefully compete again in the fighting arena and I have even had conversations about maybe training and competing at an amateur level in Body Building.

As well as my training partner, help and support is always available from the PTIs here at HMP Hull; while I have decent all round knowledge, if you are a complete novice, any questions put to the PTIs are always answered in a polite and informative way. They are a really good set of Gym Officers here; whether you simply have a few questions or would like a full training plan written out, they are always willing to help.

I feel that training is a massive help, while in Prison, not only does it improve your fitness and make you feel better but it also gives you something to occupy your time, gives you goals to aim for and then a feeling of achievement when your targets have been met. Overall I feel Prison would probably be a much worse place to be if there was no access to a gym.

I have little over a year to go, I intend to train up until the day I get out, beyond and hopefully for the rest of my life.

After speaking to David, it is clear that the gym and training gives him something to focus on and has a significant, positive impact on his time in Prison. While David’s diet may not be perfect compared to what many of us or athletes have, it shows you can make positive changes to have a good effect on your goals and also choose better even when you are restricted.

David also intends to share with us an example of a weight training session and circuit to show what is working for him, despite having limited time and equipment.


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